Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Weekly Report: Weeks 27 & 28 -- Working Smarter, Not Harder

I thought this week I would journal about how Ben is doing.  We're two-thirds of the way through 8th grade!

There is so much going on with him right now.  He is pushing forward with some Boy Scout merit badge requirements that need to be finished up so he can attain his Life Rank.  His goal is to achieve that by the next Court of Honor, which is at the end of May.

He is also in a play that our local homeschool theater guild puts on.  This year, the troupe is putting on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  Ben is playing a larger role this year -- that of Sid, who is Aunt Polly's son.  He has more lines and more scenes and he gets to pretend to be "an idiot" (his words), which he thinks is great fun.  He's not looking forward to the country dancing scene, but I am looking forward to seeing it.

{photo credit: mazwebs @ sxc.hu}
In and amongst all the extra curriculuars, Ben still have a pile of coursework to complete.  In all honestly, we have had weeks with tears and frustration that haven't ended until late on Saturday afternoon.  Yes, 8th grade this year seems to be taking 6 days a week instead of 5.

As the title of this post suggests, I'm trying to help Ben learn to work smarter, not harder.  This has been a challenge all year.  I definitely put more work on Ben this year, however, I knew he really needed to rise to the occasion.  He's done a good job, but in one subject -- history with our Tapestry of Grace online co-op -- he is still needing to streamline studying.

Typically, Ben has 10 or more questions to answer after doing his history reading each week. He reads from 2-4 books each week.  We've talked about using active reading strategies such as:
  • pre-read the questions to help focus reading.
  • read with the questions in hand. Skim sub-headings.
  • take notes as you read and write down page numbers just in case you need to look back
  • draft out the complete sentence responses as the week progresses.  
How is this working?  Some parts of it are working fine, others.....well, let's just say we are getting LOTS of practice.

I'm also trying to get Ben into thinking of blocks of time in each day in which to study his lessons.  Typical credits of high school are about 50 minutes of work, 5 days a week for 36 weeks.  That works out to be 150 hours of work -- just about right for a credit of high school work. To that end, I'm trying to get a bit more structure to his day.  I've broken up his day into six and a half hour-long blocks and assigned a subject to each block.  I've also set his iPod reminder alarm to go off every hour to remind him to move on.  This structure isn't really working out that great right now, but I'm not ready to abandon it.  Ben really does need to work with a bit more purpose, and I'm willing to finish out the year using this system (with some modifications).

We've had a couple other additional positive changes to our homeschool. Ben is now taking Algebra 1 -- I suspect that he will finish it in the fall and move on to Geometry.  He's also finishing up Apologia's Physical Science using an at-your-own-pace program at the Virtual Homeschool Co-op.  This is an amazing, fantastic place, and I highly recommend checking it out.  They offer classes at many grade levels and the price is great -- free! Ben really enjoyed the interface for completing the On Your Own questions as well as the Module assessment. 

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