Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Holidays

I am LOVING my Christmas holidays! I realized today that we haven't even been on holiday for a week yet and we still have more than a week left. Woo hoo!!! I knew I needed a break, but didn't realize how badly.

I'm not taking a total break, though. Although I'm not following through on the plans I had made on the weekend. I had listed out a bunch of stuff that meant I was going to be working on stuff a lot during the day. I've scrapped that and am enjoying myself for the most part for now. Have been tackling the basement, doing a little bit of school stuff, working on my crocheted blanket, napping (always good!), shopping, etc. It's been very nice. I figure I have to make sure this is a very enjoyable and relaxing time or I'm not going to be ready to get back into the groove when school starts.

It's been interesting seeing the kids' reaction to less structure and no requirements (essentially). They have their Christmas gifts they've been bouncing around with, but they've also been seeking out things they haven't touched in a long time. Dd even pulled out a Jon Nagy (sp?) art set she's had for a while and did a wonderful sketch involving shading. It's wonderful she's able to learn all that essentially on her own because I'm not much of an artist! Ds has been demonstrating just how much he does know about letters and sounds, crazy kid. It's been nice to see because there were questions Christmas day about my nephew (same age as ds and in school) and if he's begun reading. Of course, the homeschooling mom in me had my heart sink because ds has not really begun reading yet. Then he turns around and reads almost all the names on the tags at our Christmas gathering and two days later a 25% off sign. "How do you know that's 'off'?" "I just do." lol. There's always that little panic that people will judge your child's progress and 'blame' any apparent lack thereof on homeschooling. *sigh*

Monday, December 18, 2006

One week left before holidays

I'm so ready for our vacation! Except I haven't finished Christmas shopping. I just want a nice break for a while though.

Plans for the week:

*Class meeting today (discuss the week and somebody stole somebody else's lollipop), hopefully some work (ds threw up around 4am and dd is now complaining about her stomach), and we'll maybe see about park day this afternoon depending on how everybody's feeling. Also, really need to start putting stuff together for our meeting with our teacher tomorrow.

*Tomorrow: class meeting (discuss day, week), work, finish getting stuff together for teach meeting, meet with teacher, run errands (finish buying gifts!!!).

*Wednesday: MP, Christmas party prep.

*Thursday: Christmas party prep, party, cleanup

*Friday: ?, laundry, house cleaning

Throughout all that, I need to set aside some time to get presents wrapped.

House cleaning did not get done this weekend and I'm not about to ask the kids to do their bathroom cleaning when they're not well. I should go do that now.

Friday, December 15, 2006


I'm not feeling very well today. It's been building up kind of all week, although I was feeling okay, just tired, yesterday. I ended up taking 2 Tylenol cold this morning, but my stomach is queasy now. My congestion's gone, though. I think that must be a side effect for me because it seems to me the last time I took 2 Tylenol cold that I had a queasy stomach afterwards. Of course, it could just be coincidence. But probably not. It took twice of taking double doses of extra-strength Lactaid (because one dose didn't make a difference when having dairy products, so I tried double) to clue in that it was causing my violent reactions after taking them and not the milk!

The two oldest came, laid down on the couch, I read to them until they fell asleep then did other stuff--especially trying to keep my niece quiet which was quite the feat because this wasn't one of her quiet days. Finally, everyone was up again an moving around at 10. *sigh* Did some math with the 15yo, the stove repair guy came, playing went on, now I'm checking emails and typing here. I have to feed my children lunch then take the two girls (not counting niece) to the ballet rehearsal. I wish I could get rid of this queasy feeling though. I'd like to just curl up in bed! Not easy to do when you've got 3 kids with you you're PAID to have with you...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's been a week!

I haven't written in a week. What's been going on? Not sure. Still pondering this whole burnout thing, how to get downtime, what to insist on, what will we change for after Christmas...

The poor 15yo is having little panic attacks. She feels so far behind and just does not have the energy lately to get herself going more. We all just need a really good break! Yet she doesn't feel like she'll get the break she needs this Christmas because she'll be doing lots of diving training.

