Saturday, September 17, 2011


I was going to journal today but decided to do a blog post instead--almost the same thing. :)

Just reflecting today on how this school year is starting off. My 13yo dd is fairly happy: everything is laid out for what to do during a week, she controls how much she does at a time and when she does it, but aims to get it all done. I will have to start checking in to make sure she's getting it ALL done--I suspect she's missing the instructions about writing about certain things. Her math has been review stuff so far, using The Key to Algebra series. Once she's reviewed enough, then I can get her going on the grade 9 content. Mind you, some of the stuff she will be reviewing is grade 9 provincial content: she was simply introduced to it earlier! I added in religion this past week (I'd forgotten to put it on her list the week before), but I think that was it. This is what her week consists of right now:

*English: Free reading plus visiting some online sites recommended by our school board (sorry, they are password protected, so can't share a couple of them!) One of them is This is a fantastic site: you help give rice to people in poor country by practising or learning vocabulary! I will have to figure out something more for her to do for English. The bulk of grade 9 English in school is those stupid textbooks with random short story and poetry selections. I've mentioned doing Shakespeare and am just remembering now that Shakespeare's Sonnets is waiting for me at the library. Poetry sounds like a good unit to start. :) I had thought about having English and French follow the same units, but I think that becomes almost too much--she is really liking variety right now.

*French: We are working on the novel study of Jules Verne's L'ile mystérieuse (in English: The Mysterious Island)--she's actually gotten ahead of me. We were only going to do a chapter a week, but she got to the end of the 2nd chapter and asked if she could read the next--she said it had gotten to an exciting point and she didn't want to stop! (Is it wrong of me to think "Thank goodness for the Montessorian in me that allowed her to continue on!"? lol) She has also been working on verb conjugations. I am going to start working on other aspects of grammar that will help her keep practising the present tense verb conjugations she's been working on (the -ER verbs--including ones that are kind of "funny", like "espérer"--and -IR verbs, avoir and être). She'll get sick of just verb conjugations!

*German: No German this week, but her workbook finally came in yesterday. I got her this:

It is VERY basic with hardly any work. I will have to look at it and plan for additional activities for her to do with the lessons. Or let her get going with it and just try to use what she's learned and use it orally.

*Math: Like I said, she's working on The Key to Algebra series. I don't know how many of them I will have her do. For right now, she's finished the first book and will start the second one this week. I have basically simply told her to work 30-60 minutes a day on math; she's been controlling how much and when.

*Science: She has her science text and is just working through it, writing down definitions. At some point, I think I'd like to do a little lesson on maybe doing a Mind Map or some other form of additional notes to help connect everything together. She doesn't have to do any tests for this this year--I should maybe ask her if she would like to. I'm thinking for now, just learning to take good notes will be helpful; we can add the stress of tests next year, since it looks like she is going to sign up for the online option and will have tests to do! I just realized that I ought to show her how to supplement the information, to look elsewhere for more information. I also just realized that she was supposed to write something for one of the assignments and while she looked things up, I don't know if she wrote anything down.

*Social studies: So far, just reading to get an overview of governments in history. I will have to find something more concrete for her to do!!

*Phys. Ed.: I've told her she should have as a bare minimum 3 times a week--she now has dance twice a week, so she should do something at least one other day. She's been working on stretches a bit and some exercises she learned in dance class. I did show her a yoga pose that is supposed to help her flat feet--she's resisting it because it hurts, which means she's not on the right surface and not propped up enough. Will have to keep working on that.

*Art: My only requirement is that she do something during the week. She's been focusing on oil painting, although did do some dress designing, too. We actually sat down together and tried a technique in her beginner book and she watched part of the DVD that came with the book. Let me say: It's HARD. lol. I kept having to ask her what to do, how...

*Home Ec.: The first week, she was required to help me with a meal. I forgot to put it on her list last week, so she just went an extra mile and helped with a supper and cleaned up in the family room--without having been asked. :)

*Religion: She is working through the older version of this book:

She's done the first chapter so far and one of the activities at the end (I thought it a bit too much to do it ALL--how uninspirational! :D). I asked her what she thought of it so far and she likes it, especially the little stories. I think it will be a nice, gentle text for the year.

I think that's it for her!

For my 10yo, he's still just been working on handwriting and math, skipped a couple of days, but otherwise, doing that and keeping busy with playing with his cousins, reading a variety of things, including a science magazine we get and the Action Bible. He's actually decided to stop doing the tracing part of the handwriting and just go straight to the copywork. I'm going to keep the amount small and start leaving enough lines so that he can keep trying to get the words just right. He's kind of doing the words, but not really self-assessing on how well the letters are done. Math is from a grade 6 JUMP Math workbook I had bought for my dd! For right now, it does the trick. At some point, I will have to go back some grade levels and have him work through different things. Which means creating my own worksheets!

The grade 12 student, the 17yo, is having a kind of slow start, but not a bad start. He's mostly keeping on top of his English and produced the best thing he's ever written on his own. He was so proud. :D I am really loving not being responsible for the lessons themselves, the marking, etc. Just helping him figure out what needs to get done, stay on task, giving feedback for what he's working on... He is going to have to  get cracking on his social studies more. There is a lot of reading and his reading's not so strong... I want to show him how to take notes and then how to create some Mind Maps. He has a real tendency to not see the connections between things and I think guiding him through creating some Mind Maps will help.

Oh, I finished reading Little House in the Big Woods to my nieces on Friday. Right away they asked if we could start the next one. We did! :) I still have the set I got as a gift when I was between the ages of 6-8. I see they've republished them, with a nicer storage box:

Mine's yellow. Mind you, I guess the covers are yellow, too, but with the same illustrations on the front. Such a classic series. How can one not love it? :D

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

From the mouths of babes...

My 10yo son, over whose writing abilities I have been fretting recently, was trying to write down gift ideas (he has both a birthday coming up and an early Christmas--my in-laws go south for the winter!) and couldn't figure out how to write "ear". I said something about if he know how well boys his age in school could write. He responded with something that I can't even remember, but didn't really address what I had said. I said something about boys in school his age having done a lot of writing and being able to write a lot by now and did he realize that--or did he even care? (The French expression doesn't sound so negative. LOL.") His reply:

"I don't really care." (smirk)

Ah... lol. What a kid. I have to have faith somewhat that whatever I can introduce to him and he will do, he will be motivated enough at some point to go even further. At least, that's what I'm trying to convince myself of. I could honestly see this kid being in a Montessori elementary class and he'd still spend his time reading, probably doing science, doing math, maybe making maps and doing pin maps, but avoiding writing like the plague. There has to be a reason for him. Same thing for when he learned to crawl (not until 10 months), walk (not until 15.5 months), talk (not until 15.5 months) and read (started just before he turned 8), all of which he masterly performed within a very short while after deciding to finally do it. He has no compelling reason to write yet. Maybe I need to find a paleontologist to be his penpal. ;D

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The little boy has been returned!

This is just wonderful news!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Abducted child--please pass around!

SPARWOOD, B.C. - Police have issued an Amber Alert for a three-year-old boy missing in Sparwood, B.C., after searching for him for most of the day.
Kienan Hebert was last seen when his family put him to bed Tuesday evening at his home in the southeastern B.C. community located about 600 kilometres east of Vancouver.
Hebert, who police are now referring to as an "abducted" child, is described as a red-haired Caucasian boy and was last seen wearing a blue pair of Scooby Doo boxer shorts.
Police say they're looking for Randall Hopley, 46, who is of no relation to Hebert.
They are also looking for a brown 1987 Toyota Camry with the license plate 098RAL and are warning the public not to approach the vehicle.
"Nothing has been ruled out but certainly we are considering foul play of course in this matter, but again we remain hopeful and optimistic in thoughts with the family that we're going to have a positive outcome to this effort so far in locating the child unharmed and well," said RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk.
Moskaluk said the boy was reported missing at about 9 a.m Wednesday morning.
Search-and-rescue officials then went into action and a police dog unit and RCMP helicopter were called in to conduct a search of the ground, he added.
Meantime, members of the RCMP's Southeast District Major Crime Unit, Cranbrook RCMP and the local Elk Valley detachment conducted another investigation, examining the scene of the disappearance to determine what happened to Hebert, said Moskaluk.
"There's a history that Kienan does sleepwalk, but in past incidents, he's never exited the house. Other than that, there's not much else (to explain his disappearance)."
Moskaluk said officials decided to look at issuing an Amber Alert around 5:30 p.m.
He said he couldn't answer why investigators identified Hopley as a person of interest.
"I don't know what the connection is ... I just get apprised as to OK, yeah, we're going to be able to go this route."
However, Moskaluk did say Hopley is currently on probation with conditions and is residing in the Sparwood area.
Moskaluk said Hopley should speak to investigators once he becomes aware police are looking for him.
He also said the ground search for Hebert will continue.
Court records show multiple convictions for crimes in Sparwood for a man named Randall Peter Hopley, born in 1965.
This past June, he was sentenced to two months in jail and two months of probation after he was convicted of assault. The assault occurred in April of this year in Sparwood, court records indicate.
He was also convicted in 2006 for a break-and-enter in Sparwood, for which he received a conditional sentence of nine months.
In 2003, he received a one-year conditional sentence for theft under $5,000, and in 2002 he was handed a three-month conditional sentence after he was convicted of break-and-enter.


