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Combining vs Not Combining, for content subjects


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So, for a while now we've been combining, doing unit studies and all discussing and learning about a topic together, with output at different levels. I'm loving the conversations that come from that, from everyone including the 3 yr old talking about a subject together. But some of what we do is too much for my 2nd grader attention wise, especially when you add in the 3 yr old being distracting and wanting to ask her own questions, lol. 

I'm wondering if I would be better off taking a break from that and doing content one on one with them while the other plays with the 3 year old. But doing that means totally switching up what we've been doing....and I have no idea what I might like to use, lol. 5th grader has a lot of options, but not sure what I'd do with the 2nd grader for say, social studies or science. Or, I might just find out what each wants to learn about, and do that with them with just regular books, videos, etc and do journal responses. 

My main reasoning is that the younger one is getting dragged into stuff that is above his level really, and I worry that's going to impact attitude, frustration, etc. 

Alternately, we could do something together, but at his level, and then add in extra independent reading for my older one? 

I swear, this pandemic has melted my brain, lol. 

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I haven't tried this yet, but for this year I'm planning on combining, but then extending with the older kid. I'm doing 5th and 1st together. So we will start with stuff on the 1st graders level, that is mostly just fun and review for the 5th grader. Then I'll send the 1st grader off to play, and tackle the same subject but on a higher level with the 5th grader. 5th grader will also have higher level independent readings. No idea how it will work out, but that's the plan as a way to combine, but on very different levels.

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I always combined in elementary with the idea that for anyone younger than 3rd grade, it didn't really matter if they participated or not. It was their choice. I didn't really require formal history or science until 3rd. So the little ones would often come watch experiments, or do the other "fun" stuff, but then run away and play if it got boring or over their heads or whatever. So that would be another option to try - do the subject with your older child and let the younger participate as desired. That way there's no pressure and no extra work for you. Maybe if you give it a year, it will be easier to combine.

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I combined my two oldest boys for many things (history, science, even math for a few years) when they were younger; but by the time one of them was knocking on double digits in age, it didn't work.  Older child felt "stupid" because he was doing the same as his younger brother (even though I expected different output from the older child and did some other customizing...).  My boys were too competitive.

I tried again with my two middle children...and it fell apart after a year or two as well.  Older child was highly offended that his baby sister was doing *his* school. 

Nowadays, everyone in my house has their own course of study with their own books and their own schedule.  Much better attitudes, even if it does mean more work for me.

Last year, I did happen to have two children both studying Middle Ages in history, which led to some nice random conversations together, but that was just a happy bonus and not something I made happen.  😉  

 

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4 hours ago, hollyhock2 said:

I always combined in elementary with the idea that for anyone younger than 3rd grade, it didn't really matter if they participated or not. It was their choice. I didn't really require formal history or science until 3rd. So the little ones would often come watch experiments, or do the other "fun" stuff, but then run away and play if it got boring or over their heads or whatever. So that would be another option to try - do the subject with your older child and let the younger participate as desired. That way there's no pressure and no extra work for you. Maybe if you give it a year, it will be easier to combine.

Maybe that is the answer. 

He's 2nd, and I suspect dysgraphia at some level. So output is hard, and he's my wiggly ADHD boy, so sitting still for long readings is also hard. And right now we are studying government, which is just I think too abstract for his age. So even though the output is at his level, the entire subject is not, if that makes sense. Very different from when we were studying birds or space, you know? 

I may just have him do math, handwriting, and a language arts page a day, and include him in any videos, etc but not require he pay attention to the reading and such. 

the other issue is that my older one, due to dyslexia, still needs help with spelling, etc as she's doing her work, so it isn't like she can be totally independent with that part. 

Edited by Ktgrok
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20 minutes ago, square_25 said:

So don't do it, lol. What's the point of studying something too abstract for a kid? 

Well, I didn't realize that was the problem until now, lol. 

I've hit pause on that right now. Today we learned about lions at the request of the 3 yr old. Who then cried and refuse to let anyone see the books about lions. And then after she was in time out and I read about lions, I handed out a choice of notebooking pages which he filled out happily...all about cardinals. 

Sigh. 

(oh, and in funny but true...there was a spot on the page where it said, "today I learned:________________________" with several blank lines to write a few sentences about whatever you learned. But instead, he wrote "yes". 

After I stopped laughing, I explained it wasn't a yes or no question, lol. 

Edited by Ktgrok
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9 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Combining subjects seems to be a bit of a pain, lol. 

We're still trying to figure out what to do with respect to content, since we've been pretty unschooly on content so far. I think my current plan is not to require any output except discussion for subjects that we just sit and read together, though. Mostly because it feels like we have enough content about output as is, and it doesn't seem... necessary? 

