One Month Down…One To Go (Life After Layoff – Chapter 17)

I have survived one month of summer school with my kids.  There has been a lot of crying, moaning and whining these past four weeks…the kids have done their own share of it too.  🙂  But there has also been a great share of activities, laughter and memories being made.  I will admit, this summer has not turned out the way I had planned.  We all have had to readjust to life as we knew it.

I had to get past my unreachable dream of getting the kids to do actual homework on work sheets.  I just can’t get all of them to sit down and work on Reading, Writing and Arithmetic like they would in school.  One reason is because they are at a variety of learning levels.  So each one has to work on different things.  That would not be a problem if they didn’t all need me to sit down individually with them to get the work done.

I am only one person (something I have to remind them of often) and I can’t juggle four different lesson plans at the same time.  Another reason is some of them are more willing to work on traditional homework and others seem to think multiplication sheets were created by the devil.

Once I realized my dreams of traditional homework was not going to work, my life got a bit easier.  It eliminated some of the frustration I was feeling and got me out of the defeat mode I have been in.  Yes, my kids got me to that breaking point of giving up on my dream to become a teacher.  That is, until I changed my teaching methods.

I wanted to pound knowledge into their head all summer long, but now I see that there is a reason for summer vacation.  It’s because the kids need a break from school.  So instead of trying to keep them in the school mode, I have gradually eased them into a life learning mode.

Marie has summer homework that her teachers gave her.  She has been working on it sporadically.  She has always enjoyed school and likes to do homework, so I don’t have to give her too much of a push to work on things.  However, she wants to work on fun learning, like completing a multiplication worksheet that looks like a coloring book page with a picture incorporated into the assignment.  It’s like a paint by number picture, but you have to calculate the multiplication problem before you know what color to use on a specific area.  That is all fine and dandy, but there is more challenging things that she could be working on.

For instance, my 13-year-old has no concept of money.  She would be an ideal victim for a currency switch.  She could take a $20 bill to buy a $2 hot dog from a vendor and not realize she was cheated when they only gave her back $8.  She doesn’t have the monetary sense that Patrick has.  It’s just not one of her strong suits.

Since Marie is not good at calculating change and because she continues to bug me about when we will buy school supplies, I decided to have her help me with my bills the other day.  I always make a little tally sheet of all the bills that are due and the money we currently have.  So that I can pay all the necessary bills and still have some money in the back for the unknowns.  So the other day, I called Marie in to help me with this chore.  I gave her a pen and paper and told her what our checking account balance was now.  Then I gave her the bills that needed to be paid one by one.  I had her subtract each bill separately to see what the new balance would be.  I did the same calculation on another piece of paper.  We often arrived at different answers.

As we were doing this task, Patrick came along.  Patrick is my “Anti-Math” child, but he wanted to ‘help’ too.  However, he didn’t want to use a pen and paper, but was willing to use the calculator on my phone.  So as Marie and I calculated the new checkbook balance manually, Patrick was double checking our work with a calculator.  Was Patrick getting the same knowledge as Marie?  No, but he was at least working with numbers and learning how to use a calculator.  So in my mind, it was a small victory on my part.  Plus, I needed someone to double-check my own work.

What I discovered with Marie that day was interesting.  She has a problem carrying over the one when you are subtracting a big number.  She was often a digit off with her answer.  So when she came up with a wrong answer, I would go over the problem with her again to see where she went wrong.  This is a problem that can be corrected with practice.  So it looks like she will be helping me with bills again down the road.  I was hoping to kill two birds with one stone and let her see that I didn’t have the cash for school supplies yet, but we had extra cash this week, so that lesson was not accomplished yet.  🙂

So in one task I was able to get Patrick involved with numbers and helped Marie with her subtraction.  Two victories in my book.  I have also noticed Patrick reading signs out loud lately.  Patrick is still working at getting to the reading level he should be at.  It’s a struggle to get him to read a book.  So if I can get him to read a sign at the zoo that says, “Caution, Do Not Touch”, then I feel like that is a pretty good accomplishment.

As for Ann’s life lessons, we have counted things along with Christopher.  I also got some lined paper that they use in Kindergarten.  You know, the kind that has a dotted line where the middle of the letter should be.  So Ann and I have sat down and written some letters.  She would like to write her ABC’s in order, but I need her to recognize each letter out-of-order.  Plus, I have decided that it would be easier to teach her to write all the lowercase letters that are similar.  So I had her write a lowercase “o”.  Then I showed her that if you make a line in front of the “o”, it turns into a “b”.  If you put a line behind the “o”, it turns into a “d” and so forth.  I was surprised to see how many letters we could make with an “o” as it’s base.  So Ann has worked on some writing skills and letter recognition in one setting.  Victory!

As for Christopher, who is always wanting to do what Ann is doing, I had him draw a circle to help with his motor skills.  Another victory!  Yes, these victories might seem lame, but I need to see some progress somewhere.  So as far as I am concerned, Summer School has gone a bit better…once I lowered my expectations.  I will leave the worksheets to the teachers at the kid’s school and continue to use everyday items to get the lessons learned.

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