Schooling in Pajamas

Term 1 Exam

Today we did our end of term exams for year 1 term 1. I was not expecting a good result because he has trouble narrating or remembering things to narrate. D usually just gives a basic answer such as the pig was small  not the pig was the smallest of the piglets. But I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, D seemed to take over the exams without me asking to many questions. He just started supplying answers to whatever he could remember.

Here is our exam. I think it quite simple but must remember that we went extremely slow and did not cover nearly as much as we should have.

Charlotte’s Web
Q: What are some words Charlotte used to describe Wilbur?
A: Fascinating and Terrific
(she did not use fascination but terrific, humble, and some pig)

Q:Tell a part of the story that you liked.
A: I like when Wilbur was a small pig. (I asked why.) He was cute. I also liked when he tried to spin a web. And when he got to the fair and Templeton the rat went out looking for food.
(He did good here and I only asked him to clarify the reason he liked Wilbur when he was small.)

Q: Tell me about Abraham and Isaac.
A: Instead of sacrificing his son, he sacrificed a bull. God provided it.
(It was a ram in our story version. Short and to the point.)

Q: What sign did God give Noah after the flood and what did it mean?
A: He gave the rainbow to show he would not flood the earth again.
(He is correct but needed to clarify that He would not destroy all of mankind by flooding the whole earth again.)

Our Island Story
Q: This is where he took off on his own. No questions asked as he supplied on his own what he wanted me to know.
A: The Britains fought the Romans to save their island. The Romans won but Britain had many great heroes fight.
( I was hoping he would mention the ships that we studied or the way the Britains had the advantage of the sea. BUt overall, not bad. He didn’t hesitate when saying this to me.)

Fifty Famous Tales Retold:
Q: Again, he just took off.
A: The man was on the bridge and saved everyone by chopping it down but he was on it and had to swim back to the island.
(The story is Horatius at the Bridge. He did save the people around him by sending them to their side and staying on the bridge. He chopped the bridge to fall while the enemy was on it before the enemy could cross it. He was on the bridge when it collapsed but was able to jump into the river and swim to safety.)

Just So Stories:
Q: He was begging to talk about the whale or camel. I let him pick which one and he choose How the Camel got His Hump.
A: The camel liked to say Hump. Hump, Hump, Hump. The other animals did all the work and complained. He got his hump so he could work longer without stopping.

Paddle to the Sea
Q:Tell me about something Paddle saw or happened to him on his journey so far.
A: He almost got cut into small pieces of wood. ( He couldn’t remember to say log.)
He was made from wood. He saw beavers making a dam they cut down their own trees with their teeth.

Q: What do we call the lakes Paddle is traveling on?
A: The great lakes and there are five of them.

Q: What does the bottom of his canoe say?
A: I am Paddle to the Sea. Put me back in the water if found.
(Not exact words but means the same.)

Life of Fred
Q: What is an ellipse?
A: A squished circle.

Q: Spell February.
A: Febuew
(He alternates between spelling it right and spelling it wrong.)

Q: Write the not equal to sign and make an equation using numbers.
A: He wrote the correct sign. ( Can’t figure out how to type it on computer.)
5 + 2 does not equal 8

My thoughts:
One of the questions I want to address is: How do you compromise your expectations with the abilities of your children? How do we let go of control yet encourage growth?
I found my answer today as we went through the questions.

I find that I have a high level of expectation. Sometimes that expectation does not take into account the maturity level of my child nor his current level of learning. I expect more involved narrations yet he is 7 and new to AO and narration. I forget that he has not had the chance to learn the level of “attention to detail” as say my older two or an adult. I have to adjust my expectations to encompass his current ability yet I have to make sure he understands and learns the need to improve. I must teach him the skill. He won’t be able to do it to the level of my expectation overnight or instantly. I must stay calm and let him tell me with just a hint of prodding when needed. This has not been more evident than with our exams today. I did not let myself go in with expectations that would make me cranky and hard to deal with. I gave him what I wanted and let him go at it. I did not correct but let him lead. He even surprised me by his willingness to do this. He did not complain, whine, or even try to walk away but stayed with me. He showed me that though he did not remember everything, what he did remember sparked enthusiasm from him and often he kept telling me what he should be narrating. I kept hearing, “when can I tell you about_____? or Is it time to talk about this____? or Don’t forget this one.” I almost skipped exams because I thought he could tell me nothing or would just be one or two words and asking if we were done.

Do not compromise your expectations but adjust them to your child’s ability. This next term we will be focusing on adding a bit more details to his narrations. I also have to remember narrations are not word by word replays but more the child telling back in his own words. Narration is much like telling a friend about a movie you watched or a book you read. You don’t tell them back word by word or scene by scene. We are to constantly encourage and push past their limits but only once they’ve reached their current limits not before. I also found that by letting go of my control ( ie: what I expected) and letting D have more control of what he narrated, I got more than I would have otherwise. When he wanted to narrate something, I did not say that I wanted to hear about something else. By letting him narrate about what excited him, I got more than I thought possible at this stage. I guided him when he knew what he wanted to say but not how by giving just a word. We are both learning that control does not mean absolute control.

Before I close this long post, let me talk about Charlotte Mason exams. You can find examples of what she asked her students in her series here:     and  in Parent Review Articles here:      .
Here is a sample of a few questions she might have asked Form 1 students.
Q. Tell the story of Naaman.
Q. Tell a fairy story
Q. What have you noticed (yourself) about a spider?
Q. Gather three sorts of tree leaf-buds and two sorts of catkin, and tell all you can about them.
Q. What is a hero? What heroes have you heard of? Tell about one.

Those are just a few questions. Check out the Ambleside Online website via the links I posted above to find out more.

Please do not let the success of our exam day fool you. We have many days were I get “I don’t remember” and “Why do I have to do this” type answers followed by both of us getting frustrated and mad. I hope I can be brave enough one day to be open with a truly bad day of schooling. I know this transparency could be mortifying for me but may be helpful to others in at least knowing they are not alone. Anyway, I hope in some way I have helped by talking about our first exam.


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