Saturday, July 26, 2014

Why I Quit Grading Math Assignments

This summer we've been trying out a new method of utilizing our Saxon math curriculum and I must say it has been an absolute life saver... okay maybe just a sanity saver.

Amber has always used Saxon math; she knows no other curriculum even having attended two different Lutheran schools prior to being homeschooled.  Amber has never had an issue with Saxon and has great success with it.  We know that it is not for everyone, but for those who can learn in that fashion it is a wonderful tool.

However, lately Amber was feeling very stressed about math assignments and worried about getting wrong answers.  She is an excellent math student and felt she should not be making so many mistakes since she is "good at math".  This brought on more stress every time I tried to grade her assignments and tests.  It had gotten to the point where I was grading math only once a week and during that time Amber closed her eyes and held her ears while nearly having a full blown panic attack.  Seriously, it was just math assignments.  Nothing bad was going to happen.  I don't even record grades for daily work.

I knew there had to be a solution, other than switching math curriculum, because really what would switching do for us?  She would still be stressed about it and possibly not learning the way she thinks on top of it.

I had done tons of research after we starting homeschooling about the proper way to utilize the Saxon curriculum.  I really can't say enough wonderful things about Art Reed's Newsletters.  He really knows the curriculum backwards and forwards and understands the intended use for Saxon math. (And I've not purchased any items from him, I just read the free newsletters).

We have made several beneficial math usage adjustments over the years based on Art Reed's recommendations.  We do not skip any math lessons, not even if it seems like the next level will cover the topic too.  We do not skip any problems, even if there are two (or four) of the same topic in an assignment.  I learned that I can either use the curriculum correctly, or I can take the risk of possibly making things too difficult for Amber.

Despite my intentions, it appears I was misusing the curriculum during Algebra 1/2 and caused the resulting stress.  During my research for a solution to Amber's math anxiety I came upon a recent Art Reed blog entry about grading assignments.  Apparently, it is not recommended to grade each and every math assignment at this level.   Yes... you read that right.  I was a little taken aback by that and Fred pretty much told me his math was graded and Amber's should be too.

The given reasoning is that the students take a test after every 4 lessons, with material that has been covered for at least 8 lessons prior to the test.  They are not expected to have mastery prior to the test.  Also students do not generally put their best work forward on daily math assignments, but do put more effort into their tests.  We had noticed this with Amber.  She could get all the problems right on a test, but miss quite a few on an assignment.  She also might miss several on an assignment, but when asked to correct the incorrect problems could get the proper answer with no help at all.



After discussion with Amber we went forward with this new system. I still teach each lesson topic to Amber as I've always done. She still completes all the problems for the lessons. Amber agreed to come to me when working assignments if she feels that she did not sufficiently understand a topic. I don't grade daily assignments unless Amber feels unsure about her understanding. Then I check just those problems she is concerned over. I do grade the tests and go over any errors with Amber to ensure her comprehension. There has yet to be an issue with the same types of problems two tests in a row.

Perhaps there is something to this system. Amber is definitely less stressed by daily work and feels confident by the time the test on each topic comes around.  We plan to keep with this method for the foreseeable future and hope it encourages learning instead of worry about grades.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A New Diagnosis

This was almost just another summer week.  Amber has been wonderfully creative this week and has tons of projects still going. She finally made the faerie house that she has dreamed of making.  Only she couldn't bear that it might be destroyed or ruined. It is now a semi-permanent outside decoration for our house.  It was originally going to sit in the front landscaping, but now is sitting protected in the back corner of the porch.  Amber can also check it from a front window in that location.  I've been told a faerie has definitely taken up residence and enjoys the ladybug and mini-turtle friends (not real ones) that Amber placed in the home.