Yeah, I go back and forth on, do I do separate language arts, and then let content be less output or do I use the content to teach and do language arts, which then requires we do some actual output on the content....if that makes sense at all?

So if we are using "writing about our social studies" as our writing, I need output related to social studies. OR, we can just do writing as its own thing, and not write about social studies.

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I started combining when my youngest started doing school.  It was the only way I could get through the day and feel like I had accomplished stuff.  They did separate language arts and math, but otherwise it was combined.  I think that it worked well, and the stuff I used was easy to give more in depth things to my eldest to work on on her own.  But my kids liked having discussion times together and it helped keep things cohesive for me.  If I hadn't combined I think we would have had to skip a lot of the "fun" subjects like science and history because I just would not have had the time.  And now that they are older they have a lot of fond memories of doing projects together, which is nice.  I was afraid they would forget it all.

As the kids got older and DD was in high school, we stopped combining.  DD was a very independent learner so it worked well and I had the ability to divide my time more.  Now that it is just the boys, I am finding myself combining a few subjects again.  The boys will be doing Bible and science together this coming year.  It will give them a chance to have more in depth discussions I think, especially for Bible.

So I guess my philosophy is go with what is working/will work for your kids in the stage they are at, and for you as the teacher.

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Oh, and the best part of it all today? After I explained that "yes" wasn't the answer for "Today I learned: _____________________" he sat for a minute, and then said, "I can't think of anything we learned about Cardinals today."

Um, maybe because we were learning about LIONS!!!!!!

Sigh. 

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6 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

Yeah, I go back and forth on, do I do separate language arts, and then let content be less output or do I use the content to teach and do language arts, which then requires we do some actual output on the content....if that makes sense at all?

So if we are using "writing about our social studies" as our writing, I need output related to social studies. OR, we can just do writing as its own thing, and not write about social studies.

Writing about content has never worked for us.  Both of my older boys HATE writing, like truly despise it. If I try to insist on any written output about a content subject, then by association they HATE the content subject as well. 
 

So we do writing as it’s own separate subject, carefully isolated so as not to pollute other subjects with its awfulness. 
 

Mostly I just read aloud for history, science, poetry, and literature (English and Spanish).  I do most of that reading in short bursts during meals and snacks...but added up it totals about two hours a day. This year my 6th grader is doing a bit more content output, but not much writing.  He is doing mapping, creating Anki cards and adding to a digital time line for history (as well as doing additional reading beyond what I read aloud).  He is practicing taking notes while I read science. 

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9 minutes ago, square_25 said:

I don't think DD8 hates it the way your kids do, but it's her least favorite thing. I generally just go with letting her pick her own projects. But I agree -- if I made her writing about any specific content that she didn't choose, she'd probably not like the content. 

Yeah, hate is actually too mild a word for what my kiddos feel toward writing, and letting making them choose the topic just deepens their hatred.  Both of them are actually okay-ish writers mechanically, though what they produce is short, awkward and stultifyingly boring.  But getting words on paper (via pencil, typing, dictation or talk to type) is akin to torture. Today my 9 year old tantrummed for 3 hours, including toppling furniture and throwing a dollhouse at a window, all over being asked to add one detail sentence to a paragraph his ABA therapist is helping him write.   My 11 year old’s reaction to writing isn’t nearly as violent, but it is just as deeply felt.  😟

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We do both, not simultaneously. I have resources for combining and resources where each kid sits and discusses with me separately. What we do each day depends largely on everyone's mood and what they've been up to so far, especially the three year old. 

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16 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

Yeah, I go back and forth on, do I do separate language arts, and then let content be less output or do I use the content to teach and do language arts, which then requires we do some actual output on the content....if that makes sense at all?

So if we are using "writing about our social studies" as our writing, I need output related to social studies. OR, we can just do writing as its own thing, and not write about social studies.

 

16 hours ago, square_25 said:

I'd probably just suggest you be flexible?? Like, there HAS to be some writing, I agree, but whether it's about social studies or not can vary, right? 

At least, that's me. I tweak things constantly. 

If your 5th grader is dyslexic, I would separate out different aspects of writing when going over it.  I have my kids write their assignments triple spaced.  For my dyslexics, I don't address spelling in terms of the writing.  I simply circle the misspelled words and we address those separately.  By 5th grade, I don't sit there and let them ask me how to spell every word.  They spell them to the best of their ability and focus on writing skills.  (Unless they are so severely impacted by their dyslexia that reading is still a struggle and then we don't focus on writing, but reading.)  

