Saturday, March 28, 2015

Montessori High School at Home Meanderings

Spring break has officially started, and what am I doing? Relaxing? Having fun? Catching up on sleep or reading?


I'm working on high school plans, in part so I can set some plans in place for the rest of the school year for my son.

I've actually been working on things all week. I started a separate blog for people homeschooling high school in Alberta, I've been asking questions of people regarding getting credits (it's not the same here as many homeschoolers in the US do it, although at least we can earn official credits here as homeschoolers; not the case in all provinces). I've been thinking and mulling and trying to figure out how we can move in a direction where my son is reading and writing more and how we can do social studies, in particular, but also science next year, without relying on the textbook. Or ideally, touching the textbooks at all. Well, maybe some of the assignments or self-checks.

So, I find myself here shortly after noon on a cloudy Saturday morning, first full day of Spring Break, having already taken the car in for an oil change and eaten 3 chocolate chip cookies (what does that have to do with anything? no clue--catching up on sleep might be a better choice today) sitting on my laptop researching Montessori high school.

At the Austin Montessori School, this opening sentence catches my eye:

In the Austin Montessori Adolescent Community the adults collaborate to prepare an environment which meets the cognitive, social, and physical needs of adolescents so that they can continue their individual self development.

What are my son's cognitive needs?
*One, to learn to pay more attention. He is not ADD; more off in LaLaLand a lot. Not here and present. Perhaps having him learn meditation and other activities that encourage focus in the now would be useful. Other than watching YouTube videos of people playing video games.
*Stimulating, challenging, interesting, growing in logic, analysis, synthesis... He also needs to learn things like reviewing to prepare for tests and how to actually do things to remember information you might not remember automatically (I've been reading Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning and know, now, that I will quiz him often and train him to quiz himself and do things like narration in small bits, working up to larger sections to narrate and so on). Heck, he might even like some of the memory training tactics or speed reading and such. These are things that academics and other courses will address or incorporate, although I'm not sure they address logic as much as I'd like them to. Not explicitly. I do have a book for that, one we'd even started. I don't know if it has been found since we moved. (I still can't find our copy of The Hobbit...)

What are his social needs?
*He needs activities in which he can interact with others, but as an introvert, he doesn't need a huge amount of this. He does, however, need more than he's getting. He actually said one day not too long ago something to the effect that he does what he does (mostly be on his iPad) because he doesn't have friends around to do things with. The reality of living in a large city where homeschoolers are all spread out, he doesn't see ones his age very often, can't establish friendships with them, so, really, 99% of his friends are his 3 cousins (okay, I guess it's really 75%--he has one other friend) who all go to school and live at least a 25-minute drive away. It's tough. But I need to remind myself this is a need. My daughter has this need more than he does and it's one in which we've really struggled to get it filled without her heading to school (which, honestly, I think would not work well for her; as she's been spending more time with coworkers--who are, for the most part, older than her by at least a couple of years--I think she's seeing that her lack of "fitting in" very well is that, while most of her homeschooling comrades are younger than her, she does fit in better with a group that's older than her, despite her petite size, which high school kids seem to be very quick to dismiss her for for some reason, but I digress).
*Finding his place in this world. Okay, maybe not entirely, but getting a sense of having a role in the greater world. While he has shown interest in a job for the financial aspect of it, it could help with this social need, as could volunteering. (Note to self: Bring the kids to that one homeless charity's thrift shop that's just down the street! See if there's some way we can help.)

What are his physical needs?
*Healthy foods. I'm not sure why, but he said to me just yesterday or Thursday that he wants something set up so he can try to aim for a certain number of fruits and vegetables every day.
*Health class addresses some of this.
*Physical education--My plan is for him to do phys. ed. all the way through high school. Largely because he needs those credits, but also because he has a tendency, since becoming an adolescent, to just do NOTHING. His dad keeps bringing up that he (the 14-year old) should be on a team of some kind (although his dad makes it such a "grander" thing, "He needs to be part of something greater than himself", as though sports teams are the only way? but that's a whole other thing). I think the only way that would happen is to get him out and watching some of these sports in action, maybe get him going, "Hm, that looks like fun," AND having someone on the team that he knows. He is soooo introverted and it's a serious threat to not know anybody, or not know them well, when surrounded by a group of strangers. That said, if we were willing to dish out the money for a membership to the rec centres (which would end up being over $1000/year just for the two of us, or let's say we just do 6 months of winter, under $600...), I could set something up where other families/teen boys meet up with us every week to do sports. Not quite a team, but it would give him greater variety and wouldn't involve us trying to coordinate 4 vastly different schedules with only 2 vehicles. He really doesn't like the idea of having to go to a practice or two a week plus a game for something he's not super interested in and I can't blame him. His dad, on the other hand, played soccer all through elementary, junior high, high school and still today, in his 40s. He has a completely different mentality about it, so a sports team is always his solution. ;)
*Good environment: Fresh air, air quality inside the home, etc.

