Saturday, December 29, 2012

The New Year Is Almost Here

Just taking some time this Saturday morning to think about this fall, my kids' schooling, what went well, what needs to be tweaked and what might need to be thrown out all together with 2013 starting. ;) But, let's face it, my mind is more on starting off 2013.

As we sort out my daughter's health issues, I do believe that will help get things on track better with her. She has already decided that she will resume math next week, with the aim of getting the second-last unit done the first or second day officially back. She has until the end of January to get the math done--the unit work, a project she needs to do and the final exam--but it's the only subject she has with these sort of requirements, so it should be okay. I think we do need to sit down and go subject-by-subject with things and figure out a plan for January in terms of what to get done. Her novel study for English ought to be one thing--if she gets that done, she will be on track for a full-year course. But art is getting neglected, her phys. ed. hours haven't been tallied and sent in, German... who knows where that is. She has science and social studies starting second semester and they will likely take up a good amount of her time.

As I write all this, my mind goes back to her health. We can have all the plans we want, but if she's not feeling well, then it's very hard to push things through. At the same time, my mind is going we need some sort of routine. Routines help. They can be hard to start, but they help in the long run. I'll need to think about this more.

When it comes to my son, I reread what I last wrote. I do definitely want more "real life" work with him. Some ideas off the top of my head:

*menu planning
*inside gardening: what kinds of things could we grow in the house? what would we need?
*household care--his laundry, dealing with stains, fixing things in his room, cleaning his room... ;) ; he already has been using the snowblower this winter and shovelling the driveway and walks, largely because my husband broke his big toe and developped an infection in it and really had to stop doing as much
*pet care--he keeps saying he'd like this pet or that pet, which are all impractical at this point (like a rabbit), imho, but if he can participate more in the animal care around here, and we can get his room clean (only possible place for a caged animal), then it might be a possibility
*building things--um, what could he build?

He's gone grocery shopping with me a couple of times recently. I had been in the habit of going alone for years--it was faster and we bought less. (lol) I do think bringing him along more often will be good and can be tied in with things like the menu planning: "How much does it cost to buy everything we need for that meal? Etc." He did get a lesson in looking at the price tags and comparing prices based on volume and started using it right away with other things.

He does still love doing science things so I do need to resume that. He loves working with the chemistry sets and experiments and all that.

One thing that definitely is not working is allowing him to go off into his room each morning under the guise of reading. I've realized lately that he's actually laying down for most of it, just reading his comics. Hm. There's more to life than laying in bed reading comics! It's my job to show him that. I'll really need to do more reading and research and get a plan and perhaps schedule in place. Schedule--that has me thinking...

As I face the next part of our school year and current schedule, I know in my heart I don't want this schedule next year. It is good income with the French classes and is fun, but the schedule makes it hard on us: Monday afternoons I'm unavailable, all day Thursday, busy. There's something about it that affects our flow. Granted, dd is in a program on Thursdays which will be starting on Jan. 10, so there's that upheaval anyhow, but... As much as I am loving teaching the French class kids, my heart is yearning for something different, for it to be just us. Income-wise, this means I'm going to have to figure something out, but I've got some time for that. Online classes through Learn It Live, perhaps, or writing or some online business I can work on early in the morning or in the evening or get more earnings from Stampin' Up or a combination thereof or... Something. I'll put this desire out there with the faith and hope that the answer will come to me. :)

For right now, that's enough thinking. It's no longer Saturday morning, but 12 noon and I'm hungry. :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Some thoughts this Monday evening

I'm at my daughter's dance studio, trying to work out a plan for my son for the week. There has been some attempt on my part to work on the inner preparation that is so vital to implementing Montessori... well... anywhere. There is "Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful" that I started rereading and I'm trying to absorb what I need to. Then tonight, some research on the Erdkinder approach.

It's hit me that I've fallen into just trying to get him to cover some work. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I've lost the vision, I've lost sight of what I'm working towards. If I just want work for him, I could just get the school texts and hand them over and say, "Here, read this and this and that." Or I could use the Ambleside curriculum and just "get him educated' and develop work habits.

But here's the thing: I love Montessori. I may not have known how to make it work with the schooling situation we had in the house the past several years, but I love Montessori. I believe it is better for my son to learn to explore and question and think and have the freedom (within limits) that the Montessori method offers. When I get into "gotta get work done" mode, I lose the essence of Montessori. Am I making any sense? I'm tired; it's probably showing.

I was just reading this article from the Montessori for Everyone site, as well as checking out the Hershey Montessori school site. I love what these two sites have to say. Is my son still at the 6-12 level, I don't know. But surely it can't do any harm to pick an element or two to start incorporating into our days? Just today, he asked specifically for spaghetti for supper. I said we could, it changed my plans, and I wanted him to help me. He was quite happy to! Wouldn't this be a wonderful thing, for him to develop skill and confidence in the kitchen at the age of 12? He can make some things on his own, but this idea of really working on kids being self-sufficient at this age, rather than a focus of more academics, is really catching me. (He also told me that he didn't have anymore clean underwear. I told him to bring his laundry down to the washing machine. There wasn't any grumbling or anything, he was quite happy to sort his clothes into the washer, fill the cup, get it going...)

He does enjoy the books I find from the library, and he's amenable to doing math and handwriting practice (when I have him do it), but there's been a core element missing. That vision of where we're going or something. Maybe it is that I'm sensing a change in him. He's no longer seeking out things to do like he used to not long ago; if not given something to do, he will just spend his time reading comics. There's been a change and I somehow didn't see it until right now that the change was a signal to a developmental change going on. He likes to be included, he likes to be able to do things that make him independent. I'm going to have to keep this in mind as I plan things from now on!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Resistant Child Has Fun

I was going to post earlier this week about my resistant child and his resistance to going to a play today, but it's been a crazy week. He's never been to a play and this was supposed to be a good one, A Christmas Carol. Instead of giving him a choice, I decided to make the decision for him: he was going. He had some attitude--or expression of his discomfort of going--earlier this week and even this morning before we left. I didn't make a big deal of it, but when his attitude was starting to be directed at others, I told him he needed to change it. I didn't hear another complaint.

The play was FANTASTIC! He even complimented certain parts of it when we were done. I have not asked him how he liked it, simply shared with both of my kids what I liked about it. He has not said he didn't like it and given his interest during the play and comments after it, I know he enjoyed it. *sigh* All the fuss from him for 2.5 hours he enjoyed.

I'm trying hard to keep in mind Maria Montessori's idea of not leaving a child to himself, of the adult's responsibility to remove blocks. For whatever reason--genetic or not--he's got this resistance to new places, new people, new things. He invariably ends up enjoying himself, but the level of discomfort he feels before hand would have him not do anything new. He's always been like this. I still remember him not wanting to get into our new van when he was 3. After a week or so, he asked when we were going to get the red van, the old van, back. lol. Definite attachment to what he knows and sometimes, mama's just got to say, "I know what's better for you," and do it.

Do you have a resistant child? Any stories you care to share?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mid-Week Already

Time flies far too quickly!

School plans are not going very well this week. Well, the plans are good; the kids are not doing so well. Bad timing a bit! Dd discovered yesterday she's further behind in her math than she realized and that the stuff later in the chapter is tougher than the first part of the chapter. She was hoping to do the test today, but that won't be happening! Hopefully we can get her through the work so she can review tomorrow evening and do the test Friday morning. Dd still hasn't touched the English that she started last week. *sigh*

Tomorrow is Thursday, which means I have French classes all day. And with my nieces and nephew coming Friday, my last chance at really doing any work with ds today!

Monday, November 26, 2012

12 000-Year Old Structure

Ds and I covered Noah's Ark the other day in Faith and Life and then with social studies, we've been slowly looking at Great Lessons and early man. Well, an FB friend posted this video. It is so cool!!! Fits in perfectly with our current studies, too. Definitely something I'd like to research more--which makes me think: maybe I ought to pick up some notebooks while I'm out tonight so I can start my "Interests Notebook" and have this in it!

(I don't think I can embed the video. Here's the link! )

Want to See God Laugh?

Have you heard that joke?

Want to see God laugh?
Make plans.

That's how I kind of feel my life is like sometimes. lol.

I had everything ready for this morning, right? I pulled out the history book that had information on the migrations to Australia and the Americas, I had the plan all in place... And my son not only slept in until 8:48, but the reason he did so is because he's running a fever and feeling blah. And my daughter slept until close to 10 am because she's had interrupted sleep for weeks now and finally got a decent sleep in. But she is sooo not a morning person and by the time she had eaten and was really awake, it was time for an online session. And now it's lunch and we won't have time to work together. And she seems to be having a fever on and off.

