Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oh, my mind is a-going!

High school has been brought up on a Montessori list I'm on. Has me thinking about dd again, especially since, in terms of American schools and programs to model after, she will be high school age this coming fall. Eek.

I found a brochure at Montessori High School at University Circle's page. It's got a lot of good information in it. I'm really starting to feel nervous about dd's high school years. lol. She is capable of so much and I want to help her challenge herself on top of just a basic education.

The Extended Essay required for grades 11 and 12 has my curiosity. I wish they would describe it more. Maybe it's a common thing in other places and I can find out by doing some research.

The importance of service: dd will have to volunteer as part of her Confirmation preparation this year, plus she does do some volunteering with her Pathfinders group. It does make me realize that while I do serve (through moderation of groups and providing information to others, updating a local homeschool group's website, etc.), she doesn't see that I do spend time in service. We'll have to discuss the ways that people can serve the community; it doesn't always mean going somewhere else!

I really like how for 9th and 10th grades, they approach the sciences in an integrated fashion. It makes so much sense.

I find it absolutely fascinating that students take Current Events and Ethical Thought in grades 9 and 10, and then Theory of Knowledge in grades 11 and 12! How cool is that?

I'm getting ahead of myself, naturally. At the same time, if I'm going to start a 4-year high school plan with her in the fall, there are certain things I ought to make sure get covered from now until the middle of June.

Friday, February 25, 2011

You know you've watched "National Treasure" a lot when...

This morning's schooling time, after our prayer, started with doing a Canada puzzle map. Not a Montessori-style map, unfortunately, although maybe not so unfortunate since my children are older now and the challenge of it really got them and it was a good push on the seeing and thinking skills to figure out where certain pieces go. I will upload a picture of the finished product later on.

In any case, as we're doing the puzzle, ds sees in the lower right-hand corner "Legend". So he said it out loud, but in a mysterious sort of way. Dd then pops out with:

"The legend writ..."

To which ds promptly responded, "The stain affected."

Not sure who said what yet, but we messed it up a little and followed with, "Iron pen*," followed by someone else saying, "Undetected."

Oh, we had a good laugh when we realized we were going through an early scene in "National Treasure". It is one of our favourite movies!

(*The correct lines are:
The legend writ,
the stain affected
the key in Silence undetected,
fifty-five in iron pen
Mr. Matlack can't offend.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

So far this week

The 16yo made the comment today that it's been a short week that has felt extremely long. He's right. Today was only our 3rd day of school this week, but it felt like it was Friday of a full week. We ended up not working today because I woke up feeling absolutely horrible: sinus headache and upset stomach. I thought the upset stomach was at first part of the sinus problems, then I came to realize it was something completely different. At one point, thought I would be fine to get the 16yo through work, but by the time he got here and I had moved around sufficiently, that was it. I was done for. Which was fine for him because his stomach was bothering him and dd was also complaining a bit. We must have picked up some sort of bug. All day, it's been painful or nauseating. Very annoying.

So, that means I only have 2 days so far to account for. Dd is still doing well getting into work mode; ds it trying to change the routine. I allowed it, but then it caused problems with him, so back to the routine I created we will go. I feel like I'm finally accomplishing something with both of them, all the while getting the 16yo through his work. Dd is feeling like she's accomplishing something, too, and has a sense of direction now. Even pulled out her laptop mini the other evening and worked on her Viking research in front of the TV while dh watched I'm not sure what.

The 16yo and my catch-up plan: He was completely amenable to it. He does not like being behind and has even thought about maybe taking physics and math in-school next year so that he won't fall behind. I said it could be done; we'll look at the possibilities. Once he's caught up and stays caught up, and I no longer let him get behind (other than maybe a day behind because of some fun activity), I think he'll change his mind. He is thinking about after grade 12 and possibly doing some high school upgrading after he and his Dad move. He's thinking about it because it will help ease off the pressure and anxiety if he knows that next year's marks are not the end-all and he likes the idea of taking something he's familiar with, in a classroom situation, to ease into the change of post-secondary. Mature thinking!

