October 2, 2010

2/31 Schooling

Too bad that 31 is a prime number or I could have had some fun with fractions!

Fractions fractions.   Yesterday I was trying to teach Hannah the nuances of dotted quarter notes.   Her newest piano piece has introduced dotted quarter notes. She understands tying notes together, but the blasted dot surely doesn't look anything like an eighth note.

For those of you who don't know, a quarter note has a beat of 1.  If you fit two notes into 1 beat, you have two eighth notes.   If you want to stick one eighth note on to a quarter note (you'd get 3/8ths mathematically), you'd have to count 1.5 beats.    Does this make any sense?  Of course not.  

Hannah absorbed about ZERO of what I was explaining.   And I don't blame her.    She does understand basic fractions.  We have those tiles that are divided into various fractions, and she understands cutting something in half, and then in half again to get fourths (or quarters...as in money).   But music timing doesn't make much sense to her.   She usually just memorizes the rhythm and doesn't count beats at all.  She leaves that up to me.   I personally don't think it matters much.  It's not a required life skill.

This year, which we call Sixth Grade, we are focusing on academic life skills--the 3 Rs.   Hannah would be in 7th grade if she was with her age-mates.   We had a 2nd grade, and a 2nd-and-a-half grade, so she's a grade behind, by name only.   She really is working on a spectrum of skills that range from 1st grade - 4th grade.  Reading individual words (vocabulary words) is one of her strengths, and I'd guess she's close to a 5th grade level.  I don't really know, because I never test her.   She is where she is.  And I just work on the next step she needs to take.

I did some thinking this summer, trying to distill what is holding her back, where is she weakest, and I revamped some of our curricula. (By the way--TANGENT WARNING--one of my BIGGEST pet peeves is when a homeschooling parent who cannot spell the word curriculum!  You'd think that the error they make is with the plural.  I can forgive "curriculums".   But I cannot forgive "cirriculum".  Sir Iculum it is not.  I'm sure this spelling error is not limited to homeschoolers, but, let's face it, other than educators, hardly anyone else uses the word.  And besides, there is ALWAYS spell check.)

The areas that need the most attention are writing, spelling, and math. Yes, her penmanship is very tidy, but still slow.  It's slow because she spends so much time figuring out how to spell words.  If she has an idea/answer in her head, she'll say it out loud.  But by the time she's written the first word in the sentence, she's forgotten what she wanted to say because the idea left when she was concentrating on the motor task of writing, as well as the mental task of spelling.  It's not automatic.   And it hasn't improved over the past few years.

So I decided to go back to Sequential Spelling.  We tried it a few years ago, but didn't stick with it.  This time it seems to be working.  She'll even ask to do her spelling first!

Here are yesterday's words.   She doesn't get tested on them--she figures out how to add the prefixes and suffixes, and builds words within families.

(Yes, they actually use the word "treeing"--as in, "The hounds enjoyed treeing the squirrel.")

For Language Arts and Writing, this year we are using materials from The Well Trained Mind.

I'm starting back at the beginning, making sure that Hannah's not missing key components in language arts and writing.   For now, it's very easy for Hannah.  She is doing copywork, memorization (poems), and narration (re-telling a story I just read to her).   

I never used a "programmed" curriculum before.   It's so easy!  I sort of feel like a fake--saying exactly what the book tells me to say.   But she's eating it up, and making progress.  

I'm not so sure that she (or I) would have been ready for this approach a few years ago.  

Another thing I'm introducing this year is keyboarding skills. We haven't started yet, but I am hopeful that by removing some of the motor task elements her writing will improve.

For math, we are still using Numicon, but I'm also taking a closer look at the Teaching Math to People with Down Syndrome.   We'll be using more games, money and calculators this year.   She loves creating a "store" and counting out dollars, dimes and pennies (we're not adding nickels yet, and quarters are totally confusing).

I have to mention that this summer we added another supplement, Longvida Curcumin to her protocol.   I discussed it with her pediatrician (whom we adore), and after reading the research, she thought it was worth a try. We didn't observe any changes over the first 2 months.  But then we gave her a week-long boost at a higher dose. Since then, she has been very interested in numbers.  She is always counting things and using ordinal numbers.  "That's the 9th time you said that, Mom." (that's typed in Adolescent Eye Roll font.)      And she was right. But maybe she should have listened the first time, instead of counting.

Disclaimer, of course:  I have no way of telling if the two things are connected  Math : Longvida Curcumin.   But it isn't hurting.  But it is very expensive.

We do lots of other stuff--right now we're reading The Little House books together.   We throw in some geography, calendar work, Thinking Skills books, nature stuff, etc.   Today she wanted to work with a dictionary, so she invented a game using the Bananagram tiles (similar to Scrabble tiles), picking a letter out of the bag, then finding a word in the dictionary that started with that letter, and writing it down.  Fine with me!   I told her she could play it 12 times.  Far be it from me to interfere with that kind of "playing"!

What I'm chasing down is not performance or mastery of any particular skill, I'd rather see her Think.  I want to help her learn to process information so that she can solve problems.   I don't think that average worksheets or memorizing math facts will necessarily will help her to do that.  I believe that reading good books results in good language patterns.  I believe that playing games can bring academic accomplishments and challenge social skills.  I believe that living life is much more effective a learning tool than learning about living life.

We spend focused learning time three or four times a week.  She can stay focused for 3-4 hours.  I should say that *I* can stay focused for that amount of time...I don't know how long she could last...   


Justine said...

Thank you! This post is very encouraging and helpful! Thank you for sharing the range of skills Hannah has. Sometimes I think of her as super-girl (which she is!) and want to despair with my little guy who got such a rough start in life. It encourages me to see that sometimes she doesn't get things, but later does (or may never, if they aren't important to life, like the music notes.)

Lisa said...

It makes me happy to see you using some of the same materials we are using. I started the First Language Lessons with my older two and Geneva has been listening to an audio recording of Little House in the Big Woods every chance she gets. As we're getting the homeschool ball rolling, in the back of my mind I wonder, "Will this work for Magdalena?" I guess we'll see when we get there, but it's encouraging to hear some of the specific things you're doing with Hannah.
Thank you in advance for doing 31 for 21! I know I'll learn a lot over here.

Lianna said...

Wow. I wish I lived closer to you because I think what you share in your writing has inspired me ten-fold.

I agree with you about how the simple joy of reading and/or game playing inspires learning. Those are my own memorable memories as a child -- few classroom memories.

I would be interested in your views about the suggestion that people with Ds who struggle with printing/writing focus more (or only) on using a computer keypad to convey their thoughts and ideas.

At five, Gabe is showing a keen interest in the computer, but of course we are working diligently on printing. However, we have a friend who is 13 (with Ds) and it is much more gratifying for him to convey his thoughts through the computer instead of writing.

Brandie said...

I like what you said about wanting Hannah to Think. That has been on my mind lately. I feel like a lot of Early Intervention was spoon feeding Goldie information and never really letting her figure out things on her own. I've now started admonishing her siblings for showing how to use a toy. I really want to see her figure things out for herself. It's hard, sometimes I have to walk away.

Sheena said...

Ohhh mannnn, I took music theory at my Arts school and literally STRUGGLED!!! It was the most difficult class for me. Grrr very frustrating!