Sunday, June 17, 2007

Working on next year's plans

It's been at least a couple of weeks now that I've been working on next year's plans. So far only on the two oldest--they're the most complicated. The 16yo and I were talking the other day and somehow it lead to me saying how this year felt like we were just meeting the requirements and kind of neglected her education. She completely understood what I meant and totally agreed. She would like to work more on her education next year. This year was such a learning curve!
In any case, for English, she wants to learning phonics/spelling rules, plus I want her to do some specific work on grammar and writing.

I was looking at the school website and what the teacher for gr. 11 English was having the students do and I realized that things haven't really changed that much since I was in high school however many years ago (15?): there's really no writing instruction. Truly. They're expected to write on things and they are given explanations of what an essay is but no detailed work on how to actually write an essay. I remember my first-year university English class and my first essay assignment. I didn't do so hot. I was shocked. I'd always done well on writing assignments in high school. I wasn't the only one who hadn't done well and our prof then explicitly told us how an essay should be done. A thesis statement? Wow! I'd never been told that before. How to write an essay and use connecting words and all that was part of the instruction of the course, but he was often amazed at how many of us had really not even touched on that kind of stuff before.

The current outcomes for English do have things like "the student will use connecting words" (or whatever they say), yet there is often no work given to specifically practise such things. Sure, there's an approved support textbook, but a lot of schools can't afford to have support materials. They have just the basic materials. Some of the stuff at elementary and jr. high levels covers writing instruction, but after that, it's like the assumption is the kids don't need any more specific instruction. I don't get it. Although, even a lot of the supposed instructional stuff doesn't actually work towards having them practise; it's more of "Here's a list of transitional words you can use." Yeah, well, that's just great. That's kind of like handing them a sheet of math formulas and saying, "Here's a list of formulas you can use." To do what? How? When?

What I've therefore decided to do is actually spend more time this coming year teaching the oldest how to write. I still have my text from university--The Practical Stylist--and will have her work through some of the things in there. I'm also going to bring in some vocabulary work--haven't decided if I'm going to use this old college text I got from my mom on Latin and Greek roots or if I'm going to purchase Vocabulary for the College-Bound which Marva Collins absolutely raved about in her book. I haven't been able to actually look at this last book, so I don't know if it's worth buying or not. Then there's the whole issue of these books being American and using American spelling...

Yet another thing I'm going to try to squeeze in somehow is work from this gr. 8 book called "English for Young Catholics". I think that's the title. It goes through sentence diagramming and grammar. It might actually be too advanced for the 13yo, who is going into gr. 8 but the book is part of a series and it builds upon stuff done in the gr. 7 book, which we don't have. But I want to see if he can do it, too.

How am I going to fit this all in? I haven't entirely figured that out yet. I do want her to plan on 4-day work weeks. The reason for this is there are many weeks with a holiday Monday, and there are field trips and get-togethers and appointments and more. If she plans for a 4-day work week, then whatever fifth days she has can be focused on things like the vocabulary and specific writing instruction and all that. Although it might just be better to work it through each day a little. I still want her to plan on 4-day weeks, though. This will give the fifth day, where available, as quiz/review/test/extras day.

What else have I got planned? Well, things have been sort of worked out for her social studies, math is straight-forward, so is science. I've got to create a course for her French. Things didn't happen with this one school for the FLA so she's going to go for French 30 next June, but keep working on French her gr. 12 year so that it's still up-to-snuff when she applies to university. She's thinking more and more about this bilingual nursing program that's offered. She's been hearing more stories about how med. students don't really have a life (lol) and it's not appealing to her that much. :)

As for her brother, I'm trying to design a language arts program for him that will get him up to grade level by the end of the year, even if it's just grade level and no further. He will also have math, of course, and I'll have to figure out things for science and social studies. I know he wants to use this chemistry kit he got, so that'll be part of his program. I haven't decided a thing about social studies yet. I also need to design a French program for him and perhaps look at purchasing some resources. I don't know if it'll be possible to have him at the gr. 9 FSL level for reading and writing by the end of his gr. 9 year, but it's worth a shot! If he's not and decides to take French, he'll take French 10 (the 3-year program) and will find it fairly easy.

For my own kids... I haven't thought about it too much yet! Ds (6) is still at the stage of needing to learn reading and writing and basic math. Everything else is kind of extra, although I would like a plan of some sort to rely on when interests aren't obivous. Dd (9) needs more work on reading and writing in French, plus there are some gr. 4 math topics we didn't do which we'll need to do before she gets into some of the gr. 5 math. I'm also thinking of introducing algebra to her next year. She'd be able to do the addition and subtraction basic algebra for sure. The biggest thing for her is that she doesn't like workbooks so much anymore so I'll need to figure out how to make sure she is introduced to everything and has a means of working on it. I guess this means designing a math program for her! An alternative would be to just work with Ray's and have her go as far as she can in that. We'll see. Lots of time until September!

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