Saturday, April 28, 2012

Motivating Children to Learn

Motivation is such an interesting topic, and one I have thought about frequently during my years spent as an educator. I believe that the level of motivation the child displays usually depends on the amount of say that he/she has in influencing the selection of coursework.

In our school, when we have experienced motivation issues, it usually indicates it is time for a change. I believe there needs to be a balance and clear expectations between the educator and child. For our family, reading, writing and math are subjects we consider too important to skip, but we let the children decide whether or not to study lesser important subjects such as gardening, dance, and sewing. Within the required subjects we still try to provide many opportunities for the children to have some amount of control over the curriculum.

If you are having motivational issues, perhaps this will help. First, ask yourself the questions to try to figure out what the real problem is, and then try something new.


The child hates school
1. Does he/she know what to expect in the upcoming day?
2. Does he/she know how long the school day will last?
3. Does the child have input in the choice of school activities?

Some children get frustrated because each day is so different from the previous day and they don't know what to expect. A friend of mine had this issue. When she made her day more consistent her child was much happier. Her first change was fewer field trips, and errands during the day. Then she set school hours and within the school hours there was a time set for predictable (everyday) activities and a time set for special activities.

In addition to my friend's method, there are other options for organizing the school day so the child knows what to expect. Workboxes are a popular organizing method. Perhaps a daily or weekly schedule could be created, or maybe the day could be divided into required activities and optional activities.

The child isn't interested in reading.
1. Who is selecting the books?
2. Why are the books being selected?
3. Is the book too difficult/easy for the child?
4. If given the choice, which books would the child select on his/her own?
         None?
         Poor quality books?
5. How are reading times structured?
6. Does the child have a reading disability?
7. How is reading encouraged?
8. Does the child see adults reading during the day?

Here are some possible changes to make to increase reading motivation.
- Give the child a choice between three books such as Robin Hood, Chinese Fairy Tales or The History of Inventions.
- Offer the child a shelf from which to select books for school reading.
- Take turns in book selection. Mom selects today's book and the child selects tomorrow.
- Try shorter reading sessions.
- Take frequent stops during reading sessions to discuss the material.
- Try taking turns reading to your child, listening to your child read and having your child read on his/her own.

The child hates math.
1. What do you think the real problem is?
2. Is math to easy and repetitive? Is it too boring?
3. Is it too complicated with too many rules?
4. Is there a lack of connection to the real world?

Many educators believe a formal math curriculum is required. Unfortunately this could be the reason the child is resistant to math. While some children thrive and do very well with a structured environment, it can have the opposite effect on other children. Fortunately, with the growing popularity of homeschooling there are an increasing number of alternative math resources. The Living Math Forum yahoo group is full of ideas to incorporate math learning into life with examples such as quilting and cooking. It also keeps a Living Math book list which contains stories that teach math.

What are your math goals?
Requirements up to 3rd grade for most schools include topics such as telling time, measuring, counting, place value, understanding quantities, addition, multiplication and division.

Perhaps math games and activities could be incorporated into the curriculum. In my opinion, they are much more fun than workbooks for learning these concepts. Oftentimes, children don't realize they are learning math skills as they find themselves focused and motivated to win the game.  Our Math Page has some ideas for math games and activities.

If you want some structure, Life of Fred is a complete math curriculum which teaches math through stories, examples and problems. It is very different from the standard public school curriculum, but it may be the right program for a child who constantly questions the necessity or usefulness of learning math. We are currently using it for my son and he is thriving with the method. Please see my blog post on Life of Fred for more explanation.

The child hates writing!
1. What do you think the real problem is?
2. Does the child write when not in school?
3. Does he/she color pictures that sometimes contain writing?
4. Who is determining the writing topic?
5. Is the child required to write perfect sentences with capitals, periods and proper grammar?
6. Is the child required to fix writing mistakes?
7. What are your writing goals for your children?
8. Do you want them to enjoy writing?
9. Do you want them to use proper English grammar, spelling and punctuation?

As soon as I got involved in the writing process with my children I promptly squashed all of their motivation by trying to teach them to write correctly. Many children are motivated to write because they have a story to tell or something to say, and not because they want to write grammatically correct sentences.  Now I'm getting better at motivating them to write. We still work on correct writing, but my method has changed dramatically.

Although we sometimes have writing assignments, we incorporate more of a writing process as opposed to following a writing curriculum. For example we recently studied writing in advertising. First we discussed advertisements; what they are, their elements, where we see them, etc. Then we wrote our advertisements ensuring each item we discussed was included. After that we spent a day checking for proper punctuation, a day on spelling, and a day incorporating feedback (the child decided which feedback to incorporate).