I tidied up and changed around some materials for the school shelves. It has already allowed the 3yo to pick a couple of things she didn't normally pick. I put out the Touch Boards and will have to show her them sometime. I need to get over this stupid stomach bug first. Argh. (Pain just now.) Oh!! Huge breakthrough! She had gone back to not talking. The 16yo's sister hung out with us a bit this afternoon (she did grades 7 through 12, plus another semester with us) and the 3yo wouldn't talk and it became clear it was all for show. I said, knowing full well that she would be listening in, that we would have to stop trying to get her to talk, so that we stopped giving her attention that way. No immediate change, but a little later, she wanted something from dd and wouldn't come right out and ask it the way she used to, dd had no clue what it was the 3yo wanted, came and recounted the story, as the 3yo was coming along--and I knew she'd heard--I said, "Well, that's enough about that. We're not going to give her attention for that anymore." Within 30 seconds, she was talking up a storm. And she would not stop. Made me think of The Sims 3 and how you can teach the toddlers to talk and once they do, a little bubble pops up about how they've learned to talk and now the trick was to keep them quiet! lol. She talked and talked and talked and talked. Holy cow.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Babble babble


Tired and not sure what to do with myself, so I figured I would blog.

It looks like I didn't blog at all last week. Not sure I can recall enough to share. A few of us were sick at least one day, my 3yo niece was tired ALL week. The 16yo is getting further and further behind in his work. I asked him on Friday what he was going to do to catch up. He said he didn't know. I asked him to think about it this weekend. If he gets here Tuesday (tomorrow's a holiday here) and hasn't come up with anything (which I think is likely), I already have a plan! heh heh. ;) It's not a mean plan, but it's got to be done. He does not care enough about the work, he has fallen into some disruptive behaviours, which is almost always a sign of something stressing him and he's avoiding it or looking at making himself feel better by engaging in disruptive "fun". I don't think it's specifically the work; there's some stuff going on at home, I think. He's also been complaining about his stomach hurting, which tends to occur more when he's stressed about something. I think I'd like to read through Choice Theory again and maybe Reality Therapy In Action--I've used tools from both in the past to get him to move forward.

So, what's my plan? Well, double up the sections he's covering in math and physics, the two he's behind in, but at the same time, cutting back on the number of questions, until he's caught up (I can't remember how long that will take with this approach). The questions will all be typed up on worksheets. I will make it clear to him that I've cut back on the number he's supposed to do, which means there is not enough practice in just the work he's being given to learn it well--meaning, he will not get the average he says he wants unless he does more than what I'm giving him. If he wants to do better than a C, he will have to do extra at some point--either take things home for homework, work in books designed for extra practice, etc. If he does not get the day's assigned work done in the time he's here, he has to take all incomplete work home. I haven't yet decided what to do if he doesn't get the homework done. I'm thinking of a couple of options to give him: 1) He works first thing on all the incomplete work and then we move onto the day's work, which, again, if he doesn't finish during the day, he has to bring work home; 2) It will be just like in school: Don't get the work done, well, that's too bad, we're moving on and it will affect your ability to do the end-of-unit work, which he can do open book, but he will not be receiving other assistance with it (that's actually part of the work agreement with the school).

This feels harsh in some ways, but I've fallen into enabling him again. I've had a pattern of not insisting on staying up-to-date in his work, then I focus on nothing but him to get him caught up at the end of the semester. I rescue him. (The topic of rescuing vs helping came up on a list I'm on, which is what led to me thinking about the plan above.) I'm not going to rescue him anymore. I will let him fail if that's what he's going to choose to do. It's not so much failing that he's choosing, but he's choosing to not push through uncomfortable feelings, which leads to giving up and failing; indirectly choosing to fail, I think in part because he expects to be rescued. I really need to reread Choice Theory and Reality Therapy In Action because the techniques and information would be so useful in helping him be aware of his choices and their consequences, and that he is capable of choosing something different. This is by no means a "normalized" child, never has been, and he is now 16, has an LD label and many poor coping techniques that are being increasingly used lately; a typical Montessori approach is not helpful (although a good Erdkiner during his junior high years might have made a huge difference for him!). He talks about going to college, but he is so darn dependent (yes, I know, I've allowed it) and doesn't want to handle feeling uncomfortable or frustrated with something, I just don't see how he would even be able to do a single class. He needs to be challenged and guided through challenges now, not when he ends up in college and nobody there is going to really care.

