Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Joy of Homeschooling #568: Taking a break when you want

My kids have essentially not done any work in a week, possibly more. Although, my son got a lesson in binary numbers last night, but that was quite impromptu ;), and my daughter was at a homeschool Christmas craft workshop yesterday and a CPR course on Monday. We've been spending lots of time relaxing, watching movies, enjoying electronics, some shopping and working on this 1000-piece puzzle:

It's doubtful that they'll get anything else done before Christmas break. But, hey, that's the joy of homeschooling: taking a break when you want! :D We've needed this break to restore ourselves a bit. My husband has been saying that kids at school (he's a teacher) have been pretty much ready for a break for a couple of weeks now. The teachers, too. I love that we have the flexibility to hibernate as we wish, go shopping while everybody else is at school and work, etc.

Today, the plan is to shop. Take advantage of the time we have so we can try to get our Christmas shopping done before the weekend hits and stores are completely insane. I am realizing I need to start getting Christmas goodies made, too...

How are your Christmas preparations coming along?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

If You Love "Little House on the Prairie", You'll LOVE This!

OMG. I can not believe how excited I am about this find. It seems so silly, but I love Little House on the Prairie and every time I watch movies based in the 1800s, I feel like I was born in the wrong century (except for maybe hot showers and flush toilets...).

When I was a kid, I was completely enamoured with Little House on the Prairie. I watched the shows. I read the books (more than once). I started braiding my hair like them and developped a distinct fondness for blue because, well, blondes were supposed to wear blue according to the book. I wanted nightgowns, not pyjamas. I could go on.

Well, I found this company today, Jacob Bromwell. Perhaps you have heard of it, my American readers, but I, in the frozen prairie wasteland (lol), have not. Until today. It is a housewares company that makes old-fashioned items--by hand. They've been making items since 1819. (Just that gets me all giddy.) When I got to the main page and saw this

I just about squealed! (I'm turning 40 next year; aren't I too old to squeal?) Oh my, the inner child in love/obsessed with the series got so very excited. The items are pricey, but it's because they still make things the way they were made 150+ years ago. The tin cup is, naturally, a bestseller. (How can it not be?) Oh, I will be getting one of them sometime, I believe! My husband will think I'm crazy, but dang, it's an authentic tin cup! lol. (I know I'm ridiculous here...) If they had the tin plate, as well, I might well have fainted. ;) lol

Friday, December 13, 2013

Is Montessori parenting radical?

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I started reading this article, but I did find that instead of "radical", it was very much in line with Montessori parenting! I thought I would share:

Is Montessori parenting, therefore, radical? What do you think?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Schooling Update

I'm consistently inconsistent with my son, but things are still going back to the basic plan (mostly) when life is such that it works to go back to the basic plan: math, Bible/religion, copywork, social studies reading (history stuff), lots more literature going on this year... It's good.

But I haven't gone so far Charlotte Mason-style that there is a rigidity. There is still lots of flexibility and openness. For example, I knew my son wasn't completely enjoying the ancient history book I got for him, so I supplemented with some readings from The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia to provide something a little different. It's also been a great book for any supplementation--short pieces that fit well with what we're looking at for France and England, too. I will also print off interesting articles related to our studies (or random science things, like this article about Mars). AND he's started reading something other than comics and How to Train Your Dragon books: The Hunger Games. I finally let him watch it, he loved it and his sister and I kept commenting on how such and such was explained more in the book, so that's been his free reading lately.

For my 16yo, there has been some progress in the depression/stressed out area. I have to remind myself that it's not going to be an overnight fix to change her way of thinking. Things have greatly improved after I told her this weekend that before Christmas, I just see 2 things that really need to get done: her unit 4 math (she did the test yesterday and everything seemed to be fine; much better than the usual Monday morning meltdown) and get her current social studies unit done (she has a paper to finish and a unit test to do). Once those are done, she has the rest of the time off until January. But her mind is so used to being stressed, it switched to focusing on other things in the future to be worried and negative about. *sigh* Baby steps, baby steps. :)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Simple Homeschooling Joy

This morning, I looked at the clock and saw it was 8:43. I've been up for sometime, but there was still no sign of my kids. I did the motherly thing and peeked in on them: both were well snug in their beds, sleeping.

It's such a little thing, but it's something that I love about homeschooling: letting them sleep.

If my daughter had gone to school this year after all, the school she would have gone to starts at 8:20. Given its location from our house and the crazy streets at that hour, we would have had to leave by 7:50 at the very latest, I'm guessing. Which means she likely would have had to get up by 7 at the latest.

I'm not sure she's ever been regularly up by 7. That was my son's doing--until he became a teenager. (He was up between 5:30-7 every morning until roughly age 12. Then, when he turned 13, it was like overnight he started sleeping every day past 8. lol)

Looking out the window at the cold winter, knowing my children can be in the comfort of their beds instead of rushing off to spend hours in a building they don't even want to be in (or want to be in only for the friend factor), it's a simple joy, but, for some reason, a strong one.

Is there some simple thing about homeschooling that really gives you joy on a regular basis?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

4 things that make "school" a royal pain...

As I see my daughter get stressed and struggle with her distance learning high school credit work, there are truths that have come out about what makes "school" a royal pain:

  1. The government curriculum is so very often completely disconnected with student reality. Oh, sure, they try to get the kids to connect by creating questions that are supposed to make the link between their lives and the material they are thrusting upon the kids, but let's face it: if the material was actually connected to their lives and truly meaningful for most of them, the government wouldn't have to figure out ways to try to get kids to connect to it. And then there is the material that is there supposedly to get the students to develop their brain power, but when, at ages 15-17, what matters most is that they have a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives and they are spending 1-2 hours each day on math that has no practical, meaningful purpose to them (do you use the quadratic equation in your everyday life? didn't think so), is it any wonder so many kids drop out or just get completely stressed out and depressed?
  2. The government curriculum tries to be conceptual, to have kids think, but given they give students a whole whack of things to cover, let's face it: it's really about memorizing. My daughter said it even last year, multiple times: "They don't really want me to know and understand this, they just want me to memorize it." This is not education. And while she can do a whole bunch of things and get 80-100%, because she doesn't really understand what she's doing (like she could do when we were simply homeschooling and not doing government course), it leaves her feeling like she doesn't know and hasn't learned anything. Well, she's right, isn't she?
  3. The student who understands point 2 can struggle with areas where opinions can be shared because they know that so much of most answers depends on having the "right" answer and to snap themselves out of that way of thinking can be difficult. And then sometimes the things they want students to have opinions on are really somewhat "out there". Do students truly have opinions on some of these matters? Not very likely.
  4. Testing means so very little, yet counts for so much in marks. Especially the diploma exams we have here: 50% of your final mark in grade 12 core subjects. Ridiculous. And what difference does it make if a student has certain formulae memorized or not? Again, what are they looking for: memorization or understanding?
To touch back on 1, as I've seen my daughter struggle emotionally this semester, I have looked things up and read something on a page about depression that said, in my paraphrased wording, depression is our inner, authentic selves screaming that there is something wrong, that there is a disconnect between what honours our true selves and what we are doing. The work my daughter is doing to get this stupid (sorry) high school diploma is not in sync with what truly matters to her. She would much prefer doing art and working on digital media and learning how to design websites and playing her violin and perhaps reading and writing... That she has to spend time understanding "nationalism" and "identity" and memorize all kinds of dates and people and be able to write wordy papers on something that seems to straight forward and common-sensical to her and she has to spend hours and hours trying to figure out how to solve meaningless math questions...  It has taken its toll on her. Things that were fun aren't quite as fun anymore, especially since there is the constant knowledge in her mind that there is more school to be done. The diploma is important to her, however. And so, we will have to work together to help her deal the best with the 4 points above.

What other things do you find make school a royal pain?

Friday, November 22, 2013

How's it going?

