Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Little Hug Goes A Long Way

I decided to forget about my niece's not speaking to me and just focus on connecting with her. The habit has become that each morning when she gets here, I pick her up, hug her, say a little something to her, and usually end up putting her back down. She now expects this little routine every morning and it just helps fill her up. And--she's talking to me again. :D

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Collaborative work

We had our year-end review today with our assigned teacher. She mentioned something about how the jobs of the future are going to be increasingly about collaboration and interpersonal skills.

How could I not think of Montessori?

And how could I not think of my 13yo dd?

One of my issues with dd these years has been that she really doesn't want to go off and just work by herself. She wants to work collaboratively. She had that her first few years, but then the girl I was homeschooling moved and dd's educational progress was not the same after that. I think that's part of why dd is now thinking about school as a possibility for high school. She wants and needs more collaboration than she's been getting.

I wish I lived close enough to a Montessori high school to go see it in action. I wish there were a way to get one going right away here. ;) Schools take longer than that to get going, unfortunately.

Which means I need to create what I can with my dd while she's still homeschooling. There are surely enough older students that we could get some sort of group going for collaborative projects. Collaborating with mom isn't quite the same, and collaborating with her younger brother wouldn't be quite the same. Although it would be a start, so I shouldn't negate it entirely.

This leads to various thoughts:
*get dd to help ds in setting up the things for his science kit so he can work on the "experiments"
*rather than encouraging them to create a lapbook or some other project each, have them work with me on creating a project of some sort together

It's really not any different than the household chores: when we all work together, it goes much more smoothly than when they just have isolated things they're supposed to go do.


I had said I would observe my kids. Unfortunately, a few days in a row of lack of proper sleep has led my brain to be somewhat mush and I only just remembered. Getting a notebook of some sort and labelling the top of the page "OBSERVATIONS" could be a good way to help me do some observing.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Intrinsic Motivation and Montessori

This is a fantastic video! This and other certain things going on lately are rekindling an idea I had ages ago of getting going a Montessori elementary and/or junior high here, even if just inspired by Montessori. When I stray and come back, these kinds of things somewhat electrify me, remind me that this resonates with me, that this needs to be my focus. Very grateful for these things coming my way this past week.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

And the children show you the truth...

I got out a Dear Canada book (in French) out from the library and told dd that I would be wanting her to do some specific work out of it. She had a very negative reaction to it. My response was very un-Montessori.

Then I read a post by Peter Gray at Psychology Today that has me now doubting myself. Or rather, having me return to what I firmly believe inside but haven't been acting on.

I have been a part of Montessori for so long, been interested in Democratic Education (like Summerhill School and Sudbury Valley) that I feel like I've been smacked in the face and gotten a wake up call. What am I doing thinking of imposing specific things on my kids? I've been requiring some math and handwriting from ds, but that is largely because I did not know how else to encourage him to work. I am *not* comfortable with just letting him play--especially since there is simply not enough modelling going on around here with productive activities. Part of me feels this child would never learn to write because he really feels no need for it whatsoever. And I don't know when he'll feel the need for it. It's a concession I'm comfortable with, but my idea of switching him over to a morning of CM, I'm not going that route anymore.

That is not to say the idea of incorporating some CM into our current format isn't a bad idea--but I need to work *with* my kids to make do this incorporating. I need to, like Montessori and the above-linked article say, provide an environment in which learning can take place, demonstrate, etc.

I will not assign this book to dd. Instead, I think I will share this book with them--I will read a few pages at a time at lunch hour, perhaps. I started reading it and think it's fantastic. Dd is the type to balk at the unknown--for years, I've recommended Anne of Green Gables, both the books and the movie. Dd was not interested. She balked. I finally took the movie out from the library and we watched the first half last night--*she* didn't want to stop. lol. (Hm, might need to find the collection of Anne of Green Gables books for this summer ;) .)

I know my kids well. I doubt myself too much. I need to observe and trust more what I'm observing, to know that certain resistance can be met with a gentler approach.

I am providing myself with a challenge: Write down observations of my children over the next week. What are they working on and when? What is their reaction to x, y or z? I will try to share the observations here!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Well, I've done it

Instead of going to bed, I decided to try to find the Dear Canada series in French and see if there's something for boys. There *is* something for boys--with 3 books so far in the series--but I don't think they will be quite up my son's alley. They're about war and and a kind of violence that's not his cup of tea. ("A young soldier's gritty account of 'the bloodiest nine hours...'") He's fine with clear fiction--Star Wars, Avatar, etc.--but these... Hm...