With my two... I had started on some topic one morning, which led to a question about something else, which led to us looking up online about the Mayan calendar and somehow that all led to me saying I wanted to make a lapbook. Well, that got dd going AND ds going--he's never made a lapbook, never done any kind of real research work and presentation. This is sure to keep us busy for the next while. I'm working on Benjamin Franklin, ds is working on dinosaurs and dd is doing Vikings. I will still start our mornings off with our routine (get ready for the day, religion, at least one lesson to start), but now we have some additional work to tackle during the day. I'm so excited. :)

I can't remember what I brought out for the 3yo this week. She ended up napping a lot--she spent the week waking up early to pee or having a nightmare or things like that. Oh, but here's some wonderful progress: the 16yo wanted to get her to talk. She will talk with ds and sometimes to dd, a little bit to me, but just to ask if I can open this or that or do something for her. She wouldn't talk to the 16yo. Somehow or other, they were playing and she started playfully hitting him. He said she could only hit him again if she talked. So, he got her to take part in a discussion with him, intermittent with her hitting him. LOL (It sounds awful, but it was all fun and very cute.) She talked and talked and talked. And showed how much she has been listening to what we say. He asked her why she doesn't talk anymore: she replied it was because her big sister had gone to school. (I've said that to the olders in the past! Little sneak! lol) I'm hoping this new-found speech will stay. It was so good to have her fully back like that.

Speaking of the 3yo, it reminds me that one of my projects for this weekend is tackling the school shelves. The girls have been taking things out and not putting them back in the right spot. Plus there are things that aren't being used that could be temporarily stored. A project for tomorrow. I used to have some Classification Card sets that I'd made; I wonder if I will be able to find them, or if I even still have them. They would be a fantastic activity for me to have out on the shelves.

***EDIT***: If only to confirm what I posted minutes ago about my plans for the 16yo, I went into an email account, clicked on a link about the quote of the day, to find this:

High expectations are the key to everything.
~Sam Walton (Wal-Mart founder)

I want him to do a lot, but I don't think I expect it of him. I need to expect it of him and take steps, like the above, to help him to meet the expectations. His own expectations are completely off base and unrealistic.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A new week!

I don't feel as prepared for this week as last week. I need to get my game on!

What did I do differently from usual to prepare last week? I decided more things for *me* to do. So, what are things I can do this week:

*With my 2, review the Apostles' Creed as we did last week, do a different morning activity/lesson together each morning (biology today; history tomorrow; biology again on Wed.; maybe back to history on Thurs.); I can also add in some German each day, they have their own math to do (dd is back doing Beginning Algebra with Life of Fred; it's quite cute, as she gets frustrated by things that confuse her in it, but has made this mandatory for herself with comments like "If I want to have a future, I need to learn this math" lol), I want to work each day on handwriting with ds and dd has a French workbook she can work on.
*With everybody: look at some love poetry, given it's Valentine's Day an all. Look at a few different ones (will have to pick some right away and print off), if there's any kind of rhyme, then write our own--doesn't have to be a love poem, or maybe I could say it DOES have to be a love poem--but it can be about our pets or Playstations or what have you. Nobody said that love poetry couldn't be silly. ;)
*For my 3yo niece: Keep Gettman out and do as I was doing last week, selecting activities to pull out and show her.

I already have a list of work for the 16yo to get done today.

Friday, February 11, 2011

End of the week

So, this week ended on kind of a non-school note, but it was my niece's 6th birthday--completely forgivable. :)

The overall work done this week was better than previous weeks. I need to re-collect myself and focus on what I want to see happen on Monday, what *I* will be doing on Monday. Things always work better when I focus on what I can actually control--myself--rather than what I try to envision the kids doing. No, no, it has to be what *I* doing that I involve the kids in. Also need to refresh my mind about limits and rules, keep them in the forefront.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I have not yet gotten the kids to the level of work I would like them at, not doing as many presentations as I had planned, but here's the thing: they are doing more, things are flowing more, even calmer. I don't think I wrote about this, but I had been having the feeling that the idea of trying to gradually increase was not going to work, at least not the way I was going about it. Focusing on one thing to start doing meant that if it didn't get done, there was no change. Focusing on a whole day's worth and not meeting the goal means that stuff gets done! :D

Progress made so far this week:

*Silent reading time both days. The 16yo likes to publicly balk, but he's been cooperative, sat down, got into his book (Peak), as did everybody else today. Yesterday, my nephew was here (yes, that definitely threw things off yesterday) and even he partook in it.