I've decided to read "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"--again. I need some inspiration and guidance to get back on track. That and more sleep. ;)

I still haven't finished my Christmas shopping. argh. I hate that it's not done.

We're having our first meeting with our facilitator next Tues. I'll have to collect the things the kids have done and figure out what else we've done that we might not have actual stuff to show for.

We have a very busy week next week. I hope to still do a little bit of work with the kids Mon and Tues mornings, but Monday afternoon is park day--one we don't want to miss as it'll be like a little "holiday" party; Tuesday afternoon is our facilitator meeting; Wednesday--Millennium Place; Thursday--Christmas party; Friday--actually, Friday, nothing scheduled. I've even told the two oldest they don't need to come that day if they don't want to. But that'll probably be a day for me to get all the house cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping done. Saturday evening we're going to my mom's and opening gifts (an early Christmas eve) then sleeping over. Christmas Eve will be our Christmas Day with my mom--brunch and turkey supper. Then we go home, wake up Christmas Day, have stuff under the tree to open, then head to dh's parents' late afternoon. Of course, Boxing Day will probably involve getting out and taking advantage of sales on things we had asked for Christmas and didn't get but really want. lol. Then it's relaxation time. *ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh*

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Homeschool Burnout?

Having started a discussion in an online group about how things are going, I started thinking that some of us are describing symptoms of homeschool burnout. Here are some burnout symptoms I found online:

-feeling overwhelmed
-lack of confidence
-lack of enthusiasm/motivation
-feeling frustrated
-feeling discouraged
-wanting to give up

{Sources: , , }

They list various causes:

-setting expectations too high
-having daily pattern that is too repetitive (I found that interesting--I would have thought it would have been good! I guess being TOO routine could be problematic. As can not having enough of a routine.)
-forgetting to take time for ourselves
-life: illness, moving, new or change in responsibilities, change in routine

Oops, gotta go!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It's Wed.

It feels like Friday.

We've been out all afternoon all week. It's thoroughly draining!

We have done almost no school work this week. The first two days, I wasn't too bothered about it, but now a couple are hitting the "I'm bored so I'm going to get goofy and annoying" phase. For them, I'm going to have them work on some sort of Advent or Christmas themed work tomorrow. They could make an Advent calendar with flaps, or create a bilingual board or card game or make up Christmas math questions or anagrams. Something.

The oldest, unfortunately, really has to keep going with her work. She is going to be missing time next semester for diving and just can't afford to stop working this early before Christmas. Not to mention she wants to be ready for her FLA 10-2 course, which means she's got to get moving on the reading and writing. I can at least find some sort of fun French Christmas story for her or perhaps we could write a Christmas story in French while taking turns--probably the die game (roll a die to determine how many words you write) because then she knows she'll only ever have to write up to 6 words at a time. Her math... Well, it's gotta get done. And it'd be really good if she could finish the theme she's on in social studies so she can get the next theme done before Christmas. Actually, I could give her an easier theme to work on. They don't have to be done in order. That'll probably work better. That means I need to be ready for next week. But she's got to get that one theme done this week. Her LA... I've pretty much let her scrap for now. I'm not worried about that. We took the year for her LA not because she needs it but because it was more relaxing than cramming it into one semester. I'd rather she do a bit of catching up in social and math.

Remember my plan to work on goals? It just seemed so pointless Monday, we kind of talked about things yesterday and the 12yo had said that he'd decided he was going to stay homeschooling for high school. He bounces back and forth. He'll hear about something about high school that worries him, so his plan is to homeschool. Then he hears about really great stuff and wants to go. So, today, I took him to the school website for the school he's interested in. We checked out all kinds of things. Although he still has worries about being picked on--particularly by football players--he saw there were so many great things going on at that school. The clubs really caught his eye. He's a social kid! Now he's talking about "when he goes there". So, I dropped in things about getting good grades and how he's capable of getting the marks he needs if he wants to get into the special science and technology program... Planting some seeds. :D

And now I'm waiting for a computer scan to be done. We've managed to get ourselves infected by some stupid malware: ipwins.exe . It then allowed some other strange stuff to be installed and I was getting pop-ups any time I opened Internet Explorer. I may have screwed some stuff up trying to get the darn program off of my computer and may never be able to get everything off completely without doing a clean install, but that's okay. The pop-ups have now stopped.