Do you know the acronym "KISS"?


That's what I've decided to do with my son. Keep It Simple. I will provide him with various things, read him various things, but the things that are my minimums from him--writing, math and grammar--are the only things I will require. I will add in Latin because he is interested in that; just have to find the site I had found that seemed useful and get going. (Still haven't found a French-based source that would be suitable for a child!) That and he keep himself busy in the mornings in a way that does not distract everybody!

He was much more agreeable yesterday and I let him know all I'm asking him to do and that seemed fine. I will have a talk with him at some point about his desire to be a paleontologist and what that means in terms of what he needs to be able to do and what would *he* like to do now to work towards being able to do that. I'll wait until he's finally well rested and in a positive mood. ;)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What to do, what to do...

As I think about the day before journalling, I have the laptop right here and figured I'd get some of my thoughts out on my blog.

I find myself once again trying to figure out what the "right" thing to do with my son is. Yes, yes, I tell people there is no single right thing and yet here I find myself! Maybe not so much finding *the* right thing, but figuring out what should absolutely not be done and what can be done instead.

He has largely been unschooled, I need to keep that in mind. Maybe I need to ask myself some questions:

*Why do I want him doing more now?
-I think Maria Montessori would be appalled at how I've directed his education.
-He is technically grade 6 and nowhere near that level in his ability to write nor his math knowledge.
-I worry about how this could be a problem for him later on--I would feel incredibly guilty. He has only 4 years left before high school courses . (Actually, this could be a point to talk to him about, that when he gets to high school, he has to know how to write well, has to know how to write about different things, has to be up-to-snuff in math. And how 4 years isn't a huge amount of time for learning all the intricacies of spelling, grammar and writing in general in both English and French. He is very insistent that he will become a paleontologist. If he doesn't, he is so very much into insects and marine life, that I really could see him going into zoological sciences of some sort. That means university. That means knowing the stuff, being able to read and write very well... High school courses are a must.)
-I feel like I have neglected his education rather than really unschooled him.
-I think he's old enough now to start applying himself in ways other than simply playing with his 3yo cousin!

*What do I want him to be doing more of?
-taking what he reads and turning it into oral or written narration--making use of what he reads rather than simply having it as information in his head

-For the reasons above: to help him later on be successful for what he wants to go into. He has all the potential to get into the sciences and do well--but he needs proper preparation. That's my job. Or rather, to provide him with the means to prepare himself.

*What doesn't work?
-Imposing things on him when he's tired, slightly under-the-weather, etc.
-When I don't inform him ahead of time of certain changes in expectations/limits.

*What does?
-Um... lol. We've had some days that work great, but why did they work? I'm not sure. I think it definitely works better when he and I get going before anybody's here.

Some thoughts to get me going.

Well, THAT was an interesting first full day!

Today was the first full day of school. Or should I say "school", at least in terms of where my son is concerned.

I don't know if a too-busy weekend had an effect on my kids, or just the simple fact of going to bed too late, compound that for my dd with being sick and typically not sleeping well lately...

The 17yo did not too bad in terms of work. He finally hit a point of being sick of the computer and we tried some offline stuff, but that was it, his brain was done. He ended, therefore, about an hour before we was supposed to. But then his Dad showed up about half an hour before he was supposed to, so it wasn't so bad that he wasn't in the middle of something. His courses are still not worked out right and there is some stuff he can't yet do. We'd left math to the last course of the day--I don't think that's going to work so well. Needs to be in the morning, I think. Or maybe RIGHT after lunch.

Dd kept saying how slowly she was going this morning. It took her about an hour to read through a few pages of her science text. Then she moved onto something else and she just felt sluggish through the whole thing. She had tears in her eyes more than once today--including while we made banana bread as part of her home ec. time. She finally went off to her room to be alone.

Ds... Well... He didn't wake up until 8:39 this morning. I think it might be a record. He can be very slow to get going, so I didn't say anything to him about getting to work right away. Later on, he was reading the Action Bible, so I was fine with that. I did show him at one point some things for him to look at for school work (a book on constellations and another book on studying bugs). He ended up playing with his 3yo cousin and I made mention of him doing his work. He said uh-huh or some such. Finally, after lunch, he was just being loud and bugging others, looking like he ought to go for a nap, and I asked him when he was going to get his work done. "You didn't tell me..." or something like that. Bah. He ended up doing a single page of math and that was it. Grump, grump, grump. Oh boy. It had me sitting down and start thinking about how to best make this transition for him. The threat of telling him I'm going to have to place him in his grade level of lowest ability came to me ;), but that would not be very good. I haven't made it very far with my thoughts. I do know that changing from free play to school time is hard for him and routines will be key. I have to start having my kids get up at a set hour each day, I think. Or clearly posting a schedule/routine for ds to go by.

My 3yo niece has been grumpy on and off all day, as had the little guy (nearly 2yo). It's just been a grumpy day, I think. I will journal about it tonight and see if there's anything I can do differently tomorrow--regardless of people's emotions--that might help!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tomorrow we REALLY get started!

Last Friday was supposed to be a school day with the 17yo. But since his school had messed up his registration, it meant making phone calls, waiting to be called back, finally going in with incorrect resources, getting the proper things, having his course selection corrected... But that took us until almost lunch. After lunch, we looked at things a bit, he spent WAY too much time on his laptop (that might be an issue I'll have to stay on top of), got a list done of things to do this weekend and that was it. Since his courses are online, we had to wait until their server was updated before we could see his English and Social Studies.

I checked yesterday: his social studies is still incorrect. *sigh*. In more way than one! That's okay, tomorrow he will be busy with sending emails to the other teachers, finding out the schedule for his math and science from them and just get going.

My two need to get going, too. Part of my list of things to do today is to get a plan done for the week. I thought I'd "think through my fingers" while half the family is still asleep (okay, more than half if you count the pets ;) ).

*I need to find out from her if she wants a daily list of things to accomplish, a list of things to accomplish over a couple of days or a list for the whole week and she works out when she gets it all done. [Oh, she got up while I was in the middle of composing this post and asked her: she would like a list for the week! I think I ought to offer her a grid that she can use to plan or track what she does. She does have an agenda that she's tracking her work in, but having it laid out visually can make a difference.]

*Math: Working on The Key to... Algebra series right now. (I think it's the algebra set.) Trying to refresh her memory of integers, then moving onto exponents. I'm 2nd guessing my original plan, even if I haven't looked at it in a while. I should have a look at it. [It looks now like I have to figure out the work for the week and give it to her all at once!]

*French: We have decided to scrap Les Misérables for right now. It is just too daunting of a book to start with. I had said that Jules Verne would be an easier one to start with, she knows we have L'Île mystérieuse, so we will read that, have her do some written work with it... I need to pre-read, though, and be prepared for vocabulary or allusion issues. For grammar, I had prepared a list of things for her to do, but I'm thinking I should just give her worksheets. She's big on feeling like she's getting things done right now, very concerned about not having done as much work as other kids who will be entering high school next year and the more she sees that she's accomplished, the better. I might pull out a paragraph to use as a CM-style dictation with her.

*German: this week's focus will be on the date and the kitchen! :D I'll pull out some index cards and she can make labelling cards/review cards.

*Science: She has her text and will work through it. She will have a little extra to do this week because we didn't have a school day on Friday. I think there may be an activity or 2 to do in the pages she would cover this week; I'll have to see. I will also keep making sure she narrates to me after she's done reading a section.

*Religion: I'll resume the morning Bible passage reading, but I'd like her to actually *do* something. Maybe I'll give her some options: Bible passages to read and then narrate/comment on in writing or art form OR work through a text we have, in English, unfortunately, and not French, called Path Through Catholicism. It is a text I used in university, but it is actually made as a US high school text. Since she's in grade 9 this year, she counts as US high school. :D I was looking at the Didache series' Introduction To Catholicism: A Complete Course, and while it looks fantastic, I already have a nice beginning resource I can use with her, so I think I'll take advantage of it. I also still have the Faith and Life series, from grades 3 to 8, and am still working through the grade 3 book with my son (yes, he's now in grade 6!) and she listens in. I'd like to speed up the Faith and Life with him so that we can actually finish the grade 6 book this year.

