Thursday, July 26, 2012

Inspiring the Non-Writer to Write

The title of this post came to mind this morning as I was getting ready. I had, before that thought, been thinking about Charlotte Mason (as an approach) and my son and what to do with him this next school year as a writer. Do I take the CM approach and just do copywork until his handwriting is decent and he's had a fair amount of practice and exposure to punctuation, sentence structure, etc., and have him do oral narrations? Then Montessori came to mind, with the early guided writing activities. Eventually thoughts came to me sitting down and writing out my thoughts and then the title just popped in.

Inspiring the Non-Writer to Write

That is what I want to do. I would like to inspire him to write. The only "writing" he does at the moment are PS3 messages to his cousins. Now, that's all fine and dandy and has him asking about spelling and punctuation, but, let's face it, that's not going to help him much if one-line messages are the extent of his writing abilities.

There is a huge push in educational circles (not homeschooling ones, really) to just use the computer. "Let him type/dictate. He doesn't really need to know how to write it out by hand." That just feels like dumbing things down to me. The hand is so integral in the development of our brains and thinking... If he can get his fingers to move in the right places for typing, then gosh darn it, he can use his hand to write out letters! :)

I realize I'm faced with potential difficulties: the lack of physical skill in writing letters, maintaining size and spacing, etc.. This work will have to be separate from the "inspirational" part. Especially at nearly 12 years old. The thing is I have to make sure that the physical skill aspect does not dominate the inspirational side; that would be a sure demotivator!

Which all leads me to the big question: How do you inspire an almost 12-year non-writer to write?

Turn to what he loves a little voice whispered in my head.

Okay, what does he love? Baby Blues comics. (Nope, not kidding. lol. He has taken every one he can out of the library, I think. It's the only thing he's been reading lately. And he'll read the books over and over and over.) And he still loves Calvin and Hobbes and Garfield. So, there's an idea right there for the fiction/funny side: Work on making his own comic. There is certainly enough that happens in this house for content... ;)

What else does he love? Computer/PS3 games. Hm... What sort of writing ideas can come from this?

*start a blog with his reviews about games (this does mean typing, but I could have him write it out by hand first)
*um... (anybody have anything they can add???)

He loves playing: Lego, Nerf, in forts... *mindsgoneblankforideasthere*

He loves animals, too. He knows so much about all kinds of insects, sharks and dinosaurs. Just last night, we were watching Raiders of the Lost Ark together and I said something about the opening story and wondering where it was taking place. Ds said it was in Mexico. No, it can't be, I said, because the native tribe isn't Mexican. They look more South American, rain forest-like. But he said the Mexican red kneed tarantula that they used only lives in Mexico. Well, by golly, he was right about the tarantulas! The scenes are supposed to be in Peru, so I was right on that part, but those tarantulas do not exist in Peru. :)

So... Projects on animals. But what could be really inspirational? The idea of a blog connects him with the greater world, gives him a chance to share things with others. The comics are things he can share with cousins (or hey, even start a website with his comics) and others. The standard project ideas are, well, disconnected and boring. Or maybe not. They just don't seem "real". How many lapbooks have you read as an adult lately? ;) That said, if I start a lapbook or some other type of project on something, he will be likely to follow suit, so I guess I can't really dismiss the idea entirely.

I suppose I need to keep along these multidisciplinary lines. English class has us often writing just for the sake of writing. But he'll be studying various things and the writing can be incorporated in meaningful ways. *noddingheadhere* Meaningful ways. Worth repeating. When you have something meaningful, the motivation and inspiration are already there. I can show him poetry but tie it in with science (Ode to Tarantulas?) and more.

Distractions around here are messing with my thought processes, so I'll leave this for now. If you have any ideas to share, please do!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Crazy Tuesday!

I meant to check in yesterday to say how the day had gone.

As usual: Not at all as planned.

First, my nephew didn't come since he'd been invited to spend a couple of days with friends.

Then, when my nieces did arrive, the 7yo (K) didn't feel great, so she just wanted to be on the sofa with her DS. I let both girls play a bit. The weather was gloomy and things just felt weird, kwim? We also had a thunderstorm at 9:30-10 in the morning, then no rain until late afternoon. I kept busy with my own stuff rather than doing specific activities with the kids. Later in the morning, K asked if we could do salt dough. I said sure. So, I found a salt dough recipe online, made a small batch for them and then we had lunch. Not quite the routine I had in mind, but a start: the girls helped clear their things and then K mostly put the tablecloth on by herself. Right after lunch, I can't really remember. I know the girls ended up watching a movie... Hm. It was a weird day yesterday and it could be felt, one of those days where the energy of impending weather keeps building and building. We ended up on tornado watch and severe thunderstorm warning in the afternoon, that kind of day.

