Saturday, 1 November 2008

Herbstferien: homework

OK, so with no disrespect to the Teletubbies, I was in Lalaland with the comment about them only having one piece of homework for the holidays.

But we did manage to have a real rest – a lovely few days in London visiting family and then another few days in Zermatt, which was breathtaking. In fact here’s a couple of pictures to wet your appetite for the Valais. It’s really really really really beautiful, and Zermatt itself is just gorgeous. But this is a blog about schooling, not our holidays so I won’t bore you with tales of raclette, fondu, the best Victorinox shop in the world ever (at the top of the Gornergrat bahn, in case you’re interested) the moonlit Matterhorn …..

And back to the homework. Yes, they both only had one piece of general homework, which they did and got out of the way immediately they finished school – the joys of flylady discipline kicking in there.

But as for the rest of it….. well, for starters there was the schreib (handwritting), which I realise I’ve forgotten to mention so far. J’s handwriting was reasonably good anyway – probably miles better than mine (not difficult) - but his Friday team teacher has said that he needs to do the proper Swiss handwriting. Now this is very beautiful but some of the letters are quite unfamiliar to my eye, so I probably won’t be able to read their handwriting within a year…… The teacher had sent J home with a handwriting exercise book a couple of weeks previously and had suggested that he did a page per day, which he has been doing. But the book is for Grade 2 and she had said that he needs to catch up, ie work through Grade 3 and up to the stage his peers are at in Grade 4 too, so he did a page of that per day. Each book is around 60 pages long and he needs to catch up by 2 and a bit years: it’s not difficult, and he can do this while listening to music, so that doesn’t feel too much of a burden.

Then there’s the Kopfrechnen – ie mental arithmetic, based, at this stage on a complete and instant knowledge of the times tables. J had come home early in September with a double sided laminated sheet of times tables sums to do, with a timer, several times per week. Intelligently, the teachers had also furnished the children with washable marker pens, so that the tests are actually physically achievable without a frustrating trip to Office World trying to translate pen blurb. So he had started to do this 3-4 times per week – they had also been given a marking sheet for the parents to sign, stating date, time taken over the sheet and number of sums incorrectly calculated. There are 90 sums per side, and the aim is for them to be able to work the whole side, accurately, in less than 3 minutes. So that’s a work in progress, which we do 3-4 times per week, and which we continued with during the holidays. Needless to say, my own mental arithmetic has also improved as a result ! Since the holidays he has now come home with a third sheet, which is division – but the same idea, 90 sums on one side. The results are incredible and very obvious: in September, the first time he did the first side, it took about 15 minutes. Today (1st November) the first side took 4 minutes. I've also now managed to track down a times tables poster for his room - at Co-op Bau und Hobby.

And then there was the Deutsch………earlier in the last week before the holidays J had come home with some “extra” Deutsch homework. It was incredibly difficult – I had no idea where to start with it, and OH – whose Deutsch is far better than mine – really struggled. It was a 12 page document, and in fact I was really quite annoyed that J had been overloaded with this – he didn’t stand a chance of doing it on his own, or with help, for that matter. But, on the basis that the best way to improve is to work at a high level, we manfully struggled through it, a page per day. It was only on the 6th day that J remembered to tell us that the teacher had said that it would probably be far too hard, and to only just try it, not to stress about it, it was aimed at Grades 6-7 and that we should just do what we could. By which time both OH and I were at our wits end. So after that little revelation we eased off, and he went back to school with it two thirds done, and his teacher said she was very pleased with what he had tried. Phew.

And in amongst all the homework we did have a rest, honest – whilst gazing in wonder at the Matterhorn.

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