*Home Ec.: She said she wanted to do home ec., so, she'll do home ec.! :D I was going to have her follow our school board's online course, but it looks a little goofy, for somebody who really doesn't know much. However, they do have an interesting link in their hand sewing section... lol. She actually came up with a project last week that I said would fit into home ec.: create a recipe book with recipes she likes--our cookie recipe, banana bread, spaghetti, chili... I actually have many ripe bananas--I could also assign her to make some banana bread. :D

*Art: She is to do at least 2 hours a week following the painting book we got or whatever else she chooses. She is LOVING the new painting book (I think I linked it in my last post) and thinks it's fantastic. I would like to see if I can find other books by the same author for her--I know they have others, I just don't know if they would be useful for her or not. Michaels might have them; we'll have to go for a visit. (Oh no, always a dangerous thing to go to Michaels! hehe)

*Social Studies: I'm having a memory blank at the moment as I was rethinking my approach and now no longer know what I'm really doing. Will have to find notes and see what I'm doing.

*Phys. Ed./Health: She will have to choose three sessions a week; she can do whatever she likes and the sessions ought to last at least 30 minutes. Next week, her dance starts up again, so that will count for 2 days; I want her to aim for at least 3 a week for the month of September. Since she'll be doing PE for credit next year, and she wants this year to be like a "school student"--or online student, but without having to submit everything, I think I might give her an activity log and have her check in with the PE/Health website. There are some written assignments to do throughout the year.

I think that's everything for her. I will get this all together and then figure out ds's work for the week!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Interesting "second" day of school

First day of school was two days ago; today was the second. lol.

In any case, I've not had nearly enough sleep and my cognitive abilities are low today. lol. The 17yo is going to start tomorrow, after all, instead of today, which is probably a good thing. Dd did not sleep well and is still having coughing spells in the night, so she was not in school mode first thing. Ds got up I'm not sure when and proceeded to read the Action Bible we bought the other day. This is what he did until lunch time!

I still prepared my things and brought up work. Dd stopped reading at one point to eat and then decided to do work. She was feeling so off, she ended up in tears--before we'd even started any work. In the end, she picked math and worked for about 30 minutes on some review work, then switched to art. We found a fantastic book at Michaels last night:

She did this today following the instructions:

I think it's pretty neat. :D She then saw later in the book how this technique is used to make a landscape. Excellent stuff. This is just the sort of thing we've been looking for since I know nothing about art whatsoever.

By the time she was done that and things cleaned up, it was 11 and we were hungry. I know we're going to have to go until closer to noon for lunch with the 17yo here (otherwise he'll end up with 2 hours of work in the morning and 4 hours in the afternoon!), but today, so be it.

We'll be heading out to a park day this afternoon and enjoying having the park more or less to ourselves. lol. This particular park is very popular and was full of people each time we went this summer, so it'll be nice to have something less chaotic.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

1st and 2nd days

Yesterday, we managed to have about an hour of school time. We then went out to do some back-to-school shopping (hadn't done that yet! goodness) and some other errands that had to be done. Had a special back-to-school lunch (Tim Horton's sandwiches) and took it easy the rest of the afternoon.

Today... I'm not feeling great. My son didn't wake up until after 8--that's not usually a good sign. Dd wasn't up and ready until 9. I started having aches come in, my stomach is off, my head gets dizzy... So, it's do-what-you-want school today. They've been reading. Ds has complained of feeling like doing nothing but wanting to do something. And of a headache. Well. Quite the way to start the new school year!

Dd has been thinking about attending school at least part-time for high school (starts next year). I asked her today what it was that she liked about this one school we are going to look at, so I have an idea of what it is she's looking for and can look for different programs. Her response ( :'( ): she feels like she doesn't get anything done here. Broke my heart! Part of me was so convinced that mainly unschooling would cause her to just dive into what she wanted to learn, but that is not the case. I have already committed to providing her more this year--I must keep at it!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow...

I'm actually feeling rather nervous about tomorrow. Especially once I sat down to work out a sort of schedule for my two and realizing I don't like having a schedule. lol.

For my nearly 14yo dd, especially, who has never worked on a schedule, and I do like the Montessori approach of controlling their own time more (although, admittedly, if she were in a Montessori school, she'd probably have a schedule; something for me to keep in mind), I just ended up going, "What am I doing?!?!" It felt so off from what would work well. I think a sort of schedule for my son would work to start--he's kind of had a short routine schedule this past year. Now I want to add things in.

But I think I'm changing too many things at once. It just all felt so artificial as I was writing out the specifics of what to do tomorrow morning. I need to regroup and restart my plan.


I do really like the idea of starting off with a Bible verse or some other religion time. I have most of the Faith and Life series and we've only made it 3/4 of the way through book 3. That could definitely part of our morning routine.

Ds is used to having handwriting--although I admit to not doing it as much as I would have liked to have had him do last year. I've been noticing improper letter formation and will be starting off focusing on that. Dd at this time could just move onto her own work, whatever she chooses. I'll tackle that in a minute. In any case, I will have him start off by writing out the alphabet, lower case, and I will take note of which letters are problematic. I know his p's are--he always places them on the line rather than the tail below. I'll also have a look at just how nice the letters are. I think, though, I might like to have him then compare his letters to my letters and to have him tell me what's different. We'll tackle the ones he sees clearly are different first.

Ds is also used to doing math in the morning. I will do a place value lesson with him tomorrow on that.

Now, what to do after that??? The CM schedule had in Drill, which I was skipping, then Repetition Poem. I like the idea, but think that's one of the last things I ought to introduce.

What other subjects are there?

Science: I had meant to have picked some books for him and I haven't. What are some ideas as I sit here? I could look at the provincial program of studies. I could have him use his science kit (I like that idea!). He's had this one kit since his last birthday--and his next one is less than a month away--and not once done anything from it. I think he found the set up confusing. That could be a fantastic project tomorrow. If we actually do something from the kit beyond setting things up, I could have him narrate to me what we did and I will write it down in a science notebook. This, of course, has me wondering if I even have notebooks...

Social Studies: I'm rethinking having him do social studies with his big sister. First of all, I don't know how much government would really interest him, even how I plan to go about it. Second, being stuck waiting for him would not work when dd is ready to move along--she is far too used to her individual pace and I see nothing compelling about having to present something twice. Three years apart is quite a difference, especially since dd is much more academically inclined. My thoughts at the moment are perhaps Canadian history and geography or world geography, with picking some areas to learn more about. I can throw the ideas out there tomorrow and observe the reaction.

Art: I haven't picked an artist to study. I have some pages from a Monet calendar; I could always start with Monet. It could be interesting to do another one though. Of course, he could also spend some time drawing tomorrow. We've got a bunch of fantastic instructional books.

Music: He has not touched his guitar in ages. Now, guitar's not something I'd really want to be doing with him in the morning, but he could always disappear to his room during the regular school year. There is a kids' instructional book that I bought sometime ago that he has not touched. If I present it to him and do a lesson with him, he might continue with it.

French: I want him reading more in French--which he's sort of started doing (Calvin and Hobbes--it's a start!). The writing will come later once his handwriting's better and he's had more practice with narration. The other thing to tackle is grammar! I could have him learn avoir in present tense tomorrow. It could also serve as copywork. I had something else originally planned, covering terms such as nom commun and nom propre, but I think I'd like to just get into the verbs and take it from there.

I could also add in geometry as a separate subject.

Now, all this written down, what is he likely to actually do in a 3-hour period and in what order should I suggest things (since he's nowhere near just picking the order on his own)?

*social studies
*French grammar

If we actually do all that, it will be amazing. ;) However, it could end up being one of those things where he spends about 15-20 minutes per subject, which means he'll be done in a couple of hours. If so, I'll take it from there and work on presenting more to him. Like Latin, dictation, etc.


Now, what about my dd?

She can start off the day with us and the Bible. After that, she'll have her choice of the following:

*math: I'm not sure if she's ever done exponents with 10's, so I'll do that with her. If that's fine, I'll move her into place value with the "developped form": 32 465 = 3 x 10^4 + 2 x 10^3 + etc.

*social studies: I don't have any French resources yet for this. We do have a Kingfisher Encyclopedia of History (I think that's what it is) as a starting point to look at early civilizations, their lifestyles, what sort of government would have have needed, etc. I want her to either tell me about it and the write down what she's told me, or write something down pretending she's telling it to me. My goal is not note-taking.

*science: First order of business will be to have her decide if she is going to cover one unit at a time or more than one at a time. There are advantages and disadvantages to both! If she does one unit at a time, she'll start with the first unit and have about 24 school days to work through it. If she decides to tackle 2 units, then we'll extend that time! Approach: Read a short section, be able to tell back, write down any vocabulary words, answer any questions that are a part of the text.

