I have a lovely boy who is going into the 5th grade. He has had some struggles in school, especially in the earlier years. When he was in kindergarten and first grade it was a struggle to get him to sit still and focus on his task at hand. As the years were going by so quickly I decided that I wanted him to be more successful in schoolwork so I instituted Mom School during the summer break. Mom School had a special purpose in mind, so my son would catch up over the summer rather than lose his skills. I created assignments for him to do.
He especially struggled in writing. A friend who was a teacher suggested that I give him a clothes pin and ask him to close it by using just his index finger and thumb. He could not do this at first but it really was good finger strengthening and soon he was capable of holding his pencil correctly. That made all the difference in the world for his writing skills. He no longer had to use a pencil guard and so I would have him practice his letters and write simple sentences for me. As he grew older I would have him write out the grocery list and then he would read off what we needed as we went down the isles at the grocery store. I had him write letters to his sisters. This was all designed to help him learn to print his letters correctly and more legibly.
He also has had some difficulty learning to read; mostly he skips words and actually reads them out loud as a shortened word. An example would be reading the word “something” he would say out loud the word “some.” I suffered through listening to him read books so that I could catch him skipping words and correct him. It was painful for my ears sometimes, but I felt it was necessary for him to improve his skill of reading. I also started reading books to him. We read a series of books that were too advanced for him to read on his own but I would let him read a few pages every once in a while and he loved reading to me. We both put a lot of expression into our reading and sometimes he would act out a scene from the book as I was reading it to him. I wanted him to see that reading could be fun and not just drudgery.
After a couple of summers of these types of activities my son was pretty well caught up and I thought that Mom School would no longer be necessary. I was right and wrong both at the same time. While it is true he didn’t really need Mom School, apparently he loved doing Mom School and so the summer between 4th and 5th grade I asked him what he wanted to do all summer long and he requested Mom School! Go figure!
This was a challenge for me because I was not really prepared for opening Mom School again. However I found an old three-ring notebook and filled it with page dividers and paper. I also found some old text books that had belonged to my adult children as they were growing up. Here’s how I created the Mom School notebook.
The first section is math. He loves math and is pretty good at it so I searched the web and found some math worksheets and we started with them. Then as the summer progressed we found old math workbooks for his age hidden within the various children books we had recently unpacked. He has finished three of those and is now working on the fourth. As I said, he loves math!
The second section is reading. I have allowed him to choose some of the books he has read this summer but I have also assigned books. He gravitates toward the books that can be read in a week and I gravitate toward chapter books like Black Beauty and Tom Sawyer. It takes him longer to read the chapter books but he does seem to enjoy them just as much. I have told him that he needs to read two hours per week day for a total of ten hours per week. He uses an alarm clock to be precise on his reading time and he enjoys this assignment. At the end of a book he has to write a one page book report. I think that he will be doing this in school as well so it is good preparation for the future. The down side to having him read is that I realized I was not reading books so I began to read as well. What’s good for the child is good for the Mom!
The next section in the Mom School notebook is spelling. We haven’t spent as much time as I had planned on this section but we have done some spelling words. I usually gather words from the book he is reading and utilize them. Another way I have gotten a list for spelling is to use the words he misspelled the week before in his writing. His spelling is improving.
He also has a section in science. He has done an experiment where he grew a tree plant from a seed and documented this with the video camera. He also has an old health textbook that he does one chapter per week and then takes the test written at the end of each chapter. I allow him to use the book for his test, after all it is summer. But he has learned many things about his growing body and seems to enjoy what he is learning. He told me the other day that he has to stop drinking sips of my coffee because it is not good for his bones…okay…so that’s why my cup seemed to be empty way too soon!
Another section is history. I found an old textbook on Germany and it has some very interesting chapters that teach all about Germany. He does one chapter per week and has to write down what he learned at the end of the week. He has learned some very interesting facts about Germany.
The next section I have for him to do is his journal. For half the summer he would write down something I told him to copy or answer some questions that I posed each day. But when we were unpacking some children’s books we found a great little book that has one or two pages blank for the child to write in and the book poses the questions. He wanted to use that book for his journal and he is doing quite well. He expresses himself well but he is not verbose like his Mother, maybe that’s a good thing.
The final section in the infamous Mom School notebook is field trips. We haven’t gone on as many field trips as I had wanted, but we have had a few. The point of the field trip section is to go to museums or historical points of interest and then he can write about what he learned. One of the field trips was a trip to the grocery store. It is amazing what you can learn from a grocery store, especially when there are free samples. We always purchase a new fruit that we have never tried before and then search out how to use it. We have tried star fruit, lemon drop melon, baby bananas, dragon fruit, and papaya. We love trying new fruits, it is an adventure as well as educational.
His notebook does not have a section for music, however, he is learning to play the piano this summer and he is doing quite well. He will continue with music lessons when school begins again because I value music and think a musical education is important.
While some may thing I am going overboard in Mom School, I think my son would be the first to disagree. He loves to learn and just because it is summer vacation does not mean that he needs to be sitting around and playing video games all day and night long. He spends about four hours per day in Mom School and he is not bored. When school begins again, he will be seeing the fruits of his labor because he has kept his brain sharp all summer long.
I don’t know if we will do Mom School next year, but if he requests it, we probably will. I think to see my son turned on to education and learning how to study is a great asset to his life. Is he a nerd? No, but he isn’t a jock either. He is a kid that is turned on to learning and for that I am thankful.
Until next time……Katherine