Friday, November 26, 2010


In terms of illness, I'm worse than yesterday, but I slept better, so that helps me be able think.

So far I've printed off one multiplication practice sheet that I got from Montessori for 10yo ds and created a handwriting practice sheet that I made with StartWrite. I'm trying to focus on just a few useful letters for write now and having him just trace, trace, trace. Today's sheet had e, l and s, to make the word "les" and then the letters of his name and then his name, broken up first into syllables, then once all together.

Need to get myself organized for the 16yo. I think dd is already pretty set--I printed off a blank map of the New England states yesterday, plus she has her French workbook and a math sheet already. Other than that, she has been working on her Christmas cross-stitch, practising playing Christmas carols on the piano and some reading. She's finding it tough to find some good things to read. Most of the stuff aimed at her age has to do with school, romances, vampires or a combination thereof. Doesn't interest her in the least. So I took out the movie "Little Women" yesterday as part of a plot to get her reading the book. After her experience with Pride and Prejudice and trying to read a Jane Austen novel she wasn't familiar with, she's a little leery about trying to read Little Women. If this works, the next one to try will be Anne of Green Gables. :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My turn for a sick day

I am not functioning well today. Only slept 5 hours last night and couldn't fall back asleep at 3am because my throat and nose were driving me crazy. Couldn't figure out work for the morning and then when everybody was finally here, I felt so crummy, we ended up putting on a movie. Had lunch, got the littlest one to sleep and I managed to sleep a few minutes on the sofa while the boys (my nephew is with us again today) played PS3. It wasn't nearly enough sleep. And my throat is still bothering me. :(

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Crazy Day

Today was French class day. Started off with me working on substitute cards for Trivial Pursuit, then trying to clean the house a bit while getting ready for the day. I got a call quite early, asking if my nephew could come today since he wasn't feeling great, and I said sure. I made ds do the math he didn't get done yesterday and then let him go and do things with his cousin.

Dd kept going with the binomial multiplications, plus tried to label a blank map of the United States. She got about half of them, which isn't bad because we've never formally looked at them--she's just used a large floor map that we have. She also did a page of French and was very proud of her work. She likes to feel like she's accomplishing something!

She'd already been working for 45 minutes by the time the 16yo arrived--there had been an accident at a nearby intersection and it was holding him up to be able to get to my place. He got about an hour and a half of work done, not shabby for him--although he really needs to do more to get everything done. We are still having issues with the math, but I didn't get a chance to make anything hands-on. Except I did grab the Multiplication Bead Board to demonstrate squared numbers and their roots. When he sees it like that, no hesitation; going more abstract... I almost feel like I just have to have him memorize the individual roots rather than having him do the traditional thinking of "What times itself gives [whatever perfect square number you are looking at]?" It does not click. He is definitely not your typical thinker. I'll have to see about some supplementary math programs known to work well for LD kids.

The house seemed perpetually a mess today, and every time I wanted to work at cleaning it, the littlest one would be clingy and I couldn't get much done. In between those times, the kids would make more mess. Then there was the constant trying to negotiate with me, which is not typical. "Can we...?" "No." "But yadda yadda." "No," slightly firmer. "More yadda yadda," to which I reply again, "I said No." Goodness. And it wasn't just from one of them. Then there was me having to ask the boys *3* times to stop doing what they were doing. They kept restarting. The third time, I was sufficiently annoyed enough that they stopped. I did lay on the 16yo a bit, too--"You are 16 and are supposed to be showing them things. Actually, you are showing them things--you are showing them to keep doing what I've asked them not to do." I hate doing the lecture thing and probably shouldn't have, but things finally calmed down after that.

Time to go sit and properly journal, I think, and figure out some plans for tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Tuesday update

This week is definitely going better in terms of work. Although I gave my kids the day off yesterday to spend with their cousins, the 16yo got more work than done than he had been getting done, and about the same amount again today. He is majorly resisting his math. He likes to say he is tired and can't do it; I think it's more the anxiety of it. I wish we could start back at the beginning. I can't, though, so I think I have to find some more hands-on ways for him to do this stuff. Not as easy when we are dealing with things like SOH CAH TOA, factoring polynomials and such.

For my two, I told them I had a bit of work I expected them to do before they did anything else. I did mean before they read, played piano, whatever, but dd took it very literally this morning: "Am I allowed to eat first?" lol. Ds did some handwriting practice and a map. I don't think he did the French worksheet I had for him (I don't think he knew it was his), and his little math sheet got temporarily lost, so I told him to leave it. Dd did her French, some math, a map and then just before supper tonight, some FOIL operations (x+y)(u+v) for example. She does seem to work better in the evenings--not sure if it's the lack of commotion around here, the particular energy or what. She has commented how she enjoys working in the evenings and wonders why she can't look forward to her work that way during the day.