I thought I would just post a little update. :)

CM-style schooling... hasn't progressed. lol. We had at least a few weeks of illness and busyness and I dropped the ball a bit. Have restarted a little and trying to push on with my son. One of his weak areas has always been explaining things well. He can have a hard time finding his words and really providing details. CM is good for working on this, but I've decided not to do nearly as much narration with him as I have had people say I should do. We can read several pages, but he does best narrating right now with just a few sentences or paragraph. After, at times, a whole page, he can't really tell you anything, even often with guided questions. It is completely disruptive to the flow to be asking him to narrate every paragraph as had been suggested to me. And annoys, understandably, the heck out of him. I've started having him narrate a part and, if I'm reading aloud, then I narrate a part and we just finish enjoying the selection. I hate to admit it, but we still have not really done much science. *sigh* The part he likes the best. *sigh again*

My 16yo has gotten super stressed, overstressed, borderline depressed the stress is so overwhelming. If she were an adult working, I would have been recommending she take a leave of absence. We've been having good talks which help take the edge off, and then I started her on supplements Wednesday evening--omega-3 and St. John's Wort. I've also started having her take vitamin C that has added vitamin D in it and am looking at foods high in B vitamins since I'd much prefer changing her diet than adding on yet another supplement. It's likely the St. John's Wort having the most effect but even by last night, there was a marked difference in her. I am not going to be surprised today if she gets hung up on the fact she's so far behind in her school work now but I will simply remind her that it's not absolutely terrible if she finishes the two courses a little late and that her well-being is far more important than whether she finishes the courses by the end of the first semester or not!

She has also started a part-time job, which has added to the stress level, unfortunately, but that first pay stub the other day helped ease up on the stress. ;)

How is your homeschooling going? I saw things in Facebook about "everybody wants to quit homeschooling in November." Yes, I admit it, we've all wanted to quit--not homeschooling, but *schoolwork*. What about you?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

I just have to laugh!

I was reading an article the other day and I started doubting my move to a more Charlotte Mason-style approach with my 13yo son, especially since he's been starting to not like doing some of the readings. I wondered about what to do: Should I just read orally the ones he doesn't like? Do I need to make sure to have more research/interests-oriented exploration tied in with the readings? Do I need to just go back to mostly unschooling him? What do free schools do with kids who would just play on electronics all day, every day, for years on end? (And what would he do in a school like Sudbury Valley? Actually, he'd probably make a friend who was more adventurous in his interests and get motivated that way.)

I had the thought come of working with him to figure out what to do. So, I asked him, "If I let you choose whatever you wanted to do for school work, what would you do?" He sat there a couple of seconds and then said, "Whatever you give me to do."



So, I will venture forth with what we've been doing and try to incorporate more things we haven't been doing, like nature study.

Monday, September 30, 2013

My Son Now Has an iPod Touch

My son turned 13 last week. His request since last year has been to have an iPod Touch for his birthday. Since his sister got one for her 13th birthday, we acquiesced and got him one.

That has meant hours and hours of his playing on it and adding free apps and texting with his cousins (a couple have iPod Touches and one has an iPhone) and then, upon getting a $15 iTunes gift card as part of a gift on Saturday, I'm guessing he has added in some apps he has to pay for. We'll see how well he manages his funds!

He is not a self-regulator for fun electronics, so I've finally had to start putting some limits. Going all out for a few days is okay, but at some point, reality needs to be lived. ;)

That said, if anybody has some great educational apps recommendations that a 13yo would enjoy, fire away! :D

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

2 Hours of Work Is Apparently a Lot

I think my son did 2 hours of assigned work this morning. It might not have even been that much. It might have only been 1.5 hours. I can't remember at what time he got up. Here is what he got done:

*I read Matthew 4 to him and we talked a bit about it (I admit it, while the Charlotte Mason approach would be to just have him narrate, there are certain things that seem too important to just leave to his narration!)
*a page of division practice
*copywork: very simple (Demain, c'est ma fête de treize ans. J'ai vraiment hâte!)
*read a grammar lesson and do one page of grammar work (not much to it, to be honest)
*read the next chapter in Our Island Story
*read the French poem "Le Corbeau et le renard"

He was practically moaning by the end of it. Even said, even though the readings were fine the other times, that he wasn't really interested in Our Island Story and didn't see why he had to read about it (and complained about how "long" yesterday's reading about ancient Egypt was). I see different factors in this finding the amount of work difficult:

1) We had a busy day yesterday and he is visibly tired today. Tiredness = grumpiness.
2) I'm not alternating the type of work enough (I see now I have the poem right after the history reading.
3) I haven't yet included enough "extras" that would pique his interest more (like science; gah, I need to pick something and thinking that if he's balking right now with the amount of reading, perhaps more reading is not a good choice for the time being. I quickly grabbed a TOPS science unit we have but decided it's not a good fit for him; he needs something more complicated, in-depth, although the pH testing might interest him).

I said to him, after he complained about the "11 pages of reading" (it's below his reading level, was only 9 pages and each page is not that full) from the ancients book yesterday and there being a LOT of information in it, that he was going to be in high school soon and would have a lot more he would have to read at a time. He said he could read that much, he just didn't like it. lol. But, since he's having a hard time narrating much shorter things, I probably should have given him a shorter amount to process.

Regardless, this is all still progress. He has adapted rather well to having requirements, except for how long they take up of his morning. (No, he has never expressed an interest in school and is always worried when he thinks I've said something about him having to go to school. I can't imagine how he would handle it!)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Help Stop the Ban on Homeschooling in the Netherlands

I received the following email. Please read and pass this information around!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Rippy and Graham Dusseldorp"
Date: Sep 21, 2013 7:12 AM
Subject: Please Help Stop the Ban on Homeschooling in the Netherlands

Dear all,

We in the Netherlands could really use some international help right now. In July, the State Secretary of Education declared that he will be abolishing home education in the Netherlands.

The Dutch homeschooling community is doing everything in our power to prevent this. But our community is tiny. There are only 429 homeschooled children out of a population of approximately 2.4 million children. 

We need your help.

Please sign this online petition designed for the international community (both children and parents can sign):

If you can spread the petition and this message far and wide, it would be most appreciated. Please cross post on as many homeschooling lists as possible. Please post it on Facebook and Twitter and anywhere else you think may be helpful.

Thank you so much for your support.

Rippy (fellow Canadian, life long Oilers fan, married to a Dutchman) on behalf of homeschoolers in the Netherlands

The longer version of our personal story is here:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lovely Work Time!

I wrote up a plan for the week (well, the three workdays my son has this week) and put below it reminders of things I wanted to try to add in as the week progressed and then some notes about what I wanted to try to add in next week.

Today's plan was as follows:

  • New Testament reading: Matthew 3
  • Faith and Life chapter
  • Life of Fred
  • copywork: printing
  • Our Island story: chapter 3
  • French grammar
  • (Chemistry activity--need to find document first)
 My son got started on Life of Fred before I even had a look at the plan. That went well and was done rather quickly. Then he went to grab my iPod to play with, since I said he could use my iPod once his work was all done. I looked at him and asked, "What are you doing? You're not done!" He realized he'd only done math and had more to do and put it back without a problem.

I had him read Matthew 2 on his own last week (in French) and said I would read the third chapter to him this week. It's not CM but I do a lot of explaining of things, like today's Pharisees and whatnot. His narration was pitiful. lol. I need to learn to ask him sooner in a reading to give a narration. He did his copywork (barely anything, just some letters to practise since he seems to not be paying attention while writing them in words) while I was reading. I then grabbed our book on Ancients instead of doing Our Island Story today. He read that chapter on his own and told me a little bit. I didn't have the French grammar sheets ready, nor did I have the science ready (but I suspected I wouldn't, which is why it's in parentheses!). So that got cut a bit, or rather deferred: the grammar pages are now ready and he will do them tomorrow. I did, however, read to him from The Hobbit a bit and had him narrate some. (The Hobbit was actually scheduled for tomorrow, as was the reading from the Ancients.)

I'm not sure how long it took, clearly not as long as he ought to be spending working in the morning, but I like FlyLady's motto of progress, not perfection! Now, those aren't the only things that got done. I took out my guitar just after lunch and was trying to play this new song. He heard me, took out his guitar and we tuned in slightly and he practised a bit, trying to play one of the songs from Transformers--by ear. Getting his guitar tuned and practising was one of the things on the "try to get done this week" list. Getting that done makes me smile. :)

I realize as I write this that this has been my time management format for a while and when I actually sit down and do it and follow it, it works beautifully. Two simple steps:

  1. Decide what has to be done.
  2. Have your list of other things that can be done, that can be chosen from, when the time is available.
Clearly, I kind of changed the things with #1. Sometimes you have things that are scheduled or deadlined and they really have to be done that day. I got a GTD tip from a college student site about scheduling your study periods and making yourself stick to them, as though somebody else had scheduled that time in. I feel no need to insist on certain things being done at specific times, but being done at some point during the morning? Yes! You can't put in so much that you'll be scrambling to get it done (well, I can't), just what is truly the most important to you. Then, with your list from #2, you can pick and choose based on your mood or something that just fits with the flow you might be in. When I get any of those #2s done, it feels so good! It's icing on the cake because I know it didn't have to  be done. It was chosen, it was an extra.