Did I mention lately that we still have not had any of the same crashes we were getting before? Yay! This fan seems to be doing the trick.

I guess I should go start preparing my chicken. But I want the scan to finish first then do a reboot of the computer. But I have nothing more to babble about at the moment, so I guess I'm done. ;D

Monday, December 04, 2006

Why you should never let a toddler out of sight...

I didn't take a picture of her belly--the hugest tatoo of all--but did take these of the beautiful job on her arms:

Some days, you just have to go with the flow...

I woke up to the alarm clock today--at 6 am. That doesn't happen very often. I had been awake a bit earlier, but fell back asleep and was surprised at hearing the alarm clock. My automated functions got going and I found myself in the bathroom getting ready. I really wanted to go lay down on the couch and fall back to sleep, but there were things I really wanted to get ready for our school time. Fortunately, I had written it all out very clearly the night before what I needed to do, so I didn't even have to think about it. I figured it'd take me about 30-40 minutes. I got started around 6:20 on the computer, 'soon' heard dh in the kitchen and thought, "Man, he's down early!" then looked at the time: 7:10. Oh my gosh.

I got myself off the computer and took care of breakfast and all that. The two oldest showed up. I started reading to them and the plan was to get to work once my niece showed up. Dd and the 12yo disappeared with cards. The 15yo and I ended up at the table. She hadn't even brought down her binder and usual stuff to get started. That's very unusual for her. She gets her stuff and then it seems to be snack time for everybody. It just kind of continued on like that. Because nobody was really connecting with ANY work, I did the memory thing with them (of course, my intention was to have the 12yo see how easy it can be to learn, but he wouldn't even call back any of the items once we went through them, so I don't know how much he applied himself and actually saw how easy it was to learn like that!). It was suddenly past 9:30. How'd that happen? I scrapped any intention of getting work done and we discussed our activities for the next 3 weeks and the 15yo and I discussed her social studies work. We had invitations to send out, which meant getting down to the computer.

Just past 10, very aware no school was actually going to take place and seeing videos we're bringing back to the library tomorrow, the 12yo asks if they can watch a movie. I say sure. The rest of the time was spent with them watching a movie, the 15yo on her laptop, me on the computer and making lunch and finding my niece who was doing self-tatoos (photos to follow). Then we took off at 12 to run errands before going to park day. We got back around 4, the 15yo rushes to get herself ready for work, her mom shows up before she's ready, and she leaves with her laptop still in my living room, her binder on the table and her lunch kit in the kitchen.

It was one of those Mondays!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dd said it was just a continuation of Saturday: at her skating, the girls were falling left and right. It was actually rather funny at one point, with one girl falling here, then another there, the first picking herself up while another one fell, and so on...

I hope tomorrow we'll be functioning a bit better!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Montessori websites disappearing :(

Earlier this year, a favourite Montessori website of homeschoolers across the globe 'went under'. It is now only available at, with some things unavailable for whatever reason. The albums are still there, but some stuff is missing and the webboard is, naturally, no longer available.

Recently, there's been the discovery that just doesn't seem to be coming back. It had been off before, but always came back. It doesn't seem to be coming back. :( I've accessed it through Web Archive, but the Shockwave versions of certain materials don't work. :( I had been hoping to have the 12yo work with the multiplication materials this week.

Haven't posted in a while

It's been cold. I've been tired. We've been busy.

We've only got 3 weeks until Christmas. omg! I've done no Christmas shopping yet, we haven't figured out when we're having our homeschool Christmas party, the girls are going to the ballet soon, we were hoping to go to Millennium Place before Christmas, Monday Park Days... Time is going by quickly.

