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

Monday, June 27, 2011

Still not officially summer ;)

It has been very weird for me this past week or so. We're still not finished June, my niece and nephew are still in school--which means it's still "school" time--but the 17yo has been done for over a week. So, it's not officially summer. To complicate matters, my husband has been home on stress leave since May, so it's like summer--but it's not.

I have not presented any lessons to my kids in the past month, which is pretty typical for June though. They have still been busy with things. Dd has been doing logic problems, art, reading and has been asking to try out an online language learning program we have free access to through our local library. Ds has been reading, being his usual active self, that's about it. I keep trying to entice ds with his science kits, but he's never interested--or rather has an excuse, because they seem complicated and like they will take a lot of time. I think I might just have to say, "Hey, can I look at your kit?" He's had one of the kits since September and has done NOTHING from it.

I've been trying to restructure my time now that it's not being taken over by school. The little guy I babysit is 20mo now, which means he's into EVERYTHING. It's hard to tackle things, be it some spring/summer cleaning or things on the computer, when he's around. I do have some plans for bringing in some "extras" during the summer, things like nature walks and I just took out the first DVD for Canada: A People's History. I don't want learning and these different subjects to feel like they are just for school! I'd also like to bring in art study and some other things I can't think of at the moment.

Which reminds me... I've been reading this book:

It's about the Charlotte Mason method. I have always felt somewhat compelled to include some CM into our schooling, but could never figure out how to do it. Some stuff overlaps with Montessori beautifully--like respect for the child and nature and art and all that--but other things, perhaps they way some people do them or just the way they are written about--seemed too structured, very dull. I didn't understand how kids could supposedly love the approach the way so many people seemed to say their kids did. This book is helping me understand how CM can be applied effectively without necessarily sticking to some of the structure or "rules". There was one part I was going to share, but the book is not next to me--it's actually in my bedroom and hubby is still there asleep. It will have to wait until later. In any case, if you have been interested in CM at all, this is a wonderful book.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"When Children Love to Learn"

I'm reading a Charlotte Mason book right now called When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason's Philosophy for Today. It's a collection of essays or articles by different authors tied with Charlotte Mason. So far, I'm really liking what I'm reading. It's funny how some CM things can come across as so regimented, so un-Montessori that I don't understand my pull toward incorporating some CM; this book is not one of them. I feel like I can bring in CM in a useful way to our homeschooling, without having the "prescribed" CM structure. Some of what is shared has felt soooo Montessori, from one woman's account of how she ran an after-school kind of program in her house for underprivileged kids (it indicates a certain structure that she started with, but then after a while, she gave them more choice--sound familiar?) to another part where they talk about the importance of the environment; you could've sworn this part came right out of a Montessori book!

I'm not very far into it, but if you have any interest in incorporating CM in a *gentle* way, this feels like a good book to start with. I've read so much from Ambleside Online for years--it's so highly structured and focuses still on texts from the past. This book really gives a feel, so far, for how CM doesn't need to be quite that structured--nor that old. ;)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Almost done, almost done

I'm feeling a little under the weather this week, the weather is under the weather ;), which isn't helping matters, the 17yo stayed home sick yesterday, so his math exam has been bumped to today. It's almost the last thing to do for the current school year. Other than that, just have to help him prepare some stuff for work experience credits, I hope we'll train his laptop a little more with the MacSpeech software and we have to bring in his completed final exams and his resources. Then time to take a little break from everything!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer "school" plans

I have all kinds of thoughts running through my head! :D

First, my 10yo ds has a chemistry kit he chose a few weeks ago--and he's still not tried a single thing. There is some prep involved and he doesn't want to do it by himself.

Second, my 13yo dd expressed to me today that she really wants to learn German once and for all. Not that she expects to master it quickly, but she would like to stay committed to it, focused on it, etc. She really feels that the workbook way is not ideal, has asked about Rosetta Stone... I can set up a plan of vocabulary and phrases to use with her each day. I've already been incorporating a bit more German here and there (by a bit, I mean a VERY tiny bit), just to try to get myself more into German-thinking mode and to get them used to it; essentially, slowly building up a habit. A little more of a push on my own habits and I think she could learn a lot this summer orally--and then see the usefulness of the workbooks.

