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. :(