May 30, 2012

Teaching Older Kids

When I started this blog so many years ago I was in the middle of the preschool and toddler years.  I threw my creativity into teaching the alphabet, learning life skills and experiencing the world.  Most of my posts were made up of field trips, letter of the week games, and surviving life with three kids under the age of 5 while beginning our home school journey.

Here we are 8 years later and this blog has a very different tone as my life has a very different tone.  I never would have believed I had more time for things like blogging back then but I simply did.  I know someday again I will.  I can not bring myself to close this blog down no matter how little I blog because it is such a part of us and our home school journey.

Yesterday was a great home school day here.  We are wrapping up a school year and getting ready to find our summer rhythm.  Typically at this time of year my responsibility winds down and I have less and less to do with the kids.  This year is a bit different though as Maria has decided to do an independent study in Chemistry through the summer.  She is working through a high school level course with what looks to be a college level textbook.  Yesterday I spent the afternoon teaching her how to outline a textbook and take good study notes.  I actually even used our chalkboard :) As I taught her these skills I thought back to my own educational and my freshman year Biology teacher who taught me the outlining and note taking process I still teach my students.  A great big thank you to her!

Maria thought I was a bit rigid at first and this was a very different experience for her.  I am not often "rigid" or particular in my teaching.  Overall the experience will be good but it is much harder than anything else she has ever done and it definitely challenged her.  Not the reading, not even the material, but rather the concept of taking study notes and keeping an actual notebook for a subject.  I made her start a three ring binder just for Chemistry with sections for Notes, Vocab, Problems, Labs, Questions, and Misc.  The idea of having all those sections for just one subject was foreign to her but she understood the logic of it by the end of our session together.

We worked together on outlining the first chapter of the text and I wrote out her first chapter vocab/definition list so she can see what it should look like each chapter.  She learned the best format for keeping good clear visual notes and is learning how to write in keywords rather than all complete sentences. I demonstrated how she should pick out the key concepts and have her notes follow along with her text.  As we worked together I explained that this system she was learning would be key to both high school and college studies and the difference good note taking skills can make.

Maria is a very cooperative student and hard working so she was a joy to teach, honestly.  As we worked together I found myself getting filled up as well as I watched her learn a new important skill that was hard for her.  It has not always been easy to challenge her as a student so I cherish the moments when she faces true challenges that she has to work her way through.  She is a bright light at those moments burning furiously until she figures out the task and can settle into her new rhythm.

We will continue to touch base throughout this course to make sure her Chemistry notebook is coming along and she is maintaining good study habits.  Yesterday was an excellent start and I am proud of her.  I am excited for moving into this next step of her education with her.  Next year we will be working together on a very cool interdisciplinary modern history course that I am developing for her now.  I am glad she is learning these skills now in Chemistry so she can easily use them next year once they have become habit.

Home schooling her through high school does not scare me, it excites me.  I know there will be challenges to be sure just as there were when they were little.  Somehow I feel more up for the challenges of chemistry and high school history than I ever did for the playdough, paint and sparkles from the younger days.   I have always loved working with older kids and everyone keeps telling me that will change when they are my own, but so far I don't see it and just like the "terrible twos" that we called the "terrific twos"  I believe a lot of it results in how you approach it.  I will not be scared of the teenage and high school years, I will be ready, I will expect challenges, but I will embrace them and be excited for them.  Besides I do love teaching older children, so why in the world would I not love teaching my own.

Kiss those babies!