Today, complete OPPOSITE start: the girls got here bubbly, giggly, noisy... and it lasted throughout the morning. Even while painting their salt dough creations. And going to the store. And doing this and that. Things have finally calmed down, but the weather has been building up and getting gloomier and everybody seems to be calming down. I still have not done any specific lessons with them, but that's okay. They did help with the lunch prep and cleared their places, then went on to do some quiet stuff right after. It's a lovely little routine. :)

Speaking of their salt dough creations, here they are:

 The 4yo's creation. My camera's a little damaged, but you can maybe make out the 3 eyes on each of her creatures? The smaller thing with just a ball is their breakfast plate or something like that. lol

Can't figure out why Blogger is insisting on rotating the picture and can't figure out how to change it!
K's creations. If you turn the first one slightly, it's like a big fish.

I definitely need to have a plan in place for tomorrow!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sort of starting tomorrow! Yikes!

I feel completely unprepared for tomorrow when my nieces and nephew will be back during the day since their parents' summer holiday time is over. I guess it's okay if I have nothing planned since they usually just contentedly play the first couple days back, but I would like to have a kind of plan. And actually make an attempt to implement it.

As I was cleaning up our "school shelf" area yesterday, not the shelves themselves but the stuff below, I was saddened by how they are not really used by my kids. I guess part of it is they are too old and I haven't shown my son enough, so he won't turn to a bunch of it. The other part is that there is stuff in there I could use with my nieces, but I don't. Reminds of the saying, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Now, sometimes my plans fall apart, but I know I won't move forward with Montessori stuff for my nieces (who are 7 and almost 5) until I at least plan things.

I have been thinking I ought to sit down and brainstorm a bit, so that's what I'm doing here. :) Perfect way to not lose what I've written down. :P

Some thoughts and not just for my nieces, but for my nephew and my kids, not in any particular order necessarily and my apologies at the potential lack of coherence (consider the following stream-of-consciousness writing):

A routine of some sort would be good. Things like morning story time or pre-lunch cleanup or walking the dog together each day at a specific time.

Lessons: a grid to plan for each of the little girls would be good so I can tackle their very different needs. The 4.5yo likes working on language and math but I can't forget that she also needs practical life and sensorial.

That makes me think that it would be good to have a time each week, or every couple of days or something, where the practical life is cooking or baking. I have a great kids cookbook, can't remember the name at the moment, but it has some great ideas. The kids always love baked goods but moving away from sweets would be good.

Sandpaper letters are a must. I think K (7yo) would love to 100 chain.

What did Maria Montessori do for her first schedule? She had care of self and then care of the environment. There are habits that are too ingrained with this bunch for them to think it just great to start doing chores once they arrive. :P I'm going to have to play around a bit with how the day starts out, or maybe just spend a great deal of time observing. At the same time, I have my own personal list of things I'd like to get done, so how observant will I be?

Things to do during a week: library, outside time, baking/cooking, art/craft time, music time--we have the recorders and the piano and guitars... What else? Language--read-alouds and sandpaper letters and I Spy. The older kids have a wealth of books available to them to read. (Should we have a quiet time after lunch for reading or some other individual quiet activity? That was nice when we did that.) Math--I'm not sure where I left of with J (4.5yo) and her math stuff, so I should probably pull out Gettman and have a look at the beginning math stuff. Culture: Maps... I'm not sure what else is appropriate geography-wise. Science--all kinds of stuff in Gettman for the younger girls and there are some kits my son has that he and my nephew would love. I also have the microscope, which I could set up on the little table. I really need to get a book about how to prepare slides and all that so we can start making our own. What else? Phys. ed.? Walks and yoga and outside time for skipping, soccer, playing at the park, catch... Hm... Anything else I can think of? I do wonder about the Great Lessons. I had started them with my son this past year but we didn't get very far. If I did an abbreviated version of the first one (I find it soooo long) and made sure to make it very dramatic and story-like, then found books at the library for follow up ideas... Then move onto the second lesson. Perhaps not do any Key Lessons (especially since I don't really know what they all are). To present all the lessons to them before my nieces and nephew head off to school at the end of August could be really good. Am I missing anything? Probably. ;)