There are probably others, but I'm getting tired of typing about this. Hahaha.

Okay, so with those three aspects in mind, how would you organize your homeschooling during the high school years? :D

Hm, you know, they've left out emotional in this, but I guess it's often classified as socio-emotional. Or psychological/emotional. I'm not sure where my idea fits in exactly, but the idea of a sense of accomplishment. This might just be a personal sense of accomplishment or one where there's a sense of making a difference for others (that's part of the social need, I suppose).

Where am I going with this?? My brain has shut off. All I know is I want something engaging, stimulating, interesting, even though most of the content will be decided for us. Something that truly respects his development. His sister decided to do the online classes and didn't really want me involved in it at all--her need for feeling like she can take care of things herself--but he's not the same child at all and isn't just going to take charge and get things done. I need to plan and prepare.

So, has my babble confused you? Inspired you? Informed you? How have you organized your homeschooling during the high school years Montessori-style?

Friday, March 27, 2015

I'm now on Facebook!

Well, I, personally, have been on Facebook for years, but I decided to set up a Facebook page for this blog for two reasons:

1) Potentially increase readership.

2) Because sometimes I want to share things on this blog but don't want to go through all the trouble of starting a post, typing this and that... Those things--links, really, to articles and sites and such--will now be easily posted through the Facebook page.

Consider meeting up with me there today. :)

Finland Goes Montessori-ish

I just read an article about how Finland--who already has what is considered to be among the best, if not be the best, education system in the world--is making changes to their system. While there are those who would say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," Finland feels that their system is a bit broken and they are looking to make it better.

What are they doing?

They are getting rid of official subject titles and will be combining subjects as part of a larger study and having children work together in small groups. So, a study on the European Union, for example, might involve reading a novel, working with maps... Sound familiar, Montessorians? (Of course, those who use unit studies will say the same thing. ;) )

You can read more here:

Thursday, March 26, 2015

14-Year Olds Are Big Toddlers

I made the mistake yesterday of introducing my son to a scientific calculator during our math time. (I say "our", but it's really "his", isn't it?)

That is not to say that he's never seen or used a calculator before. It's just that, at least so far this school year and probably all of last year, he did not use a calculator or if he did, it was just a basic calculator without any fancy things. His math so far has used numbers that I expected him to work it out in his head or on paper.

But the questions yesterday were a little more complicated and I didn't want the focus concepts to be bogged down with his having to do all the calculations (which he's slow at, so maybe I should have).

Problem was: It didn't speed things up AT ALL. O.M.G. It slowed things down ridiculously because it was like letting a toddler loose in a toy store where everything was available to play with.

I wish the calculator had more memory of what he put in it so I could share the sequence with you properly. Let's just say it started out fine, with him learning where the squared button was and how to used the 2ND button to do the opposite of squaring: square root. Okay, well, actually, no, that did get messed up a bit because he went  3242 for 32 + 42, but it was otherwise okay. After that, though, all heck broke loose.

He was pressing anything and everything and then sharing with me the results. (Um, why?) He was supposed to be figuring out angles and sides using the Pythagorean theorem or just from the fact that all angles in a triangle add up to 180. It was supposed to be a review that we'd go through pretty quickly to then tackle the first section from a local textbook dealing with circles, tangents and triangles with the circles and tangents, figuring out missing degrees and sides.

But nooOOOooo.

"Oh, look. Somethingsomething something nPr somethingorother." With giggles.

"Um, yeah, that's for probability which you'll do for grade 12 math [if you live that long]. Can you get back to the question?" (Okay, I admit it, I was laughing with my frustration and laughed just now writing it.)

More giggles from him as he shows me various things that have nothing to do with any of the questions he's supposed to be working on. Giggles from this 5'7"-5'8" 14-year old boy with a darkening upper lip and slightly lower voice that's still changing and occasionally cracking, especially when he laughs.