The 15yo is having a mad rush on her social studies. She let it go for quite a while and now has a lot to finish before the end of January. She doesn't HAVE to have it done by then, except that she wants it done then to do the exam, get it done with, then work on science. It also looks like she may be adding a distance learning course (FLA 10-2--French Immersion French, but at an easier level) that she will want to have done by the end of June. This means making sure she knows what she needs to in order to begin, so there will be some intense French instruction, too. She has just been so unmotivated, though... I'm kind of worried. I don't know how to help her find the inner motivation she needs to reach the levels she wants to. She has gone back to wanting to be a pediatrician, which is going to require a ton of hard work, not only once in the medical degree program, but just to get there. I haven't touched the book "What Smart Students Know" in some time. Perhaps doing the little assessments on attitude will help. And discussing together what it will take to reach her goals. And what her image of a student who plans on going to medical school is and how does she match up to it. Fortunately, it's only her grade 10 year, but still...

I do know one thing I have on the plans this week is to work on goal setting with the two oldest. Long-range goals, the sub-goals that have to be reached to get there, etc. I guess that should help with the 15yo a bit. Have her see it all written out what it will take to get to where she wants to be. With the 12yo, I'm going to have him set 1 goal for the week that is something aside (although perhaps still related) from the work I require of him. It can be academic--read a chapter a day in his Geronimo book or finish his ecosystems lap book--or behavioural--like not laying on the floor or doing front rolls in the living room instead of being in a chosen spot to work.

Another thing I have planned is to work on memory strategies with the 12yo. I might do it with the others, too, but definitely with the 12yo. I came across a book in the library catalogue called Super Memory, Super Student. I read a part last night about kids with learning disabilities and how they lack strategies, and specifically how the types of strategies in the book not only help with their learning, but with their confidence since doing the activities in the book show the student he can learn. I've noticed little regressions with the 12yo in terms of his approach to reading and writing and even just his auditory processing, although he did develop his own strategy the other day for remembering the 4 times table in order: use every other number in the 2 times table. I told him that was a great strategy and that it was obviously working for him. He seemed very pleased to see that he could do it so easily. I think doing the activities in this book will help him even more. And I also see just how much visualization is incorporated--crazy visualization--and I think that would work really well with him. I did the first activity myself and, without even trying, memorized a list of 10 items in order. I'm pretty sure I still remember them: lamp, paper, bottle, bed, fish, telephone, window, flower, nail, typewriter. Yep, still remember them. I can even do it backwards, although you probably won't believe me since I've got it typed 'forwards' right there. ;)

Other than that, I'm working on a new FlyLady control journal so that I remember to do things like Homeschool Tracker, which I haven't done in so long. I also have a little notebook that I will be keeping out to track what they do so that I can put it in later. I hate that I've paid for this program and am not using it!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I am stunned

I was just looking at the homework section in Yahoo Answers. Somebody needed help with their 3rd grader's homework assignment: name 3 countries in North America other than Canada, US and Mexico.

I was shocked. There are many, many people apparently who do not know that there are more countries than just the three named. However, I'm absolutely stunned at the number of people who, instead of thinking perhaps they didn't have correct information and look things up quickly on the net to see if they were right or wrong, are not only saying that there aren't any other countries in North America, but are actually criticizing the school/teacher for thinking that there are other countries! HOLY COW.

Wow, you know? It makes the whole anti-homeschooling thing really understandable. People are absolutely convinced that they are correct and are willing to judge even if they don't have all their facts straight.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith

I just learned that these two actors homeschool their kids! Not in a modern manner--they've hired tutors, naturally, which is a traditional form of home education for those who can afford it--but they've done some interviews and I found this one quote from Jada just wonderful:

We don't want our kids to memorise. We want them to learn.