*Work time with the 16yo after lunch today.

*Ds has done math and handwriting BOTH days.

*We've gone over the Apostles' Creed both days.

*My two and I had our school time together before the 16yo showed up.

*Used a timer both days to limit lunch (although, forgot to get it going at the start of lunch today). Why do this? Because lunch time has had a tendency to get longer and longer. lol.

*Over the past two days, my 3yo niece has done water pouring (it's now her favourite mode of drinking water ;D), bead lacing, a cylinder block, clothespins (put clothespins on the edge of a container--requires the pincer grasp--and then remove them) and today, I invited her to cut with a pair of little kid scissors. I think I will have to model this one again--she holds her elbow out to the side and cuts from the side. That doesn't work as well. Oh, she also did this geometric stacker. She normally just does one of them, not the hard one on the end. She tried to do the hard one today. Didn't work so well. lol. I should maybe take them off and hide them for a while.

*I discovered that not only does my son hold his pencil in an awkward way, but it's such a way that the pencil is kind of straight up and down and his hand is blocking a bit from seeing. Well, no wonder his handwriting isn't improving--he's not seeing what he's doing! I took out one of those triangular pencils grips, which kind of helped, but then I saw he wasn't curving the fingers underneath enough, which caused the hand to be propped up, essentially, blocking what he was seeing. So, for the next while, the focus will be on his grip rather than specifically improving his handwriting. I want to get him to the point of copywork and eventually to his own writing, but I need to be patient.

So, things are progressing and it's feeling good. Why is it different this time from the times I have planned in the past and things fell apart? I decided ahead of time to push ahead regardless of any resistance I felt from myself or others. I almost didn't follow through on the silent reading yesterday after lunch, started waffling, wondering if I should break up the boys' Lego time together, but somehow decided to go ahead with it, be consistent. I'm glad I did.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Feeling good about the week to come

I've been doing some journalling, thinking and praying. Things are starting to connect properly in my mind. My fear is that after all of this work, I won't follow through. Why don't I follow through so often? Not sure.

So far, I have worked out a rough "lessons" plan (not to be confused with a lesson plan) for my two for the week:

Monday: bio (from a homeschool text we have), history (looking at Kingfisher encyclopedia we have--with a variety of follow-up work options), math, French, German and art (looking at a particular artist, with follow-up options), religion, ds--handwriting (I'm taking a step back and going to sit down and work through the letter formations with him, using the Sandpaper Letters, if need be!)

Tuesday: chemistry (from Montessori R&D manual), geography (ds--identifying Canadian provinces by shape; dd will work on her choice of learning Canadian capitals or resuming her US states work), all the rest the same as above, except music study instead of art.

Wednesday: same as Monday

Thursday: same as Tuesday

Friday: science from our provincial curriculum standards; social studies from our provincial curriculum standards; French, math, etc. No lesson/presentation for music or art; basically, more of their decision making than mine.

I think I need to make up a chart that shows exactly what I want to cover in those areas each day.

I still have to work out the 16yo's work for the week. I have thought about taking a Writer's Workshop type of approach Mon., Tues. and Fri afternoons. I would take from his work requirements, modify as we saw fit, but get my two also involved.