I guess that means I've got a plan still ready for the rest of the week! I can do today's plan tomorrow with my son, if he's feeling up to it. And, well, dd's work is really just go, go, go, do as much as you can regardless.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Winding Down Toward Christmas

Four weeks of school left until Christmas holidays!!! I entitled this post "Winding Down" but it's more like "Picking Up"! lol. A lot to get done in the next weeks.

I figure my blog is as good of a place as any to work out some school plans for this coming week. Here's a peek into my planning process (at least the planning process I'm using today lol!):

First, a look at our schedule:

MONDAY: morning is open for school work, online session at 11am (maybe), afternoon is busy with my teaching a French class, evening is partially busy with dd having dance class

TUESDAY: all day is available for school work pretty much, dd has an online session from about 11-11:45, nothing going on in the evening

WEDNESDAY: main school hours open, I have a Stampin' Up meeting in the evening

THURSDAY: my usual crazy day--advanced/older French class girls in the morning, beginner/intermediate class in the afternoon, nothing going on in the evening

FRIDAY: my nieces and nephew have the day off school, which means I will give my son the day off school; dd and I can work on stuff though, dd has dance in the evening

WEEKEND: Nothing specific planned either day, except Mass on Sunday.

Specific items this week not listed above?
*ds and I need to go to this one library to drop off items; could be done Tuesday or Wednesday

15yo dd's to-do's
*MATH: dd needs to catch up in math (easy with this particular unit) and I think she's supposed to be doing a test this week; if she's ready for Friday, might have nieces, nephew and ds keep themselves quiet and busy with the computer or a movie so dd can do her test in the morning. I also can't forget that it would be good to have a routine of working on some basic thing or something she's already covered before she gets into her current class work. Just one question would be something.
*GERMAN: dd still hasn't contacted her one German evaluator to do her first oral assessment
*GERMAN: she ought to finish the 2nd booklet this week and send it in (although we don't have an envelope... they only sent us one and it got used last week)
*ELA: get the one assignment done she was working on last week; my personal goal with this: do everything in my power to help her get it done. It's stressing her out that it's not done and she got a good start last week and didn't get a chance to finish it.
*RELIGION: have a look at the one question from the first unit that's bothering her; get her going on the reading for the second unit; should also have a look at the actual schedule for this class and see how much reading she should have done by now
*ART: She has a personal goal of doing some art each day; would like to figure out a way to help her with that goal (using the MindMap program comes to mind; and/or Homeschool Tracker, which I've just discovered my referral code link doesn't seem to be working properly :() We bought some little things to paint on; finding something to actually paint on them would be good. She does have a course to do, too, but it's not as stimulating as what she'd like to do! She feels like she's not "exercising herself" in this area, if I might use that term, and also feels like she's not really getting any instruction. I wonder if there are any Christmas art camps going on in the area? Or if she would be allowed to take some classes aimed at adults? Something to explore. Could even be a Christmas gift, depending on the cost of a class.
*PHYS.ED.: we really ought to update her physical activity log and she needs to assess how much general physical activity she gets over the course of a day (she's supposed to asses how much she walks to go shopping or walk the dog or this and that)

I think that's it for her. In terms of scheduling, just a look at tomorrow: I'd like to see her get an email off to her German evaluator first thing, work on her ELA tomorrow morning and possibly her math. In the afternoon, she could take her pick of religion, art or even her German. We can assess after I come back from picking up her cousins if she'll work on more then or after supper or what.

12yo ds's to-do's
*MATH: part of me thinks it would be really good to get some question cards going, like the stamp game cards, so he can have questions he can just grab and work on, or I can grab and have him work on. At the same, I think of how much work it will take and wonder if it's worth it. In any case, we had started working on area, so I think we ought to continue.It'll be good practice for his multiplication tables, too. I'll need some grid paper and question ideas. Part of me is also toying with the idea of finding a particular Life of Fred book we have and seeing if he'll work on that independently. Not sure. He much prefers having a kind of "seminar approach" instead of just working alone. Sudden idea: Have a routine of working on some basic facts first, then move into the lesson or practice stuff.
*SCIENCE: I keep forgetting to buy Alka Seltzer to do the next science activity in the manuals (both the physics and the chem have activities requiring Alka Seltzer!). However, I do have The Story of Science which I thought I would start reading with/to him. What about follow up work? Some could be him giving a written recap (I would have to set up the sheet first; he has really done very little written work in all his school years) and others might have some natural work to come out of it: build a model, do further research, try an experiment...
*SOCIAL STUDIES: Have a look at the books we have out and where the start of the science book fits in with their timeline of sorts. It just hit me that we started looking at the history books and their info, but we didn't look at anything covering when the aboriginals came into Canada (I would like Canada to be a focal topic this year with him). Will have to do a slight back track and include that. Starting his own timeline with all this stuff would be useful. It might be more important to get moving on this part rather than the science history stuff right now. At the very least a bit of an overview of how people settled in Canada long, long ago.
-Handwriting. I've dropped the ball on this. I meant to buy a new copy of StartWrite on Friday (my old one stopped working when we updated our Mac sometime ago) because they were having a $15 off sale and I completely forgot. I'll just do something up by hand. Or maybe work with him letter by letter in cursive to see first how things are, where his difficulties lie. Once that's done, then we can focus on specific movements or letters.
-Grammar/writing. I have workbooks still he's never finished. They just feel like busywork as I bring them up. I need to get him writing. The whole writer's workshop idea hasn't worked because I looked at the middle school guidelines and with him, I almost need to go back to the elementary (he really has done almost no writing!!! Maria Montessori would scold me, I'm sure!!). I do have that series, what is it called? Shoot, it's designed for homeschoolers. He doesn't like working from it because it's in English, but I could tell him what to do from the lesson and have him do it in French. Grammar and spelling lessons can come out of what I actually get him to write. At the same time, is some isolated program like this a good match? Yes, says part of my brain. Better this than nothing while you try to figure out what would be better. Okay, wise little voice. ;). He has also expressed hesitation because he doesn't know how words are spelled. While I don't have a French spelling program, I do have a good vocabulary resource which we could use as a starting point for spelling patterns.
*RELIGION: Here and there in the morning, I'm remembering to read to him a section from Faith and Life. Did I ever share that we finally finished the grade 3 book (yes, he's in grade 7 lol). It's good foundational stuff, something Faith and Life recommended we do when I first bought the stuff when dd was starting jr. high.
*READING: I have a requirement from him about reading something other than comics each day. I want him to not only tell me how much he's read each day but tell me a bit about what he's reading.
*OTHER: There's nothing else he has to do for homeschooling here and nothing else I'm insisting on. I could encourage some home ec. (I really ought to encourage some home ec., like cleaning. :D ) I could encourage him to keep working on his comic writing, maybe pull out my guitar sometime and start working through this one kids' lessons book we have (that will get him pulling out his guitar). This thing with me leading is something I did years ago with the older kids and it worked fantastically. I remember one thing I started was a notebook of things that interested me. I would copy/print off pictures and then write notes about them. They all wanted their own notebook. Little things like this I need to keep in mind, plan for. Of course, that was a time when I was journalling pretty much daily, reading Montessori lots. I'm going to have to look at my schedule and manage my time so I can work on my inner preparation. Anyhow, what else in this "other" category? Phys. ed. He's been doing push ups and sit ups in his room fairly regularly, apparently. I really need to get them to a rec. centre sometime. Maybe look at how much a pass costs so we can go each week even, when we have the time.

With the week thought out, what is the plan for tomorrow?

*ds is usually up by 8. I'll read to him from his religion while he eats (that's our routine). After that, I'll ask him what he wants to work on first: handwriting or math. Fit in more stuff where possible.
Actual lessons:
--handwriting: work through each letter of the alphabet with him
--math: use the grade 7 text we have here as a basis for questions to give him; make sure to have graph paper, a ruler and a pencil available, as well as the multiplication table finger chart
--social studies: find websites with information about the migration of the first peoples into North America. If there's something that really catches his interest, go with that.
That'll be enough for tomorrow morning. He'll have the usual reading requirement which he does on his own time.

*dd is usually up around 9am. She's been trying to get up earlier, but with illnesses around us like crazy, it just seems to wear her down more and make school work that much more difficult. My job with her is to keep being there as a support and encourager. And ideally, I'll have a MindMap of just the subjects and some branches to write on printed off. She can fill in what she'd like to focus on. I need to learn to review my plans so that I remember all my little notes to myself. At 11, we're supposed to be online with the advanced girls from the Thursday French class.

-lunch and final prep for afternoon French class

Okay, I feel sort of ready for tomorrow. lol. Fingers crossed all goes well! Then there's the rest of the week to tackle. I think sitting down and blogging daily would be tremendously helpful to me. It's like journalling.