More pressing of buttons. "Look! Blah blah blah blah-nothing-to-do-with-what-he's-supposed-to-be-doing = 0." (Square root of a negative decimal number to some ridiculous exponent.)

"OMG, would you just do the question??"

Giggles. Pressing this and pressing that and more comments and more not doing one of the first couple of questions. "Look, One og...." I glance over. "That's 'log'." (Yes, I admit, I didn't help any by contributing.) "It looks like a 1." "It's an L. Trust me."

He finally does the question. By this point, it's possible only one question has actually gotten done. I'm not sure. My patience is wearing thin all while I'm actually laughing quite a bit. After some more aimless exploring of the calculator (why do I hear Maria Montessori going, "Tsk, tsk"?), he gets to a question where he has to figure out 'a' from a2 + b2 = c2.

"What am I supposed to do?"

"Use the calculator to figure out a."

Punching things. Not aimless exploring this time, but he seems perplexed.

"I can't find the a."


"On the calculator. I can't find a."


This is not the first question where he's had to find the missing letter value. What is his mind doing??

"You can't just put 'a' in the calculator."

"But you said to use the calculator to figure out a."

Pure literal moment going on negating everything he'd just done before. (What would they do with him in school?) I think it was at this point that I said to him, "Oh my gosh, you are going to be the death of me." Followed by, "You can't put 'a' in the calculator and have it figure it out for you. You have to do it like the other questions, figure out this part [point to paper], then use the calculator to do the calculations to figure out a."


That was not the end of it all. More giggles did end up popping up. It all led to us switching to something else before he'd finished the work I had anticipated him getting done yesterday.

Naturally, when we were all done for the day, he had no further interest in his calculator-exploring pursuits on his own time. I couldn't help thinking of Maria Montessori likening the first part of adolescence (ages 12-15) to the first plane of development (ages 0-3), which, while she was more focused on the intensity of physical and mental development, many have said that behaviourly it matches up, too, making the 14-year old in some respects like the 2-year old.

I looked at the calculator later on and found this on it:


Why? I then remembered his discovering "cos" and giggling as he read it aloud to me.

How old is this boy?

Oh, right: Second toddlerhood.

Something to keep in mind for next time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

3 Sites for Math Worksheets for Pre-Algebra and Higher

I don't have the "local" math textbook this year for my son. We've mostly been using The Key to... series. He's been slogging through the inequalities section in one of the Algebra booklets and I just felt like he needed something different today, so I went online to look at a pdf version of the local text to see what else we might do. They do some circle geometry this year, but since he'd never done angles with parallel lines and transversals, I decided to do that with him today. But, unless I tried to find our geometry Key to... booklets and see if they had anything, I had nothing for him. I went online and quickly found something. I figured I might as well share it and two other sites I really like that can be very useful when you want to print off a quick worksheet in the higher grades.

First, there's , the one I used today. They have everything from preschool up to pre-calculus or calculus (I'm not entirely sure what pre-calculus comprises).

One of my favourite sites which start with pre-algebra and goes up, plus they include geometry and trigonometry, is . While they do have software you can purchase, they also have a whole ton of great free worksheets.

Then there's Purple This site is excellent for the explanation of algebra topics.

Do you have any great online math worksheet resources for middle and high schoolers?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I'm Not a Mean Mom After All

My son went to the previously talked about church-based youth activity, the one that he made clear, without saying it explicitly, that I was a mean mom. And he survived it. The talk and activities themselves turned out to not be so great--something his sister confirmed. She's been to several of these types of activities and was disappointed in yesterday's.

And yet...

When I asked him if it was so terrible, he said no, but that the only good part was hanging out with the other guys.

Which was my and his dad's whole point of making him go. :P

He had one friend there, who had a friend with him. A couple of other boys he knew, just not well, and some boys he probably never met before. The bunch stuck together as a group. The two he didn't know well are in my weekly French class, a class I've been threatening my son that I'll make him go sometime just so he could get to know those two better or at least to have more contact with other people. And every time I made mention that I might make him go sometime, he grumbled the way he grumbled about going to this youth activity.

Know what he said out of the blue yesterday, after saying that hanging out with the other guys was the only good part?

That he might like to actually go to French class sometime to hang out with those two.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

It's Pi Day!

3/14. Pi is thought of as 3.14. Today it's 3/14/15. Guess what the next two digits are? 15. So, 3.1415.


We celebrate Pi Day every year by buying pies. It's a must. And, as you know, to calculate the circumference of that pie, we would need pi. It's a sign: we need pies on Pi Day.

