Home education diary, September 2000

4th September

We had a really good day on Thursday with some of the other home educating families in Cyprus (three families as well as us - there should be three more, making seven in all, which is exciting!) and then the boys did a bit more ACE on Friday. Tim's still finding it a lot of fun (once I suggested leaving out about 75% of the long division and multiplication, since he CAN do it but was getting so bored he made silly mistakes) and this morning he got out some more books to read about the earth and the atmosphere because he didn't feel there was enough information in the science pace. I found that pretty encouraging.

But then he likes structure, so I guess this works for him, so long as we're flexible about the boring bits. Daniel finds it all a bit of a chore, however. He gets up later, groans a bit, tells me how dull it is etc... he does the work but obviously isn't enjoying it. He hopes it will get more interesting but 'fill-in-the-blanks' really isn't his style. At least he's finding the maths reasonably interesting, and I think will continue to do so. He was getting a bit lost in the GCSE maths book he was working through, so it's probably good to have different things to concentrate on, and regular tests.

I think I'm going to find out about the 'European computer driving licence' which sounds right up Daniel's street (and probably Tim's too). Then I'll ask if that can count instead of the 'computer' module of the NCSC course, which looked extremely basic, and required rather elderly software too.

I wish I could make the ACE work more interesting for Daniel. I said that perhaps he could do it in the evenings when he's not so tired, but he said he'd never remember - or else it would hang over him all day, which would be even worse. I don't suppose it helps that Tim talks about it with such enthusiasm. Still, he seems resigned to doing it and gets on with the Paces, but he's lost the sparkle of interest that he used to have. Maybe it's just a teenage boy thing, but I'm not sure how I will stick it. 

5th September

ACE wasn't so bad today. I woke Daniel up a bit earlier than before, and they worked at the same time, joking a bit over some of the stupidities. Tim is quite excited about tomorrow's maths because he's got to the end of the long multiplication and division section of his Pace, at last, and is about to start on fractions. He's found that topic very confusing up to now (which is why he's doing 'gap' Paces about fractions) and is looking forward to understanding better. He even says he now understands long division properly so something must be working!

Perhaps Daniel will get that way once we're in the swing of it.  I suppose it does take a while to get used to anything new and he's not a 'morning person' at all.  He questions several things, and tells me what they've missed out of the science Pace that he thinks ought to be included. It would be better if it were actually new to him, I suppose.

Since I suggested ignoring the 'fill-in-the-gaps' comprehension part of the vocational 'Paces', Tim quite enjoys them, although I don't think there's anything new for him.  I suggested just reading, then doing the check-ups, then they can try the self-test and then the test.  By the time we get to the sixth vocational Pace, perhaps they'll try doing the test directly - I'll see how it goes! I think they found the reading fairly interesting, they just didn't like the unbelievably tedious comprehension type questions.

Someone who knows about ACE asked me why we started at science Pace 1085, when the Year 7 ones actually looked more interesting. I thought they might give those to Tim, since he's only just 11 and would be going into Year 7 if he were in school. But, since his word-building (ie spelling) was considered over Year 8 level, they've put him straight onto the early diploma level science and social science Paces as well as Dan.

Tim is enjoying the science as it's new to him, but Daniel found it basic revision (and lacking quite a bit, in his opinion, that would make it more interesting and thorough) so he's just doing the check- ups and tests as with the vocational ones, and getting through them a bit faster.

I was expecting that (if we stick with it) Daniel might get the level 1 certificate by about June 2002, or a little later.  But if he was in school he wouldn't be doing GCSEs until May-June 2003, so there's no hurry.

I'm trying to do boring things along with them – yesterday I did a mountain of ironing while they did their Paces, in the same room, so I could answer questions and we could talk a bit.  Today our mains water was on so I was doing laundry and other bits and pieces, but they both needed help with their English (different types of verb) so we ended up talking a lot.  And when they want a break I read to them for a good long time; I think that helps.

I suggested doing the science all together, but Daniel's eager to get ahead with the diploma, and as it's 'old hat' to him he can go so much faster.   Tim is reading other books to go along with it and we may try some of the experiments in his Dorling Kindersley books (we have 'how the universe works' which is quite relevant) but so far he hasn't really wanted to.

I have been meaning to get litmus paper to do some acid/alkali tests. We did a lot of that last year with Daniel's chemistry set. Tim found it fun but Daniel found it boring. The trouble is, Daniel has read so much non-fiction and trivia, he 'knows' it all. He seems to have an almost photographic memory for some things, and wants to do interesting science that he hasn't come across before. He's not remotely interested in doing experiments where he already knows the outcome.

Both the boys do (to my surprise) like deciding how much they're going to do the next day and seem to be sticking with it quite well. Sometimes they groan about how much they have to do, but as they've set the amount themselves they can't actually complain about it!

9th September

Four days a week on Paces does seem about right, though Tim doesn't seem to be doing a whole lot of work. He usually starts around 9am and seems to have finished everything within a couple of hours. He's started on fractions and is finding them fun! One day he even did twice as many pages as he'd planned. Daniel's business maths is still rather dull but he seems to understand it and I'm suggesting leaving out several examples when there are lots of the same type. 

It looks as if Daniel will be doing tests next week on these first five paces, though not all on the same day, I hope. He has one self-test on Monday so that will mean one test on Tuesday, but I think he also has two final checkups (which can be done by referring back to the pace) on Monday, which should give two more tests on Wednesday.

The English book had some sentences about China and Hudson Taylor, so Tim looked up China in the Children's Britannica, and I suggested he read a biography of Hudson Taylor which we happen to have. He thoroughly enjoyed it. This structure really does seem to suit Tim well and is even inspiring him to other reading, which I'm sure is important.

Daniel's finding it a struggle to get through but he's determined and keeps going. I suppose it's useful to learn to keep going through dull work, but it's not my idea of education. Anyway, they've been squabbling less, and Daniel's still spending hours programming, web-designing and so on. Tim's piano lessons will start next week so he's been playing both piano and guitar, and Daniel has continued playing clarinet at church weekly, though he's not done much other practice.

Art classes should start in a week or so; Tim won't be going, but Daniel and Richard both will. Daniel now has some roller blades in his size at last, so they've been doing some blading as well as tree-climbing outside. When it's cooler I hope we'll go more often to the sea-front for them both to some roller blading.

On Friday they decided to do some creative writing. Tim was inspired to write a sequel to the latest Harry Potter book, and has been busily writing and typing that, not just on Friday morning. Nobody else is allowed to see it yet. Daniel read through the Young Writer magazine and then did some research for a science fiction idea he had, but then couldn't think of a plot for a short story. Both of them wrote emails.

Tim is going to add his 'book reviews' web page to my book site at Tripod, so he's been finding out ISBNs from the Internet bookshop, and changing that to fit in with my theme. He'll link to it from his 'martian embassy' site. Daniel's in the middle of writing a basic HTML editor program which he can use in conjunction with other software, to make his own designs easier to handle. He also keeps up to date with the Smiley and Blender online forums and is reading some of the books we brought back from the UK.

Tim and I have both made printed lists of the books we have read and/or want to read (for Tim this is his books, Daniel's books and the 'family' books, for me the family books and my books, all of which I had typed in a while back so we kept a list of what we had to check against charity shops in the UK). We're both going to put dates of reading each book on the new lists, so we know at a glance what we haven't read for a while. I've been keeping a journal of all books and short reviews (for transfer to the Tripod site) so I could do this for everything I've read in the past year. I don't know how well Tim will keep up with it!

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