With my little niece, I can't say I've implemented anything new with her yet. She was kind of floating and I brought up the fourth cylinder block, asking her if she'd like to do it beside me while I work with the 16yo. She said yes. At one point, she tried to engage me in checking if it was right. I asked her if she thought it was right. Then it became a game, so I ended up saying to her twice, "You'll have to try it on your own and see," and went back to focusing on the 16yo. After that, she worked with it on her own. I never did notice if she finally got them all in the correct spots.

Right now, I'm trying to make up some cards for French class tomorrow. We missed this past week because my two were sick, plus I noticed the week before that, they were forgetting some of the stuff. The cards I'm making up will take the place of the Trivial Pursuit cards. :) Instead of all of the questions on each card, though, there will be just one question per card, having to do with something we've covered. Same rules as Trivial Pursuit will otherwise apply. I do know I need to speak with them more in French, even if they don't understand. Better to repeat myself in English and have them at least hear the French, than to just say things in English because I want to make sure they understand. If I can, I'd like to make up some Jeopardy cards, but that's kind of harder to come up.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A new trend?

Hopefully I'm in a new trend to be posting more often. ;) I think it's good for me, like journalling, and especially if I'm not journalling.

I thought a lot yesterday about what it is I want for my kids for their education. And not just my wants, but what respects them while still providing them with an education. I worked out that I have a few minimum things that I feel have to be worked on, although I have to admit that I don't feel comfortable deciding what the level of mastery will be. Here they are:

*able to read
*able to write (and everything that encompasses: spelling, grammar, etc.)
*good math skills

Some specific content that I think is important:
*at least a general knowledge of world geography (continents, major countries, our own country's provinces and capitals, our government system, a bit of our history)

Everything else is extra. Well, not extra, but not as specifically necessary and can be tied in with the first three above.

Some thoughts that have passed through my head are this:

*Remembering how at least some Montessori elementary schools prepare lists of the local standards and make them available to the students. I'm not sure if the students are expected on some level to meet the standards or how it works, so I'll need to find out more about that. But, it definitely helps cover the question of content. I was thinking I would start with math and they could have their own copy and self-evaluate on the different objectives, going as far back as is needed. My son is 10, but does not yet know his addition tables. I feel that's very sad. He will do the most progress if he sees a reason to learn them, and seeing that students in schools have already learned them may do just that. Sure, I can still give him work to practise, but he is definitely the type that once he gets something in his mind to do, bam, he goes with it.

*Requiring a minimum amount of time in French reading each day, or per week. Not sure which. But my kids' first language is French and they almost never read in French. And pretty much never write in French. Which leads me to another thought.

*Weekly French writing assignment. Not necessarily an assignment, but an expectation that they will show that they have written/composed something in French. I'm still working with ds on his handwriting and he has written so little, I don't know that he would even be prepared to attempt to write something in French. He could dictate something to me and if it's short enough, he could then copy it.

*I've been looking at the Montessori High School at University Circle . Dd will be "grade 9" next year, which is the equivalent of their first year of high school. I'm looking at what I might be able to start incorporating into her work for after Christmas. Yes, I'm getting ahead of myself when I'm supposed to just be focusing on the next 4 weeks. I guess the thing is that I need to have some long range goal to know what would even be reasonable to do for the next 4 weeks. Because this school also incorporates IB, I've been trying to learn a bit more about the IB programmes. Of course, it's very "exclusive" and hard to find specifics.

For right now, I really have to get things ready for the 16yo today. My niece and nephew have a PD day (professional development day for their teachers, so they have the day off school), which means that I will let my kids play with them rather than insist on work this morning--so I'll leave finalizing their work for tomorrow. But the 16yo has 4 weeks left to get a whole ton of work done! I need to get to that now.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christmas Crafts

I decided a few weeks ago to reclaim my Sundays as a day off. For hundreds of years, people took Sunday off. It's good for us. It really is!

So, for my day off today, I was trying to think about what I could do AWAY from the computer. I decided to work on my St. Nicholas cross stitch. That I've had for about 15 years. LOL.

I had barely pulled it out when dd saw it and asked if we could buy a Christmas cross-stitch for her. I decided that heading to Michaels for that did not break my "no work Sunday" because it was for recreation and not grocery shopping, work, etc.