That long planning session out of the way, that leaves three other weeks before Christmas holidays. My French classes go to Dec. 20. During that time, dd definitely needs to keep on top of her math and is hoping to get ahead a bit--otherwise she has to do a unit test almost as soon as she gets back from Christmas holidays. We'll have to keep an eye on the schedule. (Just a thought here: A colour-coded calendar page might be in order for school work deadlines for the next month! Homeschool Tracker Plus) does have a schedule thing, but it's been ages since I've used it. I don't think it gives a printable calendar-style overview for a month, just a week at a time, which might not be a bad idea in itself.) With ds, I just want to get him moving more with lessons. He won't do anything on his own and I need to remind myself of that. Once he gets hooked into something, then he might do stuff on his own, but right now... I need to be prepared to do lessons, have specific work for him to do, etc.

Of course, on top of all that, there will be Christmas gift-making classes and cards to make and send out to family and friends and Christmas shopping to do and birthday gift shopping for my step-dad and everything else that preparing for Christmas involves. Which reminds me that I was thinking about how we can bring in more expression of our faith into our days. I know so many families who have all kinds of practices; we really don't do much. I was thinking Advent could be a very good way to start. That will be something else I will need to prep for!

All right, enough for tonight. With all the typing I've done today - here, on another blog and for NaNoWriMo - I'm sure I'm developping Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. lol (bah, Blogger or my computer doesn't like my Canadian spelling of words like "colour" and "developping"). Time to do some yoga, methinks!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Avoiding Burnout!

Life has been super busy this past while. And then there's the stress of weather (snowstorm and bad roads and then changing--it can be a positive change, but it's still a stressor!) and illnesses and so on.

I can feel I'm heading toward burnout. And that's not good.

So, today, we are having a fun day. We are heading to the science centre and checking out a cool exhibit there. My 15yo is behind in her work, but neither of us really care at the moment. I won't be taking that next step in getting a good routine with my 12yo son, but I'm okay with that. If we end up burnt out, that will do more damage than taking a day off!

What do you do to avoid burnout?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Homeschooling

Homeschooling is life. And when you are a homeschooler, your life is homeschooling.

With that said, since life has its ups and downs, so does homeschooling.

This year has had a rough start. My dreams of what I would do with my son have not worked out. I have either been having crazy dreams or haven't taken the appropriate steps to make it all happen. I see a glimpse of interest in him, then it's back to brooding. Part of it is sleep on his part, I know that. We had a wonderful couple of weeks (albeit, without much work getting done) before the time change. Since the time change... Argh, argh, argh. He looks tired, he acts tired, he's a grump and resistant to everything. And he's 12. Ack. He asked this morning if he could have a short computer turn. I said no. I reminded him that he was supposed to get one turn a day (which I'd love to cut back, but that's a different thing to deal with) and it somehow became more than that (I think when sick kids were here, rules were loosened and not retightened). I told him that if he spent his time doing more than just reading comics in his bed all day, I might be more open to him having more time. His response, as he slumped away with his tired face, "There's nothing else to do around here." Oy.

We've been hit with viruses (I had the flu AND pink eye at the same time; joy! (sic)) and snow storms and this and that and the other.

Right now feels like one of the downs. My 15yo only just woke up, which means she's got that much less time to get work done this morning. At the same time, I know how she is when she's not sleeping well and everything school-wise becomes an emotional trigger and she falls apart. (That sounds so much more dramatic than it really is. lol)

I know that sometimes in life--and in homeschooling--you've just got to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Take charge. Not only make a plan but follow through on it. Regardless of grumpy kid moods.

So, today's a new day where I'm actively working to get out of this slump. Right now is brainstorming time:

*I used to make a plan of lessons I would give the kids and follow up work options. The expectation was to be working on something all morning long. It might be too much to do with my son, but if I can plan for the entire morning, have directed lesson after directed activity, etc., it could work, rather than having open time to choose during the morning. At least as a transitional phase.

*One idea: A set list of work (ugh, my Montessori insides are cringing) to get done before he can have a computer turn.

*Find the planning charts I had and really plan properly for him.

*Find some already-made resources that I can use with him rather than trying to do it all from scratch. Have a mix of Montessori and just "regular" stuff.

*Read the science manuals I have and actually follow through, for crying out loud! (Lol, yes, I'm getting ornery with myself.)

*The Great Lessons took forever, but went well. The follow up of unschooling-style "strewing" with resources--absolutely nothing happened with that. I may need to do more than just strew and actively plan how much we'll look at and follow up work options.

*It's occurred to me that my son doesn't like to be expected to work on his own. He would rather work with someone than simply have work options to do on his own. I need to keep that in mind.

Okay, a little unloading here has helped. One thing I've done so far this morning is install Homeschool Tracker Plus

[ADDENDUM: I got interrupted at that point with my son coming up behind me and just hugging me. :) Somehow, that just spurred me on with my determination and I said, wait a second, I'm going to get the chemistry manual and we'll do something. Well, I opened the physics manual first by accident, but it was great, because one of the first activities is using clear soda (I used club soda) in a glass, dropping some raisins in and seeing how buoyancy is affected. I wrote down the basic info, so he saw how that worked--the question, the hypothesis, the materials, etc.--and he had a great time. It completely brightened him up. I could not help but think of this quote by Maria Montessori:

One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.

 If science is the only thing we do for the next while--and it gets him happy and eager to do things again--then I think I'm still on the right approach! To finish off what I had started saying above, I managed to install Homeschool Tracker Plus, which I've had for years and use on and off. A little voice was nagging me that it has always been useful in planning and it has a journal component, too, where I can just hammer off thoughts and not lose them. I have not yet set up a new file (no point in using an old file at this point!), but that's on today's to-do list. As is seeing what the next science activity we will do is.]

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Focus Helps My Kids' Focus

My somewhat taking charge of things with my daughter yesterday has already had an impact. While I did have to wake her up because I had decided she was sleeping too late, after she got herself ready for the day, I saw her working away on her German course. Lately, she's been spending a lot of time just looking at things on her iPod, texting with a friend, etc., once she's been ready for the day. Today, nope.

With my son, while he is resisting a bit (he's so much a creature of habit, like I have said! routine, routine, routine--which means I need to take charge of what the routine is since the current routine is a block to his development), I did religion with him and we looked a bit through a book on history. I then said he should read the one book he got from the library. He doesn't want to. Which surprised me: the first book in the series, once he really started reading it, he read through it quickly. Well, he's not liking the second one as much for some reason. (I do wonder if he's actually even started, to be honest. lol) I told him I don't need him to read that book, but something other than comic books. Not sure if he's actually picked something or not; I'll have to check on that.

Next goal: Find that chemistry manual and figure out what I'm doing first with him for science!


On a completely different note, my other niece, the 7yo (in grade 2) was talking yesterday about how she had earned 2 gums. A reward scenario. I have been so long without the focus on rewards that it really hits me, this idea of giving kids something for having done something else! Why? I know why, but still. It's different saying, "Well, work needs to get done before we sit down to watch the movie." The movie is going to be watched; it's not a reward. It's just a matter of learning priorities. Getting gum for having done I can't remember what but clearly totally unrelated... *sigh* My Montessori heart is sad. lol

Monday, November 5, 2012

It's Already November?

How does time fly by so quickly?

Illness certainly helps with that impression. I got hit by the flu AND pink eye last week. Oy! I guess it's better to have them at the same time than to have them one after the other.

I've been thinking this weekend about my kids and how to help them get more learning done--well, in my daughter's case, more of her classwork done since she's doing online and correspondence work and is horribly behind. It hit me that I was doing something I shouldn't: just expect that she'll figure it out and get it done. Hm. Nope. So, I took charge today. We did math first thing, I told her what I wanted her to get done during the afternoon, she got some of it done and then took a break, and when I told her to get off the computer finally, I let her know I wanted the German pages done. They are now done. And she's trying to finish off the religion reading. I will need to sit down and work out a vision for how much she can reasonably get done this week and work at catching her up. I won't tell her that's what it is because that seems to stress her out--focusing on catching up--but that's what will be going on. We already talked about how I'm setting a limit and the one English assignment that was due over a month ago MUST get done this week. And I've decided that to remove certain distractions and comforts which cause her to work more slowly being at home, we will head out at least 1/2 a day this week to a library. I'm thinking Wednesday could be a fantastic day to do so: go to the library in the morning, have a lunch out, then come back home and dd can work more in the afternoon. Might do it again on Friday. (Can't tomorrow morning as she has online sessions she needs to attend!)

For my son... It hit me how much he is a creature of habit. His room is habitually messy, so it doesn't bother him. If I can get him into a habit of keeping it clean, then he's likely to keep it clean. In terms of school work, his habit is to hide away and read comics. He is not going to move out of that habit, out of that comfort zone, on his own. I keep hoping that he'll just be enthralled with something we're doing and go and explore on his own, but either I haven't presented the right thing or it's just not going to happen with him--until he's out of the current habit!

