Thursday, June 07, 2007

This week at our house....

We had the girls' first standardized tests done this week. We went to a friend from our homeschool co-op, who does Woodcock Johnson testing. It's a one-on-one test with lots of oral parts, and seemed like it would be a much more relaxed environment for our first testing experience.

Abbie's scores were amazing. My friend, Michele, commented on what a hard worker she is, and told me that she tried lots of questions that were far above her level. She got most of them wrong, but got some of them right, and wasn't afraid to try anything. If there was a question to be answered, she wanted to take a stab at answering it!

And then came Emma. Emma, she reported to me, was quite the dramatic test taker. When asked to spell a word, she would get the first letter, but wouldn't try any further and would complain that she didn't know how. She wouldn't even try any vertical math problems - it's not as if she hasn't done them that way, so I don't know if there were problems with more than two numbers, or what. She got very upset and cried when asked to write a sentence (even though she does this at home at least twice per week).

When I got their scores, they pretty much told me what I already knew - Abbie is up for anything, very smart, and very competitive so she tries her best at everything. The tester told me that her "Story Recall" and "Delayed Story Recall" scores were pretty much off the charts. She said we should never discuss anything in front of her, ever, because she would remember it until her dying day. And truly, if you've been around Abbie at all, you know this is true. She remembers everything. All of her other scores were at least average, and most of them were "average to advanced."

Emma, however, gets her perfectionism from her mother, and along with that a fear to make a mistake and an unwillingness to try something that might possibly be difficult. Her "Computation" score, for example, was very low. However, her applied math scores were fine, and as Michele explained to me, you can't apply the concepts if you don't understand them. Several of her other scores were also falsely low, she felt, because there were so many things that Emma simply wouldn't try.

What does all this mean to me? It certainly didn't yield any surprises about their personalities. I know Abbie will do just fine with whatever we do, because she loves to do school, and everything else for that matter, to the best of her ability every time.

Emma, on the other hand, has some character issues that we need to address. I am working with her to understand that the only thing she needs to do is her best, not anyone else's best. It doesn't matter if the older girls in her tap dance class have a better grasp on some of the steps; she just needs to participate in the class. It doesn't matter if she writes everything perfectly; what matters is that she writes. Math is something everyone has to learn, and it's OK not to get every problem right the first time. And, Mom can't walk her through every single thing she has to do - she needs to learn to think for herself. Intelligence is certainly not an issue - just the willingness to try.

This leaves me with some questions about how to approach school from now on, but we've already talked about "the rules," which they've known from the start, really, but apparently need to be stated more clearly and more often:
  1. School comes first. We will not do anything fun, like play dates or going to the pool, until school is finished. If we don't finish school in time, fun activities will be cancelled. If school takes all day, so be it.
  2. No whining or complaining allowed. If they feel the need to do either of those things, they will be sent away from the school table until they can come back with a better attitude.
I have a couple of ideas that I know work for Emma, and I need to be better about implementing them. One thing that is quite effective is to use a timer. She has a certain amount of time to finish an assignment, and if she doesn't get it done, we move on and it becomes homework for later, when she could have been playing. Another thing is to send her to work by herself, away from me. She is quite good at working independently, and gets a lot more done when she can't pester me about every question. The issue there is that she tends to do sloppy work, but she will just have to redo it if that's the case.

We haven't been as good about these rules since we moved the school room upstairs to the office. We have a better setup downstairs, with an extra table where either girl can work when I need to focus on something with her sister. Upstairs, we just have a round table where we all have to sit, and that's not working out so well. We do need to get everything out of the office for the nursery, and the plan is to do school in the bonus room, so we will have to carefully consider the design when we start doing that - which will hopefully be soon since the baby is due in 3 months.

On a side note, I had an OB appointment today, and the baby was not cooperating, so the doctor couldn't find the heartbeat with the Doppler. We got to take a peek at him with the ultrasound machine. He was facing completely sideways, asleep on his tummy with his wee bum up in the air. Abbie used to sleep like that. It was terribly cute. :-)

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