Now that it’s summer, our first term of homeschooling is over, and I thought I’d write about how it went. Overall, it was wonderful, and so good to know that Nigel was actually learning something instead of being sent to watch a video in the library as he had at the middle school. Considering the fact that I had to pull him out at the beginning of December and wasn’t able to start homeschooling him until mid-February, he learned a lot. We went quickly through all the science and social science subjects but didn’t get as far as I would have hoped in math and language arts. Next year that is what we will focus on.
I learned a lot about my son’s learning style and how to teach him. He has a semi-photographic memory which helps immensely in fact-memorizing subjects like science and social science, so that’s why we breezed through those. Language arts is challenging because it is difficult for him to organize his mind enough to write an essay, which is what we will spend much of our time on next year. And then there’s math. Nigel, I discovered, is a kinesthetic learner. He learns by doing things, physically taking things apart and putting them back together, climbing, mowing, cooking, sewing, even typing. So I had to figure out a way to teach math kinesthetically.
I realized as we went along that if anyone had tried to teach him division in the past, they did not succeed. I had to start from the beginning. And what I did was this: I got a bag of raw almonds and pulled out 12 of them. Then I said, “Nigel, how many groups of 3 are in 12?” And he looked at the almonds on the kitchen table and he started separating them into groups of 3, and then I saw the light bulb go on in his head. He got it! There was a hint of a smile on his face as he quickly finished separating and then said, “Four!” And then I showed him how that translated on paper with the long division sign, because when we first started going over it, he acted like he had never seen it before. My boy must have just felt so lost at school.
The other thing I did in teaching math which helped tremendously was to write out a list of steps for working with fractions, like changing improper fractions into mixed numbers, which I had written about previously. I was smacking my forehead because I didn’t figure this out until near the end of the school year, but at least I did figure it out, and I will certainly be implementing the “written list of steps” technique next year.
The last two days of homeschool, I had Nigel take a CD-Rom test, State Standards Middle School Edition. The tests were great, but I experienced some aggravating compatibility issues. The tech support guy I spoke to for over half an hour was not sure if it was a Vista issue or my dual-core processor. After uninstalling and reinstalling both Quicktime and the test program, it still takes about fifteen minutes to load the program, but once we get the test up and running, the test itself works fine. It’s easy for Nigel to navigate, and at the end it shows his scores in different categories of each subject so that we know which skills he needs to work on next year and in which areas he’s doing well. I’m very satisfied with how homeschooling went for the past four months, and I’m looking forward to next year. I think we’ll both really hit our stride.