*French reading: I found Les misérables but have not even read the first page yet. I need to do that and write down words or phrases that she might have difficulty with. (I expect to have difficulty with it--despite my years of French Immersion schooling and then most of my university in French, I have actually done very little in terms of French literature!) Her assignment, after I go over some things, will be to tackle a small section and then do a written or oral narration. I might also find some historical background to it so that there is some sort of context provided before she gets going!

*French grammar: Verb conjugations in the present tense, starting with ER verbs. A little review! She can come up with a bunch of verbs and then work out their conjugation and maybe a few sentences. (She actually likes coming up with silly sentences to practise verb conjugations.) One thing I ought to check is there are new grammar and spelling rules since I studied them. The old are still acceptable, but I really ought to show her the new. I am quite certain that some of the ER verbs have had their conjugation rules change when it comes to doubling letters for certain verbs; not sure if accents have been affected. (Those of you unfamiliar with French, I'm sorry--you probably have no clue what I'm talking about and I'm sharing a bunch of babble!)

*German: This is her one key course this year. She would like just to be able to converse more than follow necessarily the program of studies. I'm thinking I wouldn't mind getting all her abilities up enough that she could skip a course or two through distance learning or be able to get easily into a private one-day program we have here in town (although she has thus far shown an extreme aversion to any sort of lessons on the weekend and would rather have a job!). If we do enough, she could probably do the grade 12 level correspondence next year (grade 10 year) and be done with the formalities while we continue improving our German together. Well, okay, I need to remember a lot first. ;) So, what to do for tomorrow? I think I should take some objectives from the grade 7 (first year for one track of the German second language options) level and focus on vocabulary that we can use in day-to-day situations. I wish they had a vocabulary and expressions list like they do for French! But alas...

I've just looked things up. Things we could work on are just basic house vocabulary and question words like wer, wo, wie, wann, was... Ich möchte is a great expression to know and easily use. (I would like...) I will have to take some time and make up a vocabulary list. Mind you, we have the one workbook that covers both grades 7 and 8, so I could maybe just focus on that, plus household daily things. That would work. For tomorrow... Shoot, I think my brain just shut off. lol. ... Oh woot!!! I just did some searching and found a vocabulary and expressions list! Yay!

Other than that, there is art and music. For art, she has a painting book and I will simply ask her to do one of the lessons from it. We have all the necessary materials for it. For music, I will ask her what she wants to do: keep going with piano? try the flute? both? something else?

That's enough for now. I must go rest my brain a while! Too much stress today with various things. :/

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Oh, promising site!

Supposedly to learn languages FREE online--and in French! Lots there!

School is almost here!

Next week is back-to-school week. Hubby has to be at school (he's a teacher) on August 30th, although the students aren't back until Sept. 1st. My niece and nephew are with a different school system and they actually head back to school on the 30th. The 17yo, I believe, is expecting to start on the 1st.

I have had in my mind that I would like to have 30th and 31st to homeschool just my two--well, with my youngest niece and the little guy here. Every time I sit down to write out a plan, I get stuck. I have butterflies in my stomach. I feel like I have no clue what I'm doing!

I'm trying to change things this year and really go about things in a way that I can make it all happen. Books that I have been reading have been helping me flesh out goals and my determination to follow through on them, and one of my 4 key goals right now is my children's education. I've got the drive, I've got the will--I just don't know what I'm doing.

What better way to flesh things out than by writing? :D

That's why I'm here right now, writing.

I pulled out a printout of a CM school schedule from way back when. It reminded me that I don't have to plan the whole day--just his 3-4 hours in the morning. I am NOT doing a CM-style schedule, having him change lessons every 20 minutes or so. But I am looking at covering the various subject areas, as I think having a lot to provide him with and for him to choose from will be highly beneficial. I'm not going to cover every subject every day, so I find myself kind of stuck. I have to balance things with having other kids to provide lessons to, to help, to change diapers and potty train... I guess I'm feeling stuck on how I'm going to make this work. (Writing that, I have come into my head, from The Secret, that the "how" is the domain of the universe and my job is to figure out that "what". lol) All right, I need to forget the "how" and just focus on the "what" I want to cover.

What does the CM schedule that I found on the AmblesideOnline site have? (Remembering that they did school over 6 days instead of just our 5.)

The particular sample schedule, which I have to admit I don't know if they changed the schedule each week or what, although I think they must have because there's no mention of Shakespeare in any of the schedules, has as the Monday plan:
*Old Testament
*Drill/10 minutes of play
*Repetition of a poem

I won't be doing drill, but this breakdown isn't bad. Looking at the week as a whole, arithmetic is done 5 out of 6 days; easy enough for me to be prepared to give him math work each day, alternating between concepts (arithmetic one day, geometry the next, back to arithmetic). Of course, because I'm not doing drill and the song stuff they do, I could always add in geometry as a separate subject. (I went through the provincial curriculum not so long ago and I really felt that geometry could be treated as a separate subject, but complementing whatever arithmetic he was covering--multiplication lends itself to looking at area, for example.)

One of the CM books I read talked about giving lessons, not just having subject time, giving the child the work and have them go at it. I need to make sure the lessons are super short, but this has how it's often been with him anyhow and following Montessori, so that's not a problem. With the Old Testament, I think that's a great place to start and I could preview the first chapter of Genesis, see if there's anything to bring up, then have him read it and do some sort of follow-up work: a picture or oral narration. My 13yo could read it, too, and could do a written narration and/or some sort of art (she's very artsy!). While I have not done CM with them and have not done narration formally with her, she is a natural narrator, giving full details of movies, books, dreams, situations that occurred with brother, cousins... Very detailed. lol. Always has been. It's really remarkable. But I digress. Her oral narration is fantastic, so I am not hesitating at all in having her go straight to written narration. (Her age group timetable also start with Old Testament, so combining the two kids' work on this is perhaps rather easy, although I expect I will be able to have her at some point read more than one chapter.)

Arithmetic: Well, I have things written up on my other computer, a plan of the topics to aim to cover each month. Seems to me that the starting topic for arithmetic is place value. For the first day of school, I could do a review lesson with him, see where he's at in identifying place value, and adding in 3 more bits of information, then having him create his own questions and identifying the place value. Actually, a perhaps better start is to see where he is in terms of breaking down numbers (as in, 18 567 = 10 000 + 8 000 + 500 + 60 + 7)--I think seeing what the numbers are made up of lends itself better to learning the name of the positions.

Dictation: Uh... He's still barely writing properly. I think I need to scrap dictation for the first while and instead have this as his repetition time (which is also done in Montessori, so I love that!). That means I'll have to find a book or a collection of poems that he could try to memorize. I have a great book of Poems for the Young that I could use, or maybe print off some of A Child's Garden of Verses. There is a free version (or possibly more than one free version) available online. Can't remember if it's at Project Gutenberg or not. Ideally I will find some good French poetry by Tuesday!

Geography is next on the schedule: Hm. I haven't figured out what I'm doing with him on this. His sister, for social studies, will be spending the year on government--I've modified the provincial curriculum and will be starting the year off looking at how people governed themselves in ancient times. I'd like to have the two sort of working on the same thing, just to make things easier. I suppose Geography time is a good time for him to read a bit about an ancient country and tying it in with a map. I will have to figure out what I'm doing for this!!! I had not gotten that far in his sister's plans to know what she's going to start with exactly and which resources we will use.

After Geography is Writing--this will be his copywork time. We are starting off the year with me giving explicit instruction in forming letters, both cursive and print. He uses capitals where he's not supposed to for letters like P--it looks the same in both upper and lower case and he just doesn't seem to get yet that a lower case lies on the line. So, we are starting from the beginning. I think I will tie in Writing Road to Reading with this since we're doing this somewhat remedially and the approach for learning letters--past the sandpaper letter phase--is really good. I will tie in the idea of narration, having him explain to me how to make a letter so that it looks good and sits on the line properly.

The final subject for the day is supposed to be French. That's excellent. Except that I'm not sure what to do since French is our home language. lol. I suppose I need to decide if I will have him read and narrate during that time or if we'll cover grammar.

Now, I said the final subject is supposed to be French because the above, if he takes the rough amount of time from the Parents' Union School schedule, is missing the 20 minutes of drill and play and the Dictation time, which is supposed to be about 30 minutes. That's nearly an hour missing. What should I tack on as another subject or two? He loves science, so I think that would be a great way to end the formal day for him. What to cover? I hadn't really decided what I would do this year for science with him, I don't think. Part of me is interested in maybe quickly covering the provincial elementary curriculum--all kinds of things he hasn't done that he would really like. I could skip the somewhat superfluous things. I'll have to decide quickly. And figure out another subject to add in. Or maybe not skip dictation, just keep it simple to start with. Hm...