And for something interesting if you like The Simpsons:

Pi and Four Fingers

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Who Are You and What Have You Done with My Son?

The teen years are fascinating years. They can be difficult, or have difficulties, but which stage of life doesn't? But they can also have times of just making you smile or be in awe.

My son has been sticking out lately as changing. Growing. A certain sense of humour, a way of saying things, that just cracks me up sometimes. Not in a bad way at all, but cracking up because it's not only funny, but a level of sophistication that was unexpected. It's not quite the same humour he had just a year ago, which had been the same sense of humour he'd had for ages. I wish I knew how to explain it.

And then, about a week ago, I had asked for his help in the kitchen unloading the dishwasher while I took care of meal preparation. He unloaded the dishwasher--and then loaded the dirty dishes in it. I can not tell you how many times his dad and I have said things like, "You know, you can go a step further and put the dishes in without us actually asking you." This was the first time he had ever filled the empty dishwasher without my asking. That was the first recent incidence of, "Who are you and what have you done with my son?"

The second was just Tuesday. When he, his sister and I eat lunch together, we have a "tradition" of watching an episode of Doctor Who. He loves the show. Sometimes we'll watch 2 episodes. Tuesday, after we'd finished one, I gave him the option of watching another episode or working with me. He chose to do some school work. I did actually think, but didn't say, "Who are you and what have you done with my son?"

Neither the dishwasher-filling nor the choosing school work over other things seems to have lasted, but they are glimpses into this person he is becoming. And it's a total delight.

Friday, March 6, 2015

I am *such* a mean mom!

There is a church activity for youth coming up and I told my son he would be attending. He, on the other hand, would not be choosing to go if I left it up to him. And he grumbled about it the other day, thoroughly unhappy with my forcing him to go--that it was like forcing him to work in a nuclear power plant. (OMG. lol.)

Maria Montessori might have given him the option, except he's not what Maria Montessori would call "normalized", so perhaps not. Maria might actually support me in my decision: this is a boy who spends a lot of time by himself, only one weekly guitar lesson as regular outside contact with the world. We have asked him if he wants to do this, do that or that, and usually it's no--but he might if his cousins are there. She would be all about getting him into the society beyond, I think.

He has no real friends outside of his cousins, which isn't a bad thing--except that he sees three of them rather rarely and the other one at the weekly guitar lesson and sometimes sleepovers. He actually asked if he could invite his guitar lesson cousin to go with him--that would make up for my meanness, I suppose--but not only did I not want him to, but his cousin is always busy with his own activities on Saturdays, so it was a moot point. I didn't want this other cousin going because if he did go, then my son would spend all of his time with his cousin and not getting to know better some of the other boys there (he knows a couple already, even played with one at our place a few times when they were young, and I'm sure could be good friends with them, but dang, he's so resistant to "outside" people--has been since he was a wee thing).

So, it went back to grumble. And why does he have to go and what will they do and upon hearing that there would be games (it's grades 7 through 12), he said they would probably all be boring baby games (I said he might actually end up being one of the younger kids there, so stop that line of thinking)... He hasn't said I'm mean, but I know he's thinking it.

But that's okay. I'm okay with being the mean mom. This is like  the "meanness" of causing pain to get out a nasty sliver or having a bone reset. It's pushing him out of his comfort zone in a completely safe way, even if he can't see that it's completely safe. He will probably really enjoy most of the day, if he lets himself. I'm not thrusting him into a group of unknown people by himself; his sister's going, her friend whom he knows is going, other teens he sort of knows are going, at least two boys he knows are going... It'd be mean of me to send him at this stage without anybody there he knows, but that's not the case. So, I don't think I'm being mean and I think he might even come out of it thinking I'm not being mean; it wouldn't be the first time he was unhappy with his dad and me about something we'd decided and then later, he was it was a smart decision on our part and actually thanked us. It'd be nice to get  a "Thanks for making me go," but if it ends up with me still being the mean mom, I'm fine with that. :)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Science Excitement!

Since posting my plan but a few minutes ago, I have gone to the provincial education site to find the outcomes for science. Well, actually, I headed over to Roots and Wings before that and was reminded that if my son were in a Montessori school, they would be covering the provincial objectives by being given the outcomes as a way to measure progress through them. But anyhow, I was looking at the science outcomes and was reminded that one of the grade 9 science units is on space exploration. Woot! That could be super interesting. We often have things come our way about getting to Mars and discuss that, so it would be a great topic.

