Monday, August 27, 2012

There were 104 (actually 84) days of summer vacation...

Summer is over.  So glad.  We cured the boys of the nagging question, "What can I do?!" by finding things for them to do: writing lists.  After the first few weeks of being bugged by this question, the lists got more challenging.  It went from, "Jack, write a list of 30 things that you can find that are white," to, "Jack, find 50 things in our apartment that can be tied in knots."  That was a two hour chore, but it was also the last time he demanded we give him something to do.

And, the reading challenge, as detailed in our last post, ended.  I modified the challenge so that there was an extra dollar paid out for every hundred pages read (previously, it was $10 for every thousand pages read) to encourage more reading.  Jack finished the summer by reading 86 books, for a total of 8,607 pages read ($86).

Owen was a little more stressful... for me.  He's not been as enthusiastic about reading as Jack has, and I had hoped that this would turn things around a bit.  He really liked Geronimo Stilton books but still wasn't motivated to read on his own.  We had an Excel chart set up to show the boys how many pages they'd read total and how many pages they had to read each day to reach their goal, so it recalculated that each day.  Halfway through the summer, Owen got in trouble and was grounded for a week.  His grounding meant he could not use any electronics: no TV, no computer, no Kindle, no DS, no Netflix, etc.  That was easily the most productive week of the summer for his reading.  He probably read 1500 pages during that week.  He pulled way ahead of Jack and could have read at an easy pace to finish up.  But he didn't, he just slacked off.  We talked to him more frequently as the days passed, urging him to just get it done, to meet the minimum 6k pages and then to slack if he didn't want to earn more money.  He was so close, but no amount of explaining how close he was seemed to motivate him.

A week or two ago I finally set some clear expectations and a deadline: 8PM on Sunday night, the day before school started.  I did not want him staying up through the night in a panic to hit his 6k pages.  Last week started and he was still way behind.  He went from needing 80 pages a day to 250 pages a day as the deadline approached.  He'd read a little here and there but not enough to satisfy the "daily" requirement.  On Sunday morning at 10am I turned the kitchen timer on for 10 hours and showed it to him.  I explained that this was how long he had to finish up.  He'd actually read on Friday and Saturday but still had a hundred or so pages to go.  But it was Sunday morning, the day of the deadline, and he was watching TV.  That was the last I talked to him about it.  With a few hours left, he was finishing up a book that would put him over the edge.  I started teasing him a little bit.  "Come on Owen, let's go watch a movie.  You've got plenty of time to finish reading, you don't need to read now."  But he stuck with it at this point and with an hour left, announced he was done.  So this is where the quiz came in.  I decided early on to quiz the boys to make sure they'd actually read and not just skimmed through.  No point in reading if there's no absorption, right?  So the quiz policy was that I'd ask questions, with three correct answers they were done, after three strikes they were out and I wouldn't count the book.  I asked Owen four questions, two were correct, two were incorrect.  You can sense his anxiety at this point: the next question determined whether or not he would get his $60.  If he got it wrong, it was too late for him to read another book.  He got it right.

A couple hours later we walked over to the local ATM and they got paid.  They've mentally spent about $10,000 each already.

Good job, boys.  Time for math tests.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Reading Recommendations

We need book recommendations for Owen and Jack.

Earlier this summer we made a deal with them.  If they would read 6,000 pages before school started (this gave them 84 days), we would give them $60, and an additional $10 for each additional 1,000 pages read.

Jack finished last week.  He's at 6,442 pages.  Owen isn't as motivated; he's at 4,670 pages right now.  We are struggling to find books that he actually likes.  There are two series that he seems to enjoy: Geronimo Stilton and the A to Z Mysteries books.  He's okay with Junie B. Jones but doesn't pick them out like the other titles.

Harry Potter, Hardy Boys, Percy Jackson are all too advanced.  But the other books they have been reading... they're okay, but we don't really feel like they've challenged the boys much.  No new vocabulary, not much learning, just fun reading.  Fun reading is good; we understand that it develops a lot of areas, but we would also like their reading to be more educational.  Owen read a book about Titanic and Jack read about the Revolutionary War, and both of those books had them asking us questions about the events and telling us things they learned for days afterwards.  The goal isn't just for nonfiction.  Owen read a fictional book about the White House and that seemed to initiate the same type of thing.

Have any of you had luck with other series/authors for this age level?