Anyhow, I feel I may be rambling as I try to finish this post while making supper. I will leave you with a time management book that, while I still haven't managed to do all the steps fully, it has nonetheless helped me get more things done!

Monday, September 16, 2013

First Two Weeks Under the Belt!

A lovely week, each day wonderfully planned out, my children getting everything done each day they need to with positive attitudes... This was my vision for our first week. ;) It's not quite how things panned out.

Our first day, I lost my most recent plans for my son. Could not find them anywhere. So I grabbed an old plan and picked a few things to do. Those have become our "staple" for each day: Religious Studies (usually Bible reading and discussion--boy, did we have fun with the Proverbs 1 reading since the French translation we have uses the word "stupid"!), math (almost every day), history of some sort most days, and my mind is drawing a blank. Oh, some days with copywork. He resists it so much, but his handwriting is not good. And he still has to think about some of the letters. He needs lots more practice! Here and there, he has also done some computer programming, an Irish lesson.

So, my plan for his Charlotte Mason-style approach has been sort of followed but my plan wasn't specific enough; I didn't sit down each day to really plan out what the day would look like, so it's been so-so. At the same time, I'm so pleased with all the different things he's already covered! For now, the reading I assign him is definitely on the low side in terms of amount, but because it's low, he's adapting well to being assigned these readings. I know I need to take the next step and increase the things we do but there's been a bit of a snag:

I've been sick.

Not just sick, but lost-my-voice kind of sick. This creates a definite problem given some of the readings I'm doing aloud, both for him to learn to listen and narrate back and because of the difficulty or unfamiliarity with the language, like in the French history book I got (it's in French). Not only that, but because I started getting sick on the first school Friday, my brain hasn't been able to function well enough to think what more to do and actually have the gumption to implement it. I managed to teach my French class last week and by that evening, pretty much had no voice. I saw family on the weekend that commented I was losing my voice; no, no, I corrected them, I was regaining it! lol. Btw, this drink is fantastic for sore throats or laryngitis:

My daughter is doing much better with her studies this year, staying on top of things, being self-motivated to work in the evening if she didn't manage to finish something important during the day, things like that. She is quite enjoying that she can usually get her two core subjects done by or just after lunchtime, but then she feels a bit like she ought to be working on other things. I had been leaving the other time more open, but she may want more specific things as musts that I expect her to get done. Of course, now we've hit a snag in that she's sick and I actually gave her a sick day today to just try to recuperate from the entire weekend. She was feeling fine about being home and excited about different activities going on, but a disappointing, draining and ill-making weekend have left her blah and moaning a bit about not knowing about going to school or not (it's a moot point for this year! but when she's blah, the emotions go strong).

This brings us all to the beginning of the third week. Well, and now the first day of that week is done, so, four days left. If you are having a bit of a rough start, too, it's okay! Pull up your bootstraps, think about what you could plan for tomorrow that would make things be smoother and "make it so!" For me, my make-it-so plan is as follows:

  • Remind myself of the subject areas for my son that I feel are the most important right now: religious studies, math, history, copywork.
  • Remind myself to focus on routine and habits (like morning prayer time with the kids before we get moving on school work!) rather than all the little things I want to try to remember.
  • Write out an "ideal" plan for the rest of the week (it'll really only be 3 days for him since his cousins will be over on Friday, all day; it's just cruel to make him spend the morning working lol), but highlight those things I reminded myself were the most important things to get done.
  • Remind myself to be very specific in my plans: I too often use one or two words because the idea is clear in my head when I tend to think about it. But when I sit down to follow the plan, do I know what those words actually encompass? Which book I had in mind? How much to read? Etc.
  • Time to relax with a cup of tea (or the above-mentioned honey and lemon drink) and really let go of it all. I don't know about you, but I easily get caught up in thinking and thinking and thinking about things and sometimes, you just have to let the thoughts go, let them simmer in your subconscious and then deal with it again later. Down time is important; vital when things are chaotic or not working the way you had hoped.
If this doesn't all help me, I know that journalling can do me wonders!

What about you? How has the school year gone so far? What little things do you do to try to capture the reins again when things seems to be going out of control?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Oh, the nerves are starting...

I tend to get a little nervous with the beginning of a new school year. This year is going to be so different from last year, the butterflies are very much aflutter in my stomach!

I am trying to have a vision for our school weeks, how I'm going to make it work with a CM (in the morning) approach for my son (and his narrating orally to me until at least Christmas), my daughter having to work on English and math (which she ought to be able to do mostly alone), German (which we can get a year extension on, thank goodness), music, phys. ed and a sort of life skills class (the first two need me to provide some guidance and set weekly criteria that the school course doesn't provide), but otherwise should be able to do on her own), plus her potentially being at the outreach school one or two days a week AND another girl who will be working just on an English distance learning course for the first while and here 3 days a week. I think there are too many unknowns that I can't control that leave me realizing that I can figure out a vision all I want, but I need to be realistic and be prepared to change the vision.

Mixing in my son's CM work with the others is the big challenge. I had initially envisioned my reading to him a bit during the day, him reading one of the readings to me and his doing the rest on his own, but my asking narrations of him here and there. Is all this oral work going to work well with two high school girls present who are going to be trying to focus on other things? I think I need to be prepared to not be as involved in his school work as I thought I would be. Be prepared for perhaps delayed narrations when he can do a few at a time. And then I had this vision of afternoons being more open. If my daughter gets her academics done in the morning and so does my son, then afternoons were open for music, art, phys. ed., nature study, Montessori-type research and self-directed/group studies... With the other girl here, that changes things a bit. Well, I suppose it doesn't have to, except perhaps the nature study. But I could do that with my son, at least, on days where the other girl isn't here. Or take the occasional break with her here and do it with her, too. :)

But I also had this vision of reading certain books right before lunch. Do I still do this with the other girl here? I suppose it's not a bad idea. Should just make sure that I keep the same books for the days she will be here. But butterflies flutter more at the possibility that it could be a flop to do so.

I have figured out one thing and kind of told my daughter, but realized today just how important it will be: She needs to create a schedule for herself. I just found out that she can have the year-long extension on her German course (for a small fee), and to be able to get this course done properly, and to do the necessary review to recall everything previously done and keep practising with me (the course is pitiful in the area of practice), she needs to have at least 3 times a week scheduled for this course. End of story. She has music to practise I would say 5 days a week, plus the aural skills and theory to work on. She has the life skills course to work on and phys. ed hours to track (I ended up doing the tracking last year; I won't be this year) and even to plan and phys. ed assignments to do... She has to have a schedule. Maybe not a stone-carved schedule about specific times she's starting, but at least a "30 minutes Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons" kind of thing. And I think I will work with her on GTD principles so that each week, she's sitting down, thinking about the things she has to get done, should get done and wants to get done and to adjust the schedule or daily checklists as needed.

Just writing this all out helps with the nerves! :)

Friday, August 23, 2013

School! Have you started already?

We aren't officially starting here until Sept. 3, although I saw this past week that my daughter's high school courses (through a form of distance learning) technically start next Thursday. Given her English course isn't even available with that school (and we're likely switching that course to a different school anyhow because of our current school's English teacher), she won't be starting it. There is a possibility of switching her math course, too, which means she won't be starting it. Part of me wants to throw out there the other logical possibility that if she's not switching her English to this other school, then she needs to pick social studies or biology to do this first term. But my stomach does something at the thought of her enduring another semester with this particular English teacher. Or perhaps it's the thought of me having to edure another semester of this particular English teacher. (The guy seems nice enough; just lots of issues with inconsistencies, sudden changes...)

I have not yet completely figured out my son's first week. lol. I have the subjects decided, but not necessarily the books. I had bought The Book of the Ancient World by Dorothy Mills, but having looked through it, I might use both the first volume of Story of the World and this other book. And perhaps other biography fillers or something as we go along.

