I have decided that small boys are like little sponges. They will soak up whatever information you give to them – good, bad, or indifferent! In addition, I’ve realized that they will also give you ONLY what you ask for. They will not attempt to exceed the bounds of whatever task you assign. They do not typically seek ways to over-achieve, but they will work hard to deliver exactly what you have asked for . . . hmmmm.
Applying this theory in our homeschool has been interesting. For example, if I expect my small boy to write neatly (knowing he is mechanically capable of doing so), then he will. If I let it slide when he writes with less care, he will continue to do so until I remind him that sloppy letters are not an option, at which point he sheepishly corrects the sloppy letters and reverts to his beautiful (and apparently time-consuming) printing method instead.
2 weeks ago, before Fall Break, I asked each student to select someone they wanted to learn more about. I got the idea from another homeschooling blog I read – the report is called “Person I Admire” and it gives me the chance to fine tune their writing skills (including addressing things like writing an outline, bibliographies, note cards, and rough drafts etc where needed) and provides the opportunity to do an oral presentation (costumes + our kids = a win!). Spencer decided he wanted to do his report about the first man to walk on the moon. I selected some readers in his level from our local library, and he has spent 2 weeks absorbing all sorts of knowledge about Neil Armstrong.
I modeled the requirements for our written work on a similar assignment students are typically given at our previous school, with one notable exception – 2nd graders are not assigned this report. They are not expected to write anything of this length until closer to 3rd grade. But why not? I wasn’t sure how to go about this with a 2nd grader, but I decided we’d never know if I didn’t try . . . so I just typed up my expectations, printed them out and handed them to him. He looked at the guidelines, asked a few questions, and simply accepted that this was normal. Aren’t all 2nd graders writing a one page paper on a person they admire and then completing an oral report in costume? No? Well, never mind, he is! Why? Because I asked him to. 😉
Today we sat down and discussed his outline. I explained that it was like a plan and I wanted him to have one so that he knew where his report was going and how he would get there. This apparently made sense to him. We talked about rough and final drafts. I told him I didn’t expect it to be perfect because we would be making corrections together before his final draft. He knows to look up any words he is unsure of how to spell in our Scholastic Children’s Dictionary. I had to help him find the word “exciting” – and then tell him the word he actually needed for his sentence was “excited” (LOL) – but other than that, this small boy just turned out a complete paragraph about the early life of Neil Armstrong.
Oh. My. Word. Can I just take a moment here?? Who knew 8 year olds could do this??
Tomorrow I’ll have him write about his early career and the next day we’ll tackle achievements and accomplishments. The final day will be a paragraph on how this person has inspired him. ( I admit, I can’t wait to see what that paragraph looks like!)
So, now that the cat is out of the bag, it leaves me wondering . . . what else should I throw out there for my small boy to tackle?! I feel like this is a bit of a guessing game – “guess the student’s potential” – and it leaves me scratching my head a little. What else is he fully capable of and yet no one knows simply because no one has ever asked him to try? I was planning on beginning our times tables after Christmas . . . now I’m not so sure, maybe we’ll pull out the Schoolhouse Rock DVDs around Thanksgiving and get a head start. 😉