More thoughts to come...

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Week Ahead: Oct. 9-12

I thought I might use my blog more to write down planning thoughts, journal more, etc. It's a good place to keep things where they won't get lost. lol.

Today is Thanksgiving here in Canada, so technically not a school day. But the start of the school year has been so rough and my daughter has gotten so far behind that we did spend some time this afternoon working on math and phys. ed. (Yes, she's behind in phys. ed.! Mind you, there isn't a specific guideline, which doesn't help any.) Her math ought to be completely caught up with by this coming Friday. Her English... Yikes. Weeks behind. A large part of that due to her English teacher not being remotely clear about what he expected and constantly changing things. But the next unit is the novel study and she reads quickly, so she should be caught up by the end of the month. I hope. It is her goal, anyhow, but we need to make sure she gets working on the overdue stuff.

I'm just going to babble a bit about English here: English is not hard for her. She reads well, writes well. But the kinds of questions that are sometimes asked are so out beyond left field that it completely throws her. Panic hits: "I don't know what the heck they are talking about. If I don't know what the heck they are talking about, how am I supposed to answer the question?" A lot of self-imposed pressure to know instantly what the answer is. But she's typically known fairly instantly what the answer is for things, so having the pressure of getting marked and not knowing... It creates stress which just ends up blocking her from thinking about it. It's been interesting to observe; I just need to figure out how to work with it now. In any case, with these emotions popping up, her English is taking her longer than it should with each assignment. Something that should take a couple of days is taking a week because her frustration level hits a point that she can't continue and has to switch to something else.

Back to figure out the week ahead:

*Big Focus: catching up. Math test done by Friday at the latest. English--I'm thinking at least the assignment due a couple of weeks ago PLUS getting started on the one due last week. Some random thoughts on this: Do short blocks and stop before frustration hits; maybe even use a timer. Put up sticky notes of things that come to mind.
*Secondary Focus: I would like her to establish some sort of schedule, make certain things routine. For example, she touches her German course sporadically when it should be daily. English is a huge one to catch up on; math doesn't have a lot, but it's very important that she keep on track with this one.
*Math: She's feeling very rusty with some early algebra stuff she's done in the past and had no problem with then. It would be good to have just a few refresher questions each day on the stuff she's blanking out with.
*Phys. Ed.: get the initial stuff all done. With her catching up in math and English, the plan she's supposed to submit can probably wait.
*Religion: write up and send off plan! And do reading. She's been pretty good at just grabbing the religion text and doing the reading when she's got 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there without me around.

*handwriting: he had to write on some gift tags this weekend and it was a near-disaster. What specifically should I have him do? I could pick a quote and then tackle the individual letters with him and then have him do the copywork. He really needs this practice. Daily.
*math: I'd like to have a look at the grade 7 algebra section and make sure he can do all the things from it.
*geometry: get him started on triangles (I think there's a triangle unit in his grade 7 text)
*science/social studies: we have still not finished the Great Lessons. MAJOR GOAL FOR THE WEEK: Finish the Great Lessons! We have one or two left. I need to have a look at science lessons to start working on or something I can set up a one-off afternoon class with.
*religion: ideally, read a section daily from Faith and Life.
*music: I'd like to suggest that we tune his guitar. We could even try out one of the instructional books.
*French: ah... hm...

As I write all of the above, I feel my homeschooling moving towards a list of things to get done rather than an overall vision and feel to live. I need to be careful!

I've been too distracted. I'll end it here for now!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It Is Hump Day For Sure!

Today has been a huge hump day. Been pretty much impossible to get over the huge hump. Goodness. And you know it's bad when I'm blogging twice in a single day after not blogging for a while--it's my way of procrastinating. :P

I woke up tired. My son woke up tired. My daughter didn't wake up until after 9am, I think. She finally managed to get herself together and do a bit of her religion course reading. I knew I was unfit for anything. My son eventually wrapped himself completely up in a blanket and just lay on the couch. He's a mover: you know things aren't well with him if he's just wrapped up and he's not doing something.

This means that work-wise... Not much got done. Actually, I think dd's religion reading was the only thing that got done. But that's one of the joys of homeschooling: you can take a day off when you just seem to need it. And we all needed it. We did eventually venture out. I can't find an unfinished amigurumi project I had decided I would finish and give to my half-sister who is turning 14 soon. (Actually, coincidentally, her birthday is the same as mine! :D) We stopped at the library for the book with the patterns and then headed to Michaels for the yarn. We came home and I had a nap. The kids have been playing ever since, I believe. Although dd may have worked on some skins she had promised she would do for people. In any case (my mind's mush and I'm lead off-track quickly, sorry), I had my nap, it turned out I didn't have to go pick up my nieces and nephew today so I've been... wasting time playing Farmville 2 in Facebook. Good grief.

Tomorrow is "Crazy Day"--morning advanced homeschool French class, afternoon "beginner" class with 9 boys and 1 girl (boy, do I need to make sure to plan well for that one). Thursdays are the one day I can't really work with my kids, although dd is part of the morning French class. (Her French doesn't count for credit, unfortunately, but will certainly build up her skills.) Where was I going with this? I told you my mind was mush. lol.

All right, I have managed to do a bit of tidying and now I need to get started on the said amigurumi before I get supper going.

September's gone, October's here

September was an interesting month:

  • my 14yo dd started high school (at home) but with an online program rather than me being the "primary educator"
  • confusing teachers whose lack of clarity have led to my 14yo being quite behind in one subject 
  • she and I got sick (and to be honest, it's been over 2 weeks and we're still not completely over it); 
  • the first two weeks couldn't have any sort of routine due to my niece being in the transitional phase to start kindergarten
  • various activities--although very worthwhile activities, like a homeschool picnic, homeschooled teen get-together at a recreation centre, a Friday Mass and potluck followed by playing at the park and my daughter already off to camp one weekend with her Rangers (Girl Guides for high school students) group
  • family get-togethers, including my son's 12th birthday, my mom's birthday (I probably shouldn't share her age :D) and more
  • start of evening activities
  • a Stampin' Up! meeting for me
  • start of the French classes I am running and all the changes that have ended up happening within them
  • start of picking up my nieces and nephew after school each day, something that takes an hour in all to do!
It was a tiring month! Getting used to a different routine is definitely hard. I've been realizing just how much I am a "comfort zone" person. I guess we all are to a certain degree, but I am seeing clearly now how my comfort zone borders are getting in the way at times. But we are still managing to adjust. And I have to say: I am loving it just being me and my kids!! My son has never really known not having others around during the school year: he was a year old when I started looking after full-time kids. My daughter was only 4, so it's pretty much all she's ever known, too. I love not having to be prepared for 8am (or earlier), I love just how relaxed everything feels around here (well, except Thursdays, when I have 2 French classes, and Monday afternoons when the other French class is held). I love that my kids can sleep in. I did, however, have to wake dd up yesterday morning at 9 because she does a few online class meetings each week and she has one at 9am every Tuesday morning. She doesn't usually sleep that late, but she did yesterday! I will add that she is loving being able to do that, too. She had toyed on and off with the idea last year of going to high school--mainly so she could hang out with certain friends--but given she's a natural night owl and likes to sleep later and is hitting that stage in the mid-teens where she needs to sleep more, she is really appreciating the fact she does not have to get up early and scramble off to school.

She's "getting there" with getting on track with her work and getting into a work routine and starting to maximize little pockets of time to catch up. With my son... Well... Let's say he is as resistant to change as I am, if not more. I have noticed a few things, however:

  • If I don't call it work and it's fun and has nothing to do with math or handwriting, it's not "school".
  • He will read comics all day if I don't invite him to do something else. I suppose the good part, at least, is he has moved on from just Garfield and Calvin & Hobbes to The Far Side and Pearls Before Swine (although I do wonder how many things he doesn't understand! That's okay: there are certain things in them he doesn't need to.)
  • "Inviting him" does sometimes mean I simply need to start reading something to him or sit down next to him with something and get him going.
What have he and I accomplished so far this school year?
  • We've made it through some of the Montessori Great Lessons. Yes, that's right, some. One of them took far too long. But he loves them, so it's all good. (Those, btw, are not school in his eyes. Not even going outside and measuring how long an apatosaurus was. The weekend after we had done that and some other things to do with that Great Lesson, his Grand-papa asked him what he had done in school this week. The only thing he mentioned was math. lol)
  • We've worked inconsistently on math, but he does understand the early algebra stuff very well. So well that when I gave him 4 questions to try to do on his own, when I checked to see how he was doing, he had marked as correct the 3 he had already done. I have not begun geometry with him, but since his sister has started a unit on trig, it could be a good time to start some work on triangles. And keep up the algebra.
  • We have worked a couple of times on handwriting. I have decided I am definitely going to push the cursive handwriting--not for when he does his own writing stuff, but for the instructional part of it. I have also decided to step back and have us do letters next to each other so I can see how he is actually doing them.
That's all I can think of!