Third, I've been decluttering my den. I tackled a pile of stuff tonight in which there were photocopied pages of a TOPS Science unit. I completely forgot that I had any of these units. I'd tried to use them years ago--and I literally mean years: something like 6 or 7 years ago--and I'm not sure what happened (couldn't find the materials we needed? got caught up in something else? I don't know), but I still have the photocopies of the corn and beans unit. Would just need to buy a few items and we could do this as a project this summer.

Other ideas floating through my head:
*Lots of practical life, aka housekeeping. One idea is to make a list of everything that would be done daily or regularly in a house and have them do everything at least once.
*Lots of meal planning and prep: I want them more involved in planning what they will eat for snacks and meals, more involved in meal planning and preparation. To start, one of them will help me each day for supper. That and first thing each morning, they plan out the fruits and veggies they will eat and when. (A good amount of fruits and veggies is lacking in all our diets!)
*Lots of walks and hiking. I can't forget, though, that I will be babysitting my friend's little guy--20mo.
*I want to get myself a copy of Games for Writing by Peggy Kaye .
 Primarily to use with my ds, since he has not had anything incite him to write yet. I figure some games could be a good way to play around with writing while not requiring it nor demanding a lot!

Planting Seeds

The figurative kind. ;)

The 17yo didn't really have an idea of what he wanted to do for his birthday last week, so we ended up renting Gnomeo and Juliet. As it started, I said, "That's how the play actually starts!" "Really?" was the response from one or more.

Fortunately, we have a copy of Romeo and Juliet. I pulled it out and had a look at it. It stayed out--somewhat deliberately. ;D Dd picked it up yesterday and started reading it. We have not touched on Shakespeare since she was 6 or 7! She came to me with some questions about Juliet's age, because things didn't seem to be making sense--which led to looking at the wording again and making sense of it.

I had no clue that by watching Gnomeo and Juliet I would be planting a seed! :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

This School Year Almost Done, and the Next in the Planning Stages!

I'm done "schooling"" my two for the year, which simply means that I'm not giving them anything specific, not showing them anything, not expecting any kind of work from them. My 13yo has still been keeping busy with reading, writing, German and not sure what else--she has spent the bulk of several days in the quiet of her room! My 10yo has spent most of the time playing outside or playing with his 3yo cousin--or the 17yo (woops, typed 16yo first--he recently turned 17) or his other cousins who are here for sick days or after school. I did pull out some origami kits the other day and they all went crazy for that for a while. Yesterday, I pulled out some board games. He has, of course, been reading a lot, but he's back into--or rather, is still in--his Garfield mode. He had taken out a novel or two from the library, but has not read them. We also have not touched his "Voyage au centre de la Terre" in a week or so--his dad has been letting him play video games or watch TV with us until bedtime (or later!) and by the time he's ready, he's too tired or it's just too late to read a bit. We're only at the part where they've finally set off and are stopped over somewhere!

The 17yo has a math exam and an English exam to do--he's going to do English on Friday and math Monday or Tuesday of next week. We sat down today to work out courses for next year and their delivery format. I've already told him I'm not willing to do the registration he's done this year--he agrees. He knows it didn't work well for him since he didn't have any of his own motivation to keep him going. It looks like next year will be a mix of online, correspondence and he will do one mandatory health course and phys. ed. through alternative--but those are easy enough.

I started a few weeks back writing some planning thing down for next year. I've been focusing mostly on my 13yo since she'll be grade 9 and she wants it to be a "high school prep year"--essentially, she wants to meet the same outcomes as the kids in school would, but we can do it our way and with our own resources. I have asked her today if we can modify social studies--I had a better look at the work and types of typical assignments and my heart just sunk. It's all the same thing that killed my interest when I was in school. I want to give a larger big picture for her, show her the progression through different types of governments and economic systems, not simply throw it all at her and do their fake attempt at having kids be more mentally involved. Maybe it's just me, but the starting activity is to watch a piece on "What does governance and economics have to do with me?", as though they need to try to find relevance for kids and show them why they should be going through some of the boring assignments--like that'll make all the difference! (I actually started watching the piece and it was dreadful. Half of it is definition words popping up with the definitions coming in--because that will entice students more, right???) Ugh. Essentially, grade 9 social studies outcomes is mostly about how Canada functions politically and economically, with some reference to justice system, rights and freedoms, the differences between the US and Canada, and I'm not sure what else. (Goodness, I just clicked on one of the online lessons, where the title is "My role as a consumer." Thrilling, isn't it? (sic))

Enough of the social studies bashing... My plan is to look at the actual outcomes, think more big picture to begin with, and look at finding good resources (living books) and ideas of projects and issues to explore rather than having the online or other school resources telling you what to look into, where to look into it and essentially guiding you to a prescribed decision. (Hehe, this reminds me of a question in the 17yo's social studies work--the question clearly wanted students to be in agreement and show ways to accomplish being in agreement; he wasn't in agreement and said so, ha!) One of my ideas is to go further back in time with the whole idea of governments, tie it in with historical maps of the world and have a map of today showing political systems. Something along those lines.