We cleaned out the most difficult area of the basement this week and it was nothing less than a miracle to have survived... Ok, maybe not a miracle but it was hard work.  None of our basement is finished, so the framed area under the stairs to the basement is accessible and makes a great, out of the way storage spot.  Unfortunately, once things go in they never come out.  Like Wiggles and Daffy Duck VHS tapes (we don't have a VCR anymore), three (count them) copies of Windows 98, all the left over builder grade paint from 8 years ago when our house was built, and all of our college textbooks... even the ones we have that are identical.   Amber did have some fun going through my childhood keepsake bins and our wedding keepsakes (that aren't already upstairs).  But after most of a day working, and creating a huge pile of recycle and donation items, I have now reclaimed that area for new items that need to be stored.  It's a vicious cycle.   At least it's all labeled this time.

Amber's Faerie house.  It boasts two flower beds, a wooden table, courtyard area, friendly ladybug and turtle, and a dragon egg nest (bottom-right pic). 


Since the basement area was cleaned, I now had a place to go with all of the random things from the guest bedroom closet.  I tackled that task alone while Amber played on Build-A-Bearville.  She just adores playing there, even though she is missing her friend who is on vacation.  She loves giving tours as a Cy-Bear-Guide.

The guest bedroom closet was home to many craft projects that never came to be, along with anything else we need a quick home for.  It is still our main craft storage area for Amber, but now with only items that she might actually complete.  Amber did find the Friendship Pin kits I bought on sale years ago. She spent a couple of evenings making Friendship Pins and was a bit aghast to find out I did that as a child too.

Amber also finally completed an American Girl doll t-shirt design kit.   We bought it before her 8th birthday to decide if this was a craft we wanted at her birthday party.  We did make doll shirts at the party, just not from that kit.  The thing only came with three shirts.  The child is 12 1/2 years old now.  Yet there was miraculously one shirt still left.  She turned it into a Frozen themed shirt for her dolls and now the kit is gone. Hallelujah.

Amber's other crafty things from this week. 


Speaking of Frozen, Amber is still enthralled with it.  While shopping two weeks ago we saw an Elsa custom American Girl doll outfit in a handmade items store at the mall.  They also had an Anna outfit, but as it has hand embroidery, it was only made to order.  Can you guess what Amber now has?  We found that the long blonde haired Caroline doll easily doubles as Elsa and the red haired Emily doll can be transformed into a ponytailed Anna (sorry, her hair would not stay in braids).   There's been lots of Frozen themed doll playing here lately.

We also found some $1 Frozen sticker books and notebooks at Target last weekend.  Amber has already gone through two of the 300 sticker packs and 1 1/2 of the notebooks creating Frozen themed art journal pages.  Of course, she was using her $1 Frozen gel pens and sparkly, pom pom Olaf pen too.  

I did not do any school planning since it is all pretty much ready to go.  We did do a little reorganization of the school area after moving the art supply drawers to the guest room closet, but most of the transformation into a double person area will happen as we need it.  We did have progress with the adoption this week, but probably not the kind you are expecting.   I will maybe be able to say more next week.

Amber's Caroline and Emily American Girl dolls dressed as Elsa and Anna from Frozen.  The Anna outfit also came with the magenta colored cape, but it was cumbersome when riding in the Miss Caroline skiff. 


Amber did have her neuroscience visit yesterday.  We are all kinda still processing what came from that appointment.  I honestly thought they would listen to why we had been referred there (and why I was chastised by the GI doctor for not getting her in sooner.. even though I jumped through hoops), look Amber over and tell me that we were grasping at straws and she pretty much just has fructose malabsorption.  I was wrong.

Amber has Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).   It is a form of dysautonomia.  It's really a group of disorders with similar symptoms.  Kinda like IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).  Some testing was done yesterday and further testing is being scheduled to determine which underlying disease or condition is causing her POTS.  The neuroscience doctor believes the most probable cause is Autoimmune Autonomic Ganglionopathy (AAG).

All of this to say the fructose malabsorption is a side effect of another condition.  Amber has a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system and it is definitely affecting her blood pressure, heart rate and digestive tract.  This explains why she is so intolerant of heat and exercise lately and why she is so, so exhausted all the time.

We have additional changes to Amber's life style to make, per the neuroscience doctor as way of treatment, along with being on the medical testing roller coaster again.  Once we get the changes up and going I'll talk a little more about them. For now, I'm trying to figure out how to rearrange our lives, again. One positive is that there is hope for Amber to tolerate fructose some day if the underlying cause of POTS can be dealt with successfully.