Looking ahead to Tuesday's subjects, I see Latin. I think Latin would be very cool to introduce to him. He's already been grasping certain things from all of his own reading on animals and I just think it could be very interesting for him, a new challenge related to what he loves, to start learning a bit. The thing is: I really, really don't want to use an English-based program and I have not yet found anything for kids in French. I'll keep looking or I'll maybe buy and English program, translate the lesson and then present it to him. (Oooh, just found this be fantastic as a starting point for me to create lessons if I can't find a suitable French resource. Great thing about French being a Latin-based language is that it will be even clearer what the Latin words mean!)

I don't know if he's going to want to continue with German studies this year. If he does, that could replace the "French" classes. (But then, what to do with the German class in the schedule? lol)

Well, this is a good start for a fixed plan for the first day. I'll have to go through a plan for my dd, but tomorrow. I'm getting rather tired and don't want to think anymore. ;) And then I'll have to finalize resources and the actual lessons, won't I? And then figure a plan for my 3yo niece!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Only 2 weeks left?!?!

Summer is going by so quickly, as it always does!

This week, my 13yo is away at camp and my 10yo, his 11yo cousin and 6yo cousin will be doing swimming lessons together. My 10yo is not looking forward to it; I'm not sure why not. I think he's afraid or something--his last experience with swimming lessons 3 years ago was difficult and he didn't pass his level. As much as I believe in giving children choice, the only choice I could offer him this time was to be in the same group as his cousins or to have him go a level higher in a difference class at pretty much the same time. He chose to be with his cousins. I think it'll be a good refresher for him and hopefully have him feel more confident in the water. Why am I insisting on these lessons? Because we go out to his grandparents lake lot each summer and he's started doing things in the water--without being able to even swim to shore or necessarily float properly if something were to happen. Swimming is not optional.

So far, I haven't stuck to the idea of a schedule--I do want my summer down time. But I have been pulling out more things and the kids have been pretty occupied and not too crazy. Reading "Little House in the Big Woods" is great for when the girls get bored and crazy.

It has hit me, however, that there are only 2 weeks left until my niece and nephew head off to school. While they 16yo might not start until Sept. 1st, I think I want to start on the 30th with my two, the same day my niece and nephew head back to school. That means I have two weeks left to finish planning at least the first week. *slight panic* I've got some basic year plans in place for math for both of them, French for my son, but that's it. I have to figure out what we're starting with in all subjects, figure out resources to use or create things... Oh my.

For right now, must get going to that swimming lesson!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Charlotte Mason schools today

I had always just sort of assumed that there weren't any Charlotte Mason/PNEU schools today. I was wrong!

There are others, but I don't want to find the links right now. lol.

I have to say that one link I visited, I was somewhat disappointed to see them not stick with certain CM principles: the children were given HOMEWORK, which is a big no-no in CM. 30 minutes of reading starting in the early grades, with the possibility of an extra 30 minutes of other things (math, narration, other); in the upper grades, an hour of homework on top of the reading. This just seems so contrary.

Both Maria Montessori and Charlotte Mason were in agreement when it came to homework: none. School time ought to cover everything. Why is this one school not following it, despite supposedly being a CM school? They run from 8am to 3:25pm.

I guess I'm a nitpicky person. ;) When a school presents itself as a CM or Montessori school, I expect it to stick with obvious principles. A school inspired by or based on these methods would permit me to accept certain changes, but this school isn't supposed to just be inspired... Hm. They also have a far more academic kindergarten program than Charlotte Mason ever hinted at. It just feels like a very American school, using the CM approach for its classes, but ignoring certain principles. I've seen Montessori schools justify certain clearly non-Montessori changes, trying to claim that in these modern time, such and such thing (like homework) is necessary and it's been proven (sic)--to the point that at least one intimated that if Maria Montessori were alive today, she would likely have made that change.

(Ach, I just looked at another link and they've including some other approach in with CM! I don't get it! lol. I have to stop looking at these links! lol)

I can't find my sandpaper letters! :(

I have been wanting to get my littler niece going on the sandpaper letters and to continue working on the cursive with my 6yo niece (her print is just beautiful--I'd like to take credit for having worked with her a bit before she went to kindergarten, but I don't know if I have anything to do with it!). I can not find them. They're not in the shelves and as far as I can tell, they're not in the storage unit nor in my den closet. I can not for the life of me think where I would have put them. :(((((

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dolly Varden is apparently very funny

I read some more of Little House in the Big Woods today to my nieces. I wasn't sure how much my one niece was paying attention until she said, "Dolly Varden?!" She thought it hilarious that the Aunt and Uncle's baby was named Dolly Varden. She laughed and repeated it several times, even. lol.

I think the kids have all taken crazy pills

I have no idea what's got into them: the 3yo and 6yo are loud and loudly laughing, the 3 oldest are loud and goofy. The only quiet one around here is the 21mo!

It's only 9am. I think I'm going to have to get them out of the house today. lol

Sunday, August 7, 2011

One week with all the kids done

The first week with 6 kids in the house went off well. As the week wore on, I could tell the needing to be directed was setting in. With the girls, I would try a different activity, or I would simply sit myself down between them and tell them I was going to read (they LOVE to be read to). I've been reading Little House in the Big Woods. I find the 3yo fascinating--not sure how much she understands the story, but she does something she's done since she was a baby: watch my lips while I share the story. She's always done that: watch people's lips while they're talking, while singing, etc. She's such a sound-oriented girl! Very musical, too. I've never seen a 3yo dance with such musicality!

The 6yo is loving the story. I decided to ignore the Charlotte Mason suggestion of reading only a little bit and read a whole bunch to her on Friday. She would have had me continue, but I told her we needed to stop. I already have the French copy of the next one out from the library and hope we'll be able to work through that before August is through and she's back in school.

My plan, therefore, with the girls is to continue with this. I think it would be good to work on some practical life, sensorial, language and all that, but it's hard to change modes while on what is essentially summer vacation. We'll see. If I can just find my sandpaper letters and pull them out, that might be enough to get language going. (Oh, that reminds me, I did do a brief I Spy with her!)

The boys... Well, the boys have spent far too much time playing PS3 or watching someone play PS3 this past week. That will be cut back this week. They've found themselves kind of bored, so I've already talked to ds about doing some of his chemistry kit with his cousin this week; he liked the idea. 

We do have plans to be out tomorrow afternoon and part of Tuesday afternoon, so that will help.

The 21mo has been very cute: mostly following the girls wherever they are, sometimes playing with the same things they are playing with, sometimes playing with something nearby. He loves being with them!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You know you've done at least some Montessori correctly when...

...your 13yo notices her 6yo cousin struggling with how to open a little toy door, asks her if she wants help with it, the 6yo says yes, so the 13yo says, "I will show you how to do it, then you can practise it yourself."



I forgot to add in my last post that it has "come to my attention" that I ought to present Latin to my son. He is so very much into dinosaurs, bugs, animals, knows their names, has even brought up about part of a Latin name and how two creatures shared part of the same name... I would ideally like to have a French resource that teaches Latin, but I guess we'll see. I know nothing about Latin!

So much for plans!

Yet again, my plans have been foiled!

I don't know if I make unrealistic plans or if I'm just not able to force myself through a plan when other things come up that get in the way or what it is. I'll have to think about this.

So far this week, it's been a little rough. I thought we would be back from camping on Sunday, allowing me to take care of household stuff on Monday and attend a local festival. Instead, we didn't get home until 1:30, and my daughter and I absolutely wanted to go to the festival, so we left for that and hubby went on a motorcycle ride. Dd and I didn't get home until close to 6:30pm! We ate supper and were simply exhausted from the previous 3 days of not enough sleep followed by the afternoon walking around in the sun.

I ended up going to bed late Monday night and was awake at about 5:30. That gave me a little less than 6 hours of sleep. Already running on fumes (I had only had about 6 hours the night before, too), this did not leave me in good shape for all the kids yesterday. There was also still a bunch of camping stuff to take care of and put away, a kitchen to clean, some laundry to get going... I was in no frame of mind to focus on my plans! (It didn't help that I didn't even have the chance to sit down and have a look at what I had planned!)

Yesterday still went well enough. The girls played very well together all day and we ended up going to the library. My nephew wasn't with us yesterday, so that changed things, too.

I went to bed early last night, but had trouble falling asleep--I was beyond tired, but adrenaline seemed to be kicking in. Fell asleep shortly before 10...and woke up at 3am. I thought I would just fall right back asleep, but dd went to the bathroom twice in a short period, then I was too hot and uncomfortable and the traffic was intermittently starting on the road behind our house... I finally went downstairs, tried to sleep there and gave up at 4am, clearly not at a point of falling asleep. Watched Sense and Sensibility until I fell asleep around 5, slept in and out between than and 7, which left me with pretty much no time to do anything!