I'm slowly sorting out religious education for the year, with the help of Mater Amabilis, a site for Catholics using Charlotte Mason. I don't want to follow their plan exactly, but it does have me thinking of things I need to consider incorporating! We will have Bible reading, naturally, and will be taking their advice for Level 3 and covering a single Gospel this year: Matthew. We have Faith and Life already and I've worked out how we can get book 4 finished and cover books 5 and 6 this year. (My son's starting grade 8...) For apologetics, I'm thinking of Why Do Catholics Do That? which maybe doesn't quite fit with apologetics, but it's a good book, and I also have Mere Christianity that isn't Catholic, but it's recommended in the AO curriculum and is really aimed at the most common elements of the Christian faith. I don't know that we'll do the Church history, largely because I don't want to add yet another English resource for religion and I'm not able to find something that seems truly living bookish in French. I do hope, however, to find some good resources in French for learning about saints. That, at least, I should be able to find easily enough online.

I have other things figured out, but it is best I got moving with my day. What about you? Have you started school already? If not, do you have your plans in place?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

School starts in a *month*!

Oh my... School starts in a month! (A month minus a day, actually!) Some things have gotten decided and somewhat worked out and planned; other things, not so much.

Schooling for my 16yo... Not figured out. She wants to go to school full-time; I have said no and husband agrees with my concerns. Long story in all of it, but basically, had she wanted to last year, I would have said yes. The emotional vulnerability I think she is dealing with right now has given her a skewed idea of what school will bring to her and my gut is saying no to full-time. Other possibilities: Going to school part-time (she has said no); going to an outreach program (other homeschoolers we know have used this) that would be up to 15 hours per week (office doesn't open until Sept. 3; we don't know if she's even eligible); continue doing what we've been doing (online high school credits) and toying with different ideas for scheduling (5 weeks done intensely followed by one week off, for example, or do only English (rather than both English and math) intensely and get it done by early October, math instensely after that and done before December, giving her 2 months off core subjects before 2nd semester core courses begin). That's my attempt at making that part short.

For my son... Lots figured out! After reading a great deal of volume 1 and various parts from volume 6 of the Home Education Series by Charlotte Mason, joining a couple Charlotte Mason groups in Facebook, reading lots from the Ambleside Online site and some from the Simply Charlotte Mason site and other things online, I have, to my surprise (given I was about to sell the CM series in early June because I was "never going to actually use it"), really created a CM plan for him. It was a bit of a convoluted process, but I think I've found a point I'm satisfied--and rather pleased--with!

I had been looking seriously at Sonlight's Core G (this year; Core H next year) or Core W. I ended up scrapping that idea because it would all be in English and it was way too hard to find suitable books in French to substitute. I had in my mind that I should still do history like the Cores G&H sequence, but after reading in one of the CM volumes that they covered ancient history every year on the side, not part of the main history sequence, I then changed my thinking and came up with a plan to cover ancient history in two years AND some world history over the two years. (Why two years? Because he can start high school in 2 years and to get recognized high school credits here, he will have to do the provincial curriculum, which means no more me guiding the curriculum.)

I also read somewhere in the CM volumes (or perhaps it was one of the original school schedules) how they covered the history of two and eventually three different countries in addition to the ancient history. Canadian history was a given and I decided that US history made the most sense. At the same time, I had thoughts that English and French history up until the colonization of Canada and the US, at least, could be very useful in terms of understanding the origins and development of our countries. What I've decided upon now is to cover that part of English and French history this year, and then do Canadian and US history, at least up until and including WWII (adding in additional things specific to WWI and WWII beyond just Canada and the US) next year. No, this is not entirely how CM suggests doing things, but it's what makes the most sense to me given my timeframe. I could technically do ancient history, English history, French history and North American aboriginal history from the same time period as English and French history, but it feels overwhelming to be adding on another subject right now. Especially one where I have not seen anything that remotely easily covers it. BUT it's something I can think of adding on later in the year, even if it's just one book on a particular aboriginal nation or even just adding in short biographies.

Once I had that worked out, it became a matter of deciding on resources. I flitted around between different ones, had new ones suggested and finally made some decisions:

*History: An/Our Island Story for English history (recommended for AO pre-year 7) which, afaik, can be easily done in a single year, a French book I have not seen the inside of and am crossing my fingers about (it's on sale for $2.08 at least!) for the French history and Dorothy Mills' Book of the Ancient World. Supplementation (perhaps) with Plutarch's Lives (in French) and a biography I have yet to choose. (I might just Montessori-ize it and pick a few different people and let my son choose; I do, however, already have Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, as well as Hellen Keller's). The first three are more important to me and, truly, if that's all we did this year, it would still be more than he's been doing!

*Literature: I haven't entirely decided, although I thought I had my mind made up when I started writing this post yesterday. I was planning to alternate between English and French literature throughout the week. A typical AO program has only one or two literature books going on at a time, but the AO pre-year 7 has 5 different books going on each week. I had decided to have 4 books going on, but now I'm rethinking it. A little article about someone's experience at a PNEU school said that the author studied one literature book per term. I have no idea how long the books I have in mind might take. I already have three of the books recommended for pre-year 7 (King Arthur, Robin Hood and The Hobbit) and will have him choose at least 1 of them to start; the others will get put onto the free reading list. For the French book(s), I'm thinking something like The Three Musketeers (which will undoubtedly take a year--tough French when you're not used to traditional literary French and LONG! Over 800 pages in my version, although lots of footnotes; I chose it because he's seen The Man in the Iron Mask and I think he would like the backstory!) but also something easier to not completely turn him off French books. lol. I need to think of free reading lists (Jules Verne and Perreault come to mind for free readers, or a 2nd literature book to read in French) for both languages and figure out how we'll work that out (does he get to choose how much of it he reads? do we just have a free reading time and he reads what he can? does he need to alternate between English and French?...)

*Science (aka natural history): My plan is to have some each day, at least to start. If it's too much, or if we need a larger time slot to do some of the activities, we'll figure out a different plan. I'm going to give The Story of Science a shot as the "spine", then have the other days of the week be specific lessons (translated into French) from Montessori elementary albums I have (physics, chemistry and functional geography) and/or doing activities from the various science kits we have and don't seem to use! At least one kit has to have something done from it each week. As the year goes on, we may tie in more books for the different subject areas rather than mostly the hands-on stuff. Of course, there's once-a-week nature study to somehow figure out how to add in.

*Math: He never did finish Life of Fred: Fractions, but his math tables are weak, so the plan at the moment is to have math every day with one day of arithmetic work, next day with Life of Fred, and keep alternating. When he finishes the fractions book, he'll move onto the next book (name escapes me at the moment; something to do with percents and decimals). And at some point, I'll be changing the math schedule a bit so that he'll have one day a week of algebra (he does fine with the pre-algebra work we've done) and geometry and whatever else needs to be fit in to at least meet the school curriculum standards here.

*Geography: There's map work to do with the history that is covered, plus I found the Marco Polo book recommended for pre-year 7 online--and in French. Woot! That's just one day a week.

*Poetry: I think it's the pre-year 7 that says to read a poem a day. I'll do like with the literature and alternate between French and English poems. I have a few poetry collections I can use for English. I still have to do some researching for the French. (Oh, have since researched: Jacques Prévert is now on the list!)

*Foreign language: He has expressed an interest in both Latin and Irish. Yes, Irish. Why? Because it's different. "Ce serait cool." (It would be cool.) lol. My long-term readers might remember he's my "funny" one (his whole learning to talk, learning to crawl and walk, how he learned to read, his serious desire for a very specific pet monkey when he was 3...). My plan for that is to start with the Mango program and if he gets through that, we'll see if he wants to continue (I'd probably get Rosetta Stone at that point) or pick a different language. One of the CM schedules showed that each foreign language was done twice per week, and two foreign languages were done in the same term, so he'll alternate between the two.