It'll be a change this week, the expectation for my ds to be working in the morning and the move to an afternoon work period. There will possibly be some resistance. I think I tend to take resistance as a message I'm doing something wrong, but I have to see it for what it probably is: moving out of the comfort zone. I can do this. :)

As for my previous post about encouraging the 16yo to get his work done in the morning, I realized that could backfire. I want our days to go back to the longer educational days we used to have. If he sees it as his work is done in the morning, then he'll be "free" in the afternoon and won't get involved as readily; no sense of obligation. But these courses he's doing are just part of his education; there is more to be done. So, I might encourage him to get the hardest/least inviting for him done in the morning (math, physics and social studies), leaving the afternoons free to work on ELA, science experiments, cooking, handicrafts, read-alouds, etc. Like we used to. (Yes, I'm feeling nostalgic, but it was so nice!)

I haven't plotted in the 3yo yet. She gets here around 8am, so I'm thinking I ought to be completely ready by that point so I can get right into some Practical Life activities with her, then maybe move onto some sensorial work around 8:30, while my two are getting going with their work. For this week, we will try doing the Apostles' Creed first, followed by math together, which will probably be done by the time the 16yo gets here around 9, then I can get them going with something else while he settles in to work on his handwriting and spelling. I will need to learn to juggle my time more, rather than focusing on him. It was a completely unrelated discussion, but it got me thinking how in William Glasser's books, he really focuses on having adults back off. Not abandon, but you set out the requirement, give the student room to do it (or fail to do it), and deal with what happens after that, letting the student be responsible for his choices. I can do that. I have already decided that there will be no field trips, other than the library, unless he is on track. Or put differently: field trips are extra fun for when work is on track. Yes, yes, some field trips are definitely educational, but they don't fit within his work requirements, so, no. They are extra. Yes, this means the others lose out, except I can take mine on trips on the weekend. Besides, for the next month and a half, they have every Thursday afternoon out! (Skiing/snowboarding.)

See how I've switched to focusing on him? Ach. Back to the 3yo. I think I will simply start at the beginning of activities with Gettman and work my way through. I don't think I have all of the language materials (Classification Cards, for example), but if I plan ahead, I can get some things done. Or maybe even have her help with some of the material prep. :D

Okay, I must now figure out the work expectations for the 16yo for this week, as well as make the planning grid for my two. I'm also trying to get my laptop to be able to do WiFi printing to our printer so that I can use Homeschool Tracker for some of my planning and tracking.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thinking, thinking, thinking

I'm on a Charlotte Mason list where the topic of schedules came up. I know we need a schedule around here, even if it's just to say, "8:30-11:30 is morning work time. 11:30-12:15 is lunch. Etc." But, this particular thread had something about the CM high school schedule and how it went from 9-1 before the break for lunch.

I need to have something different here and it has to be clear in my head. I'm becoming aware of how the 16yo is really pushing to not be challenged. To slack off. I have to set some "rules, boundaries and limitations", as Cesar Millan would say.

This CM thread has got me thinking. If the 16yo actually did 4 hours of work, then he would be on track for what he has to get done. I don't know that I like the idea of 4 hours straight, especially since it would be hard to make work with the different ages around here. However, I could set a rule of: 2 subjects' work for the day needs to be done before you break for lunch (9-11). Once that's met, make it 3 subjects. (9-12) LA could be left for the afternoons and we could do more group stuff together, with writing workshop things that would blend in well with the work he needs to submit for credit.

That feels so controlling, yet there has to be some sort of limit with him. We've finished 3 days of 2nd semester and he is 2 days behind. *sigh*

I did not have a chance to plan things more for what my kids can do for work time. I know I need to go deeper than just topics they can explore and actually provide examples and directed work. I also need to work on giving the 16yo a question to work on and he tackles it while I do something with my 2.

As I write and think, things are clicking together in my mind. I don't know about starting with a 2-hour work period. I'm thinking I ought to just go right for the 3 hours, as we used to do. My 2 could start earlier and end their 3 hours with some free time before lunch. With the 16yo, rather than a rule of "this many subjects need to be done by lunch"--or rather than *me* setting such a rule--I could point out to him that if he got 3 subjects done in the morning, that would only leave 1 to cover in the afternoon. And how for the next while, we are missing 2 afternoons a week, so he needs to figure out how to make up for that time. PLUS he is getting a week off at the end of February because his Dad will be away and no means of getting him here (nope, no licence), so he has to actually get ahead before he leaves.