On a typical day, what do I envision? They'll get here, they'll probably all head off to play--things at other people's places are always more interesting, especially when you haven't seen the stuff in a month ;P--but I need to be ready with stuff. Do I want a list to run through? Do I want a list of ideas and to pick one as I see it is needed? For example, if I have the list "read-aloud, lesson time, outdoor time, art time...", can I just randomly pick? Well, of course I *can*, but is that what I want? *mindgoesblank* (5 seconds later) *mindisstillblank* lol

I'm not looking to get into any serious work stuff, although I know K wants to work on cursive and higher math stuff; I will kind of have to move through some of the math sequence to get a feel for where she is. Does she know thousands? I know she can count to 100, but does that mean something to her? Probably lots of Golden Bead work with her, including operations work. That's what she really wants. She's already been shown a bit of multiplication by her brother and cousin (she's only heading into grade 2 in a public school--they don't do multiplication yet). It would be helpful to have a chart for her with the various lessons in it and space for me to note if she's been presented the material and level of mastery. Same goes for her sister!

For M (12yo nephew), he's hit a phase... I'm not looking to provide as much "education", you could say, to him as to the girls, but I do want to offer him a variety of things he can connect with, things he will enjoy that he won't get to do in school. He's been very different here the past few months when he has come after school: less likely to play with the others, more likely to just read or find something to do by himself. I find it a little worrying, only because I really don't know what's going on. That kind of retreating from others can be a sign of bigger problems--or it can just be a sign of him needing some more alone time after a day of dealing with school. He's headed off to junior high in the fall. I want here to be a place that can engage him, plant seeds of interest... I do worry about how jr. high will be for him. Maybe his is, too.

What about my kids? Well, the activities I brainstormed above can work for them, too. They both like read-alouds and reading. I won't do any work-specific stuff probably with them, although MadLibs are always good, Scrabble's good... All kinds of language games that can be played. Math-wise, they accept that we'll ask them a question that is connected with something we're talking about, even if sometimes what we're talking about is something dh has taught to his grade 9 students for math. :D What other math things could potentially engage them? *mindgoesblank* Science was already mentioned; my 14yo might join in on that or not. Oh, and I already talked about the Great Lessons. There's all kinds of stuff we have for geography and history, too. Things to think about more.

What are my days going to look like? What would I like them to look like? I would like to offer at least one thing for the little girls each day, one thing for the boys, have some outdoor time each day where I'm with them outside instead of my usual staying inside. Oh, just had more thoughts: crafty stuff like finger knitting and crochet and knitting and other craft stuff we have. I also have all kinds of grade 2 workbooks (K loves workbooks!) and more. But I've lost my train of thought. Each day would have a preparation for an activity/presentation/lesson for the different kids. My dd is probably fine without something specific each day for her, but time set aside just for art at least once a week, something where it can be adapted to her and to the little girls would be good. The boys are in the middle so they'll be fine if they choose to join in. So what's that leave me? Daily "lesson" time, outdoor time, I'd like daily read-aloud (any specific time? it's been up until now one of those activities great to start when things get a little goofy; gets their attention and they calm down and listen right away, esp. the girls). Do I want the after-lunch quiet time? Even just 10 minutes would be good. Oh, oh, oh, I want a lunch routine. I want us to do something we used to do: Somebody is responsible for putting the "nappe" (English word's not coming to me at the moment) on the table and then we all sit down together to eat. We could say grace before lunch (that's not been a habit around here) and one day, I think it would be great if we did the Angelus; dd learned it at camp in previous years. I've never learned it. It would be something more to show the others. When we had our lunch routine in the past, somebody was responsible for clearing the table so we could have lunch, others were responsible for making sure the kitchen was clean afterward. This might not work quite so well since my nieces and nephew come with school-style lunches most of the time and it's really not their job, I don't think, to be helping clean up my stuff, dh's stuff and my kids' stuff! It could be worked out with dd and ds who will do what for after lunch cleaning (dishes, sink, counters...). At the same time, perhaps we could change things a bit and instead of eating from their lunch kits, my nieces and nephew could put their food on plates, not have their lunch kits on the table while they eat, and then they participate in the clean-up. I could give them the option, too.


Wow. I'm not sure I can say I feel like I know what I'm doing tomorrow, but just getting all of that out of my brain was great! Let me see what I can specifically plan for tomorrow:

*J and K's lesson: sandpaper letters (they both love them); J, especially, loves playing Sandpaper Letter Hide-and-Seek. :)
*Pull out ds's chemistry kit for a lesson/activity with the older kids
*walk the dog (if weather permits; forecast for this week isn't fantastic)
*music time in the afternoon sometime
*maybe go to the library
*for me to do: read up on the first Great Lesson, work on lesson charts, create activities lists according to type (a list for outdoor activities, for example; another list with food prep that can be done)

All right, that is plenty for now. I wonder how many people will actually read to this part? ;D

Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer's almost half-done!

