Braille Monitor November 2007
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by Konnie Ellis
From the Editor: Konnie Ellis is a busy wife and mother living in South Dakota. She and her husband Bob are the parents of two active children, Karissa and Justin. Konnie is a trained elementary school teacher. Not only is she homeschooling her own two youngsters, she is teaching four others. In the following article Konnie describes a typical day in her happy and very busy home. This is what she says:
This will be my third year of homeschooling six kids full-time. I thought that Braille Monitor readers might like to know what a typical day is like at my house.
"Miss Konnie, I think I need help with this problem," Auston called from where he sat at the kitchen island.
"Okay, just one second," I replied as I gathered up the papers from the table in the front room where I do most of my teaching. "Roan, you can keep reading on your own for a few minutes while I help Auston," I instructed the seven-year-old girl who was reading on the couch.
"I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong, but my answer doesn't make sense," Auston told me in frustration as I entered the kitchen, abacus in hand. We'd begun a unit on fractions just a couple of days before, so a few snags were to be expected.
"Okay, just tell me what you have written so far, and we'll see what the trouble is," I said, placing the abacus in front of me so that I could do the problem along with him as he described his work to me.
"The problem is 2/3 plus 9/16," he answered. "So first I need to figure out the least common denominator."
"That's right. And how do you do that?" I questioned.
"Well I have to ask myself what the lowest number is that 3 and 16 both go into."
"Good. And did you figure out what that is?"
"I think it's 48," he said hesitantly.
"Yes, it is. So what do you do next?" I asked.
"I say how many 3s are in 48, and then how many 16s."
"And how many 3s are there?"
"Let me see.... Are there 16?"
"That's right. And how many 16s?"
Auston and I continued to work through the problem together until he suddenly stopped himself and said, "Oh, wait a minute! I think I just figured out what I was doing wrong. I didn't multiply by the numerator! All I was converting to 48ths was 1/3 and 1/16 for some reason. Now I get it, though--You have to take the 2 times 16, which is 32, and the 9 from the 9/16 times 3, which is 27. So it's 32/48 plus 27/48, equals 59/48, which is one and 11/48!" he exclaimed triumphantly.
"Good job!" I praised him. "And I didn't really have to help you at all. Now see if you can get the rest of them done before lunch time. Then afterward you can read me your answers, and if they're all correct, I'll be able to send this paper home with you tonight so that your mom will be able to see the great work you're doing with your fractions."
As Auston continued with his work, I couldn't help reflecting on the fact that my students very often catch their own mistakes, just by thinking out loud. They are much more articulate than many of their peers, who are often unable to express themselves without pointing or using other visual cues to demonstrate a point. Even my most visual learners need to be able to describe what they're doing verbally, which ultimately benefits them as much as it does me.
to Roan, I decided to grab an extra minute to be sure my preschoolers were still
engrossed in the Noggin channel on TV. One of the older kids was usually free
to help keep an eye on them, but everyone was occupied at the moment, so I wanted
to be sure the little boys weren't getting up to any mischief. Fortunately all
was peaceful in the living room. Nathan had even fallen asleep on the couch,
and Justin has been given strict instructions not to wake him up when this happens.
Seeing that all was well, I quickly stepped into my daughter's room to find
out how things were coming along with Luke's handwriting. Karissa is nine, and
she loves helping me with the younger kids. Today she was working with Luke
on how to form some of his letters correctly, and I asked how it was going.
"He's doing a really good job with his H’s," Karissa informed me.
I pressed the button on my talking watch and realized that the morning had flown by as usual. "You might as well stop there for now, then," I told Luke, "And you can finish the paper later if there's time."
"I just finished reading the story,” Roan told me as I got back to the front room.
"Great. Tomorrow I'll ask you some questions to see how well you remember the story. Right now, though, it's time for lunch."
"I just have one problem left," Auston said. "Can I try to finish it real quick before we eat?"
"Sure. I'll just have Karissa pour the juice this time, and Roan can set the table."
