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    Helping my eighth grade daughter

    Hi, all! I'll try to keep this concise, as I am thinking this though from lots of angles.

    I have two children - my son is in fourth grade and my daughter is in eighth grade. We have been homeschooling her whole time in school. We spent six years in Classical Conversations, followed by a year of an eclectic mix of MP (Latin, plus a little literature and composition), Mystery of History, and Well-Trained Mind (Grammar for the Well-trained mind, Writing with Skill), before diving into MP in seventh grade. We love it, and except for Math, we are doing the full core, with adjustments for her level in Latin (Second Form) and Composition (Ref/Con).

    We are having issues with keeping up - except for Literature and Classical studies, she takes about a week and a half to two weeks to do every week's worth of assignments. We have a busy schedule that includes Tae Kwon Do Monday morning, two Tuesday Vita Beata classes (literature and classical), and Community Bible Study on Thursday morning. Those are all important to us, so I try to keep us to a reasonable schedule on the other days, but she is struggling to develop self-discipline, and I am struggling with how to help her do it. We do a lot of the reading together, which I love in one sense, but it also takes a lot of time, and it ties me up from focusing on my son, who needs more help since he is younger. She feels like she needs a "break" every time she finishes a subject, even if it only took fifteen minutes, and when she takes a break it is challenging to refocus her.

    This wouldn't be such a big deal, except that she will be in high school next year, and she needs to be able to finish her work in a reasonable time.

    I'm also struggling with how to make some of the topics more meaningful to her - which is one reason why I try to do so much with her, so we can talk about the things she is learning. Geography is one example - it is full of wonderful information and history, much of it new to her - the main history she really learned in our prior homeschool years was when we did Mystery of History 2 (Middle Ages) in sixth grade, and then American history last year. Before that, it was kind of piecemeal according to the Classical Conversations schedule. She lacks context in which to put all that she is learning now, and I'm afraid much is going over her head, as I saw on her Unit 2 test today - she got most of the map correct and the capitals, but showed only surface understanding of the essay questions. Does anyone have suggestions for how to make the historical information stick and sink in more deeply?

    I'm also taking a step back with her writing skills, having realized that although she spent fourth and fifth grade using IEW, she came away from that not really knowing how to write a simply paragraph, much less a more structured essay. We are working on that now, and trying to use the Rhetoric essays for her literature selections to do it, and it is oh so painful. She doesn't want to dig more deeply for ideas and quotes from the story and varied sentences. I feel like I'm dragging this out of her piece by piece.

    To give you an idea of where she is at in her different courses, she is on week 11 in Literature, classical , grammar, and composition, week 9 in Geography, week 7 in science and math, and week 6 in Latin and Christian Studies.

    She is a delightful young lady and overall had a great attitude, aside from this definite lazy streak. Our goals in homeschooling are to help ground our children in the Word of God, to help them know how to think and communicate clearly, and to have a love for others, for the Lord, and for His Word. We want them to have good character, including a good work ethic, and to understand how all of what they learn fits into a biblical world view. I feel like the Memoria Press courses fit these goals well, so I don't want to drop anything, but also don't want to feel "behind" for the rest of the year either. I would like her to be able to start ninth grade material in August of next year, and to have a bit of a break before then, and right now I'm not sure how to make that happen.

    Some of you have encouraged me in the Facebook MP groups - thank you! I figured I would write out all my questions here and take any other wisdom and suggestions people have. Thank you!
    2020-2021 Ninth year homeschooling, second year using MP cores

    DD - grade 8; also in AHG and Tae Kwon Do
    DS - grade 4; also in Trail Life and Tae Kwon Do

    Five born to Heaven, between 2009 and 2014; because of them we have a ministry called Naomi's Circle for parents walking the path of pregnancy loss

    DH is a bivocational pastor

    Celebrating 19 years of marriage this year!