Depending on how badly they are impacted, one skill I teach them is to read their paper from end to beginning.  By reading it backwards, it forces them to focus on each word vs. what they wrote.  It is a good spelling proofreading skill.  (But this only helps if they are able to discriminate individual word's spelling.  My dyslexics often misspell words like with in their writing but do actually know how to spell it.  So just seeing it in isolation allows them to see it misspelled.)

Either way, I circle the misspelled words but focus on their writing--sentence construction, paragraph construction, word choices, etc.  After we discuss their writing, I review the circled words and talk them through the corrections.

FWIW, I don't expect writing every day.  Some days writing is discussing the writing process.  Some days it is editing with me.  Some days it is brainstorming ideas.  Others might be researching topics/gathering info, etc. Outlines, rough drafts.......

 

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1 hour ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

 

If your 5th grader is dyslexic, I would separate out different aspects of writing when going over it.  I have my kids write their assignments triple spaced.  For my dyslexics, I don't address spelling in terms of the writing.  I simply circle the misspelled words and we address those separately.  By 5th grade, I don't sit there and let them ask me how to spell every word.  They spell them to the best of their ability and focus on writing skills.  (Unless they are so severely impacted by their dyslexia that reading is still a struggle and then we don't focus on writing, but reading.)  

Depending on how badly they are impacted, one skill I teach them is to read their paper from end to beginning.  By reading it backwards, it forces them to focus on each word vs. what they wrote.  It is a good spelling proofreading skill.  (But this only helps if they are able to discriminate individual word's spelling.  My dyslexics often misspell words like with in their writing but do actually know how to spell it.  So just seeing it in isolation allows them to see it misspelled.)

Either way, I circle the misspelled words but focus on their writing--sentence construction, paragraph construction, word choices, etc.  After we discuss their writing, I review the circled words and talk them through the corrections.

FWIW, I don't expect writing every day.  Some days writing is discussing the writing process.  Some days it is editing with me.  Some days it is brainstorming ideas.  Others might be researching topics/gathering info, etc. Outlines, rough drafts.......

 

Ideally I'd do this, but she WILL NOT WRITE if she can't spell it properly. She will go look it up, or just shut down, but she will not keep writing if she can't spell the word. And there are a LOT of words she cannot spell. 

Honestly, today we introduced using notability app and speech to text for her American Government notebooking page. She will still have other things that will involve writing by hand, spelling, etc and she's continuing to work on her typing which will be HUGE for her, but I don't want her dyslexia holding back her writing. I think she's going to be a great writer, if she can just get the words on paper somehow. She's VERY organized in her discussions orally - since she was little she'd lay out reasons step by step for whatever she wanted to do, etc. It's just getting it on paper. A dyslexic with perfectionism issues is a bit of a disaster for written work. 

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30 minutes ago, Ktgrok said:

Ideally I'd do this, but she WILL NOT WRITE if she can't spell it properly. She will go look it up, or just shut down, but she will not keep writing if she can't spell the word. And there are a LOT of words she cannot spell. 

Honestly, today we introduced using notability app and speech to text for her American Government notebooking page. She will still have other things that will involve writing by hand, spelling, etc and she's continuing to work on her typing which will be HUGE for her, but I don't want her dyslexia holding back her writing. I think she's going to be a great writer, if she can just get the words on paper somehow. She's VERY organized in her discussions orally - since she was little she'd lay out reasons step by step for whatever she wanted to do, etc. It's just getting it on paper. A dyslexic with perfectionism issues is a bit of a disaster for written work. 

Does she recognize the difference between a rough draft where she only needs to focus on getting her thoughts on paper vs. a paper ready for publication?  I would encourage her to ignore spelling in her rough drafts.  For dyslexics, the spelling issue is most likely never going to go away.  (All of my dyslexics are horrific spellers even after yrs of remediation.)  I would encourage her to recognize that spelling is an editing skill and that she can put her thoughts on paper and edit later.  (I have anxiety-disabled perfectionists and dyslexics, so I do know what you are describing.  She might be disabling herself even more and longer term if she cannot give herself permission to edit later.   It is why I have my kids leave blank lines in their writing.  The blank lines are for revising and editing.  We make their rough drafts very messy with carets, arrows, cross-throughs, and circled misspellings.  It never looks pretty and neat, so their misspelled words are just part of the revision/editing process, not the glaring issue.  

How does she do with revisions?  Does her perfectionism prevent her from improving her writing structure/organization?