Yikes! We only get two months of summer here for the school year and with July already nearing its last week, it means summer is almost half-done! And what have I done for school prep?



Well, I've thought about stuff. As I've decluttered things and found potentially useful resources, I've put them aside to use. But I haven't sat down yet and really thought about next school year. Or even this August, for that matter. Not that I want to start school this August (um, actually, as of this coming Monday!) but I will have my nieces and nephew during the day while their parents are working and I would like to have at least one presentation a day, establish a routine, etc. They are so used to just having complete free time at my place since they usually only come after school for a bit and the odd day off school; I haven't established any kind of real routine for any of that. So, I'll need to do things gently. Ease into it. But what am I easing into? Not entirely sure. I guess I have to figure that out!

But my mind is mostly on my son and his upcoming school year. My daughter's main work is already planned (ie she's doing online courses where the work and structure is decided upon by outside teachers), but there are still extras to make sure to include: meal planning, cooking, financial stuff... Oh, and her French class. She will be doing French with two other teen girls, but I have not yet planned anything for it. Ach (think German exclamation with that 'Ach'), got to do that, too. Back to my son...

My son will be 12 in September. He's always been a bit of a "different" sort of kid, different sort of learner. I never figured out how to break through or use the bond he had with his cousin when they were both little and give them as much Montessori as I gave my daughter and another girl I was homeschooling at the time. I had more children in the house at that point, too (my two plus four others), so it just made things more difficult. In any case, I would do things, he wouldn't connect, I'd leave it. But he's always been a kid who lags a bit, then catches up super quickly and even often gets "ahead". (I will never forget his Buzz Lightyear drawing. I actually still have it somewhere. He wasn't quite yet 3 and had spent all of his time drawing up to that point being elliptical shapes with dots: potatoes, he said they were. All of a sudden, one day, he draws this figure: a head with hair, eyes and a mouth, a body with arms and fingers at the end of the arms, legs going out from the body part with toes at the end. He had skipped all kinds of steps. It's what he does. He did the same thing with walking, talking, later on with reading... That's just how he is.)

So... I have this funny learning son who would be grade 6/7 if in the school system. As a homeschooler, he is registered as being "year 7", which just means it's his 7th year of school, but I can choose his curriculum. Had we sent him to school, we would have actually waited a year. When you have a kid who learns by lagging then jumping the way he does, starting him the year we started homeschooling would not have been good. At times, I do think I should have waited to register him for homeschooling. He just loves enjoying things around him more than he likes to do academic kinds of stuff. Which is why I ended up essentially unschooling him. Until now. (Can you almost hear the slightly evil "heh heh heh" and see me rubbing my hands together in anticipation? :D)

He knows this coming year will be different. For one, I will have LOTS of time to do lessons with him. Second, he is much more aware that other kids in the extended family are doing things he can't do. He doesn't like that. Makes him feel kind of stupid. He's not the slightest bit stupid: he just has not done anything remotely the same for work.

On one of my Montessori lists, we were discussing how many Montessori elementary schools post the local outcomes for the students to be aware of working at meeting. This idea has been stuck in my head as something to do with my son, but to have the outcomes for grade 1-6/7 available and as the 'target' stuff to have lessons with and do projects on. Not all of it, because we've got some silly topics in some grades for social studies and science (I'm pretty sure he doesn't need to cover the topic of My Family, nor Colours) nor do I need to include certain math things, for example, that he can already do. And as I write this, I find myself questioning: What is this going to look like exactly? This is what I need to figure out. How am I going to organize and present these outcomes? And do I include the grade 7 outcomes? Part of me goes: "Well, he's got a lot of "catching up" to do and he's youngish for his age, not at the Erdkinder point, so perhaps it's best to just look at him as a grade 6 student." Another part of me goes: "He is so capable and will catch up without any difficulty. Why not just put it all out there?" Both parts are equally weighted at the moment.

I know for math, we definitely have to cover all kinds of elementary things he has not really worked on, plus just have him do more work in areas he has not done enough in to master, like large addition and subtraction.  My brain just paused there. I do need a basic plan for the year of when I can anticipate showing him different things, be it for math, science, social studies or language. (Language, oh boy, that's one we have to work on a lot.)

I'm going to have to do some more thinking and brainstorming offline rather than losing people with my endless train of thoughts here. I will come back at a later point to share what I've figured out. (Oh, and now I've seen the labels as I finalize this post and see "Work Contracts". Something else to mull over.)