*Other stuff: I still have to make some more specific plans about studying a composer, studying an artist, nature study, music and art practice, handicrafts/life skills, Shakespeare (might hold off a little on that one) and some books I'd like to fit in (Power of Positive Thinking; Rich Dad, Poor Dad for Teens, How to Read a Book, Socratic Logic), phys. ed, phase in things like recitation and dictation.... But those are extras that will either be for the afternoon or I will start fitting in as we adjust to this new format. I have things in mind, too, just not necessarily written down, like a year-long art practice plan where we have at least a month where he's doing cartooning, an area he enjoys. (I might start the Power of Positive Thinking with both of my kids very soon here! A good dose of learning to think positive is in order! lol)

My idea is to have the morning quite structured and the afternoons more open, more Montessori-style. Still with lessons (the "extras" like picture study, music study and practice, etc.), but opportunities for project/research work and him choosing what to do. He's not been choosing, or rather he's been choosing to take the easy way out and read comics and easy books, so I think providing him with a "feast", as Charlotte Mason called it, and in a structured manner while help. Over time, I might be able to loosen the reins a bit and he can pick the order for the morning schedule.

Someone in the one CM Facebook group gave their recommendation of what to start out with to slowly transition into CM over the span of 2 months. I'm taking that recommendation but modifying it a bit to meet my son's personality and experience. My son loves science, so I'm not waiting to add that in. I'm also starting narration, at least one a day, right away,  with a "warning" that as we go along, I'll be expecting him to narrate from every (or nearly every) book. He's not new to copywork, so that's also part of the early plan, and he wants to do Irish and Latin, so I figure we might as well start it right away.

Blogger doesn't seem to have a table feature, but I've come up with a rough schedule for our first week, which is only 4 days--and then realized we might be out for the first day. lol. I'll see later about typing it up into a table (I did it by hand) and taking a snapshot to post.

Was this long enough? lol

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer, So Far

Each year, I have visions of having all kinds of "free" time available to me to use as I wish with great plans on all the things I want to accomplish.

And then life happens. :P (You know what they say: Man plans and God laughs!)

One of my non-plans was ending up at my in-laws' lake property for a few days last week. It was a nice break from everything, but did leave me feeling like I wasn't getting "enough" done. So, I brought my little netbook along, a Sonlight catalogue, a couple of Charlotte Mason books and actually worked on school plans a bit. They are a mix of English and French, and long, so I won't copy and paste and I don't have time to summarize right now, but I'll just say that I covered pretty much all the different subject areas, some with specific plans or details and others more general.

For social studies, I have decided to go with the Sonlight Core G theme--whether I will see if someone here has a used one they are willing to sell or if I will buy the guide just to have the sequence, I'm not sure yet. I don't want the whole package because I want way more French involved! I just need something sort of decided for me in terms of what to cover. Covering the Core G topics this year and Core H next year will give the overview of history and some research opportunities and such that I would like him to have. (At the same time, as I type all of this, I'm now feeling doubtful! ARGH. lol)

There was quite a bit in the CM books that was good or matched up with Montessori. Funny how the two women were so diametrically opposite in some ways and so similar in others. I have notes somewhere that I will type up and share soon, I hope.

Other than school plans and being out at the lake, we've had visitors from out of town this week. This has meant not getting anything done. lol. And then we are going camping next week... Pretty much 3 weeks of time that I hadn't kept in mind I wouldn't have! We are mostly home after that, so I hope to actually be able to do some of the things I had planned to do this summer!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What Constitutes "Too Much Time On Your Hands"?

Have you ever read a book that you thought was okay, maybe even pretty good, and then just one line ruined the whole thing for you to the point you just couldn't continue?

Well, I've had that experience. I picked up a book on homeschooling at the library. I thought it might have some good tips on organization and at first, as I skimmed through a bit, it did get me thinking a bit and doing some self-evaluation. That part was good. But then I skimmed to a part today where it talked about not having enough time and having too much time on our hands.

Want to know what was, in her opinion, evidence of having too much time on your hands?

Reading at least 5 or 6 books per month.


I went back and reread the heading of the section to make sure I was understanding properly. No, no, I had not misunderstood. If you are reading 5 or 6 books per month, you are, apparently, not managing your time well, or not making the most of it or something.

I find myself just shocked. Stunned. How can reading 5 or 6 books per month be excessive? When I'm in a good groove for managing time and there's not a lot of chaos being thrown my way, I can easily read a book in a weekend, and then I'll do maybe 30 minutes of reading before bed each night. I sneak in reading when I have to wait, like afterschool as I wait for my nephew to arrive at my nieces' school (I have a 20-minute wait each day!) 5 to 6 books per month is something I can pull off and still be crazy busy.

I know people who say we ought to be reading a couple of books per week--focusing on books that motivate us, inspire us, educate us. That would be 8+ books per month. And yet, if we manage that, we apparently have too much time on our hands. She does not specify "novels" and "non-fiction", simply "books." I feel all discombobulated with the very idea.

She also said if you were watching 2+ hours of TV per day, you've got too much time on your hands. I do tend to watch 2+ hours of TV per day--about 2.5 hours when all is said and done. I relax with my kids in front of a couple of shows or have a movie on while I'm doing other things, like working on my taxes or making cards or planning my day or week or sorting through a box of stuff that needs decluttering. When I'm not exhausted, I'm typically doing something else at the same time, but not always; it's nice to just sit and enjoy the break from the intensity. Is 2 hours per day truly that excessive? She went so far as to proclaim that if you knew what had been talked about on talk shows all this afternoon, you'd definitely been watching too much! What if you were watching shows while folding laundry? Cutting out things for your kids' school stuff? What if you'd simply been sick that day?

This completely threw me for a loop and left me so discombobulated, I just don't even want to read any more of the book. It's one thing to tell people to be aware of where their time is going and is that how they want to be spending it, and quite another to be telling people that if they're managing to read a decent amount, they've got too much time in their hands! Isn't it?

Except now I'm feeling guilty for the time I'm spending on the computer typing up a blog post and relaxing with some FB games...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Babble, babble

My 15yo is doing a science unit test right now (only the science exam left to do! well, for science... tons of other stuff to do this week for English and social studies) and I don't feel like cleaning, so I'll babble about next year.

She has decided to not do the weekly homeschool program she's been doing this year and instead is adding on another dance class right before another already planned dance class. This works just fine because it's not an extra outing for me by adding on this class and by taking away the homeschool program, it frees up our week somewhat more and I don't have the complication of driving her to the program in the morning, coming home, picking up my nieces and nephew from school between 3 and 4 and then driving back to pick her up and finally getting home around 4:30. This change is good.

In terms of courses she's taking, she's planning on doing one of them this summer and just handing in the work in September (the information is all available online!), which will leave her with English Language Arts and math for her core subjects, then a first music course to finish first semester, and phys. ed. and art to get at least half-done. If she can make a habit of getting up between 8:30 and 9, she could get the core subjects out of the way by noon and have the afternoons open for music, art and phys. ed. We've learned a lot with this chaotic end of semester about pushing through stress and getting things done, and I'm prepared to keep up with the same level of insistence in the fall so that she stays on track with her courses. I think it's going to be a very good semester!! She's come a long way in terms of accepting that a lot of questions aren't about knowing but about thinking but she does still have some work to do with her perfectionism and writing assignments--always convinced what she's written is stupid, even though she's getting an A on most of it. (I'm really glad she's signed up to have other teachers mark her work because she has never believed me about the quality of her writing and now she has other people saying it!) She is very excited about the fall, not about English and math, but music and dance and now with the schedule more open during the day, we can go to the recreation centre weekly, to be honest, if we want. And meet up with other people there while we're at it.

This does have my brain turning to violin programs that she can use to self-teach. She's not really interested in having someone else direct her at this point, but is open to it if she feels she just needs some extra help. There are some places where we can just set up a lesson at a time, so that's good. (Yes, I've already done some research.) What she does need is resources that will help her. She's already thought of YouTube, but I'm thinking some sort of book/program that we can also use as a way of measuring progress, which will also help in terms of meeting some of the specific outcomes she's supposed to learn. I think I can leave the YouTube finding up to her, but I'll see what I can find in terms of a book or other kind of program.


This week is a crazy week. The poor girl is sick AND stressed AND has tons of work to get done. She is doing the one test now, but she has the exam in two days and has not even begun studying the first unit. She has 2 unit assignments to do for social studies, plus the unit tests AND the final exam--all for this week. And she's got to finish going through Romeo and Juliet, answer two packets of questions and do a small project or a test on the play; well, and she has to finish up what she's started for the movie study and her Animal Farm project. All this week. Well, before 1:30 on Friday because we are having company.

Which reminds me...

