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Yet another newbie needs help!

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Hi all, I've been lurking for a while, but I need some real person advice!


We've just moved to a new state and I'm dissatisfied with the public school here. My 7.5 yr old has come from a wonderful content-rich montessori school and is now in the local public school. It's a progressive and wealthy community that apparently is totally against using textbooks or teaching any science or history or math at lower elementary. Coloring and basic phonics work and TERC investigations make up the majority of her day in a first-second combo class. Everyone is super friendly and except for the mind-numbing boredom, my daughter likes school... but as far as I can see, there is nothing she has learned. Or will be learning. All year. Or next. And this makes me really think about why I'm sending her to school and what the point of school really is.


So I've started supplementing in the evenings... spending an hour or so snuggled in bed doing math or reading history. But what we're doing seems a bit haphazard. She reads and comprehends and has vocabulary (according to the reading specialist) at a high school level, so I'm not concerned about that. But I'm absolutely worried about math. In first grade last year she was working on multiplication and division and fractions and multiple digit addition and subtraction. Now her homework involves counting "the number of pockets that your family is wearing" or "reading the clock to the nearest hour". She's started forgetting all the stuff she did before (though to be fair, she sort of hated math). And she's dying for lessons in chemistry and history and geography and biology that she used to get... but I don't know how to fit in what she really wants to get.


My options are to continue what I'm doing or to pull her out completely (though I work part-time and would face some family disagreement).


What would you do in this situation? What would you recommend for math texts for a smart second grade girl who hates rote arithmetic but needs to practice? What texts would you recommend for a history buff or for a future scientist who needs a good challenge?



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It does seem that the school is wasting your daughter's time. Why cover basic phonics? Why spend so much time coloring? Why no science, history or math in the primary grades (K-2)? Your daughter might become a non-learner: too bored to bother. So this might be an argument in your favor, if you decide to pull her out entirely. Begin to gently lay the foundation now, in case you need to pull her out.


Option 1 -- Partner with the School: Try to ask questions, volunteer in her school, try to partner with the school (if you think it will bear any fruit). From what you describe, this doesn't seem as though it will be productive enough. Will they really add history, science, and more challenging math, just because you want it? You could try.


Option 2 -- Planned Afterschooling: You don't have to make charts of when to do what (e.g., page 92 on Tuesday at 6:30 pm), unless that helps you. What you DO need to do is line up your resources for the subjects you want to supplement, create a weekly grid or flow chart, and then work through your materials by following your plan. For example, you could set up your weekly routine like this (about 1 hour per day):


Mondays -- Math Curriculm AND Literature (do read alouds together in classic lit and poetry)

Tuesdays -- Math Fact Drill AND Science (read books & do narrations together, gather materials for a science experiment/project)

Wednesdays -- Math Curriculum AND History (read books & do narrations; work on timeline)

Thursdays -- Math Fact Drill AND Science Lab (do the science activity/project/experiment & record results with writing and/or photos)

Fridays -- Critical Thinking Press AND Art & Music Appreciation (look at fine art prints, read library books about artists & composers, listen to music)

Saturdays -- Field Trips, Latin Vocabulary (she might enjoy this), Library, Math Games, Cooking/Shopping (real life math that uses what she is learning -- look at your library for books on "real life math")


OR, if you have less time and want to focus more on math:


Mondays -- Math Curriculum

Tuesdays -- Snuggly Read Alouds

Wednesday -- Math Curriculum

Thursdays -- Snuggly Read Alouds

Fridays -- Math Fact Drill & Math Games

Weekends, School Breaks & Summers -- Nature Study, Science, History, Field Trips, Library, Music, Art


Option 3 -- Homeschooling: Of course, if you do this, you'll have to line up all the curriculum and weekly routine. If you get your bearings on what's available and possible through afterschooling, you might learn about your daughter's learning style (and your teaching style) in a few subjects before you invest in materials for everything. If you are able to homeschool your verbal daughter, there are so many ways to tailor the curriculum to her needs. For example, she could study Latin, Math, and Piano/Music Theory every day, then rotate her other subjects throughout the week (1-2 per day). This would be a rigorous, yet enjoyable course of study for your bright 2nd grader.


Sorry, I don't really know what math resources to recommend for a highly-verbal, bright child who has the ability to do higher levels of math than counting pockets (in second grade? Absurd!)! I agree, you do need to do something about this, or she will lose out. You might want to look at Singapore Math. Go to the K-8 board and do a search on Singapore, then read or even post a question for people who use it. HTH.

Edited by Sahamamama
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Is part-time homeschooling an option in your state? It is in my state, and I really appreciate the opportunity.


If not, I wonder if the school would let you design your own "pull-out" program to meet your daughter's academic needs. Maybe you could go to the school and work with her in the library with some materials of your choosing? Can't hurt to ask.


Focus on math. Our schools around here do a halfway decent job of science (at least the experiment part; they probably don't explain the why very well). History can be picked up informally. We listen to the Story of the World CDs while on trips, and that works well. But math needs consistent practice in the right order. I'd just do Singapore Primary Math on the side along with daily math fact drill. The drill should just take a few minutes. We used flash cards until they learned all 100 of the facts of addition, subtraction, multiplying, or dividing (90), and then we did timed 100 worksheet pages. Singapore plus drill ought to be enough until she gets to fractions; my kids have needed a lot more practice than Singapore provides in order to master fractions.


If you are interested in the philosophical reasons why the school is teaching what they are teaching, check out the Kitchen Table Math blog, which is a great resource for afterschoolers. I wouldn't assume that the community likes TERC, unless you have evidence of that. School people like it, but usually not parents. Parents in these communities can afford tutors or Kumon, however, which boosts test scores, which makes schools ironically think that the TERC is doing a good job.

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Do it at night, weekends, holidays or home summer school:


History - Story of the World series with activity guide (audio cd)


Geography - sheppardsoftware - free online games


Math - Games for Math by Peggy Kaye - usually at the library OR Christian Light Education math BUY the FIRST lightunit which is a review of ALL the previous grade and do one lesson/week


Science - watch Bill Nye the science guy on Youtube; buy a Delta Science kit

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Thank you all for your advice! We will lay out a schedule for our evening "lessons" (from bed -- it works for us...). I think that may make it seem a bit less random. I really appreciate the websites too - especially the science guy and geography suggestion.


We do have an alternative school in town that is for part-time homeschoolers and I've put my daughter on the waiting list for it... We'll be able to pick and choose classes to take. But until that happens, we're kind of stuck at our pleasant (but completely non-academic) school.

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What would you recommend for math texts for a smart second grade girl who hates rote arithmetic but needs to practice? What texts would you recommend for a history buff or for a future scientist who needs a good challenge?




I used Singapore Primary Math. It's not rote and there were enough exercises and problems that my boys mastered their facts without drill. They consider the problems fun. They also liked Ed Zaccarro's Primary Grade Challenge Math as well as games. Addition/Subtraction/Multiplication War, PC games such as Zoombinis & Clue Finders, and Board Games give a lot of painless practice. I recommend Z-Man's Pick and Pack as a fun little game to practice mental calculations and strategy and also Mille Borne.


History - we read and went to museums and historical sites.


Science -same. Also did experiments and collections as desired.


About 4 years ago in my state, the push from the top was to include more nonfiction in childrens' reading. The libraries have followed suit and we find many many interesting books there. I'd also suggest 4H or scouting resources.

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