Getting back, she needed to find her cross stitch hoop. That led us to the basement where I found other packages of Christmas crafts, including the materials for Temari balls. Here is a picture:

You can read more about them and find some free patterns here . We made some a few years back because somebody know had started up with them, made our first attempts--the oldest became so discouraged at it not being perfect, she decided to not make anymore :(--and haven't tried them again. I find myself torn: I would like to try one again, but I'm much more attached to the idea of making some significant progress on my cross stitch! But, maybe I'll make at least one, simply because one can be started and finished before Christmas, but the likelihood of me finishing the cross stitch before Christmas is pretty much nil.

Winter is here... and Christmas is coming!

Winter came very suddenly here. One day, we're enjoying a high of around 8-10C; a week later, it was -20C upon getting up. Brrr.

With the snow's arrival, however, it has reminded us all that Christmas is fast approaching. This leaves a panicky feeling in me, I have to admit.

The 16yo is very, very behind in his work. For some of it, we will skimp and that'll be that. For other parts, it's important that he learn it, but can he really learn it well in the time we have left? Maybe. I've worked out a breakdown of his work for social studies, science and math and he knows he will be working his butt off for the next 4 weeks.

Of course, allowing him to get this far behind means we have to cut out some fun things I was hoping to be able to do, unless he somehow manages to really get on top and beyond everything. An activity with one homeschooling group this Friday--we'll have to pass on that. We are getting together with a friend and her daughter the week after that, but that has been planned for a month now. We will have our Christmas party the last week of school. But I think we'll have to say no to the usual yearly Christmas festival, which doesn't actually bother me because it's gotten worse and worse each year. Dd just wants to go for the cookie decorating section. ;) And then there was the desire to attend a park day sometime... Hm...

With 4 weeks left before Christmas, it also has me thinking about my kids, what they've accomplished and how I feel about that. I have really unschooled them for the most part this year, and I have to say I'm not comfortable with that.  And yet, I have to admit that I fall back on it not only because I let myself get disorganized or overworked in other areas, but because I don't want to deal with their negative reactions to my changing things. I had had plans to get going more this week--and they ended up being sick all week. They're still not better, but I think "better enough" to get to work this week.

Where I struggle is: What do I have them do? Do I focus on the content? Do I focus on them filling their time with activities? Do I focus on figuring out lessons to give them? I can't spend all of my time giving them lessons, esp. since the 16yo needs so much help. Although, there's another area I've allowed to get bad--he is capable of doing more on his own than I have him do. I focus on the time factor and trying to get more done, so I take over some parts of it. This has to change for all of our sakes!

Then, of course, there's my little niece. She's gone through a lot of changes this fall: her big sister is now in school during the day, so her constant companion and activity director is gone; we have the new little guy now, which has created a lot of jealousy and just general perturbation; she's switched out of Pull Ups, just recently, and is now in underwear... Big changes.

I guess I'm struggling again with how to fit everything together. I have not been journalling, which I know helps me tremendously. I have not been reading educational things that would guide and inspire me. I don't even have a sense anymore of where I am trying to guide my kids, specifically. I'll work on writing out that vision later on today.

I am realizing that part of my struggle is that the early Montessori work I did with dd was all very clear and laid out. As she's gotten older, there has been less clarity. I don't want to equip my home with the many materials in an elementary classroom. Then there's the aspect of group lessons and group work--they are each in their own age grouping. This does make things tough.

With Christmas coming, that means Advent is about to start. This actually can possibly help me with my kids' work in terms of things to show them or have them do. I've never really done much for Advent, but would love to start!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Some planning for the week

I didn't get a chance to write more, obviously, but I thought I'd write now to help sort out my thoughts for the week.

One of the realizations this past week from a few of us is how ADD we've become. And I'm serious--we let ourselves go off on all kinds of things, allow ourselves to be distracted in ways we didn't used to do. We have a lack of focus. When I think of the question, "What is the one thing you could do right now that would make the biggest change in the right direction in [your choice of area in your life], what is it?" focus is the thing that comes up. That and consistency. But I think consistency follows focus, but does it take consistency to develop focus? Which comes first? lol.

Other than that, I've talked with my kids a bit about schooling. Dd says that the 16yo is too distracting and he takes up too much of my time--she feels like she can't get the help she needs sometimes. I agree, although on the aspect of not getting the help she needs, she doesn't always ask. So a goal for the week is to work on the distractions and to take another step towards him working independently. If things are sufficiently explained to him ahead of time, sufficiently modelled, he can do an entire worksheet on his own. I think that's the approach I need to work towards with him.

