What Should the Kids Be Learning?

I think we all worry a lot about what our kids need to know right now. What skills should they have? Can they do what they’re supposed to in fill-in-the-blank subject? We’re currently working on lots of stuff — math, spelling, physics, critical thinking, writing skills, music, but ultimately what is important that they remember and know from *this* day or *this* week?

What do I want my kids to learn? To be passionate and excited about learning, to follow their interests and pursue knowledge, to have self-confidence in their abilities, to love learning — That’s what comes to mind.  Here are a few examples of how that has happened this past week…

The other day I was on the phone to my mother-in-law. Suddenly I screeched ‘Oh my goodness, I’ve gotta go. I’m fine, but I’ll call you right back. ‘  Then I shouted to the kids “KIDS COME QUICK.” I mean, not that calm “come here please,’ but the… ‘if you don’t come right now the sky’s going to fall in’ type shout!  There was a black ratsnake in our garden, the first one we’ve seen. I didn’t want the kids to miss it. We see lots and lots of snakes, but this one? It was a good three feet long and FAST! What did I want the kids to learn from that?  The class and order of snakes? Even the name of that species of snake? No–passion! Just true wonder at the world we live in. I want them to marvel at all the cool stuff there is to see and learn.  Needless-to-say, after a good long look (and a couple of other good finds–five or six inch lizards) we went back inside and verified the type of snake.  We checked out what it eats and talked incessantly about how fast it was, how it zoomed under the huge tarp (must put that away!).  So, from that I hope my kids take away an excitement of discovery and learning.

Oh–just in case you’re worried about the harsh treatment of my mother-in-law, I called her back, apologized and then gushed about the cool snake and stuff! [I certainly want my kids to have good manners too!] Luckily she loves that kind of stuff too — well, or at least loves her Grandkids and appreciates what interests them.  I’m one of those lucky women who have not only has the most amazing hubby ever, but has fantastic in laws as well. So there were no hard feelings for virtually hanging up on her!  Back to the love of learning thing I was talking about…  You and your kids might not be as excited as we are about snakes and lizards, but I’m sure your kids are passionate about something too, right? Legos, robotics, animals… we’ve all got something we just love learning about!

Here’s a second example. LD is really enjoying the Percy Jackson series.  A couple days ago he spent six hours reading. He hardly looked up when I put his lunch in front of him. He went from the breakfast table, to the couch, back to the table, lounged on the floor and was dragged away from his book when it was time for afternoon activities.  I was reluctant to tear him away from his book for the stuff on my agenda (the math, the spelling, collection, music practice) because I want to foster that love — that passion for reading. From this series he probably knows more about the Greek gods than I did after my twelve years in school–K-12. The vocabulary he was exposed to in those six hours was priceless; certainly better than any vocabulary list I could have put forth before him.  Anyway, this isn’t the typical day for us, but when those days come around I embrace them for what they are.

This week we had a couple new avenues of learning too. Learning that happened NOT because I had the path laid out, but just because the kids needed to know more.  LD happened to pick up a book on tapeworms at the library.  He just had to know more–so we got as many books on parasites out of the library as we could — Hookworms, Lice, Ticks, Salmonella, Guinea Worms and other parasites.  Both LD and DD dove into those books. They talked about it with each other, giggled over the pictures, got grossed out by the damage done. Lots of learning took place on a topic — well, that I wouldn’t have even have thought to teach!

Last week I could have said the same thing about King Henry VIII, “Bloody” Mary, and Queen Elizabeth. They poured through Horrible History magazines, read tidbits aloud, quizzed us all on the incrediculous tidbits of history. We listened to the Story of the World cds in the car that had great stories about Henry and his quest for a son… and all that stuff. Incidental learning? Perhaps, but again they probably learned more by having that interest than if I had planned it all neatly for them.  (Well, okay I have to admit that I ‘planted the seed’ by setting out the Horrible History magazines conveniently on the dining room table!

And now to the plain summary of some of the work we covered this week:

Math: The kids work on math pretty much every day.  The kids do problems from their math workbook (I select a few problems of each type and we skip all around the book. DD, for example, did a few problems of single-digit addition, single-digit subtraction, and three double-digit problems that involved borrowing and 3 with carrying.) About a month ago (6 weeks?) we also started with the Life of Fred on the recommendation of my sister and one of my best friends.  It has been a really great addition to our math time. DD is doing Cats and LD is doing Honey. I like the series because it introduces math concepts that aren’t covered in the more traditional math workbooks we use.  LD for example had to do one long division problem 82,614 divided by 3 for math practice in the Life of Fred yesterday.

Science: This week we watched the space shuttle and talked a lot about that. The kids read a lot of books on parasites.  We did a couple experiments for our Gizmos & Gadgets unit (but I’ll share those another time.)

Spelling: The kids continue to work on All About Spelling. We like this program so much.  We have been outgrowing the small magnetic board we’ve been using for the letter tiles, so recently I put some of the tiles (the vowel teams like oi, oy, au, etc.) on another magnetic board below. We tuck that other board below when we put it away. That suits us because we so often work on the floor.  Crystal, our cat. happened to be there when I was taking pictures, so I left her in. She adds some charm to the photos!  Anyway, we love this program so much. It has helped LD in particular to gain confidence in his writing.

Writing/Language Arts: I mentioned this a week or two ago, but we’re doing a lot from Write Source these days.  (DD just started level 2; LD is on Level 3.)  DD really LOVES doing her Write Source work. She’ll often do much more than I ask. You cans see a few pictures of Write Source in this post. The kids are always reading on their own for independent reading. That’s how they start the day.

Collection (our group time): We only did one day of German this week. We went over the 50 States that Rhyme song (you-tube) several times (we’ve almost go all 50 states learned — and the kids can point to most of them on the map). We read 3 more chapters of our book on Newton aloud together and we also read a short book this week called, The Courage of Sara Noble. For the past couple of weeks we also have been doing critical thinking activities in collection, but since we didn’t do any this week, I’ll save that topic and the sources we use for that  for another time.

Music: LD is still working away on the trumpet.  DD is learning the piano. These are some of the books DD has used this year. Teaching Little Fingers to Play is the book I started both LD and DD with on piano.  I recommend that highly as a first piano book.  Then they moved on to Play That Tune.  DD just learned the Theme From Ice Castles from Movie Piano Solos for Kids and is starting Lightly Row in the Suzuki for  piano, vol. 1. As with most everything we do, we pick and choose from all the books and go back and forth from book to book.

Sports and extras: We’re pretty active in the afternoons/early evening with various activities like gymnastics, soccer, Irish dance, Girl Scouts, choir, and roller skating. I have the kids play outdoors most every day.

I know I haven’t talked about ED and her preschool activities at all, but I think I’m going to bring this to a close for now. I won’t be posting this weekend so I’ll see you Monday.  Have a wonderful weekend!

1 Response

  1. Julie says:

    What an inspiration this post is!! I can’t tell you how much I would love to homeschool my three – I just don’t dare take the leap…

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