Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Week so Far...(another mammoth post)

Yesterday was a fun day on the whole and involved making a volcano in a bowl and a tsunami in the bath for geography (to round up the chapter on plate tectonics and fault lines etc...). The children were still a bit slow with their work, but worked with a generally good atitude. All the same I was exhausted at the end of the day - I think the sheer length of it draws it out of me too much when they are being so slow and we are no sooner done and Jake is into homework time and I am 'on call' again. I have tried to encourage him to take his homework to his Dad because I am all taught out by then, but he seems to prefer pestering me!

And then in the evenings I am trying to 'fly' but I'm more like 'floundering' atm - I simply don't have the stamina for a mountain of washing up and floor cleaning at the end of a long day - not once I folded and put away the washing and made sure the front room is 'fresh' for the next day (or for us to relax in at the end of the day) - and where is MY time - I don't exactly enjoy housework, so that doesn't count as ME time at all and I so need my down-time each day!! So I ignored the washing up for an hour, played on ACCF and promptly fell asleep till midnight, when I crawled up to bed with an earache. P helped we ear-candle my ear (which did the trick) and I slept soundly round till 8am this morning - only to be faced with that untouched mountain of washing-up!! :(

Today was mostly good, but exhaustion set in again around 3pm and again the kids were on go slow, so they still had maths to do! It could have been OK as none of them were doing anything too challenging, but somehow they all seemed to need a piece of me at the same time! E, thankfully was busy working on Ed City maths and I was so grateful of that. She gained herself another 2 gold stars today, so she must be gradually improving in her understanding of numbers :) P was learning a new topic (moving into basic early division) and needed me in 'teaching mode'- which was fine except A was struggling with some pretty easy problem solving questions and kept tugging at my sleeve (verbally) for stuff she would normally have no problem with (like 4x10). Seemed she just couldn't get her head in gear so after a couple of pages of not a lot I put her out of her misery and declared her done for the day as P had finished by then too (having done significantly more than A). This is not the rule with A so I am happy to cut her some slack when she needs it. J2 at the same time was squinnying on about being able to do the work easily and therefore why did he need to write the answers in his 'squares' book - what was the point?! The fact that I was not free to look over his shoulder and declare each one correct as he did it (i.e he got to answer them orally) was a plain inconvenience and it was (to him) a complete waste of time having to write the question numbers AND answers down!! Deep sigh...why he couldn't just get on with it when it was so simple to him I do not know! I'm sure he wasted a whole lot more time complaining and harking on about it than he would have done if he had just written the numbers & answers down quickly. Then in the throws of all his misery I had J1 come trotting down stairs to ask for my help (ho humm), so I duely left J2 to get on with his misery and do his maths and went upstairs to help J1. He was doing subraction of mixed fractions ( e.g. 3 1/2 - 1 2/3). It seems that he had already covered this in GP maths and the method that was taught in the book was different to the one on Conquer Maths. Now I must inform you that we have decided to lay aside GP maths for the sake of our sanity - there is simply too much in it for J1 to cover at the speed at which he works and Conquer maths is thorough enough and so simple to understand. He has been told that if for any exercise he scores under 80% he will have to work through that topic in GP for extra practice. He is happy with that. That said this particular topic he was doing today, as I said, he has already covered in GP maths and therefore it should have been easy enough for him. BUT he came downstairs telling me that the answers he had reached were not available to him to choose from and so (yet again) they must have it wrong!! The way CM works is that the exercise has up to 20 questions. The child has to work the problems on paper and then match the answer they reach to a selection of given possible answers and choose the right letter for each to enter in a box (so answer a, d or e - except there are more choices of answer than there are questions - just to make it challenging!!). Jake is prone to silly mistakes which lead him to declare 'them' wrong- which as of yet they never have been!! Today he had 4 (out of 18) questions that he had been unable to match his answers to. This instantly indicated to me a hole somewhere in his understanding, but I started out by getting him to try and explain how he had reached his answers. He did some kind of cross multiplication (which he said was 'obvious') and lost me instantly. I tried to gently point out to him how I would approach it and guide him towards noticing that 3x5 does not equal 7! When he had shouted and ranted at me that I was not doing it right, he did eventually see his error and said "oh - I must have added!!" (hmmm to the fact that 3+5 is not 7 either!!). So that was solution error one solved (and guess who was wrong!!). On to number two. Now this time he had a question that required him to make a top heavy fraction first, but he said that was not the way GP had taught him and he had to do some kind of borrowing thing. It looked mighty complicated to me and when I declared that I didn't think he had fully understood it he got mad with me saying, "Well that's how I've done all the others and they are right!" - which was fine except that it seemed that 'all the others' had not actually required this borrowing technique!
Now take a look at my three pictures of what was happening (please excuse the untidiness - they are made with paint and a mouse!);

This is what Jacob had done...

This is what he should have done by the GP method...
He had essentially forgotten WHERE he had to borrow the whole one from and therefore his answer was a whole number too much each time! Would you say he had fully understood? He was so mad with me for suggesting that he hadn't (apparently forgetting what to do is not the same as not FULLY understanding!) and for suggesting he tried the simpler method that was being taught to him by the Conquer Maths lesson he was working on!!