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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1 hour ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

Does she recognize the difference between a rough draft where she only needs to focus on getting her thoughts on paper vs. a paper ready for publication?  I would encourage her to ignore spelling in her rough drafts.  For dyslexics, the spelling issue is most likely never going to go away.  (All of my dyslexics are horrific spellers even after yrs of remediation.)  I would encourage her to recognize that spelling is an editing skill and that she can put her thoughts on paper and edit later.  (I have anxiety-disabled perfectionists and dyslexics, so I do know what you are describing.  She might be disabling herself even more and longer term if she cannot give herself permission to edit later.   It is why I have my kids leave blank lines in their writing.  The blank lines are for revising and editing.  We make their rough drafts very messy with carets, arrows, cross-throughs, and circled misspellings.  It never looks pretty and neat, so their misspelled words are just part of the revision/editing process, not the glaring issue.  

How does she do with revisions?  Does her perfectionism prevent her from improving her writing structure/organization?

We are working on the revision/drafts thing....it's hard for her. She wants even the first draft to be "pretty". This is the kid that had a meltdown the first time she used teaching textbooks because she saw in the gradebook a "C" next to her score...the C was for "complete" but she thought it was her grade and started crying. Sigh. So yeah, we are working on it. My own brainstorming looks like you describe, as well as revisions, but to her that would be a nightmare of epic proportions. (to be fair, I'm a "clean" writer in my professional life - I do very little revision compared to most authors I know....write slow, edit quick instead of the other way around so it may be genetic)

1 hour ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

Oh my goodness!!!!! THANK YOU! We've tried using Alexa to spell stuff but she does it too quickly. This is perfect!

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7 minutes ago, Ktgrok said:

We are working on the revision/drafts thing....it's hard for her. She wants even the first draft to be "pretty". This is the kid that had a meltdown the first time she used teaching textbooks because she saw in the gradebook a "C" next to her score...the C was for "complete" but she thought it was her grade and started crying. Sigh. So yeah, we are working on it. My own brainstorming looks like you describe, as well as revisions, but to her that would be a nightmare of epic proportions. (to be fair, I'm a "clean" writer in my professional life - I do very little revision compared to most authors I know....write slow, edit quick instead of the other way around so it may be genetic)

Oh my goodness!!!!! THANK YOU! We've tried using Alexa to spell stuff but she does it too quickly. This is perfect!

You could make revising "pretty." You could use pretty colored gel pens and write with different colors for the different areas that need work.  Write on the blank lines in all of the pretty colors.  🙂  One of my dd's wanted everything pretty.  She even wanted to use graphic organizers for her outlines bc she could design them and make them pretty.  She spent way more time on the "prettifying" than on the organizing, but, hey, if it made her happy, whatever.  I just expected everything to be completed in the same amt of time.   

Most of my other kids just want to be done.  But, pretty revising and editing can be a thing.  I would just not want to let a 5th grader get in the mindset that writing is sit down, write, done. That is a hard mentality to overcome.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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37 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

You could make revising "pretty." You could use pretty colored gel pens and write with different colors for the different areas that need work.  Write on the blank lines in all of the pretty colors.  🙂  One of my dd's wanted everything pretty.  She even wanted to use graphic organizers for her outlines bc she could design them and make them pretty.  She spent way more time on the "prettifying" than on the organizing, but, hey, if it made her happy, whatever.  I just expected everything to be completed in the same amt of time.   

Most of my other kids just want to be done.  But, pretty revising and editing can be a thing.  I would just not want to let a 5th grader get in the mindset that writing is sit down, write, done. That is a hard mentality to overcome.

OOOH!!! That is SO smart!!!! I love that idea! And also will search for pretty graphic organizers - another great idea!!! i'm a make some scribbled on whatever random piece of paper is closest person, but she LOVES organizing - I just need to turn that to writing! And the gel pens! So smart! And they make those erasable ones now even!

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Just showed her the easy spelling aid app! She loves it. She would greatly prefer to write on paper for worksheets rather than use the ipad (other kid is opposite) so this will let her do that, but more independently. 

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I've been running into similar issues with my 4th grader.  My 7th and 10th graders are on a similar level,  so they do lessons together.   I take what they are learning about and try to find a limited, lower level resource for thec4th grader.  Sometimes I have her do a totally different subject.  Your 2nd grader could watch Wild Kratts and fill out a page that pinpoints where the animal is, its name, and some of its creature powers on those days 😉  or maybe Magic School Bus.

A few examples of what I'm doing- big kids are Earth Science this year.

Maps- she had to learn basic terms, big kids had to understand different types of maps, be able to pinpoint via latitude longitude. 

Chemistry- 4th grader just listened on here and there- most was over her head,  so Wild Kratts time!  She knows a little about how molecules are made, but it's over her head.

Rock Cycle- she will learn the basics of how the rock cycle works,  types of rocks- big kids will include molecular and elements included, more in depth.

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