Those of you who have known me or been following for sometime--as in, from the old blog--might remember I was homeschooling a girl from another family during her grade 1 to grade 5 years. She moved a bit away for grade 6 and then they moved to Belize! She is back in Canada and after various things happening, it looks as though she might be going back to homeschooling and is interested in doing a couple of days per week with us--and is coming this Friday afternoon to chat about it. My daughter and I hope this will work out! Yes, that means that our weeks will be a little less open, but 2 days a week of having her here to work with us doesn't feel like something's being taken away from our week at all. Having a friend to work beside and chat with would add to my daughter's days, even if the two aren't working exactly on the same thing. I'll know more about what she has in mind once we talk on Friday.

Is this enough of a babble? lol

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Light at the End of the Tunnel!

My 15yo did her final science quiz yesterday. Woot! She had a huge smile when she saw it was the last one. Up until that point, everything just felt so overwhelming and like things weren't going to get done. Now, there's a feeling that the end is almost near--and things are getting done.

There's still a great deal of work for her to do the next two weeks, but this next week is the more intense one. She's already decided she may just skip certain assignment questions or just go, "Okay, whatever, I'll just babble."

She's now got a cold on top of everything, so it's slowing her down, but it's also somehow making her more relaxed about everything, so it's not totally slowing her down because she's not being (as) blocked by her perfectionism!

I'm feeling so excited--the end is almost near! lol

Monday, May 27, 2013

I have plans :D

I spent some time this weekend looking at the Sonlight catalogue. Especially the Core packages related to my son's age and what I envision us doing. I had just about decided that I would go ahead and do it but... the language is a problem. He needs more French, and the sheer amount of books that come as part of the program means far more reading in English than I would like him to do at this point.

But I noticed that part of the approach is similar to Charlotte Mason with an enjoyment of literature and things like copywork, which I think I will tackle a bit for the next month: Have him do some copywork in French from different things so he learns, mainly, how to spell words. Keep requiring him to read each day in French (today, he read 5 or 6 volumes of the French Tintin; I told him that was fantastic and to remember that he also needs to read things other than comics :P ). He already knows he will keep working on the Fractions Life of Fred, even into summer, until it's done. Those are the plans for right away with him.

For the fall, I told him while we were setting the table that I wanted him to pick some options next year. He said okay. I asked him if he knew what it meant. He said it meant he could choose things. I said yes, but what kinds of things? He didn’t know. I told him that some options are computers (be it learning to use different programs or focusing on a single program or learning to program or making websites), art (which could be just cartooning if he wanted), music and I couldn’t remember what else at that point (home ec. would be one). And he wants to do computer stuff. He thinks it sounds like a lot of fun. "Which part?" A little bit of everything. I'm now on the hunt for some good resources (be it printed text or online stuff) for that. Have some options available and do it Montessori-style where we work out together which order he will do it in and set some expected deadlines. We do have a book on how to program iPod/iPhone apps. It's a little complicated... I will really need to see what I can find that is suitable for a boy who will be 13 and completely new to this kind of thing.

As for the social studies dilemma, I've decided to do one of two things:

1) Either follow similar outcomes for the first year of the Sonlight world history package

2) or do a one-year overview of world history and create a Canadian history (or perhaps North American; that actually interests me more) history program on my own for the following year.

In both cases, my aim is to have at least half of the reading be in French. This will take some serious searching on my part and perhaps placing some of the onus on him, while moving through topics, to research and find stuff online in French. It sounds funny, but the Magic Treehouse books (La cabane magique in French) could be superb readers to have on hand in French. Yes, they are way below grade level (he'll be grade 8), but the French translation actually makes them a grade or two harder to read, placing them at about a grade 4 level, which is a nice gentle starting point for serious French reading and can be fairly quickly read. And tied in with French language arts assignments :P .

I think I'll be rather busy this summer trying to prepare for fall!

Friday, May 24, 2013

School year is nearing its end--so looking at next year!

As I often start doing in May, even though we still have work to do in the school year (our school year doesn't technically end before the last Thursday in June), my mind is working ahead to next year.

My 15yo has struggled a lot with the change in learning approach this year and the perfectionism, high standards and frustrations that come with being (likely) gifted have reared their ugly heads very strongly. She is very behind in her work, something we have discussed we can't let happen like this next year. Some solutions we have come up with:

*She can't participate in Rangers (Girl Guides) evenings or camps if she's not on track (this would be a HUGE blow! but it's a logical thing to have as a consequence).

*She really wants a job. I have said that I haven't decided yet but either I will ask her to prove to me that she can stay on track with her work for a while before she finds herself a job or that keeping a job she finds will be conditional upon her staying on track with her work.

*I have had the thought that she ought to be told by teachers roughly how much she should have done each week; she will be expected to work on school work all weekend and forego some luxuries if she's not caught up.

Another part of her stress now is that I have ended up doing the bulk of the reading for her (it was a way for her to stay focused, be interactive since I stop and comment and ask questions of her) and she stresses so much with her writing assignments that I sit next to her the entire time and sometimes write down what she says, suggest things, etc. She is far too stressed to simply "figure it out" or "try it on your own"--she has more than half the course work to do in 3 core subjects. In less than a month. Her stress is understandable and with stress comes blocks in able to think. (Some of her issues are with her English course but to contact the teacher and ask for clarification or any kind of help has not helped AT ALL, and often just confuses or frustrates more, so I have had to take on the teacher/tutor job full-time with that. It's been a rough year for this course!)

With the fall semester, I want to have a morning meeting of sorts with her, sit down and look at what the teachers expect to be done that week (and if they haven't told her, we figure out something and commit to it), what her plan is for the day, what she anticipates needing help with, etc. We would have a check-in at the end of the day to see if she needs to do "homework" that evening. I think if she can find her flow, and learn to play the "school game" a bit, she could potentially be done ALL of her required daily school work by 2pm each day, even if she doesn't start before 9am.


For my son, I have finally admitted to myself that I can't rely on my own devices. I am going to find some programs or resources or something to use as part of our school days but still give him some "Montessori say"--give him flexibility of when he'll work on what, but still have accountability deadlines for a certain amount of work. Things like that. I know I've seen Montessori jr highs that have used things like Saxon math for their math--it's simply that the student had the option of going their own pace, but with the understanding that they would still get a certain amount done within a semester or some such.

Some decisions made/thoughts for his work:

*Math: Keep going with Life of Fred and supplementation as needed. He will finish the Fractions book by the end of June, although with a rather shaky grasp of certain fractions concepts and his multiplication and division tables, I suspect, which is where the supplementation will come in once fall is here (probably using the Key to Fractions books and/or the Ray's Arithmetic books we have). Yes, I've been skipping The Bridge parts--it gets too frustrating or overwhelming and I really do want to see the book done by the end of June. We have the Decimals and Percents book (WITH the Bridges) which I will set a deadline for him to finish, probably end of October given there are 31 lessons plus the Bridges. After that, we apparently have skipped some books and have the Beginning Algebra book as the next book. It doesn't sound like I should jump him to that. My thoughts at the moment are to go back to the local grade 7 text and make sure everything has been covered and then do whatever is necessary in the local grade 8 text. Or he can take his pick between that, Key to or Ray's. Or if he's really loving Fred, get the missing three books. I have hinted that we might work on times tables here and there throughout the summer.

*Language Arts (both English and French):
-grammar: We have a whole bunch of different French grammar workbooks. I don't know that we have what would be needed for him exactly, and there's always the aspect of starting a new book and having a deadline. In any case, French grammar will have something set for him to do. (Actually, I have an old workbook, one I actually did when I was in junior high!, that I can copy and have him do--you can't get this book anymore, so I have no qualms about copying! It's quite a good resource.)

-spelling: I have Sequential Spelling for English, which I'm toying with the idea of insisting he does. For French, a lot of French spelling work is accomplished through learning grammar. I think I can take a more Montessori approach with this and we can develop his own personal dictionary for French words that give him trouble.

-writing: I don't think he's written a paragraph in his life. Thoughts at the moment are to use the Writing Strands program we have for part of the writing (can alternate the overall assignments between English and French) and perhaps finding some sort of typical classroom reading resource with questions, something to do maybe once a week, to have familiarity with that kind of thing. (This thought has come as a result of my daughter's resistance to all this new stuff and not having a sense of how it's to be done--because she's never done it and had it evaluated--and feeling the pressure that comes with marks and credits.) Overall goal for the year would be for him to have had practice in writing various kinds of texts (short story, auto/biography, poetry, letter--both personal and formal--and his first essay.