Some days the kids write for the sake of writing. No corrections required. Hmmmmmm.... Check out our Language Arts Page for more writing ideas. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

China History Co-op. Week 4 - Shang Dynasty

Week 4: We wrote on wood like the Ancient Chinese and made ivory carvings.

We began by discussing seven important elements from the Shang Dynasty writing each one down from top to bottom and right to left like the Ancient Chinese. The elements are described below.
1 - Wood Writing - The kids made their bamboo strips for writing by tying craft sticks together with yarn.
2 - Chariots were invented.
3 - Silk was invented - We listened to the story of Lei Zu and the Silkworm and the kids got to feel real silk cloth. You can find the story in the Story of the World Volume 1.

Then they got a chance to put the silk making process in order.
4 - Oracle Bone Writing - We learned about how the Ancient Chinese used the oracle bones as a sort of fortune telling device.
5 - Tortoise shell writing
6 - Bronze - The Ancient Chinese figured out how to make bronze by mixing tin and copper.
7 - Jade and Ivory - Carvings were made out of jade and ivory. First the kids got to see real (very old) ivory carvings that one of our history co-op members happened to have.

Ivory Carvings
Ivory carvings were made from bars of soap.
A vegetable peeler was used to make the surface of the bar of soap smooth.
Designs were carved with a vegetable skewer.
Paint was put on top of the bar of soap and then wiped off from the surface. The paint sunk into the grooves making the design visible.
 





This post is linked to: 
Joy Focused Learning

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Speed! - Patterns in the Cards - Six Speed

This is the fifth post in the series of posts. - Speed! Patterns in the Cards - I created the fun card game Speed! to teach multiplication. It uses skip counting to teach children to multiply and how to multiply faster. The series of Patterns in the Cards blog posts are meant to show some simple activities that can aid in number sense development using the Speed! cards.

Six Speed
Lay your cards out like this. What patterns do you see?

Here are the patterns I found with my son.
1. Ones digit is the same looking down the columns. 6-2-8-4-0.
2. Tens digit is a 0-1-1-2-3 and then a 3-4-4-5-6.


Do you think these patterns would continue if we added more cards? Continue laying out Six Speed cards with the backs up while counting by sixes in your head or writing the numbers on small slips of paper.
66 - 72 - 78 - 84 - 90

The patterns do continue!
Did you find any more patterns? Can you lay your cards out differently and find more patterns?

One thing I found interesting about the sixes is that the one digits are the same as Four Speed, but in reverse order. (4-8-2-6-0 Four Speed) & (6-2-8-4-0 Six Speed). This is more obvious when you do the Waldorf Circle exercise.


- draw a circle
- place 10 evenly spaced dots around the perimeter of the circle
- label the dots 0 thru 9
- starting at 0 draw lines in the order of the ones digit looking down the columns 6-2-8-4-0
- If you haven't tried this activity with Four Speed try it now and you should create a star in reverse order.


When you are done with this activity get out Seven Speed and get ready for next week.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Make your own electrical switch

The kids made their own electrical switches. The idea for the experiment came from the battery section of the Discover and Do science experiment curriculum.

They poked brads through a piece of cardboard. A paperclip was attached to one of the brads. They attached wires to a light, battery and both sides of the switch. Next, the paper clip was moved to complete the circuit. Unfortunately it didn't work and the light wouldn't turn on. Perhaps it was because the brads were painted white? Anyways, I then encouraged them to create and test their own switches.

 My son made his switch from paperclips.

This time the experiment worked.

My daughter created her switch from quarters.

Her switch worked too.

This post is linked to 
STEM Mom
Hearts for Home

 * I did not receive any compensation for this recommendation. I'm just a homeschooling mom who has found many products that I like. If you're interested in the products I recommend on this blog I want to make it easy for you to find them. 
** I am an Amazon associate and receive a small portion of the sales on orders made after clicking in from this site, which I promptly spend on homeschooling books and supplies for my children.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

China History Co-op. Week 3: Xia Dynasty

Week 3: We made our own pottery.

The Chinese people always believed the Xia Dynasty was a legend, until one day artifacts were found. Then archaeologists began listening to legends as a way to learn more about what life was like during that time period.



Farming began, and pottery was developed during the Xia dynasty.

Making Bowls
We created potter's wheels by taking apart fans.
The cover and blades of the fans were removed and plates were temporally hot-glued to the fans. Warning - This does work, but fans can burn out if they don't receive proper airflow to the motors and some clean-up is required.

Instead of clay salt-dough (2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 cup hot water, 1 tsp oil) was used. This also works, but clay is much easier to work with on a potters wheel. If too much water is added to the salt dough it becomes very mushy. Salt dough works better for pinch pots.