The weather has finally started changing into more fall-like weather and I always forget how much it drains us. He is sleeping more, which is good because he had months of likely not getting enough sleep, but tired in the morning. I just feel like I can't get a proper night's sleep. But, with it being only us today until I have to leave to pick up my nieces and nephew, we can take things slowly and I might even fit in a nap. :)

On a completely different note, my Montessori heart gets broken every time my kindergarten niece tells me about getting a sticker on her hand for good behaviour. It's even become a part of her after-school games, where she will tell someone they can't get a sticker unless they behave well. :'(

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

He makes me smile!

My dear son... What can I say but that he makes me smile! And when I'm trying to work with him and his innate interests and tendencies, it's easy to get to the point where he makes me smile. :D

I've still been rather slow about getting him going with work. We have not finished the Great Lesson on  The Coming of Life (which, incidentally, he did not count as work last week lol) and I decided yesterday I wanted to get him going on math. My plan had been to work with him in the afternoon, but I was exhausted after not sleeping enough, he was tired and grumpy and it got forgotten. I remembered after supper when he asked for his usual after-supper video game turn. I said I still wanted to do a little work with him before that. He was very agreeable.

My plan had been to start with just checking his number concepts a bit, so I gave him a little whiteboard and took a little whiteboard myself and wrote down the number words for various numbers. He got them spot on. I was going to move onto teaching him about 10^___ for all those different place values when he got up and found a Pearls Before Swine comic book he has out from the library, found the strip with the basic algebra question (yes, he knew exactly which book had it) and wanted to know if we could do that. The question:

3x + 4 = 13

Sure, why not? Even though he has not really done questions like x + 4 = 13, but we could go for it if that's what interested him. He really has almost no experience with variables, so he originally thought 3x + 4 was 7x and then x would be 6, because 7 + 6 is 13. I explained that the 3x meant he had the same number 3 times and I drew 3 little boxes. He took another stab at it and guessed 2. I showed him how we substitute 2 into x and that it worked out that 3x + 4 was 10 when x was 2, so it couldn't be that. He then decided to guess 4, but he did the substitution and realized it wouldn't work. He then figured out that it would be 3.

I asked him if he wanted me to show him how we would do it without guessing. He said yes. So I drew out 4 little circles next to the 3 boxes, put an equal sign and then 13 little circles. I then drew a sort of balance underneath. I explained that the left side always has to equal the right side when we have the equal sign. I took one circle away from each side and asked him if I could do that, if everything would stay equal if I did that. He said yes. So I removed 3 more from each side, leaving him with 3 boxes equalling 9 little circles. I asked how much each box would have if we split the circles up equally. He has not really done much division, so he guessed incorrectly and I then drew arrows from the circles to the boxes and he saw that each box would have 3. So, x = 3. I normally don't move onto the symbols right away, but I instinctively felt I should with him and showed him how we wrote each step.

He then moved onto another question. I rewrote the sample question in the corner so he had a model to work with and he did the next question on his own. And then another question. I asked him why he was doing certain things and he completely understood it. At some point, it came up that it was something done in grade 8 in the schools; he's in grade 7, so this impressed him. He asked if he was good at math. (lol) I said he was, but that he wasn't able right now to do all the things that kids in grade 7 can because he hadn't worked on math nearly as much, but that he was able to understand it easily, which made him good at math. This whole conversation, just him asking the question with a little smile on his face because he was feeling good about the work he was doing, made me smile. :) And to add to the smile is the fact we did "school work" that he was happy about doing, did easily and is likely to want to do more of.

Of course, this now throws my well laid out math plan out the window a bit. :p

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sucking him in ;)

My "evil" plan is working! Ha ha ha ha ha! (lol)

I started reading the second Great Lesson yesterday, the Coming of Life, and it led to my son pulling out one of his books on... hm, either pre-historic life or specifically dinosaurs, not sure which... and bringing up all kinds of things and tying in this and that and so on and so forth. Yes, he loves animals, including prehistoric animals and just about anything, to the point that last night he and I were watching "A Series of Unfortunate Events" and at the part where we see Uncle Monty's animal room, he said something like, "I'll probably have a room like that when I'm older. " lol. In any case, we didn't manage to finish reading through the whole lesson yesterday, what with the little related interruptions/discussions and other stuff going on, and I was going to finish it today, but reorienting ourselves, he was reminded that I had said we should go outside and measure just how long 70 feet is. So, since it was beautiful weather at that moment and since the weather's been blah and even changed from nice to blah very quickly, we went ahead with measuring distances. We took some sidewalk chalk and a metre stick and I calculated how many metres 70 feet is on paper. (Ha, can anybody see a potential math lesson to suck him in with here? :D) We picked a starting point and marked every metre. He decided he wanted to see other measurements, too, so we took note of 14 metres (the wingspan of a particular dinosaur; I can never remember the names; the bucket is at the starting line):

21 metres, the length of a smallish apatosaurus (I tried to take a picture from the side to get a real feel, but I would have had to get on someone's roof! lol):

and 40 metres, which was the length of I can't remember what.

When we told my niece about it being the length of some dinosaurs, she kind of looked at us like we were nuts. lol.

I, incidentally, had initially written down 70 m and when we went outside and I said something about 70 m, my son gave me a look and asked what we were measuring that was 70 m. I said the apatosaurus. He said it was 70 ft. I was silly enough to have to go check; he is always right with these kinds of things!

In any case, he was a happy camper with the school work this morning and recognized it was school work and he was enjoying himself and decided he would stay outside with my 4yo niece (kindergarten starts for her next week) to "do phys. ed." (jump rope and then ride around the block a few times on his bike).

Dd is doing okay getting started with her online school work. She's a tad behind in math because it wasn't really made clear ahead of time where she should be in her work by now and what exactly she was supposed to be doing, so she ended up doing some work she didn't need to do at all (oops) and she just needs to learn about not being too perfectionist when doing certain school work--especially stuff that isn't being handed in! She'll catch on with the pacing. She finished her English that has to be handed in, but that first English assignment is always so hard because so much of how something is marked depends on the teacher, regardless of how many rubrics they give you about how they will mark. She's done some stuff for phys. ed., hasn't started religion yet, hasn't started art (the last two are full-year and just because of the nature of the courses, won't be a problem to catch up on) and we have no clue what's going on with her German course yet, so that's not touched at all either. But she's got the mandatory stuff done and is now enjoying having the afternoon free to do as she wishes. :)

All I can say is: TGIF. :D

I, incidentally, had written down 70 m at first and when we went outside and I said something about 70 m, my son gave me a look and asked what we were measuring that was 70 m. I said the apatosaurus. He said it was 70 ft. I was silly enough to have to go check; he is always right with these kinds of things! lol.

In any case, he was a happy camper with the school work this morning and recognized it was school work and he was enjoying himself and decided he would stay outside with my 4yo niece (kindergarten starts for her next week) to do phys. ed. (jump rope and then ride around the block a few times on his bike).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Day Complete!

Well, and second day almost complete by now! lol. I did the subject for this post last night and never got a chance to actually write out my thoughts.

Yesterday was a very low-key day. I didn't end up doing anything specific with my son, but that wasn't non-deliberate. See, the day before I had been reading "In the Middle" by Nancie Atwell and she said something about getting rid of her structured plans and evolving with the kids. That really struck me: these highly structured plans do not work well with my son and so it's better to be able to flow with things. So I wrote down on Monday a page of different subject areas and some things to ask or mention with the idea that I would pick as things seemed to fit best. In the end, I only ended up bringing up about studying Canadian history like they do in school for grade 7 but that ours would be better, I thought. (He quipped that Canadians never did anything interesting, the little rat. We are so inundated by the many US battles and prominent figures and never really learn much about Canadian history and figures. I mentioned about the battles, that we tend to not to want to bring up the fact that we had this battle and that war and people got killed and he said it wasn't just that, but we didn't have interesting people like Benjamin Franklin. Aha! He's just provided a "key" to me as to what kind of focus I need to have: he's more interested in specific people and what they have accomplished than he is just general knowledge.) He spent the bulk of the morning reading from a Pearls Before Swine (his latest comic book passion; I really wonder if I'll be able to convert this passion into writing comics or something).

My daughter had her first day of online school. It took us an hour just to look through all the intro math stuff, look at the website and other things we were supposed to check and then email the teacher because a link didn't lead to where she said it would... We did end up looking at all the courses, although not necessarily as thoroughly as I had intended, but the brain can only handle so much. ;)

After that, we went out and got a Subway sandwich for my son and Tim Horton's sandwiches for me and my daughter (they were 3 doors down from each other :D) and came home and ate lunch and my daughter and I watched a recorded episode of So You Think You Can Dance. Then I let them have an hour turn for the day of computer/PS3 games, then it was take the dog to the vet at 4. It was not an exciting day, but it was a decent, gentle start to the school year.