-reading: I may assign books to read or give him a choice of books to read, in both English and French. He doesn't question so much how to write things in English, but he hesitates in French because he doesn't read enough in French. I think I'd like to have a minimum number of books he needs to read. And yet, maybe not: When he really gets into something, he'll read it very quickly and move onto another book right away. If I say, "At least 10 books, a book per month," I could see him reading a book the first week and not touching another book the rest of the month... Perhaps I need less structure in this regard and just keep connecting with the goal of having him read a lot in both languages. Although I am toying with the idea of doing a novel study in each of the languages. (Perhaps Great Books-style for one?)

-Shakespeare will be a must.

-Oral: He does not project his voice well. In fact, my husband and I are constantly after him to speak more loudly or more clearly. Then there's the aspect of being able to tell back things. His speech is not always fluid in this regard. I'm thinking a bit of Charlotte Mason-style narration and recitation (actually, I think many Montessori schools also do recitation). I'll need to think more about this. (Actually, CM could be a help in more than one subject area...)

My thinking ahead to grade 9 is that we actually follow our school's online course work--without actually signing him up (or perhaps we will? lol)--so he gets a feel of just how much of that kind of work to expect in grade 10. He's not easy to predict in terms of his adaptability to new things. ELA is such an important subject, I think I'd like to take extra care to really prepare him.

*Science: I have NO idea what I'll do for science. I tried seeing if there was a text in French for the local schools, so we could kind of do the same thing, but then I remembered that I have the grade 9 French science text and it SUCKS, for lack of a better word. They had two English texts to choose from to do the translation and picked the wrong one. lol. We have all kinds of science stuff in the house. Tons. That's untouched. Perhaps we could structure it differently and set up a schedule of when we're going to use what? At the same time, the grade 8 science program here has some neat topics... I may just rent the science text from the school board and we can use it as we please. I keep trying to remind myself that meeting local standards--and going beyond--is what many Montessori schools aim to do.

*Social Studies: Ugh. I like history and geography but not the typical social studies programs we have here. The texts simply seem to throw in large amounts of information. Yet, my brain is working again to say that Montessoris aim to meet and exceed local curriculum. I'm thinking I did a disservice to my daughter in my approach of not working through local topics and expectations. Part of me kept hearing stories of unschooled students who hopped into high school and did fantastically. I didn't click, somehow, that some of the issues we faced in jr. high when she would want me to give her work but then would get too frustrated with it would follow her into high school work. At the same time... There's a lot of new above. If there were one subject I'd willing to be lax on in terms of standards for his grade 8 year, this would be the one. I'd rather have it integrated with language arts, writing opinion essays and researching historical events and civilizations and people. The local program covers "world views" (so exciting and pertinent to a 13yo, no? (sic)), the Renaissance (now THAT could be interesting!), "Japan--from Isolation to Adapataion" (um...) and then current events. Heck, if we can cover one of the units and perhaps go as in-depth as we would like, that could be a good year. I had wanted to cover world history this year in a very brief fashion but my heart's not actually in it. Well, my interest isn't, so hard to figure out what to do with my son with it! The Renaissance, though... That could lead to a huge year-long study with all the interconnected things: the art, the science, the people, the literature... It could actually be a lot of fun!

*Other subjects:
-Physical education: He's not likely to take up a team or anything but I think we should do something regular for it. I'll have to think about this.
-Religion: We still haven't finished the Faith and Life books I had meant to finish! I think I need to put reminders in my phone or computer so that I get told, "Hey, have you been working on this?" lol. OR write out a full year plan and schedule, keep it in a binder that gets checked daily.
-Options: If he were going to school, he'd be required to pick some options, three, I believe. I'm going to require that he pick some options. He can have home economics, art (or specifically drawing, ink drawing and other things related to cartooning), music (that would be a super good choice for him) or I don't know what else. Computer studies. A third language would be another option. We could always do something where he has a single option for x months and then switch.
-Self-directed learning. My goal is not to fill his time during the day with stuff I've decided. I want to get him working more in part to plant those seeds and perhaps help him find some interests other than playing on the computer and reading books that are, in a way, too easy for him. I envision part of the day or week or something being an open learning time where he picks whatever is he wants to work on. I may need to inspire him and say, "Well, I'm going to do this (lapbook, notebooking, building project, whatever it is...)."

Ahh, it feels good to get some thoughts down. :) I feel like I have a focus again! (I ought to have my own plan: my own teacher preparation plan. When's the last time I read a Montessori book?)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How to Homeschool a Teen Perfectionist...

The full title I wanted for this post:

How to Homeschool a Teen Perfectionist Who Lacks Self-Confidence and Is Also Likely Gifted (So Not Only Has Very High Expectations of Herself But Also Makes Questions Far More Complicated Than They Are Intended to Be)

I don't actually have any content for this post, unfortunately. Looking for answers...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Unexpected Multiplication Table Work

As long-term readers know, I have not been consistently Montessori with my son and have leaned toward unschooling. While I've presented different things to him over the years for working on multiplication, he has not had any real interest and I was never consistent enough to get him to a point of really mastering his tables.

In enters this last part of the school year and my insistence that he do some sort of regular math and felt that something more structured would work better with him--he can use the school text or he can use Life of Fred--Fractions. (I was also thinking I could just give him Ray's Arithmetic if he really protested to those two.) He chose Life of Fred.

Well, he's gotten to parts where he needs to use the lowest common denominator. And I have basically told him to each time write out the multiples of his denominators to find the common denominator. He is getting faster and faster at it and I'm noticing he is remembering more easily certain facts, like just now, 7x3, he knew immediately was 21. :)

It's a bit of a rough go having him work on fractions when he doesn't know his multiplication tables, but he knows I am insisting that he will keep working on this book until he's done, even if it's during the summer, so he is pretty willing each day to work on a lesson.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

End of the Year is Near! (And thoughts on education)

The final crunch is upon us. And some of the chaos around here is dying down! My daughter had her last dance competition this morning (no more extra rehearsals required), my son had his Confirmation this evening (which also means no more preparation classes), there are only a couple more Rangers (Girl Guides) things this month and a trip at the end of June. My son's weekly activity ended at the end of April. Only a few more weeks of French classes left to teach. My daughter's weekly homeschool "co-op" finished last week. I finally feel like things are calming down.

With that calming down, however, it really just means there is more time for my daughter to try to get all of her work done before the deadlines! We have already discussed what can be done next year to avoid this kind of situation again. It's one thing to be behind; it's another thing to be behind in everything, including half the semester in one course, over have a semester in another...

She is, however, really getting something about traditional school work to sink in:

It's not really about learning.

I can't remember her word-for-word comment the other day, but it was a strong complaint about them not wanting her to really learn and understand what she's doing but simply "do the work" and memorize things.

It has me wondering if there was something different I should have done for her to make the transition. She is a perfectionist, a high achiever, but has always had the opportunity to work toward understanding. Making the sudden switch from the style of studies we were doing to a full out online program with onerous texts and strange questions and a ton of stuff crammed together in sometimes questionable ways... It's been tough. She's finally hit a point of going, "I just want to get the work done now and don't really care about the mark." Which isn't the best attitude and doesn't completely help since she still faces work she stresses over, but at least there's a lot of willingness on her part to try and just get through stuff.

This all has me thinking about my son, too. He's not so perfectionistic, although he's definitely resistant. I'm thinking now of perhaps doing one traditional-style course with him next year, his grade 8 year, and then two his grade 9 year. At the same time, I'm wondering if it's worth directing him toward the provincial diploma. Good thing I have until September to figure out what to do for next school year!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Change in comment structure

I have started getting numerous spam comments (well, comment attempts--I have comments on moderation precisely because I seemed to get spammers when I didn't moderate) despite moderation so I've changed the settings so that you now have to put in a word verification.

Always a shame when others' pain-in-then-neck behaviour forces the "good" ones to have to do something extra. :(

Saturday, April 13, 2013

From the mouths of babes

My teen may not be a "babe" anymore, but she said something truly insightful the other day.