This was an educational project, but clay and a different form of wheels would be used if it was repeated.

At home we read the story Tikki Tikki Tembo. It is personally one of my favorites because my mother read it to me as a child. Through repeating the long musical name the legend tells the story of why the Chinese have short names.

To read more about our history activities click on one of the cultures below.
Celts
Vikings
Scythians

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spell Words from Magazine Cutouts - Phonics

Here is a fun and free phonics activity to help little ones learn to read.

Cut out photos of three-letter, short-vowel words such as pan, cup, bed, hat, dog, and cat from magazines. I did this step on my own before getting my daughter involved because I wanted to ensure that the words were all short vowel words.

Get out the letters and try to spell the word.

Staple several sheets of paper folded in half to make a book. Paste the magazine pictures into the book and try to remember how to spell the words. Then write the words below the pictures.





This post is linked to:
Show and Share Saturday

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Speed! - Patterns in the Cards - Five Speed

This is the fourth post in the series of posts. - Speed! Patterns in the Cards - I created the fun card game Speed! to teach multiplication. It uses skip counting to teach children to multiply and how to multiply faster. The series of Patterns in the Cards blog posts are meant to show some simple activities that can aid in number sense development using the Speed! cards.

Five Speed
Counting by fives is usually pretty easy for children. Therefore, introducing Five Speed and the associated patterns can feel like a fun break for the kids.

Lay your cards out like this. What patterns do you see?
Here are the patterns I found with my son.
1. Ones digit alternates between 5 and 0.
2. There are two of each Tens digit except for when it is a 0 at the beginning, and a 5 when the pattern is stopped. - 0, 1,1,2,2,3,3,4,4,5


Do you think these patterns would continue if we added more cards? Continue laying out Five Speed cards with the backs up while counting by fives in your head or writing the numbers on small slips of paper.
55 - 60 - 65 - 70 - 75
The patterns do continue!
Did you find any more patterns? Can you lay your cards out differently and find more patterns? Try laying them in two columns.

Try counting by fives while doing the Waldorf circle activity from last week.

- draw a circle
- place 10 evenly spaced dots around the perimeter of the circle
- label the dots 0 thru 9
- starting at 0 draw lines in the order of the ones digit counting by fives (5,0,5,0,5,0,5......)

The result should be a circle with a vertical line.


When you are done with this activity get out Six Speed and get ready for next week.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Leaf Press

When my older daughter received this leaf press for a birthday gift when she was four years old I never imagined how much we would use it. Snowball flowers in Germany, Iris in Colorado, and Black Oak leaves in California have all seen the inside of this press. The kids have made nature notebooks and seasonal decorations with their treasures. Do you have a leaf press? What do you do with the pressed leaves and flowers?

* I did not receive any compensation for this recommendation. I'm just a homeschooling mom who has found many products that I like. If you're interested in the products I recommend on this blog I want to make it easy for you to find them.
** I am an Amazon associate and receive a small portion of the sales on orders made after clicking in from this site, which I promptly spend on homeschooling books and supplies for my children.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

China History Co-op. Week 2: Timeline - China Timeline Figures

Week 2: We made our own timelines.

It was a very musical week at the history co-op. First we learned this song to help us remember the dynasties of China. The high school kids in the video did a great job and we love the song they taught us. Then we listened to two more songs about the dynasties of China. One was to the tune of Vogue and the other to We Didn't Start the Fire.

Here are the kids performing the China Dynasty Song.



Then we became familiar with a large timeline hung floor to ceiling.


The timeline had all the dynasties of China as well as the Celts, Vikings and Scythians which we studied previously in the history co-op. The kids each were given a few figures to add to the timeline. I have attached the figures below. You are welcome to print them for your own personal use.

China Timeline Figures 1
China Timeline Figures 2


Then the children made their own timelines by taping a long strip of register tape to two clothespin dowels and rolling them up. Each week they will get small figures to add to their timelines.

At home we read the the book The Legend of the Kite by Chen Jiang Hong. The illustrations contained scenes from China which were great for visual learners. I also enjoyed the legend.





Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Doll Clothes - Creative Design


My 10 year old daughter loves to make clothes for this bear and she designs them all herself. I taught her to sew much like I am teaching my younger daughter. See here. Many of the dresses below were made from the same simple pattern. She constructed the pattern and each dress looks different because she embellishes them differently and makes them from different fabrics. One has an appliqu├ęd dancer, one has a ribbon and rhinestones, and one has a bead.

She has learned and perfected her sewing, knitting, and crocheting skills mostly by making dolls and doll clothes. Through these activities she has learned to follow directions and design her own patterns. Constructing doll clothes has been a wonderful creative outlet for her.


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