Now it is pretty much the end of the second day. It's about 2pm. With my son today, I review part of the first Great Lesson with him and finished reading through it. I stopped every so often to really connect with what was being said, like thinking of the number of atoms the Earth contains. (Oh my!) My son made a comment yesterday that clearly showed he associated school work with "boring" math. The only thing I required of him last year was some handwriting here and there and a tiny bit of math. Now it's clear he finds math boring. (Well, I don't blame him: most of what I gave him was pretty boring!) And "school time" boring because of the things I expected of him. I'm completely reorganizing my thoughts with him and not going to go with expectations right now. I feel my job is to plant many, many seeds, to engage him in a variety of activities. Will he ever hit a point of actually choosing to do math? No clue. Not my concern at the moment. I know one project will be a stuffed animal sewing kit he got months ago that we haven't worked on yet.

I am reminded, sharply, of Maria Montessori's quote:

“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.”

 I've been clearly not using a very correct educational procedure with my son!!

The above was written on Wednesday and I didn't manage to post. I think I'll just post it even though it seems incomplete. lol

Monday, September 3, 2012

School starts tomorrow!

My 14yo is a bag of mixed feelings. She's excited, sad, scared, nervous... High school feels like such a big deal, what with having to do credits and getting marked and doing tests and all that. She's also had years of seeing two older kids who were here struggling to get all their work done and stay on top of things. But there were many factors involved with those kids having a tough time staying on top of it, including the fact that they weren't mine, which meant I couldn't say, "Well, no, you can't go to such-and-such this weekend because you aren't caught up." I really don't think she's going to find the semester that hard nor is she going to find the work load too much. She is doing a sort of online program and will have grade 10 math and English to finish this semester; she can easily get the daily work done in those in the morning. Her other courses she has all year to finish, which means that while she has what seems like a lot of courses to her, she has a ridiculous amount of time (well, until the end of May/beginning of June) to get everything done for: religion, art, German and phys. ed. I think that's all. Then 2nd semester, same courses except instead of math and ELA, she'll have science and social studies.

Anyhow, she'll have all year for German (assuming we ever actually get the things for it) and that means she can probably spend about 3 hours a week on it and still finish in time. Three hours may even have her finish early! Religion is probably no more than an hour or two per week; she could pick one afternoon to do it all. Art... Art's a little trickier since it can take time to get things the way you want, but she already spends lots of time on art; this stuff will just be more guided, so it's not like she's going to have to find more time to do art! Phys. ed. is partially covered with her dance class and the rest ought to be easy enough to cover with us visiting a rec centre here and there to play sports, swim, skate... She has all year to get all the necessary hours and the few written assignments done. But she probably doesn't realize it. I've told her a bit, but she hasn't gone in and looked at the courses herself. This week will hopefully help her relax a bit!

I know what she will be doing tomorrow:
*log onto the online system
*check the intro information for all the courses and see if there's stuff she needs to send right away (phys. ed., for example, needs us to sign a form and send it in before we can start counting her physical activity hours; religion requires her to plan a schedule and send an email in)
*get her binder(s) set up
*work out a rough schedule for the week
*make a list of tasks to get done this week
*if there's time after all that, get started! (a couple of the courses have quite a bit of intro reading to do and I know at least a couple teachers ask the students to send them a message and/or a plan)
*yoga or Pain Free (I'm leaning toward Pain Free--we've both been having some issues with our backs; we could technically do both...)

Now, for my son. I know I blogged about this already, but I'm still feeling a bit like I don't know what to do. Why is this so difficult? Grr. I think it's because, like me, he finds it hard and uncomfortable to get out of a routine. So, not only am I facing my own difficulty in changing routines but I know I'll be facing his resistance! Even if he doesn't say anything, I can feel it! I see tomorrow as an organization and brainstorming and making checklists kind of day. No lessons, just a look at everything, discuss things, figure out things together, looking at meal planning and snack prep... Actually, we might do some religion, but I think that might be it. It will provide a transitional day with information up front about what we will be doing the next day, my expectations, etc.

To add to that, we have to go to the library tomorrow, I believe I'm picking my nieces and nephew up from school and I need to try to get a vet appointment for our dog. We thought she was just having allergies or something with some mild gunk at the corner of her eyes, but this past week, it's become real goop, especially this morning. Time to take her in.

You know, I feel kind of weird about tomorrow: first school year ever for my kids where it's just us!!! So, another change in routine pushing us out of our comfort zone!

Friday, August 31, 2012

It's Friday evening...

...and I'm working on my plans for Tuesday. Exciting life, eh? ;)

It may be the long weekend, but I've got a busy day tomorrow and Sunday:
*shopping for a birthday gift for my mom (her birthday is on Sunday; yes, I know, a little last-minute);
*grocery shopping, including specialty items at Planet Organic;
*house cleaning;
*bake a cake;
*make frosting;
*frost the cake;
*make a regular lasagna (meat and cheese) and make a vegan or possibly gluten-free vegan (raw?) lasagna (I'm allergic to milk and can't have the regular lasagna and am transitioning to veg*nism, but my mom specially requested the regular one for her birthday :P );
*before that, find a recipe for a suitable veg*n lasagna recipe and purchase what is needed; go to my mom's with the supper (garlic bread and salad, as well!; ooh, wonder if I could find a good vegan Caesar salad recipe--I know Mimi Kirk has a raw one that is supposed to be AMAZING);
*finish making her card (I am a Stampin' Up demonstrator and make all the cards)...

So, I have a busy couple of days and I don't want to find myself Monday going, "Omg, what am I doing tomorrow??" I also have French classes to plan for for the following week and it looks like I might be doing some private tutoring for French and possibly my former student who is having to retake some courses because he didn't have the gumption to apply himself much this year! But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

My mind keeps focusing on Tuesday anyhow, so why not just spend some time this evening unloading those thoughts before I sit and relax with a book or movie or something?

My son is usually awake by 7:30, but not necessarily ready to really get up until close to 8. He reads in bed a bit first. I don't think I need for him to have a set time to get up, but rather a strong routine after he does get up! Our first day, I think we'll start of with:

  • self-care: talk about what things should be done, like finding clean clothes and making sure to get fruit in with his breakfast, etc.
  • care of the environment: discuss care of his room and what sort of tasks he could do first thing in the morning (making his bed is an obvious one; he's let it go this summer!) and also discuss things that have to be done around the house on a daily basis and have him pick something that will be his to do in the morning
  • morning "meeting": I guess the above constitutes part of the morning meeting for Tuesday (and perhaps every first day of the week), but on other days, it won't really be part of the meeting, I hope, but just things he will do. What I have in mind for the morning meeting is having a look at what we both want to tackle during the week and that day (I know I'm likely to get attitude from him the first week because he's being asked to move out of his routine/comfort zone, so he likely won't offer anything truly helpful as an idea and I need to be prepared for that and not react negatively!). I haven't really decided how I want to guide him with this. When my daughter was early elementary and there were other kids in the mix, I was using a blank chart with subject areas along the side. Seems to me I would write in their things first about what they planned on working on and then I would add in which lessons I wanted to do with them that day. If there was something they wanted to do that would take up a few hours (like messy art or possibly baking), we would pencil it in for a day that would work better. The chart helped them see the wide variety of subjects they could choose from, but it also helped us see as the week progressed what they had worked on and what they hadn't worked on. It was a nice way to keep things kind of balanced or at least not let certain areas get neglected.

    Part of this first meeting will be talking a bit about the things we will cover this year for science, social studies, math, language arts, get ideas from him for those subjects... I suppose I should have at least a basic idea myself of what we are going to do! Actually, maybe I don't need to really get into all that with him. Hm. Something to figure out. I'm kind of leaning toward not getting into too much detail, but I suppose I could tell him that we'll be looking a bit at the history of North America and specifically Canada, we'll cover different things in science dealing with chemistry and physics and geology (he'll want zoology for sure; I don't have a zoology manual, but I'm sure we could do some research!), that we'll be working on handwriting and writing different kinds of things and cover all kinds of basic things in math and the grade 7 things and even beyond if he wants... I know I'm not covering all the subjects here, but I haven't really thought about too much about the others. He already knows that we will be doing more of Faith and Life this year!

    Some of this meeting will be to talk about the week ahead and what we will do: get going in math, science, social studies... I want to remember those three areas: self-expression (music, art, language); moral education, math and other languages; natural history, history of human achievement and technology and history of mankind. I'd like to know more about how Montessori "seminars" work at the adolescent level, because seminars are mentioned in the document I shared in the previous post.

Another site mentioned about Maria Montessori believing adolescence was a time for the child to find a place in society. I'm going to have to read up on this more and see how I can fit it in.