    #2
    My thoughts on a few of the issues you are concerned about:

    1. Getting behind the curriculum manual (potentially not finishing 8th grade work before you want to begin 9th grade). I have always made summer break non-negotiable. I believe kids' brains need rest from academic pursuits. I would set an end date for the school year. Whatever you complete from the 8th grade curriculum will be time well spent. When you stop, you can assess what pieces were unfinished and what you really want to include in next year's studies. For example, if you only did 5 units in geography, you may schedule the rest of that book in 9th grade. The only exception to this "do the next thing" approach, in my opinion, is math. While you should definitely not skip, I would make math a priority so that you do what's scheduled every day, even if that's all you do. I would not want to let a kid fall behind grade level in math if avoidable.

    2. Taking breaks and not finishing work. What works for us is to work for a solid chunk of time, approximately 9-12, in the morning and another chunk, approximately 1:30-3 in the afternoon. No breaks, except bathroom and water, and even that is kept short. I make a clear list of assignments for each day, so the kids know exactly what "finished" means. If someone is working assiduously and still gets to 3 p.m. with some work unfinished, I will allow them to move it to the next day. If someone is NOT working assiduously, I usually have them continue till finished. Success with this depends on making assignments reasonable for each kid's abilities! They love the accomplishment of completing assigned work early, so I don't overload.

    3. Reluctant writing. I think using the rhetoric section essays from literature is a great place to focus on teaching writing because the themes/topics are worth thinking and writing about. If she's struggling to write even a paragraph, focus on getting one well-written paragraph for a while before insisting on more paragraphs, more examples, more quotes, or more varied sentences. Explicitly state: answer this essay prompt in one paragraph, including a topic sentence, 5 supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence. When you're satisfied with several paragraphs of this sort, expand the requirements a bit. Explicitly state: answer this essay prompt in three paragraphs...state your purpose/theme/opinion in the first paragraph, give an example from the book that supports your opinion in the second paragraph, restate your opinion in other words in the third paragraph. Then expand the number of body paragraphs required. I often model sentences, examples, figures of description for my kids when they are planning an essay. It can sound corny, but it helps get them thinking. After I've modeled a few ideas, they often start saying, "Wait, wait, I know what I want to say." And it's usually something completely their own.

    4. Understanding geography in historical context. In my experience, this comes from reading a lot of history and/or historical fiction. If she hasn't done much of that, she will have a surface understanding. Geography III is not an in-depth history course. As long as she is learning everything that is on those tests, that's a great start. Much more in-depth history is coming in MP's high school curricula. If you want her to have more knowledge of history now, I love Story of the World for an overview that's also a fun read. If she's an independent reader, she might read those on her own, or you could do them as family read aloud selections. And then historical fiction is great for fleshing out the facts. The Story of the World activity guides have many suggestions for further reading, both fiction and nonfiction. The Dear America series, Royal Diaries series, We Were There series, and I Surivived series have all been popular with my kids for independent reading. As a family we've read and enjoyed tons of other historical fiction, which I think gives them context for many events. A few of the top of my head, but you can find many more for whatever time period and culture you are interested in: Number the Stars, The Winged Watchman, The Prince and the Pauper, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Ivanhoe, Little House series (obvs not fiction), The Golden Goblet, Mara Daughter of the Nile.

    Hope some of this is helpful!
    Amy

    DS 13 MP8
    DD 11 MP6
    DS 9 MP4
    DD 6 MP1
    DS 4 R&S Pre-k books
    DS 1

    Comment


      #3
      Thank you so much! This is very helpful!

      Originally posted by smithamykat View Post
      My thoughts on a few of the issues you are concerned about:

      1. Getting behind the curriculum manual (potentially not finishing 8th grade work before you want to begin 9th grade). I have always made summer break non-negotiable. I believe kids' brains need rest from academic pursuits. I would set an end date for the school year. Whatever you complete from the 8th grade curriculum will be time well spent. When you stop, you can assess what pieces were unfinished and what you really want to include in next year's studies. For example, if you only did 5 units in geography, you may schedule the rest of that book in 9th grade. The only exception to this "do the next thing" approach, in my opinion, is math. While you should definitely not skip, I would make math a priority so that you do what's scheduled every day, even if that's all you do. I would not want to let a kid fall behind grade level in math if avoidable.

