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...