We were talking about her grade 10 science course, one she's doing online to meet provincial requirements for credit. There is a LOT in this course and she has been very discouraged because she is so behind. I told her how they had cut back on what used to be 3 separate courses (chemistry, bio and physics) and crammed it all into a single science course. I can't remember exactly what led to her comment, but here it is (more or less):

"Why would they want students to rush through all of this? Wouldn't it be better if we had more time and really learned the stuff?"

She is learning the unfortunate lesson of standard high school education (and even the education for many college-level programs) that is not really about learning and mastering, but about just getting through the work. She is determined to get the provincial high school diploma (only high school diplomas granted by the provincial government are recognized as authentic diplomas here), but is starting to see she's going to have to sacrifice really knowing the material.

My son has 2.5 years before he is high school age. I'm not sure which direction we'll go in with him. There is definite work that needs to be done before he can even consider starting high school credit courses, should that be the route he pursues, which may mean waiting an extra year (he has a birthday that would easily allow us to do that). But even if he doesn't do official credits, there's still a certain level of education that would be good for him to attain, wouldn't there be? Having a longer range vision in mind may help me figure out what to do in the short-term.

Friday, April 12, 2013

One of Those Days

I'm having one of those days, it seems. But it's a "hahaha" kind of day, so it's all good. ;)

I had a bit of a rough sleep, was awake in the middle of the night for about an hour, then fell back asleep. Then had a cat start annoying me around 6am; I finally got up at 6:30.

Around 7, went for a shower. Washed my hair twice (I wash my hair every other day), washed my face then went to put conditioner in. And realized that I had conditioned my hair twice instead of washing it. (When I did wash it, it was quite sudsy, so I'm now wondering if one could get away with just conditioning hair! :D) I just laughed at myself.

I was super slow at getting ready. Got downstairs, made some oatmeal. And 10-15 minutes later, realized I was hungry and hadn't eaten my oatmeal. It was still a little warm at least. lol

I think I just need a good nap. I've let my son have a computer turn and he said he'll work later. My daughter's still sleeping and I just hope I'm in good shape for her. She'll probably sleep another hour, as her pattern has been lately. Maybe I'll take a nap now. (Who naps at 8:30 am? lol)

ADDENDUM--8:45 am. My daughter is up. (?!) She's walking around like a zombie. This could be a very "interesting" day!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Writing Idea!

I just had a writing idea for my 12yo: write his opinion about this month's National Geographic cover page.

What's the topic?

Reviving Extinct Species: We can, but should we?

Oh dear...

It's been nearly a month since I last posted. Life has just been so crazy and there has been continued illness and low energy levels... My new website project has taken a back seat and I'm just trying to get back into it properly now. It's just been *myheadshakesasItrytofindagooddescriptor*.

But life does continue. What are we doing school-wise right now?

*12yo son*
-Got him back to working on Life of Fred. He's doing the Fractions book right now and I want him to do at least a lesson a day to move onto the next book before the end of the school year. I also want to make sure to have some fun with him--I saw that we have a good multiplication bingo game and since his multiplication table knowledge is weak and he doesn't really like doing booklets and such, I will invite him to play with me today.
-Have started reading Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (did you know the author disappeared after taking off in a plane?? I had no clue; English: The Little Prince). It was recommended by one of the Confirmation prep leaders as a story to (re-)read with our kids. I figured it fits nicely with language arts, too. :D
-He's finding Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde rather challenging; he's not used to the style, so we are switching to me reading to him and he has to have a novel he reads on the side. Right now, he's chosen a book from the How to Train Your Dragon series, but I think I will see what selection there is a step beyond that and see if I can get him to move onto something a little more difficult when he's done.
-Social studies? Um... Still having an issue with that. I do have some books out on Canadian history, but I can't seem to figure out how to start tackling the subject.
-Writing: Today, he writes. Just a sentence. I'm going to have him say one sentence to me about something he's read or done today and then have him write it down. We will do this each school day and progressively add more sentences. I do know that a guided research thing could also help.
-Herb garden: I'll have to take pictures and share sometime. I'm not sure we'll manage to keep the parsley alive, but the basil seems to be doing okay!

*15yo daughter*
-She's having issues. Health, stress, both... She's quite behind and we may have to carry over some work into June, which means it won't show up on her report card until next semester. Which is fine. I think she can finish her social studies, ELA, art and phys. ed. on time; it's science that's a bit harder. We have started looking at the possibility that wheat is causing some of her emotional levels and health issues. We had gone gluten-free for a week and a half in December and it was the happiest, healthiest she'd been in a while. She had had a couple of blips with rice krispies, but that didn't seem to change anything, so we are now just trying wheat. She'd gone two days and messed up by accident last night. She gets today, tomorrow and Friday, but chances are there will be wheat in the evening on Saturday and since this doesn't feel like a "I've GOT to do this" situation, she will indulge. Having 3.5 days wheat-free and then some wheat at the end of the day may provide us with some info, or not. She might need longer for us to see a real difference. And we need to somehow work on changing negative thoughts about things to positive thoughts. (Will she actually listen to me? I keep thinking some sort of seminar or book or other resource might be better. Or maybe just play motivational audiobooks from Jack Canfield and the like when she's not working on school work? :D)

-She's been wanting to practise driving. She's had her learner's licence since she turned 14; she's now 15.5 and has only driven in a nearby parking lot maybe 3 times. Well, now it's been one more time because I took her out to the parking lot yesterday. I need to find something to know how to guide her better and what she can practise. And then there's an issue: We've got a minivan and a 4Runner, neither of which are ideal for a 4'11.5" girl to learn to drive in. I've been starting to look for a smaller vehicle largely because I just want one but I think it would be better for her, too. The van would be reserved for just transporting numerous children when needed--I do expect to be running the "after-school bus service" next year, too! (I pick up my two nieces and nephew after school and sometimes have to have my daughter and or/son with us.) I'm thinking of a Toyota Echo 2-door hatchback. I see one every day when I pick up my nieces and it's just so darn cute. lol

All right, enough for now. Time for me to "get back to business"!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fun punctuation books!

Have you read this book yet?

If not, I highly recommend it! I read it years ago and found it to be just fantastic. I'm nit-picky with punctuation and it drives me crazy to see so many signs and ads in our city with serious errors! Even on TV... What was it that I saw the other day? I can't remember. But they didn't put a hyphen where it was needed so it didn't actually make sense! lol

At the library on Saturday, seeing what I could find on Canadian history, I stumbled across a couple of Lynne Truss's books--for kids. I gave them to my son to read today and he got a good chuckle. But it was also a very easy way of giving the lesson that punctuation matters!!

The first one for kids, all about commas:

The second one for kids, looking at different punctuations. (WARNING: There is a drawing with a king with his head cut off and some blood. It didn't faze my 12yo, but a sensitive younger child might have an issue with it! That said, I laughed more with this one than the first one!)

And the third one, which we haven't gotten our hands on yet, but it's all about apostrophes, something a large percentage of the adult population doesn't seem to know how to use properly!

You can click on any of the books and they will take you to Amazon where you can read some of the reviews and see if they sound like a good fit for your family. :)

I now have a hankering to reread the first "Eat, Shoots and Leaves"! :)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hooked On Phonics?

Anybody know anything about Hooked on Phonics? They asked me to promote them, but never having seen the product and really knowing nothing about it... I figured I'd do a little research first. Can't say I've really heard people in Montessori homeschooling use it, although my blog's not strictly Montessori... Hm...

The Underground Railroad

With Harriet Tubman's birthday this past Sunday, I shared a little bit about the Underground Railroad with my kids. Yesterday, my 12yo and I looked into it more and I found a number of links that I thought I would share with you. My main focus has been on information from the Canadian side of things, but there are links from both sides of the border:

From The Canadian Encyclopedia:

North American Black Historical Museum (in Ontario):

Buxton National Historic Site and Museum:

North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association:

From National Geographic (interactive site; very good!):

I have also done up a post on some places to visit on vacation:

Reading things from the above got us wondering about slavery in Canada:


Funny thing was that we started looking at information about the Underground Railroad yesterday, which led somehow to talking about aboriginal peoples of North America, which then led us to finding a book online written in 1915 where the opening was almost like reading a Montessori Great Lesson on the formation of the Earth! We ended up looking up "Archaean rock" and discovered that it's the rock in the Canadian Shield, which led to looking at pictures of lakes I've camped at in the Northwest Territories and some images of Yellowknife, where I spent half my childhood. Funny how one topic can so quickly lead to something completely unrelated! lol