Onto other thoughts: I am going to work on the Great Lessons next week (eek! I haven't prepared myself yet! Guess what I'm doing Monday? lol) as the start to science and social studies, which means I also ought to work on reading the science manuals that I have and thinking about activities to present (or seminars to do? I really have to learn what these seminars are).

I got a phone call that interrupted my train of thought with all this. I'm getting too tired now to continue thinking about what we'll get done Tuesday. I think I'll go pop in a movie and curl up in a blanket. Oh, and drink the tea I made before the phone call and have now forgotten about. Oops.

I am drooling ;)

For whatever reason, I was prompted to look up Montessori adolescent preparation programmes. It led me to this pdf:

I am loving this pdf! Something about it is just pleasing my brain in terms of organization and focus for my kids. Over the years, I somehow missed this distinction:
Montessori divided the “Educational Syllabus” into three parts. First is self-expression, which includes music, language, and art. Moral education, mathematics, and languages are the second part. The third part includes three divisions of history: natural history, the history of human achievement and technology, and the study of the history of mankind.
I never knew this! These three parts form, imho, a wonderful way to organize one's vision, planning, etc. I see a kind of balance being aimed for among the parts. (Sorry, this may be so evident to some, but it's really "clicking" with me right now!)

Anyhow, if you've got kids at the 12-18 level, even this brief document about what a training programme can help give some ideas! :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

More thinking...

Some random thoughts that if I write them down on a piece of paper, I probably won't be able to find them again:

  • I want to resume read-alouds. I was thinking "The Hobbit" for an English selection, especially with the movie coming up in December. (My daughter has seen all of the LOTR movies and read the first book. My son has seen the first LOTR.) I'm not sure if I would like to have a French read-aloud at the same time or perhaps just pick a French one for after we've finished "The Hobbit". (I'm hit here with the feeling that I don't like the idea of waiting. We can do both.) It could even be something just super silly, like a Geronimo Stilton in French.
  • Sewing: My son has a stuffed animal kit we bought months ago that we have not yet done. That would be an excellent activity to throw into our day.
  • Science kits: He has at least 2 science kits he's barely used. Rather than try to see how different experiments will fit with the R&D manuals, I am considering the possibility that we just have an afternoon a week to pick a random activity to do. That reminds me: I would like to run a once-a-month science class for homeschoolers. Well, more workshop-style where you just pay as you go. I'll have to make note of activities in his kits that could be done with a small group.
For my daughter, the thing will be to make sure she manages her time to get all her school required work done and then help/guide her with other things: cooking, sewing, getting business stuff going... She actually just uploaded her first design to CafePress, so there's stuff to learn there about making more designs, the tips for having a good image, consideration of actually running a CafePress shop (make more $ that way), looking at a way to have a website with her MineCraft skins... Basically, make sure the hoop-jumping is done and then help her with the rest of her education. :P

I need to babble a bit--First Week "Jitters"

This morning, I tried to sit down and write out a rough plan for the first week of school. It stank. I feel so stuck! My son has been so unschooled and now I have to transition him out of it. Transition. Good word for me to remember. (See, this is why I blog? Helps me sort out my thoughts.)

Okay, so I'm transitioning him. What are some things that should be part of a daily checklist?

  • Religion: We've got the Faith and Life series from grade 3-8 and are still in the grade 3 book after, hm, 2-3 years? lol. A little daily reading and discussing won't be too much, especially since I don't have the teacher books; we just use the student text and don't do the activities in it. A morning prayer has never been a habit, but it could always become one! (But this just throws my mind into a whirl: When do we do it? Do we do it with his sister? She's likely to sleep in until past the time he and I will get started. So do we just say a prayer on our own? But then when will she say a prayer? And forcing her up earlier is not an option: I've seen what it does to kids her age and their thinking capacity and know how lack of sleep affects me and leads to more illness; I'm allowing her natural sleep cycle to rule here.)
  • Natural Vision Improvement: I discovered earlier this year that my son is near-sighted. I don't know that he's so bad that an optometrist would tell him to get glasses, but possibly; if so, they'd be really mild. I had suggested a few things for him to try to do, but, hey, he's 11, he needs consistent guidance. I would like to resume that NVI because it did improve my eyesight in the past and I would love to get back into it and improve my eyesight even more. Ultimately, being glasses-free would be FANTASTIC! This reminds me that there is a book I've been thinking about buying--the name and author escape me at the moment--but I can always get going with the simple exercises prescribed by the one who started it all, Dr. Bates. (More info, if you're interested in how to reverse eyesight problems or prevent them, can be found here.)
  • Yoga or Pain Free exercises. Pain Free is a book by Pete Egoscue. He has other books and they all talk about problems that come about due to dysfunction in our bodies. My 14yo has flat feet and some other little issues, so she wants to do stuff with this and I've noticed my son's posture is not good and it kind of looks like his big toe joints are getting big, which, I mean, honestly, he's 11, they should be fine. So daily yoga or Pain Free (either from that book or one of the others; the book for women has sections aimed at kids, not just women). I guess both this and the NVI constitute "self-care".
  • A time to sit and talk about the day ahead, the week ahead, the previous day (as the case may be) and have a look at what has and hasn't been touched. I did this years ago when I had 4 of them doing school and it worked very well.
  • *frozen moment* I hit the point of thinking, "Work time. What will we actually do? How will it look?" And not only did my mind freeze, but I realized I had paused my breath. Good grief, this isn't that big of a deal, is it? lol. As I let the thoughts come here, one thought is to have the little talk about, have a list of possible presentations I can show him that day, and then let him pick. Where my breath catches is when I think of how much time there is to fill! Eek! I want, at least to start, to focus on the academics being in the morning; the art and music and other phys. ed. stuff will usually be afternoons. But even if I count the NVI and yoga as part of the work cycle (should I?), that still leaves, 2-2.5 hours before lunch. (I just had to see if the 3-hour work cycle is still part of adolescent recommendations. Here they say it is! Actually, they mention about doing "seminars" at that level is causing some ideas to start working.)

    Let me just babble away, okay? What are his academics? Math/geometry. Science. Social studies. French. English. I was thinking about starting up the Writer's Workshop concept again, à la Nancie Atwell, but I don't have the book yet and not sure I could just wing it. A math presentation could be done each day or skip a day to do a geometry presentation or I suppose both could be done in the same day. For science and social studies, I want to go through the Great Lessons first (oh boy, that first lesson seems to take me a while anyhow! lol.). There is Sequential Spelling for English, handwriting for either language, I'd like to introduce the grammar boxes (in French) to him... Maybe there's enough stuff to get going with. Just the Great Lessons alone will take up some time!
  • Afternoons: art, music, phys. ed. out of the house, not sure what else.
Okay, it feels good to get some thoughts out! Now time to make supper. (Oooh, there's another subject to add in: home economics! :P )

Friday, August 24, 2012

Working on the school plans

I've been spending a fair amount of time this past week on brainstorming and working out a rough math plan for my 11yo. (My 14yo is doing online learning and therefore, I don't need to do ANY planning for her academics!)

Here is what I've done:

  1. I went to and copied the contents into a document that is only about my son's math plan.
  2. I had a look at the one text approved for grade 7 math here and tried to decide if it matched up well or not with the RD sequence, but also just to get an idea of the provincial outcomes.
  3. I know what my son has and hasn't covered, so I started with the beginning stuff (numeration and addition) and worked out a rough plan by hand for Sept-Dec, following the R&D manuals with some notes on specific activities or type of work to do.
  4. I went through our provincial learning outcomes and added in things that fit with what I had already laid out. For example, there is a whole unit on statistics and probability which I've tagged onto the end of the other units as a continuation of working with fractions, decimals and percentages. Or the algebra elements, which are considered a separate unit in the text, are being incorporated with his work on the operations. Which, to be honest, I think is much better than the textbook's approach of spending a few weeks on an algebra unit and then it's not touched again until the next year. This way, he'll be working with early algebra stuff when we are working with addition, then again with subtraction, then with multiplication and then with division.
  5. I'm treating geometry as a separate subject, so on the same page (I used columns), I put in the geometry elements which match up with what's going on in math. So, for example, for the month set aside for showing multiplication work, I've got planned to work on area and volume.
  6. On the facing page (I opened up a notebook--left page was for math and geometry month-to-month planning), I wrote down elements that can just be slipped in here and there, to make sure he knows how to work with them and certain vocabulary is covered, like 2D and 3D shapes, types of triangles, mm cm m, how many weeks in a year...
  7. I turned the page and finished up with Jan-April planning, which leaves an entire month free. Hm.