He refused to even try it, or contemplate looking at it this way- which to me is a LOT simpler & easy to understand. It doesn't have any really complicated steps to remember (or forget!);

So after a full scale arguement with him I just left him to do it regardless. By then, however, I had decifered his method and pointed out to him that you can't 'borrow' a whole number, take away from it and then include it whole again in your answer - he had had his 'oh yeah' moment and went on to get all but one right.

I think what annoyed and upset me the most was his asking for my help and then refusing to listen to anything I had to say. I had tried to walk away but he begged me to come back, only to continue screaming at me that I didn't 'get it'! He wanted to prove he had done it right by showing me in the GP book, but I wanted him to listen to another way and see if he understood it better that way. I agreed in the end that if he did the rest of the questions the way he was being taught 'today' he could then show me the GP method in the book (which he had not remembered correctly). However, I had already seen what he was talking about and knew where he had made his error - only he was not very willing to hear me point anything out to him. How do you work with someone who asks for help and then refuses to be shown where they are going wrong?! I was so mad, frustrated and upset by the end of it all that I struggled to put myself right with him for the rest of the evening :(

This then had a knock on effect on his 'homework' time - which was some English. He had been asked to write a 'detailed description of a sea mammal' and given some guide lines as to what to include. His first attempt was essentially an exact copy of the Wikipaedia page on dolphines. I told him he had to redo it as this was lazy and not acceptable (that was this morning). I asked him to read LOTS of sources, make notes and then put something together off his own back. So, what did he do..? He re-wrote every sentance of what he had previously written, tweaking a few words to make them more words he would use, but it was essentially the same thing again - same order, same facts, nothing new - except that at the bottom he had added a few extra copied sentances from one extra resource!! Anyone would think my bookshelves were void of books, but they are so not - it's like a library in my dining room!! So, guess what...yup! More tears and shouting. I tried to make him understand that if he were to just follow some of the advise he is given (by myself and his Dad in this instance) we would not get into this horrible position with me getting frustrated with him and him getting upset because he has to start again. I have told him I cannot accept the work he has done and that he is to start again - with a new sea mammal. It's such a shame really because the information he gathered was interesting and correct and had he managed to write his own piece of work, rather than re-writing someone elses, it could have been good. He has decided to do Killer Whales this time, so we'll see what happens. I hope he has understood what is needed and I even more especially hope he will follow my advice!

Tomorrow I am looking forward to. We started our study of 'The Romans' today and tomorrow we are going shopping in Chester to spend the children's Christmas money. They only have £15 each, but it'll be fun to go out and spend it all together. As we are going to Chester though, I have decided we will tie it in with a little trip to see the ampitheatre there (not much to see, but interesting all the same) amd take a look at the roman wall, which is pretty much entirely in tact around Chester. So it won't be a completely education-free day, but combined with the fun (and education) that comes from spending 'real money' (I intend to actually give them the cash to spend) I'm hoping it will be a great family day out - and give Jake and I a chance to patch things up a little - he LOVES shopping - strange boy!!

There has been a bit (not as much as I would like) of 'Tot-School' going on too. C is really into playing 'pairs' this week and will rope in any willing playmate so we have played that quite a bit. This morning he was around or 'squarcle board' time and enjoyed looking at the '2 romans' and learning the new colour 'crimson' and the place 'Colosseum' :) He stuck around while we learnt about Julius Ceasar too. I showed him Italy on the map and told him we were learning about candles this week. I am hoping that my candle kit that I ordered on Amazon on Saturday will come before the end of the week, as that is supposed to be our 'hands-on' activity for all of them this week. After that he sat at the table for a while with E and me doing some more of his same/different book until it all got a bit manic and he gave up trying to keep my attention :( I do feel bad for him sometimes. E is at an age where she can complete at least a page, once she knows what she is meant to be doing, but C needs me to repeat instructions for every problem and gently encourage him to get the answers right. He is not confident enough to just 'have a go' yet and being a perfectionist (he is my most perfectionist yet I think - in every area of his life, not just schooly type work) he is not willing to risk getting anything wrong. Hence, in my often manic 'classroom' of different age ranges and many calls of 'Mu-u-u-u-m..." he often has to wait too long between glimpses of my attention to help him move on. He then gets bored and gives up - and I don't blame him either. :( I get frustrated by it, but I can't seem to find a way to change it for the better - and I have tried! To make up for it I tend to try and fill 'break times' for the big kids with 'tot-time' (either for C or N), but consequently this means that I don't get any breaks in the day really and my chores get left until after school time, which is not ideal either... I want to spend more time with my tots - I really do (maybe then N would be a bit less 'wild'), but just how I do that is presently evading me!

Next week I am undecided as to what our squarcle board will be about: We might do Pompeii, or Vatican City. The older children were asking about the Pope this morning so I could run with that interest, but I know we are learning about the eruption of Versuvius in History next week, so Pompeii would tie in well with that. If we did Pompeii it would flow better on from this week's volcano activity and give us a chance to repeat the experiment they were so desperate to do again - I'll just need to buy in more vinegar!! We could do Vatican city the week after I guess and hope that their curiosity has not waned too much by then :)

1 comment:

Philippa said...

I only have 4 but I get round the tot problem by them each having time with Evie during the day. Just 1/2 hour but they get to play a dice game or match pairs or something. I am sure you have tried this though!
We use GP maths for my 11 year old and have similar issues. I find the maths books great but he finds maths frustrating. I am sure he will get there eventually. :-)