So, today has been a do-what-you-want day again. I guess I'm okay with it for now--everything is working well. I want to have activities planned out that I can simply start doing if things get out of hand. The girls did help me fold sheets and pillow cases, so that's at least some Practical Life for today! lol

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Planning and more planning

I've been working a bit each day on summer plans, as well as school year plans. The past couple of days have been focused on looking at my province's math curriculum and pulling out the useful outcomes for the year, so that I can then make some sort of plan.

Let me tell you, some of the things they put in the curriculum... It just leaves me scratching my head! Why oh why oh why?! There are places where my jaw practically dropped going, "Why is this remotely important to have in there?" Like for grade 9. The ONLY outcome for chance and uncertainty is:

"Demonstrate an understanding of the role of probability in society."

What? This is, what, a 5-minute conversation with them? Something that is probably already understood? No calculation outcomes, no, just "demonstrate an understanding...".

In any case, I now have all the outcomes I want listed and can try to create a plan from that for the year. I know Montessori often separates arithmetic from geometry, so the kids work on geometry all year in addition to their arithmetic. US schools typically put algebra into its own course, too. If I think of the math outcomes as being 2 or 3 separate courses, that could help in terms of giving time to work on a concept and integrating different areas a little more.

Boy, have I got some work ahead of me!

I've also fleshed out a better schedule idea for mornings for next week. I'm not so sure anymore about the weekly themes. Not with the little ones, anyhow. On top of that, I've worked on the 17yo's first day and first week plans, laying out a little more my role, my expectations, etc. I know the more I write it out, the more it will simply become a part of my thinking and I'll be more likely to do it automatically, rather than trying to remember or not being sure.

Let me write some of it out again. :D

First, I have done most of the reading and writing for him, what with his LD label. He was supposed to have been learning to use technology, but he got so behind--and I felt guilty for it, because part of me felt I should have done something different--that I didn't end up pressing this issue. Well, I'm going to press the issue and I've already warned him. One thing he will do on his first day back is work on training his MacSpeech software. I know part of his resistance to this is that he has to talk into it and he feels silly and stupid. That's just too bad. lol. He can lock himself in my den if he wants privacy, so that's not a problem. With the training, it's a little tough because he can't fluently read the passages he's supposed to read aloud. That might require me copying out the passages, we work on the reading of them, then he goes and trains the software. It could take a week or two to get the thing properly trained; that's okay. If it's not properly trained, he will just have to correct the mistakes it will make; it doesn't stop him from using it.

Part of the week plan with him is to first of all, each day be aware of when the deadlines are for the 3 subjects that will have deadlines and see where he is in the work. It's a bit of a shame that it's not worked out what to do day-by-day, but the deadlines are usually every week or two, so it's not too bad. The first day of the week, he and I will look at what is due and figure out a minimum for that week (if the deadline is in 2 weeks) or figure out the daily breakdown. When that is decided, I am holding him to it. This means that he works ALL day long until he's done the allotted work and if he doesn't finish, he has to bring it home with him. Same thing for the weekend: if the week's work is not completed, a list will go home (I might email a copy to his dad, too) of what needs to get done.

One thing I've said to my dd is that I'm not going to let his being behind affect our ability to go out and do fun things. He will have to be on track or ahead to come with us, and if he can't come with us, the expectation is he will be at home finishing his work. The school he's registered with was going to implement a new policy where kids have to go into the school until they finish overdue work; if they aren't still doing that, I am going to ask his teacher advisor if we can set that up.

Something that will have to be decided with him is how he wants his schedule. There can be an advantage to just taking a huge block--like 3 hours in the morning--and just working through as much as you can. BUT he has such a tendency to drag things on. I suppose the worst that would come of it is he would have to bring work home. I'll still let him have some say and provide some schedule options. One schedule will have a large block in the morning and two smaller blocks in the afternoon. Another will be the opposite. Another will have 2 subjects in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. Well, sort of. He's got English, science and social studies as his academic subjects, and then phys. ed. and a health-type class. The phys. ed. and health are 2 separate courses, but I'm thinking them as a single course. One of the subject blocks could be split in 2 and he could work on both a bit. The other option is to have him work on those mainly at home and the final block of the day could be "catch-up" and study time. Yet another option is to focus just on the academic subjects, do 2 hours of one, then an hour of another, lunch break, finish the last hour, then do the final subject for the remaining 2 hours.

Regardless, assuming that he will show up around 9 like last year, this will be the schedule:

lunch from 12-12:30
12:30-3:30 (or until leaving)

6 hours to tackle 3 academic subjects is plenty--if he learns to focus. Setting the above limits will help, I hope! A couple of minutes at the beginning will be taken to tackle some skill building--math, vocabulary, etc. This is one aspect I haven't quite figured out yet. But the above is very solidified in my mind and on paper. I believe it will work well. :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I am thinking about doing a Shakespeare play this August with all the kids. I know the littlest ones won't be able to participate--or understand much--but to expose the others will be great.

One site (a CM site) recommended A Midsummer Night's Dream as the first one; I think that's a good idea. It's fun, not too difficult. There are lots of references to mythology which might need some prep work. I know there's the movie, but it's been a while since I've seen it and I'm not sure how appropriate it would be! I don't think I'd be able to get the oldest to actually act it out. Hm... That's a whole issue to tackle.

Another site mentioned age 9 or 10, but I'm not sure if Charlotte meant to start at that age or was just mentioning those ages for examples. The 9yo had read A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the oldest kids this August will be 10, 11 and 13, so it should be reasonably good. The little ones (not yet 2, 3.5 and 6.5) might not get terribly involved!

Why do Shakespeare? This has a great explanation, although I do wonder if it's actually true that Shakespeare truly added that many words and phrases to the English language. I will have to find out!

Now to figure out how to actually go about it... Audiobook? Read with stick puppets? (:D)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer Montessori-Style

Well, not the summer we've had so far. ;) Although, you know, we kind of have. Not so much with lessons and materials and curriculum and set learning time, but a vacation we took last week which had us learning so much about geology and history and lots of exercise and outdoor time. It was fantastic! And then yesterday... I think the writing "bug" has FINALLY been switched on in my 10yo son. It may change my plans a bit with him this coming year; we'll have to see how this pans out. My best friend--like a sister--spent a couple of nights with us, along with her 8yo daughter. The 8yo and my 13yo started writing all kinds of things on our easel whiteboard. Then they moved to a window. This was all it took to inspire my ds. He copied what they were doing to a certain degree--at least the very idea of what they were doing--and demonstrated that all of the work I have tried to do with him for cursive and printing was not for nought. This morning, he came to me to tell me--with an extremely pleased-with-himself expression on his face--that he knew how to write "c'est". And then proceeded to show me. Ah, it's like a sigh of relief! I still need to push ahead gently, ever so gently with him, but it'll all come together, just like his reading did. I just need to make sure to provide enough demonstration and opportunity.

But this has all nothing to do with summer and Montessori-style! Not how I meant, anyhow. lol.

I'm looking ahead to August, it is just right around the corner. I will have 6 kids in the house most of August; one week will only be 5 because my 13yo will be away at summer camp. So, the easiest one and biggest helper will be gone, which means that week could end up being more difficult. I don't want it to be 100% free time. I've said this before. I know I was exploring scheduling ideas and came across one school's summer program. What they do is have a theme each week. I think this could work beautifully, better than having a specific theme each day. I still need to work out a basic daily structure--and figure out themes--but it's relieving some of the strain of "How am I going to make this work when they are so used to just doing whatever they want?"

Since I'm here, let me explore some theme ideas:

*ds's chemistry set
*hiking or other outdoor activities
*group games (hard to do with a 21-month old)
*art, arts and crafts
*another science focus

Of course, I've only got 4 weeks and I've come up with more themes than that. Cooking might be something better done as a specific day of the week or just an activity to plan in as desired. I think group games have to be squashed (I was thinking things like soccer, catch, kickball, etc.). Art is so encompassing that I could honestly do something different each week for art. Some sort of science week is a must.

I've completely lost my thought flow. At least I managed to get something out. lol

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Things starting to click a bit together

The more I read from "When Children Love to Learn" and from a book by Alfie Kohn, "What Does It Mean to Be Well Educated?", the more I have a clearer vision of how things will unfold next year.

Alfie Kohn's book is one I took out from the library sometime ago. I don't know why I can't seem to sit down and just read through it because every time I sit down, I love what I'm reading. Today, I saw it in the shelves (maybe that's the problem: it's smaller than most books on my shelves!) and thought, "Oh, that's going to be due soon. I should sit down with it." It's at a point that reminds me so much of CM--about how learning ought to be the focus, not results. That's exactly what CM is about--there is no requirement for how much the children should know in the various subjects, it's all about the process and learning for their own sake.

