Thursday, May 21, 2009

testing, testing.... 1.2.3....

It was testing week in our house. In Illinois we're not required to do testing, but I do it just for our own records each year. We use the CAT/5 test... just because (I really don't have a good reason). :-)

I really wonder some times why I do this each year. I'm not exactly sure how much stock I put in a standardized test as a measure of what my children know. But I feel compelled to do this every spring.... something that will give me some form of "official documentation" that we're doing okay. It is incredibly exciting and extremely frustrating to administer these tests. You sit there and watch them get questions right that you expected them to miss and miss some you expected them to get. It's hard to keep quiet... but I do. I even managed to complete the crossword puzzle from the Trib the other day... something I hadn't done in months!

We finished today. I just have to mark my back-up answer sheet and send it off tomorrow.

It's funny to see how the general school population's scope and sequence for science and history/social studies varies from what we have covered. Even Alex's test was mainly about the community, with the only history really being the pilgrims, Christopher Columbus (which he's not so sure about after reading a book he just got at the library) and George Washington. The science seemed to have a lot about good nutrition and pollution/environmental issues. It's just interesting.

I've been saving this part until the last because I wasn't sure if I was even going to blog about it. But, in the interest of being open and honest, I will.

Taking this test brought to light some issues with this one...
... that have been plaguing me for a while. She's different... she's an "unconventional learner". She has flashes of brilliance that will utterly amaze you at times.... and then other times she'll be completely stumped by the simplest of concepts.

On her subtraction portion of her test today she aced it.... however I cannot make heads or tails out of HOW she got her answers. I watched her work on her scratch paper and what she did makes no sense to me.... but somehow it does for her.

She learned to write and read early.... but has completely stalled out. I'm not sure either is any better than it was this time last year. Although, last year she was ahead of her peers, this year she's on par.

I have to tell you, after we spent entirely too much time arguing about what it means to "fill in the circle" and what they meant by "dark" in regards to the marks she was supposed to make.... I found it rather therapeutic to spend the rest of the day researching schools to send her to next year. It was eyeopening.

I came to the conclusion that she will not be going to school next year. She doesn't want to go, she wants to be homeschooled and each spring we give them each the choice about the upcoming school year. I also can't send the message to her that "the good child" gets to stay home with me all day, while I'm sending her, "the problem child" away. I need to do this the right way.

So armed with the cost of the private school we would most likely send her to (if we were to send her)... I started researching tutors. Right off the bat, I began communicating with an occupational therapist who is a handwriting specialist. Clara will have an evaluation with her in about two weeks, then we'll go from there. I'm also looking to have a learning assessment done. I have heard that we can have this done through the neighborhood school, even if we are not enrolled in the public school system. If not, I have found another place that will do it and they take our insurance. Pricing out tutors and such, we can still come in well under what the private school tuition would be, still allowing her to be home with us but getting the help she needs.

It's been an emotional week... but after hitting the bottom, I've bounced back and I'm excited that we have a plan.... a plan that's on the path to figuring out what makes her tick and will help her unlock her potential (that sounded a little cheesy didn't it... but you know what I mean).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

pond study

Yesterday we went on a really great field trip with some friends (big thank you to Jennifer for hauling us out there!).

We went out to the Environmental Learning Center in Mokena, IL. The kids had a great time, I think mainly because they left to explore and make discoveries on their own.

Here are the girls bringing up their net....
and checking out what they found...
After they had a nice collection of specimens in their buckets, everyone went to the lab to get a better look at what they had caught....

They had guide books and identification sheets lying around for the kids to use.... but again they left them to make their own discoveries instead of it being an over structured "educational experience". The kids really seemed to delight in figuring it out themselves and then excitedly showing the other kids.

Next was lunch. It's funny.... whenever a group of homeschoolers get together we joke about their lack of social skills since they're not in school (since that seems to be a main concern to random people we all come across). Immediately after eating, the kids (most of whom had never met each other before) came together to play tag... running and laughing around the picnic area. It really is too bad that they don't know how to interact with others :-)

After lunch they went animal tracking through the woods. They were to keep their eyes open for any signs of animals. Once we started to look we saw all kinds of signs... tracks, scat, gnawed off trees, woodpecker holes, etc. We also learned how to identify quite a few native plants along the way (and the kids even sampled a few of the edible ones).

It was a beautiful day to spend outdoors!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

a cool birthday present....

Yesterday Alex decided to get back out the science kit he had gotten as a birthday present...
We had already played with the glass prism and hung up our prism chain in the window. But yesterday they wanted to play with the UV activated beads. The beads start out a frosted white color (or a very, very pale pastel color) and then turn bright colors in sunlight.

They started out by setting them up on our window sill (please, please ignore my dirty windows)...
then they sorted them by color once they changed color...
The kit came with a square of clear plastic. They then put a small sample of sunscreen on the square and put it over a set of beads that had not be exposed to the sun to see if they would change color. They washed off the sunscreen and tried again with different SPF's. It was a pretty cool exercise for them. Of course the SPF 50 we had worked the best :-)