Other than that, she has reiterated that she wants me to give her work to do. Now, I've gone back and forth with this because so often, I'll pick something and she'll moan and grumble. I think I just need to say, "Do this, or do something similar based on your choice of topic. But you need to know the topic right away, not sit around for half an hour trying to figure out something." I've already decided for Social Studies to just have her read about historical figures. It can be her choice of historical figure, but I'll give her a little list to start. She had wanted to do a lapbook, but I think I will have to do one as a model, first, before she has a sense of what to do for it. She very much needs to know what the end product will be for this type of work or she just can't get going with it.

For Science, I'm going to come up with some work for her to do on the first 10 elements of the periodic table. I think it'll end up becoming a lapbook (she really does like making them), and she said she wanted tests, so I think I'll give her a test on the first 10 for when she's done. Of course, this means I have to work out the specifics.

For French, I've decided that she and her brother will keep a blog for their grandparents who are "snowbirds"--they've gone south for the winter. :) It will be a way for them to get used to writing regularly in French, work on spelling and grammar, plus keep in touch with their grandparents AND learn how to blog. It will be a completely private blog that only her grandparents can read.

I've decided to have her work on phys. ed., too--she now has soccer games once a week, soccer practice once most weeks, and then an hour of ballet a week. She has never been really physically active, has flat feet and tight muscles, which is already causing problems with some minor injuries. I keep thinking of Pete Egoscue's work and how he says that most of these injuries could be prevented if our bodies were in balance. It's my job to entice her to get her body in balance. Of course, I could use some of that, too. ;) She's very, very thin, so weight is not an issue, but more strength and flexibility would be a huge help to preventing injuries.

My 10yo has said he wants to work on science--a kit he got for his birthday. "Okay, that's good, what about the rest?" He just wants me to give him work, too. Ideally, I will reimmerse myself in elementary Montessori lessons in math and maybe grammar or some such, and present him some things that he'll like. He does like the multiplication bead board--he says he wants me to purchase the nicer ones from Cabdev. I'm thinking about it. That and the division material. For science, I don't think I want to take a Montessori approach, other than trying to keep it hands-on with him. I do think it would be beneficial to combine Charlotte Mason science topics in this area.

Well, that's plenty of thinking for now! Time to relax a bit this Sunday evening to prepare for the week. :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Trying to Catch Up or Catch My Breath

Not sure which. ;)

I have about 45 minutes to do whatever I wish outside of the house. So here I am at the library, on the computer instead of reading or something. I thought it would be an opportune moment to just do something I enjoy doing--and blogging is something I do enjoy.

Now to start addressing things I mentioned earlier:

My younger niece, who will be 3 in a few weeks, is, naturally, a little put out by the newest little one in our midst. He has just recently turned 1, so he's the same age she was when she started. But she's 3 and the youngest in her family and has been the youngest at our place for 2 years now, so it's a little disconcerting for her. At first, she thought she would have a playmate, but, of course, a little one not yet walking and talking can't be the same kind of playmate as an older sibling. And then there were the first few days of the little guy being all out of sorts and wanting to only be in my arms all the time. Jealousy naturally built up a bit and she would ask to be in my arms at every chance she got. All very normal behaviours!

I've been inviting her to tag along or help me out and those opportunities always help her. She talks about how she's a big girl when she can help like that. Today, it was so cute, she keeps wanting to feed him directly, even if it's finger food that he can do himself. So I, on purpose, pulled out some baby food for him that had to be given with a spoon and asked her if she wanted to do it. It was so cute and funny! He was actually a little put off by it at first, because it's supposed to be me, not her, in his mind, but he accepted it and kept allowing her to feed him.

I think things are improving for both of them with this. With the 2yo, she's already kind of out of sorts because her sister is at school now and although for a while, she was happy to do all kinds of different activities, she seems to have hit a point of simply wanting to be entertained--of wanting someone else to get a game going that she can join into. I have my hands full right now, but I need to try to hold just a little more and get some more presentations ready for her. Although, now with baby gates up, that is another issue: she can't easily get to where most of the materials are kept. I just have to figure something out.


The keyboard here is kind of getting on my nerves and the keys feel very hard to press. I'm going to stop for now and maybe find a magazine to read or something until I have to pick up dd. I'll try to continue tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Misc. to write about later

I've been wanting to write, but haven't had the time, so I thought I'd at least make a list of things I want to write about! :)

  • My niece's reaction to my friend's little one starting with us.
  • My niece's obvious dependence on her sister for directing her activities during the day. 
  • The newest little one.
  • Some realizations about why things aren't going as smoothly as I would like. These are not new realizations, but they've hit me again.
  • The sheer busyness of my life and how I have to admit that maybe I've taken on too much, or maybe I just need time to adjust.