I had been thinking of maybe having my daughter do a pretend provincial exam at the end of the year--well, not pretend, just use an old one. If she wants to then, sure, we'll do it; but I'm thinking now I won't even think about using some of the exam prep things during the year. I don't want her focus to be on how much she will learn for some arbitrary test. It's also got me thinking more about high school and if next year can be a good model year, we can continue that way for her academic subjects until grade 12, even if she's doing a diploma. She can do just the grade 12 courses she needs, with proof that she has been working on the subject matter throughout grades 10 and 11. When she gets credit for grade 12 academic courses, they automatically give credit for the "prerequisite" grades 10 and 11 courses.

This will give us so much more flexibility and we won't have to stay exactly on provincial curriculum--just have to prove that she has covered the prerequisites, is capable, but it doesn't have to be exactly the curriculum. She'd still do German through correspondence (her choice!) and most likely signed up with a teacher for art credit (either through our homeschool board or through a private school here in town), we'd get her phys. ed. credits and whatever other easy option courses she wants to cover as she went along. This feels like such a huge relief: she CAN get the diploma without us sacrificing good learning throughout the first couple of high school years just for the sake of properly meeting the curriculum and doing final exams.

On the flip side, if she wants to be eligible for certain scholarships, she will need official marks all the way through. I think I'd rather say, "Too bad, it's just money." They don't amount to a lot and I think our quality of life and learning is more important than a bit of money to help defray post-secondary costs!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

More school thinking

I've written down quite a bit in a notebook about my daughter's ed plan ideas for next year. I don't really want to rewrite them here at this time; maybe once I've somewhat finalized things. Some things I didn't really cover were the approach.

How are we going to approach her studies next year? She wants to cover everything a "regular" grade 9 student would cover. Do I encourage her to have a schedule? Do I simply list out the work that ought to get done during the week and the lessons she needs to see me for? Do I give her even more freedom and have the work for the semester laid out and then she goes her own pace? Do we set up a time for subjects and she goes her own pace? Different things to discuss with her about what she feels would work best for her. I know Montessori likes to integrate studies at that age; I'm not quite sure how to go about that, other than not treating French like a separate "class". Reading and writing can be incorporated with other subjects. I suppose grammar and literature could be "French class", or even separate classes in themselves.

I do really like the Charlotte Mason approach of using living books, learning to narrate orally, then written. The tough part will be for me to find suitable books for science and social studies topics (grade 9 social studies is about our federal government; uh...). And in French, to boot. I think this will be key to her starting to really feel comfortable reading and writing in French. It's ironic, isn't it--here's this francophone girl who would prefer to avoid reading and writing in French. Well, the reading has come along, but for novels, French novels don't interest her. The literary language is something she's not used to (neither am I) and she can't connect with the stories the same way. Translations from English can be horrible, too. But, I have to try to find something.

Where does this leave me? I'm not sure. With a muddled brain. ;)

For my son, he's technically going to be grade 6. If he had to go to school for some reason, he would find it VERY hard. There is so much he hasn't done--his handwriting is worse than my 6yo niece's, I don't think he's ever written more than a sentence at a time in English and never that much in French, all kinds of math that he hasn't covered... He's hit an age where he's much easier to work with in this regard and I really need to get him to do more this year than last year. He made some reasonable progress in math, although mostly just focused on math facts--but he didn't even cover them all, so really, it's not reasonable. I've had the thought of making a checklist by grade level of things students in school learn, but that could be hugely demoralizing. I suppose I could do it by division--a set for grades 1-3 and a set for grade 4-6. Or I could just do up a list of things and tell him that students in school, like his cousins who are the same age, are pretty much capable of doing all these things by the end of grade 6. Maybe that will be enough for him. I don't want to pressure him to get it all done; I just want to see him doing something.

Part of that will require me being consistent with our routines. I'm getting better at pushing through any foggy brain or lack of energy on my part and sticking with the plan for the morning. I suppose my first real aim with him would be to get him to the point of working 3 hours in the morning! I've done it before, worked out a list of "school activities" with him and insisted that he spend his mornings only on things from that list. I could do it again, while including in some specific lessons. I think the lessons will have to be first thing in the morning before any people have arrived. Then he will be free to keep working on what we've covered or picking things from the list. I recall doing folders in the past of work or exploration areas my dd and another girl I was homeschooling could do in the order they wished, but it had to be done sometime that week. Doesn't feel very Montessori, but it worked.

What are the main goals for my son this year? Writing--both handwriting and in general--and working. I do want to see him continuing to work on his math, and perhaps have him increase the amount of time he spends on it (he would happily work on it, but didn't like if it took more than 5-10 minutes!), but the writing and the plain working are key this year. With the writing though, I'm going to step back a bit and use Charlotte Mason non-written narration with him at first, get him thinking about things and how to say them. This is actually a kind of a struggle with him--he doesn't always find his words or says things that we go, "What do you mean?" I do sometimes wonder if they would label him as mildly LD if he were in school, but maybe it's really because he's spent years pretty much just playing--and reading English books.

For all the kids, I do want to bring into our school days picture study, nature study, music study, etc. All the enrichment-type things. Present things to them, ask them questions, have some follow-up ideas prepared for work... Kind of a mix of CM and Montessori. I have decided to read or find an audiobook of A Tale of Two Cities for this coming semester. The 17yo will be covering the French Revolution as part of his social studies work, so it ties in nicely, and I think it's my favourite Dickens book. If I could find a good audiobook of it, I think the kids would like it more than if they tried to read it on their own or if I read it. Another advantage of an audiobook is that I can play it in the van or while we're eating lunch--and I can eat and listen rather than read while they eat and eat afterward.

This reminds me: Daily schedule. I've decided that our lunch hours will only be 30 minutes long. And I will be using a timer. I haven't decided about the daily silent reading. My kids read all the time, so that's fine, but my idea of having daily reading as a way to get the 17yo to read more didn't really pan out. I don't know if I didn't stick with it long enough or what. He will just sit there and do nothing. Mind you, that's not really different from how he has approached his course work, is it? An alternative could be 30 minutes of lunch, then 30 minutes of A Tale of Two Cities (or whatever book we're on), while following along in a book. Hm, that's an idea.

In any case, the 17yo has English (grade 12), social studies (grade 11), science (grade 11), Career and Life Management and phys. ed. (grade 11) to work on first semester. He typically gets here at 9. I'm thinking of insisting on a 9-12 work morning for him, which, for the first while as he adjusts to me not reading and taking dictation from him, could mean he only gets one subject and a bit done during that time, the 30-minute lunch, then maybe, actually, just get right back into work rather than reading: 12:30-3:30. If he gets all of his work done for the day before 3:30, then he's free from work and I will continue the read-aloud (if we followed this plan, we'd do the audiobook during lunch time) or maybe we'd all go for a walk or do nature study or handwork or something. I'm suspecting for the first while that he won't have all of his work done, which means he will have to take it home with him and try to get it done there. At the end of the week, a message will be sent home to his father about the work that was supposed to have gotten done that week, what's left to get done that weekend. I've avoided telling his father much because it just seems to make things worse, but I think this format could work. Really, there's nothing for him to do for phys. ed. at my place, and Career and Life Management ought to be easy enough for him to do at home. He has plenty of time in the 6 hours set aside for work to get his English, social studies and science done. I will be adding in a daily math question--first thing in the morning--as a way to keep some of his basic skills up and possibly even to preview certain things he will cover in math 2nd semester. It still gives him pretty much 2 hours per subject each day. I know that could still be tough for him, especially since things will be very different this year.

Have I shared my plan with him here? I'm not sure I have. Even if I'm repeating myself, I'm going to share because it helps sort out my thoughts and firm it up in my mind that this is what I'm going to do.

The past two years, I have done a large part of the reading and writing for him. He is coded as having a learning disability, but he was supposed to have learned to use programs to read things for him when it was too much for him to read on his own (his reading itself isn't too bad; the pace is horrendously slow) and use MacSpeech to dictate to his computer for his writing. He must, must, must get used to this this year, especially with diploma exams coming up. There will not be any interacting with someone, get feedback with someone, etc. There will either be a person simply reading things or a computer reading things to him. For dictation, a person is going to write exactly what he says--he needs to be in a habit of saying "period", "comma", etc., and then to reread what he's written to decide if it makes sense. While he's had the advantage of being challenged to think through things more as he goes through them, he does need the experience of having to do it entirely on his own. That's what he will do this year. He is doing correspondence/online for all of his academic courses, which takes me out of the picture for lessons and assessment.