      2. Taking breaks and not finishing work. What works for us is to work for a solid chunk of time, approximately 9-12, in the morning and another chunk, approximately 1:30-3 in the afternoon. No breaks, except bathroom and water, and even that is kept short. I make a clear list of assignments for each day, so the kids know exactly what "finished" means. If someone is working assiduously and still gets to 3 p.m. with some work unfinished, I will allow them to move it to the next day. If someone is NOT working assiduously, I usually have them continue till finished. Success with this depends on making assignments reasonable for each kid's abilities! They love the accomplishment of completing assigned work early, so I don't overload.

      3. Reluctant writing. I think using the rhetoric section essays from literature is a great place to focus on teaching writing because the themes/topics are worth thinking and writing about. If she's struggling to write even a paragraph, focus on getting one well-written paragraph for a while before insisting on more paragraphs, more examples, more quotes, or more varied sentences. Explicitly state: answer this essay prompt in one paragraph, including a topic sentence, 5 supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence. When you're satisfied with several paragraphs of this sort, expand the requirements a bit. Explicitly state: answer this essay prompt in three paragraphs...state your purpose/theme/opinion in the first paragraph, give an example from the book that supports your opinion in the second paragraph, restate your opinion in other words in the third paragraph. Then expand the number of body paragraphs required. I often model sentences, examples, figures of description for my kids when they are planning an essay. It can sound corny, but it helps get them thinking. After I've modeled a few ideas, they often start saying, "Wait, wait, I know what I want to say." And it's usually something completely their own.

      4. Understanding geography in historical context. In my experience, this comes from reading a lot of history and/or historical fiction. If she hasn't done much of that, she will have a surface understanding. Geography III is not an in-depth history course. As long as she is learning everything that is on those tests, that's a great start. Much more in-depth history is coming in MP's high school curricula. If you want her to have more knowledge of history now, I love Story of the World for an overview that's also a fun read. If she's an independent reader, she might read those on her own, or you could do them as family read aloud selections. And then historical fiction is great for fleshing out the facts. The Story of the World activity guides have many suggestions for further reading, both fiction and nonfiction. The Dear America series, Royal Diaries series, We Were There series, and I Surivived series have all been popular with my kids for independent reading. As a family we've read and enjoyed tons of other historical fiction, which I think gives them context for many events. A few of the top of my head, but you can find many more for whatever time period and culture you are interested in: Number the Stars, The Winged Watchman, The Prince and the Pauper, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Ivanhoe, Little House series (obvs not fiction), The Golden Goblet, Mara Daughter of the Nile.

      Hope some of this is helpful!
      2020-2021 Ninth year homeschooling, second year using MP cores

      DD - grade 8; also in AHG and Tae Kwon Do
      DS - grade 4; also in Trail Life and Tae Kwon Do

      Five born to Heaven, between 2009 and 2014; because of them we have a ministry called Naomi's Circle for parents walking the path of pregnancy loss

      DH is a bivocational pastor

      Celebrating 19 years of marriage this year!

      Comment


        #4
        Amy's suggestions are so good, especially the idea for prompts with writing. It's funny, but on the Dante exams that is what the instructions look like. Dante!! High school!

        One brainstorming thing that may prove helpful is for you to rate the importance of each subject and then shuffle accordingly. All of the subjects cannot hold equal weight and some should be daily subjects, while others may have to be pushed along. For example, I would rate math and Latin at the very top of the list and move something like geography (even though it is incredibly interesting!) very near the bottom of the list. I've noticed that I have to make sure to give more time to the most important things so that I know we will get done with them.

        Keep in mind that your morning out is a lost school morning. That doesn't mean by any stretch that you have to stop doing that, but it does mean that you are cutting into the available work time for the week. I would not expect a student who is away for one morning a week to be able to get all of the week's work done in one week without that morning. In my home school, that would have the effect of almost an entirely lost day, making the available work time cut by about 1/5. While this may not affect younger students, I've seen over and over that upper middle school and high school students need a lot of time to get their work done. They're so much reading and thinking and writing! And it's good. But it takes the attitude of being a full-time student. Since that morning out is important to you, look at what she's doing each week and try to cut it by 1/5.