Okay, how about a little visual of the draft end product (sorry, I'm not sure how to make it show up in the right direction!):

I have no real idea of how much time it will take to cover certain things. I've given a month for multiplication, including large, which he has barely touched on. One month might not be enough. I've only given December for division, but now that I think of it, with Christmas holidays and division tending to be tough, I'll probably have to extend it. In any case, I now at least have a sequence to follow in things to introduce to him. I will have to break down specific lesson possibilities as I go along, but at least there's a framework within which to work!

And I have to say that while math has been very neglected around here with him, looking at the things from K-6 that he hasn't covered or mastered, well, the things important enough to do so, and adding in the grade 7 stuff, I'm actually feeling rather good about this year for his math. I do think we can not only cover it all, but that he will have a decent mastery.  He does not have difficulty with math; he has simply been difficult to actually sit down and do enough math.Which reminds me of something I would like to do still: Create a chart with all the different outcomes and columns for Introduced, Checked, Mastered. Lots of "Checked" options where I will be able to date and indicate where he is in terms of practice and mastery.

Speaking of mastery... I read of one Montessori school where starting in grade 6, they didn't move on to the next topic until they had reached a 90% mastery. I'm not sure what I think about that. On the one hand, they are older and perhaps it's developmentally okay; on the other, what's so wrong with working on more than one topic at a time? I don't think Maria Montessori really envisioned anything like this type of bookwork for the junior high level, but alas, it's hard in our society to just go, "Meh, let's just do farm and business stuff for 3 years." Maria also never got a chance to try her idea out; she may have not found it practical nor reasonable in the end.

I have also started working out a rough plan for social studies. I will start off doing all of the Great Lessons (my son has only ever seen the first one!) and then spread off from there into the science units I have and then the grade 7 social studies topics (history of Canada). I have plans to go further back than what our provincial social studies program has in mind and I won't be as fact-oriented as the school program, but give a large overview, planting lots of seeds, and let him dip into the areas he wants to grow more. When I think about it, the social studies program is so very limiting. They want to focus on one select group of aboriginal Canadians, for some reason; they focus on the same group in high school social studies, too. And yet, there are so many that the kids are never really told about! I have an idea of finding a map with some sort of indication about where the different groups traditional lived, more or less. I know many were very nomadic, but they still didn't go from BC to Newfoundland and back! My plan is to go even further back than that, to the last Ice Age and have a look at where it is believed the aboriginals came from and their movement through North and South America. I think the big picture is so important! Yet school social studies seems to be so focused on passing on the details.

There was a video I saw of a middle school science project where they had done an enormous diagram of a cell (can't remember if it was an animal or plant cell) and had little explanations of each part. This got me thinking that for social studies, I need to think outside the box. Sure, a research report is a good idea, but it's important to get more creative, or to suggest more creative ideas: Create a model of an aboriginal settlement, for example. Make a small translation dictionary of one of the languages. I am thinking of keeping the elementary focus of the fundamental needs of humans as the overriding "theme" for the work, but I will have to check around and see if that's normal for upper elementary or not. Or to find out what upper elementary students do focus on and tie it in. (You may be asking why I'm looking at elementary if my son is grade 7. Well, he is grade 7 but he's not yet 12, and just how he is, I still think the 9-12 work is very suitable for him.)

All right, it's almost 9pm on a Friday night. I ought to pull myself away from this computer and do a bit of winding down!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Another Way

I have started reading Thinking Parent, Thinking Child today and have been thinking about another way I might have handled the other day's little issue with my nieces. I haven't made it very far in the book, so this is just one minor change I can think of that I could have done--or could do in the future when such problems happen again.

My questioning part to find out what happened was fine. My ton was one of confusion and trying to get the details. Instead of doing the whole explaining thing, what I've gotten so far from  Thinking Parent, Thinking Child is to stay in with the questions to get the child thinking more about the situation.

"What started it?"

"J started it when..."

"What happened before that?" (Using words like before, after are part of the whole ICPS--I Can Problem Solve--model.)

Her answer.

"How do you think J felt when you did that?" (Another key ingredient: Help the kids connect with their own feelings as well as what others may be feeling.)

She probably wouldn't have an answer at that point. I haven't read enough to see what an adult ought to do--do you suggest feelings they child might have had or just leave it? But I can see how that would have been much more useful angle in the whole process.

Of course, that doesn't help deal with the hurt feelings over the papercut, but can that really be dealt with? lol. Part of me thinks we have to get back to the beginning and instead of focusing on the papercut that was the result of K's actions. The problem is not the papercut; the problem is in the altercation that took place!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Even my son's teeth are different

I've posted in the past, just recently, even, that my son has always had his own particular way of doing things and so often lags and then catches up ridiculously quickly or even goes beyond.

It hit me today that even his losing of teeth has been its own pattern. He lost one molar long before the adult tooth showed up. (This, unfortunately, resulted in orthodontic preventative work.) My 7yo niece was showing me one of her loose teeth today. Um, well, that's one that might nearly 12yo just lost recently. But one of many teeth he lost recently. I think he lost 6-8 teeth in the span of a few months. He has no baby teeth left on top and maybe only 2 left on the bottom.

Crazy kid. ;)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Children and Injustice

I was working on helping my 11yo make an omelette when I hear my 4yo niece say something, in a very agitated tone: "No, K, I don't want to go upstairs!"

I go see what has happened. K, my 7yo niece, is sitting on the sofa in the family room (a few stairs down from the kitchen) and J, the 4yo, is sitting on a sofa chair with a book in her hands. K is looking very "poor me" and J is looking very irritated. "What's going on?" I say.

K is upset because J gave her a papercut and didn't say sorry and something else I didn't catch. Words designed, in any case, for me to feel sorry for her and to show the error of her sister's ways. I, however, was perplexed.

"How did J give you a papercut? People don't give papercuts; paper does."

The first explanation was that J had swiped at her with the book. I still reiterated that J did not give a papercut, people don't just try to give papercuts (well, not usually, but anyhow) and asked, "What, she just attacked you with the book?" The second explanation was that K "just wanted to see something" (something she does VERY often with people, but especially her 4yo sister, where she just expects to have immediate access to something and will get her hands involved, taking something away or flipping a page, etc., and be unhappy if someone doesn't let her and think she's justified in doing something to get her way) and J didn't want to let her see it because she was enjoying her time with he book and jerked the book or something (that detail was not made very clear) and cut K's finger.

Aha. I saw we had a complete difference in perspective of justice! In K's mind, J was at fault for the papercut and should have said sorry because it hurt her (and I should do something about it). I pointed out that J did not try to give her a papercut, but she reacted and K ended up getting a papercut. The book gave the papercut. I then asked, what started it all? K said J with the book. I said no, that it was when K tried to see something without J being okay with it, that J did not have to show K just because K wanted it right then and there, and that this is a frequent problem. I then said that J did not have to apologize because she didn't do anything wrong. And I left it at that. If J had wanted to apologize because she felt badly about K accidentally getting hurt, fine, but she was frankly too understandably frustrated and annoyed with her sister not only having tried to get her way with the book but then telling J she should go upstairs for what she'd done or some such. I could have told K that she was the one who should apologize because she yet again tried to barge her way into having something she wanted, but I didn't. That would have felt even more like lecturing and I realized I was on a fine line between giving information and lecturing. K did suffer from "poor me" for about 5 minutes (while squeezing her papercut to make as much blood come out as possible, I think) and then came upstairs for lunch and all was well.

Ah, it makes me think of a book I just requested on interlibrary loan earlier this morning:
I haven't read it in years but did way back when my daughter was about 6, I think, and used various things with her and her brother, even with some older kids. It's been sometime so I thought I would take it out again and if I feel like I need it, I will buy it. Given I will have the girls after school and days off, I'm suspecting I will end up buying it. I have the one for preteens (Raising a Thinking Preteen: The "I Can Problem Solve" Program for 8- to 12- Year-Olds), but I have to admit to not having read it. I really ought to, especially since my younger child is nearly 12. :P In any case, if you have not read this book and often have little tiffs between kids, it is a very good book. It uses a variety of games to get children to use certain language and help them distinguish between things, like I might want something different than the person next to me sometimes, but might want the same thing other times. Very, very good program. I can't remember if it gets into the idea of "fair vs unfair", but it tackles so much, it really helps kids with their over-heightened sense of injustice! And it helps us know how to help them. :)

Inspiration Can Come From Anywhere

Have you seen this video?

My daughter and nephew were playing it a few weeks ago. I have to admit, I laughed quite a bit.

Well, it seems this video has become inspirational. As we spent some time driving last week, the two of them started up with singing in a similar fashion with the things they could see around them, and then my son got in on it. I was cracking up! Anything they saw or commented on could be a part of it and it has become a regular activity since. Yesterday, we were stopped next to a vehicle and my son sang that the lady is driving a nice car. My nephew sang back, "No, she isn't." (LOL. Oh, man, the times you wish you had a voice recorder constantly on...)