Okay, I just had to share. ;)

Sunday Planning: The Week of March 2-6

I clearly haven't been doing my weekly Wrap-Ups. Last week was kind of a write-off, anyhow, which I somewhat hinted at with feeling like we needed a break. But the break can't continue, so let me get down to some planning.

First off, schedule-wise, there's just our usual Thursday activities, my daughter (17-year old) and I will be attending an information session on Friday and then there's the usual evening activities.


*The 17-year old has to get back into her social studies work. She's just about done the course, just has a couple of assignments to finish and the final exam.
*She also said she'd like to go for her driver's test within the next couple of weeks. This means some extra practice in areas they will test her in but she doesn't normally drive in, like school zones.
*We are behind in submitting her phys. ed. hours. And I still haven't found her phys. ed. assignments that she'd started back in September or October. Stuff to get done.
*We should also see if there is another credit course she'd like to tag on. Like Work Experience.
*For my 14-year old, we're doing better (except for last week) at getting more done during the week, but I still need to keep slowly adding onto it. I hear things from Montessori resources "freedom within limits" and a reminder that certain limits need to be set for his screen time, specifically, the iPad.
*Math: We've moved into inequalities, still using The Key to Algebra series (can't remember which book he's now in). We're skipping some of the things because I feel like we're behind in terms of meeting the necessary grade 9 outcomes so he can truly do the grade 10 course for credit next year--that is, we're skipping things I know grade 9 students here don't do. He should be able to finish the work in that booklet this week, I think.

*Language Arts: I completely dropped the ball on the film study (in English). Time to watch it again so he can finish up the questions. He also has his book he reads from almost every day, Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. My plan had been to read it, too, and be able to tie in things with social studies. I suppose it's not too late to catch up to him. And other than listening to me read to him every now and then from a French novel he's not really enjoying--well, and us speaking only in French--he hasn't done any French work recently. I'll leave an open blank on the chart for now.

*Speaking of Social Studies... We did have a brief look last week at how a bill becomes law in Canada and discussion of how we citizens need to voice our concerns to our MPs and such so that the government doesn't just move on ahead thinking we're fine with things when we aren't. We also had a look at different kinds of pressure groups and what kinds of things they would be wanting to change for laws. We still haven't hit a point of really seeing the big picture of how the different parts of the federal government work together, so that can be the focus this week, while tying in any pertinent things, like comparing what happens with our democratic government to a totalitarian one.

*Science: Science has been boring because I don't know what to do with it, so we've been just following the textbook. I had envisioned research and projects and experiments. We're still in the chemistry unit. We should have finished two units by now, I think. I suppose I have two options: Just skim over things lightly or get into some serious learning. I was just reading in Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning that this idea of seeing something a little bit helps us later remember. Apparently not. So... That means we'd be better off learning some things a little more in-depth and not covering everything than we would just lightly covering everything to "prep" him a bit for next year's science course. Which means... Going back to the research idea. And somehow getting him using the information we have covered so far. I'll have to look at the provincial outcomes and see what sort of ideas I can come up with. It would be really nice if the abundance of free/cheap information for Montessori in the early years were so available at this age. *sigh*

*Physical Education: I'm going to ask that my son do at least 15 minutes a day, Monday through Friday. We had started with 5, moved up to 10, now I figure he can handle 15. Not that his fitness is that poor, but getting this kid to change routine is always a difficult process. Slow and steady wins the race!

*Health: Something got messed up with the personalized nutrition thing he printed off from the My Food Guide website. I'd like to do that with him so we can get it printed off properly and then start looking at serving sizes of things.
*Music: He's been practising up a storm lately, so I don't really have to plan for that--he's all self-guided! What I could do, though, is start having him write down on paper here and there the things he's doing, his self-evaluation ("This part from this song is getting easier.")

*Montessori: No, my kids are not studying Montessori, but for me, I need to reconnect with the Montessori philosophy concerning adolescents. I know this is a time for my son to connect with "outside the home", although Maria would have had him in an Erdkinder. I don't have the Erdkinder option, but I need to do something and reading up on things will hopefully help. I feel I missed that with my daughter and it might have helped in certain ways. One thing we could do, something I've been meaning to do for ages, is go to a nearby thrift store run by an organization that helps out the homeless in the city. We can ask questions about what they do, what sort of items or help they might need.

Those aren't specifics, but it's enough sorting out my general thoughts for the time being.