        As for your goals, I think you can probably step back as a mother and assess whether or not you are hitting those. Purely from an outsider's perspective, it sounds like you are. ❤️
        Festina lentē,
        Jessica P

        2021-2022 • 12th year HSing • 10th year MP
        DS 12th • AP Latin online, DE Calculus & Physics, HLN - Headed to Hillsdale College next fall
        DD 10th • HLN, Latin online
        DD 7th • HLN & Home
        DS 4th • HLN & Home
        Me • Third Form for Adults, MPOA; teaching TFL and co-directing @

        Highlands Latin Nashville Cottage School, est. 2016

        Comment


          #5
          Oh! I missed that taekwondo is on Monday morning. Depending on how long that takes and when you can get back to work, you might need to reduce the weekly workload by more like 1/4.

          Since that may be more movable than the community Bible study, that maybe something to try to move to two or three p.m. one day.

          ​​​​​
          Festina lentē,
          Jessica P

          2021-2022 • 12th year HSing • 10th year MP
          DS 12th • AP Latin online, DE Calculus & Physics, HLN - Headed to Hillsdale College next fall
          DD 10th • HLN, Latin online
          DD 7th • HLN & Home
          DS 4th • HLN & Home
          Me • Third Form for Adults, MPOA; teaching TFL and co-directing @

          Highlands Latin Nashville Cottage School, est. 2016

          Comment


            #6
            Kristi, I agree with Jessica that having a hierarchy of subjects is a very good thing, and it lends flexibility long term: what doesn't get very high in the list one year can be prioritized the next. For us, too, Latin and Math have always been at the top - having that clear in my head has informed both the school schedule and the kids' attitude. I also agree that two morning activities every week are something with a big impact, so it's not surprising you feel she's behind. And now she must be an AHG Pioneer, so that's also more intense: before the Pioneer level my daughter usually completed all requirements at meetings, but with the two upper level things change, the requirements are so much more work!

            The one drawback I see with Amy's point #1 is that it may not be a good idea to add to the already-hefty workload of high school the unfinished parts of middle school. It works with earlier grades, and you may make it work in 9th if your daughter is not doing any outside or online classes - but at some point high school ends, and you may never "catch up". A piece of advice I have seen here on the Forum has helped me: when you think of high school, think of what you would want your child to have studied by the end of it, then work backwards and fit everything in place. If there is unfinished work you are bringing in from earlier grades, that's a constraint - you may be fine with it, but you have to explicitly take it into account. Of course education doesn't end with high school, one will keep learning forever - but it avoids a lot of heartache to be very clear-eyed about the high school years.

            Last thing - I believe that it takes time usually for the meaning of it all to sink in deeply. I think what students learn every year feeds them at two levels: they understand what they can at the age they're at, but at the same time those subjects work in the background to foster maturity and greater understanding. It's like an ever-expanding spiral. They won't get everything out of whatever they're studying each year, but each year will reinforce the previous ones, and things will cement. It doesn't mean that one should ignore alarm bells. But I like to remind myself that the blooming of a child is patient, long-term work, and it can be a bit of a bumpy ride!
            DS (16)
            DD (15)
            DS (7)

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Mrs Bee View Post
              .

              Last thing - I believe that it takes time usually for the meaning of it all to sink in deeply. I think what students learn every year feeds them at two levels: they understand what they can at the age they're at, but at the same time those subjects work in the background to foster maturity and greater understanding. It's like an ever-expanding spiral. They won't get everything out of whatever they're studying each year, but each year will reinforce the previous ones, and things will cement. It doesn't mean that one should ignore alarm bells. But I like to remind myself that the blooming of a child is patient, long-term work, and it can be a bit of a bumpy ride!
              This is a really beautiful insight and beautifully explained. I try to keep before myself the question, "Was this a good first pass on this book/subject/idea?" A good first pass under the belt is a gift.
              Festina lentē,
              Jessica P

              2021-2022 • 12th year HSing • 10th year MP
              DS 12th • AP Latin online, DE Calculus & Physics, HLN - Headed to Hillsdale College next fall
              DD 10th • HLN, Latin online
              DD 7th • HLN & Home
              DS 4th • HLN & Home
              Me • Third Form for Adults, MPOA; teaching TFL and co-directing @

              Highlands Latin Nashville Cottage School, est. 2016

              Comment

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