I think I need to set some rules for myself so that I don't get caught up in spur of the moment ideas and back track on things I've said need to be done first.

Right now, I think I'll take a moment to have a look at some Montessori science albums I purchased and get my thinking going for next week.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another day of messed-up routines

*sigh* This is something I really need to get a handle on. While I had been thinking that I needed to do something, I've been so busy with other things, I forgot to figure out some sort of solution to the messed-up routines.

My nephew will be with us today. Not sure if I will insist that ds do a bit of work, but I will make it clear that they are not to engage in any kind of activity that will be noisy or distracting. It's not like I have made the habit yet of ds working all morning, so he's not missing out on much. However, I am going to insist on their silent reading time at the beginning of French class this afternoon. And my nephew can be a part of that. Baby steps, baby steps.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Feeling Good ;)

We did not get any serious work done today. The 16yo didn't have all of his resources yet, people were tired and sluggish, so I decided we would have a nice visit to the library and then after, go get the 16yo's math resources.

At the library, I ended up walking past the kids' audiobooks. I decided to pick something. We used to do it all the time, complete with having a basket of books in the van. We don't do that anymore. I've decided to start taking various steps that will get us to a happier "school" place. And getting an audiobook was one of them.

I managed to pick just the right book: Strider by Beverly Cleary. It was so enjoyed by all, even the 16yo, that when we finally got home, he asked if we could bring it inside to continue listening. So we did. And that's all we did this afternoon. :) It was very nice.

I've been reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. One of the things she says in it reminded me of how much more reading and other things used to saturate our environment and day. It is such a simple way of bringing the world to the kids, regardless of their age.

The library routine is going to be a reinstated one. Maybe not every week at the moment, since we already have Wed. and Thurs. afternoons busy for the next while, but at least every 3 weeks, when the books are due. The 16yo hummed and hawed, "Do we all have to go in?" "Yes." In the end, I ended up in a section looking for a memoir book by Gary Paulsen and in it was a book that had no choice but to capture the 16yo's attention: Sir John Hargrave's "Mischief Maker's Manual". How can you find a better book than that for a typical mdoern 16yo boy? lol. He's brought it home with him as part of his homework. He had started "Superfudge" yesterday, but I think he might switch to this.

I haven't informed him of it yet, but I want him to read 15 books by the end of the school year. I got this idea from the Book Whisperer: she requires her grade 6 students to read 40 books during the school year. Assuming they don't have a full 10 months, that's over 4 books per month. 15 books works out to 3 books per month, on average. I have only told him so far that I expect one book to be done by the end of February, and that if he picks a really long book, it would count for more than one book and could be done later. Once he finishes a book, then I'll spring it on him. I also want to kind of get a feel for just how fast he is reading: I am willing to lower the requirement to 10 books if it's really too much to expect from him. But I don't think it is. He's not reading books at grade level, at least not yet. Things he finds enjoyable and will keep him going.

Oh my gosh--this has just helped me with figuring out something. I have decided we need to reinstate silent reading time. Today was to get books, so now we have them. Tomorrow is Wednesday, which means French class in the afternoon. I think we will have a long morning time, have lunch, and then they can spend the first 30 minutes of French class doing silent reading. They have, so far, usually been hidden away somewhere, of their own volition, playing games. It wasn't really what I had in mind.

In any case, I'm starting to feel good about the schooling going on. No, it's not where I would like it to be. No, I haven't figured out exactly where I would like it to be. But it's moving in the right direction. :)

A P.S. to my earlier post: my tired 3yo niece finally put herself to bed for a nap. You know a child is tired when...

It is sleep-in day

Or so it seems. lol. I slept in. I'm usually awake around 5 and get up shortly thereafter. Woke up shortly after 5, fell back asleep, didn't get up until 6am. Ds is usually up by 7. It was 7:30 today. Dd... She had her light out at 10pm and at 8:37am this morning, I walked into her room to see if she was still asleep and she moved a bit, looking at me. "You still alive?" "Noooo." She fell back asleep. lol. My 3yo niece got here and looks as though she should have slept in. And the 16yo says he didn't sleep in, but he didn't get here until 9:20am.

It'll be an interesting day. :)