For science, I've had different thoughts: follow the textbook (kind of boring, but it's really structured, which makes it clear what has to be done) or take the more project-oriented, exploratory approach. I do like the latter idea better, naturally. I'm also thinking in terms of finding biographies and autobiographies and other "living books" to use as a means of covering the historical aspects of the course. Reading that so-and-so made a certain discovery is not the same as reading a more authentic account of how it came about.

I think for French and ELA, it will be naturally integrated as much as possible with other subjects, but there are specific things she ought to be able to do before she looks at covering our province's curriculum for grade 10: novel study, essays, work on French grammar... The one school we are registered with sets up the English course kind of in units based on the type of texts being studied. I think I will take that approach, but she will have more choices in terms of what she will read. For French grammar, I am planning on making a workbook for her that will cover ALL grammar topics from grades 1-9 that I think she needs to work on. Of course, the way French grammar is, you tend to repeat grammar concepts over and over and over from year to year. I've somewhat stressed that into her when I gave her some work this year that was similar to something she did last year. I told her straight out: "I'm giving you this because it's just the kind of thing that needs to be practised. You'll work on it this year, next year and all through high school, and guess what? If you take French at the university, you get to study this concept AGAIN." It helped her feel like she hadn't properly mastered it in the past, knowing that they keep having people study it over and over!

She has not done a whole lot of French reading and writing over the years--this will be a big change for her next year because my emphasis with her will be more on the French than on the English. I already know she reads and writes well in English; yes, she needs a little work on spelling, but she has all the basics in place to be able to move into essay writing, short stories, etc. She can learn those things through French instruction, then apply it to the English.

One thing I've found for English is that I don't know or like the sound of any of the grade 9 recommended books. (They're not just recommended--teachers in the province are expected to use one of those books for a novel study. There is one or maybe two books that sounded interesting enough. I decided to have a look at the grade 10 books, since she does read above grade level: WOW! I think I will print off a list of the recommended books, tell her she can pick the one she wants to do as a formal novel study and the rest will be recommended for free reading. (Which books, you're wondering? Well: Huckleberry Finn, The Alchemist, Animal Farm, The Book of Small, The Chrysalids, Dragonsbane, The Education of Little Tree, A Night to Remember (about the Titanic), October Sky, Oliver Twist, Something Wicked This Way Comes (oh, she'd love that one), To Kill a Mockingbird, Touch the Dragon: A Thai Journal.)

Essentially, for both, there will be checklists of skills and texts to read and write, much like some Montessori elementaries do with their local curriculum outcomes, and she will check them off as she goes through them, have a say in what she will do first, etc.

Math: We tried the school math text for grade 7 and it didn't work so well. Worksheets this year worked fantastically. So... I'm thinking of just printing off or preparing worksheets and providing lessons myself, things really tailored to her, things that will cover all the little things that she hasn't yet done that could cause problems trying to tackle the grade 9 text. Hubby teaches grade 9 math, so I will have resources available to me to get ideas for questions or to make sure I'm really covering everything. I definitely want her to do at least an old provincial math exam and will probably give her quizzes and tests throughout the year.

She wants to do home ec, so she'll follow our school's website class instructions for that. Same thing for art and possibly phys. ed/health.

I do not know if I will recommend that she take the provincial exams at the end of the year. We can get copies of old ones and have her do them for practice. I'm not sure when the deadline is to decide if she will do one or more.

Those are the general, roughed out plans for her for next year. Well, next school year--I'm fully prepared to start some of this come July! I want her to start keeping records of the books she reads, we'll be working on some phys. ed. and home ec. stuff this summer... And for religion, which I forgot above, I want us, with her little brother, to get through some of the Faith and Life books--we're still working on the grade 3 book (my son is going in grade 6).

My son... There's an interesting one to plan for... I'll have to post about that another day!