So, what will my role be?

First of all, as a guide to how to be independent with his work, someone to monitor his time management skills, help him define goals, stick with it, etc. Second, as a test prep person. I will orally quiz him on science and social studies things, give him little practice quizzes for all three subjects, give him English diploma exam prep things, etc. Also, I'll teach him how to actually learn this material throughout the semester, rather than trying to cram it in at the end. Third, as a tutor in the sense of helping build the weak skills or explaining questions he doesn't understand. And as someone to review work he's about to submit, go through the marking guidelines with him, or sample responses with him, and have him self-assess--did you explain enough? does it flow nicely? does it make sense? did you defend yourself with several reasons? etc.

There is plenty for me to do with him without being the actual teacher! He does already know that I'm changing things next year and I've explained how I will not be reading nor writing for him. I've said it more than once. It'll still be an adjustment for him. I've wondered now and then why I didn't do this earlier, but you know what? He wouldn't have cooperated earlier necessarily. Next year is his last year. He knows he needs to do things differently to be able to do final exams at the school and the diploma exams. He knows, too, that nobody will be sitting by his side for post-secondary courses, the way he's had someone up until now. It's his last chance to learn this before graduating (and actually, if he doesn't learn how to do it, he might not graduate this coming school year), and he knows it.

I think I've written a novella. ;) It's maybe time for me to stop. lol

It's a rainy Sunday morning

I've wasted the bulk of the morning away. I feel the need to do something more productive. I could clean, yes, but at the moment, I want to think about school stuff. :)

It's already closing in on halfway through July. Time always goes by so quickly, it's crazy. I have my nieces and nephew who will be with us full-time for the month of August. I actually want to start some light school stuff with all of them at that point, get a routine going of sorts. I figured blogging was a good way to get some ideas out and explore things.

Having a structured routine will be quite a shock, so I don't think I want to force a routine on them--that's a huge amount of sudden control and will likely be met with resistance from the boys. The little girls are always eager to sit and listen to stories, do practical life things, try sensorial materials, do art, etc. I'd like to balance things a bit, though.

The thought coming to my mind at the moment is a basic schedule that we used years ago: each day of the week had a different "enrichment" focus. I can't remember exactly what it was, naturally, but it was something like this:

Monday afternoon: outside play time
Tuesday afternoon: library and games
Wednesday afternoon: science experiments
Thursday afternoon: music
Friday afternoon: art

I think something like that could be useful for the month of August, provide a bit of rhythm to our days without making each day the same. Thursdays are when various groups seem to have their park get-togethers, so those can be definite park days. I would probably decide on if we'd go morning or afternoon based on where the park get-together is that particular week. I'm thinking we ought to change Monday to our library day, then we can have the whole week with our books. The original reason we had Tuesday as our library day was because we went to a park day almost ever Monday afternoon back then. We haven't been regulars at park day for a few years now! There's absolutely no reason to stick with Tuesday. lol.

I do like the idea of getting outside as much as possible. I think I'd like to encourage the main outdoor time to be in the mornings, before the UV and temperatures get too high.

What other things can be done? I still like the idea of a science day--my son has 2 science kits he really likes--but has done nothing from (complicated or he's not sure what to do). Granted, once we get going with one, it could be a daily thing, but that's fine with me. I can adapt the schedule if needed.

Other things:

  • My littler niece is already 3.5+. I have done so very little Montessori with her. Since the boys are likely to do their own thing together in the morning, it's a great time to present things to her. Since her 6yo sister loves being shown stuff, too, I'm sure I can determine some lessons I can give her: cursive, math, geography, science, reading...
  • I'd love to have a read-aloud going on--in French. I put a request for Little House on the Prairie in French, although I'm lamenting that there doesn't seem to be a French version of Little House in the Big Woods, which I think is so endearing and much more at the girls' interest level (okay, the littler one might be totally lost, but she'll like the drawings when they pop up). I maybe ought to find something else, or just read Little House in the Big Woods in English first, then the sequel in French.
  • I think I will really need to plan my week and days to maximize the time I have with them.
  • Just remembered: I learned that my nephew's teacher this past year is known for not teaching a science unit from the provincial curriculum--chemistry. This causes problems for the grade 6 teachers because they are expected to prepare the students for the grade 6 government exams (oh, how I'm glad we homeschoolers are not required to subject our children to such things!) and the exam includes a bit on chemistry. Why, when it's not covered in grade 6? Because it's the government. :/ In any case, if he hasn't done it, then I can cover the chemistry unit with them all during August.
Long-term thinking: next school year.

I have some definite goals forming in my mind--some on paper, too. ;) Dd wants to really feel like she's getting work done and to know that she's at least at the same level as school students for language arts and math. She has also asked to be required to cover the same topics for social studies and science and the general curriculum. It's her "high school prep" year, where she wants to feel like she can tackle a full high school course load her grade 10 year; right now, it just seems scary and way too much work to do. She has started realizing that it doesn't have to be as difficult and time-consuming as she's seen with the 17yo I homeschool--she mentioned a couple of weeks ago how she thought it would take up her whole day to be doing high school courses, but the 17yo really spends a lot of time avoiding work and not working very quickly. She's not too sure about getting the diploma, but if I've looked at things properly, she'll probably be covering everything--except social studies--to get all the necessary credits. Without social studies, she will already have over the minimum number of credits. If we cover social studies our way for grades 10 and 11 and ask to challenge the grade 12 course, she will then have her diploma.

It's funny: I was so against the diploma for a while. But seeing as how she wants to be able to get into anything she would want to in university or some other post-secondary program, it means getting certain credits or alternative. On top of that, there are things she would just naturally be doing or wants to do. Social studies is really the only bane to it all.

In any case, I've really got to start working out the subject plans for next year, especially for French and math. Some of her math skills are weak, or there are things she simply really hasn't done. I want to design something specific for both French and math so that everything gets covered. I will also be putting together checklists for both subjects, probably with columns of, "Covered, Practised, Mastered", so that she can kind of self-assess, too, as the year goes on--seeing what's left to do, what's left to be mastered, etc.

That's enough thinking for now!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Maybe it's my Montessori background, or maybe it's that certain things from Charlotte Mason's books (and books about CM) have stuck with me better than with other people, but I find myself saddened, and sometimes appalled, at accounts I read on CM lists of the level of control parents are using on their children. I feel like asking, "Did you read the books at all?" (I haven't even read them all yet myself!) That wouldn't be very nice of me and I chastise myself for even thinking it.

There are parents who are allowing their child to take an entire day to get a lesson done--is that what would have happened with Charlotte Mason or in one of her schools? No. When it's time to move on, it's time to move on. This battle begins between parent and child when parents do this. The child becomes more determined to not do the work--because he's coming from a more emotional standpoint--and with the parent sticking to her guns, it seems to me she is enabling a bad habit to be formed. This is dawdling. Charlotte Mason said clearly to not allow the child to dawdle. More than that, she put the responsibility on the parent to secure the whole attention of the child. Furthermore, how does this fit with the principle of respecting the child? Yes, that is a CM principle, just as it is for Montessori. Both women had such respect for children, all the while not allowing them to engage in bad behaviour. But nowhere have I seen any mention of forcing a child to sit until they get the adult's decision of the amount of work to be done.

There are also parents who are talking about punishments and rewards in various ways. There was none of this in Charlotte Mason's schools. There's no hint of it. Is it so engrained in our society that those who profess to follow CM don't see how they are going against it?

I suspect, too, that many parents are foregoing the lesson part of it all, which I have to say I don't blame them for, because it wasn't until reading "When Children Love to Learn" that I had any clue that there should be actual teaching from the teacher. That wasn't the impression given by anybody on any of the lists (well, not that I've read, anyhow, but I admit to not reading all the posts) or even what I've read from websites. To essentially leave the child to his own devices in a situation where he should have had a bit of guidance in the beginning of the subject time is very demotivating. No wonder he's going to dawdle. But this goes back to securing his attention, right? The lesson primes the brain for the work; too often, we just expect them to work. Yes, I admit, I'm guilty of this at times, too.

I'm tired, have a headache, feverish and premenstrual. Sorry for the mini rant. ;)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Officially summer :)

I have my nieces and nephew and the little guy today. School is completely done for the year--I now feel like it's summer!

As part of a summer activity desire on my part, I took them all to a nearby ravine. We did the entire length of the ravine and back! It was just amazing in there. Made me think of how I can tie in some educational things in the future: nature book, collecting specimens, etc. The kids did plenty of finding all the different kinds of flowers they could, found spiders, I found a small slug, and more. It was just wonderful. They all want to go back--today. LOL. I ended up walking with the little guy (30lb little guy...) in my arms a great deal near the end and it was HARD. There's my workout for the day though. ;D