So, the ice cream-making didn't happen because I forgot that my new ice cream maker isn't your typical electric maker and I have to freeze the drum first. That'll take at least overnight. So, my niece and I made brownies. And she actually talked a bit. Well, well. I scooped her up and mostly kept her with me unless she deliberately left to go be with others. I think already it's helping. I remember her sister going through phases where she was demanding in a very different way for attention and me initiating the attention went a long way toward easing the demands.
On a completely different note, I decided to pull out my copy of Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful, because I know there are some great insights into the functioning of a Montessori elementary classroom, but also perhaps some insights on how to get the 16yo's education connecting with him more. Some things so far that have stuck out at me:
"Help me to help myself." That's so key. Especially when dealing with a student who has labelled LD issues. My task now, more important than getting him through the provincial program of studies, is to figure out how to help him help himself. Reading and writing are the big problem areas. Part of that is due to what I believe are underlying sensory processing issues. This just brings me back to Maria Montessori's initial work with Séguin's sensory-based work with her students. Then, of course, there are the years of psychological resistance that have built up and the fear of failure. But the less he reads himself, writes or types things up himself, or even just uses his computer software (MacSpeech), the less connected he is with the work, and the less he learns it, not to mention the less he's motivated. What I wouldn't give to have been able to have directed him to a Montessori school back when he was in elementary and jr. high! The group interaction with peers working on exciting, hands-on projects... It's just not the same at my place. (And no, there is no Montessori elementary anywhere near here, so that wasn't even an option I could suggest to his parents.)
"Every child has an inherent drive to learn and learns best when he can rely upon that inner drive rather than outside compulsion to master the lessons of life and the world." p. 2-3 This touches on what I wrote earlier: talking regularly with the 16yo (and even my two would be a good idea) about aspirations and goals, help them connect with what's inside. That's one thing I have to say that the 16yo has never been good at. So much time is spent avoiding what's going on inside, with a focus on having fun (makes us all feel good) and where applicable, doing what will please or avoid conflict with others. (Although, admittedly, his fun seeking often causes problems!) He has confused anxiety that can come up as something bad, but we all can experience a certain level of anxiety when there's an important goal we want to accomplish.
In any case, reading that line really had me realize that as much as I may be able to incorporate some of the Charlotte Mason content into our lives, I won't succeed in incorporating the structure, nor do I want to. I would definitely like more structure to our days--I still fondly reminisce of the "days of old" ;) when things went very smoothly around here. It'll just take rekindling that desire and insisting on it, like I did in the past, and be prepared for the adjustment period.
Some other thoughts that popped up were the Shelton School and the Dalton School's idea of contracts (I think it's them who does that). Shelton's approach would be most applicable to the 16yo; Dalton is something I could consider incorporating into my kids' lives. Some Montessori elementaries or older do use the same principle of a commitment to a learning goal; my mind at the moment is seeing the idea of providing some ideas of areas to work on, then having the child in question commit to working on it. I think the learning contracts at Dalton are actually much more complicated than just that.