Anticipating that this morning would be an extra busy one, I had put a casserole into the oven earlier, so no additional preparation was needed on my part now. I pulled the fish sticks from the bottom rack and instructed the kids not to touch them until they'd had time to cool a little. Then I took out the stew and began dishing it into six bowls.
"Whose turn is it to pray?" Nathan asked in a sleepy voice.
"Can Nathan say the prayer today?" Auston asked. "I'm starving, and his prayers are usually the shortest."
I smiled and told Nathan to go ahead. When the amen was said, I reminded everyone that this was chore day and that my husband Bob would be conducting a visual inspection of the house and yard when he got home as he usually did every Friday.
As soon as Auston had put his empty dishes into the sink, he took down the hand-vac from the wall and began cleaning the dining room floor. Karissa got a cloth and started wiping the table. It was Roan's and Luke's job to pick up toys, and they enlisted the help of the little boys in this endeavor as well. (Since toys were scattered throughout our yard and in the playroom downstairs, as well as in the living room, putting toys away was a big job indeed.)
While the chores were being done, I grabbed a few minutes to catch up on some tasks of my own. I ordered a couple of textbooks from Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, a lending library in New Jersey, so that I could have the cassette version for myself to go along with the printed books that my students used. I also spent a few moments at my computer going over my to-do list so I could be sure I wasn't forgetting anything. A reminder for the upcoming field trip to the Children's Science Center popped up, so I wrote myself a note to email a couple of the homeschooling moms in my area to see if they were going and whether they'd mind taking some of my kids with them. I feel blessed to live in an area that has an active homeschool group with folks willing to help each other in ways like this so that the kids in my care can have a well-rounded education in every area of life.
Figuring it was time to round up the troops again, I laid my laptop aside and headed in search of them. The preschoolers were having a great time out in the yard, so I wouldn't disturb them just yet. There was still an hour before nap-time, so I might as well let them enjoy the warm weather while they could. I found the older kids downstairs, where my daughter was teaching the others what she had learned at her jujitsu lesson a couple of days before. The kids had converted the playroom into a gym of sorts, complete with weight lifting, a place to do chin-ups; an obstacle course; a fort made of blankets, boxes, and chairs; and, last, but certainly not least, an adjustable high-jump bar made with a jump rope which they tied to various other items in the room, depending on where they wanted to set the height.
"Okay you guys, time to get back to work," I told them. Auston, your English worksheet is on the island, Roan, you can work on your typing CD on Karissa's computer, and I'll work with Luke in the front room on his Reading Blaster. Karissa, you can use the computer in Justin's room to work on your Spanish CD."
The next hour went by in a flash. Afterward we all gathered in the living room for our Bible story time. After everyone had gotten an apple and was seated comfortably on the couch and love seat, as well as on my lap, I turned on the tape player, and the story began. Today I had selected a story as told by Dan Betser and his puppet Louie. I had enjoyed those tapes as a little girl and was now passing them on to the next generation. This time our story was about Gideon. Everyone listened attentively, and I paused the tape periodically to ask questions in order to be sure that everyone was paying attention. Even the little ones were engrossed in the adventure. I saved the concrete quizzing for them, while reserving the more abstract questions for the older kids. I wanted Auston and Karissa to be able to apply what they were hearing to everyday life, so I asked them things like "Do you think we should ever put out a fleece as Gideon did?" or "Why do you think God used such a small number of Israelites to win the battle?"
After the story ended, I put the younger crew down to rest and worked with Karissa on her AWANA Bible memory and on her piano lesson, while Auston did some keyboarding with the Mavis Beacon typing program.
Before I knew it, Mr. Randolph was knocking at our door, and I quickly woke the little ones with the news that their dad was here to take them home. Hardly were they out the door when my four-year-old, Justin, asked whether they'd be back again tomorrow. He was disappointed when I told him the next day was Saturday, but I assured him they'd be back again the following week. Another wonderful day of school had drawn to a close.
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