I did find the Dear Canada series in French and made a request for the first book: Ma soeur orpheline . I'm not sure how much I'm supposed to assign. I'll have to spend some time reading up and refreshing my CM memory. Of course, I'm not sure where I'll find the time: I still haven't done my taxes, I have school receipts to put together and send in to our school board before the end of the month...

The next 6 weeks

We've got about 6 weeks of actual school left, I think. The 6th week is when the 16yo will be finishing his exams and we are probably attending a fun day that week. The week after that, the 16yo is heading off to work, I think.

So, in those 6 weeks, I want to try to accomplish something. The past while has been rough--too many things going on and feeling like there's no way to say no to so many of them (kids' activities, family get-togethers...) School has taken the back burner a bit. I want to go out with a bang though!

I'm thinking more and more that I need to include more structure for my two. My 10yo would work more if he had someone to work with, but his sister (my 13yo) wouldn't want to and the other one would be my 3yo niece. I could put him in charge of presenting things to her. ;)

Charlotte Mason has been on my mind a lot. I don't know that I would ever implement a full CM schedule BUT I can't help thinking: CM-style mornings (although, perhaps, a little more choice allowed to my kids than CM would normally allow) and then more self-directed afternoons, which I think is what Charlotte Mason actually advocated.

Dd wants more structure. She's been saying this for sometime. I try to give her things, but then there are little meltdowns or she hates what I give her. Not always, but a lot of the time. Maybe I just have to stop worrying about her reactions. I want her to enjoy learning, but maybe a lot of this is just habit and difficulty in moving beyond her comfort zone a bit. CM is a perfect way to give her more structure. At the same time, I find myself wondering a bit how to approach everything, especially next year. She might go to high school the year after that, to try out an alternative program. She wants next year to be a "high school prep" year where she has to buckle down and really apply herself.

(Sorry if I seem to be all over the place. I've been running a fever on and off today, am tired and should probably be going to bed. lol)

Anyhow, the next 6 weeks, I'd like to start taking steps in that direction. Simply Charlotte Mason says to start with using living books for literature and history, and start incorporating oral narrations. I don't know that I really want to use English resources, but I can't say I know what to use for resources in French, despite a CM French group that just got started up. I guess I don't really know what would be some living books in French for these nor where to start! I would love, actually, to start with Canadian history. The Dear Canada (or something like that) books are translated into French, I believe, but they aren't dd's interest. (Here I am again worrying if she'll be interested or not!) Ok, scrap the interest level. The whole point is to start short lessons and following with narration. What to do with ds? I'm sure I could find a similar book in French about a boy from the past. If not, I could always hand him over Farmer Boy.

I'm so tired. I think I need to go to bed.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Some progress with my little niece

So completely overwhelmed with just way too much lately, I decided to not even purposefully make Montessori presentation plans with my 3yo niece. Instead, I thought about focusing more on our relationship--finding ways during the day to connect with her more, make no mention of her not speaking (and no mention of her speaking when she does), just moving forward. Some progress was really made today!

I brought the little one (18mo) downstairs into the family room and was doing something on the floor and noticed the 3yo on the other side of me, kind of looking. We were right next to the easel whiteboard, so I took a marker and said, "What should we write?" Then I asked her if we should do letters--I know she likes to write the first letter of her name, even though she does it backwards. She said yes, and I told her I would have to find my letters for her to work with sometime. (I should add here that I actually finally presented the rough and smooth boards to her; need to do some more work with blindfolded matching tablets and the like--and I need to find my sandpaper letters--but she will be ready soon enough and has already started trying to write letters, so I need to get a move on with it.) She nodded yes, with a smile on her face. I think she remembers her sister doing them and her "attempt" at doing them.

We ended up drawing other things--while we chatted back and forth--and she ends up telling me she wants me to draw a horse. The first one I drew was horrendous. She laughed when I asked her if it looked like a horse and replied, "No!" We chatted for a good while, she and I, while drawing and writing things on the whiteboard. It was very nice. :)