(TOP-LEFT) Playing on Bearville.  She's not feeling too great either because of a Summer cold.
(BOTTOM-LEFT) Lunch during errands at our favorite place in the historic downtown. No time to shop, but at least we could have lunch.
(RIGHT) Being silly.  We love to be silly.
On a happier note, for our last week of summer break our nephew is coming for another 3-4 day visit.  Amber is over the moon excited to have her 7 year old cousin staying.  She is going to be one exhausted girl when he leaves.  Thankfully, it will be just in time for a couple of days rest before school starts. 

This weekend I vow to finally make Amber some more baked goods.  For real this time.  Not like the day earlier this week when we made brownies with chocolate ganache.  It was supposed to be baking day.  It was instead "bake one thing" day.  But those brownies were ever so yummy.

Happy Weekend!

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Happy Summer Doings

We've been having a relaxing couple of summer weeks here. It is so cliched to talk about the weather, but it has been so lovely and unseasonably cool here. Highs in the 70's... In mid-July, in Missouri!  Amber has actually felt like playing outside and didn't end up sick after 5 minutes.

On the health topic, Amber has been doing great with her food. We did the trial of Sucraid, but it didn't really have any effect on Amber except to make her a little quesy one time.  Amber was finally given an appointment for this coming week to see the neuroscience specialist recommended by the GI doctor to track down her exhaustion, overheating, and dizziness.

Playing outside and being silly. (Bottom-Right) Math at the car dealership.  I love my Volvo, but the regular maintenance takes forever.  It was a total of 6 hours Thursday for our drive to the dealership and the wait.
We are about two weeks away from the official start of our new school year. Amber has been working on math all summer though and we have found a good balance to lower her math stress. Math causes anxiety for our little perfectionist.  We have our homeschool co-op enrichment classes all lined up and the lesson plans are complete for all of our regular subjects. I even have some plans going for the classes I'm teaching at the co-op.
If you are interested, I did update our curriculum page for this school year.   We have really pared back our subjects and curriculum. I'm excited to see how this works for Amber.

(TOP)Build-A-Bear fun (BOTTOM-LEFT) Kinetic Sand... Amber tolerates this feeling and it helps as a sensory activity. (BOTTOM-RIGHT) Another new LEGO kit.

After many baking sessions in June, I've felt burned out this month. I need to get back to making more than Amber's bare necessities. The problem is that pasta is next on the list. As far as I can find, all the wheat free packaged pasta has either brown rice or soy. One brand makes a white rice spaghetti, but no macaroni or any other pasta. My job is to cobble together a pasta recipe that Amber can tolerate and test it as the easier to make spaghetti before I buy a pasta extruder to make macaroni and other round pastas.  Therein lies my reluctance. That and I'm just tired.
 
We have been working on lots of little organizing and decluttering projects at home. I'd like to know who authorized all the stuff I keep finding in my house.  Surely, it couldn't have been me.  At some point soon the playroom has to move across the hall, but the destination room is not even remotely ready yet. That room still looks like a guest room that the cats think is their personal space.   I also need to start acquiring bedroom furniture for the soon-to-be-old-playroom and finish the painting of existing furniture.  We are also working on decluttering Amber's bathroom and hope to have that finished this weekend. Alterations of the school area are progressing as well and I hope to have the majority completed by the time school starts.  The school area isn't being changed a great deal; we're mostly trying to make it more easily adapted to two children instead of personalized for a single girl. 

(LEFT) Strawberry with plain greek yogurt (RIGHT) Flute practice.  She has moved to longer lessons each week, and so practices more each day too.


There is an update on our adoption status, however it needs to wait a bit before being published. I'm feeling much more at peace right now though. 

Today Amber and I did a bit of shopping, playing together, and just resting.   Our temperatures are supposed to become more seasonable next week, so we are trying to make the most out of the remainder of the mild and tolerable weather.

Shopping with Grandma too.  We love to try on the masks.  It's so much fun!
 

Happy Weekend!


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