And now I've lost the site I got it from... Ah well! Here's another one, with Reader's Digest talking to Will:

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


There's something about the wind and weather changes that seems to affect us all so horribly. Everybody was testy today. The 12yo and dd had a big blow up. I feel so horribly stressed and am so glad the day is done--well, sort of. Still have to do supper and all that. But back to my point: I have noticed that drastic weather changes and especially wind changes seem to do horrible things to us! I'd love to hear from others who may experience the same thing.

As for homeschooling and Montessori... I created a paper version of the checkerboard since I can't find my materials. The 12yo doesn't really need nor want to use a huge full version, but the smaller version will help him remember what to do in his large multiplication.

Homeschooling today was so-so. Two kept themselves busy with work, one worked for a while then resisted everything after that, another made so much noise and was so distracting everybody was being bothered. We went out after lunch--instead of our work period--and things really fell apart. I didn't even get flour, I was feeling so stressed by the time we were done the other shopping. That means I can't make cookies tomorrow for our French club get-together. I'll have to find something else. Oh, I guess I should make it tonight since we won't have time tomorrow! Although tomorrow is Wednesday and often a day of kind of lax work, it won't be tomorrow since the past two days were kind of lax. I'm even going to insist on our after lunch work period, since our club meeting is at 1--we eat lunch at 11 and they're usually done by 11:30-11:45. The oldest can focus on course work for an hour and I think I'll set it up so that the 12yo will do his LA during that time. That means he'll have more time in the morning to work on his science unit lapbook, which could be a messy affair and will be cleaned up before lunch.

It's after 5. I guess I should figure out a supper. lol. I feel like all of my energy is gone. The wind has taken it away...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Computer Problems Solved!

We had been going through all kinds of ideas and computer setups and were quite convinced we were getting ourselves a new computer for Christmas. We had all kinds of little blocks put in our way to actually getting a computer. This week, the computer did it's regular erratic crashing and dh really paid attention to the fan kicking in higher just before it crashed. He asked, "What if it's just overheating?"

I managed to find a fairly good program online--SpeedFan--for free, always nice, and we started monitoring the hard disk, general temperature, fan speed... The main temperature we were looking at tended to stay around 65C. It crashed, we had a look, temp was at 69. Dh tried stuff out and 'forced' it to crash again. It crashed just after it hit 69--so it had probably hit 70. We tweaked the fan to stay higher all the time and it hasn't crashed AT ALL for the remainder of this week. We are so glad!!! We now have an additional fan in there to help keep the temperature down and it's hanging around 51. Very nice. :)

I could go on about homeschooling and Montessori, but it's been a long week--despite it being a short week--and a long day. I'm going to play Sims 2 now. :D

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I need to get more sleep!

I decided to have cereal this morning. Filled the bowl with cereal. Added the milk. Went and sat down. After a few bites, I just felt like I couldn't eat anymore, like I was making myself sick by eating more. But I still felt hungry. I couldn't understand it.

But then the memory of what I'd done flashed back at me: I had put regular cow's milk in my cereal and not my rice milk. Ugh.

So, I threw the rest of the cereal away--almost a full bowl--but couldn't eat anything, despite being hungry, because of my unhappy tummy. So I decide to have something to drink. And what do I choose? Cranberry/grape juice. That just caused the milk to start to curdle and create a more acidic environment in my stomach. A minute later, my stomach hurt. I took a couple of Tums to deal with the acid and decided to just stick with water.

Good thing I'm not driving anywhere today!

On another note, went over course change ideas with the 15yo and she's happier with the idea of the extra courses down the road and using the CTS outcomes just for her own personal development--and not going for credit. (Essentially, unschooling those topics--learning as much as she wants, although she does plan on setting some time aside to work on them.) I think it will work much better. She can focus on her core courses in the mornings and then have an hour or so in the afternoon mainly for her own interests or general reviewing. I'm so glad she's just a traditional/basic homeschooler and not signed up for blended or teacher-directed!

Wow, it's already Thursday!

This week has flown by!

It's been a fairly good week. The kids have been working well, we've got some new projects started, the 15yo's making good progress through her stuff, ds has been picking work more and more... It's been good!

But now I'm at a... lost the word. Hm. Anyhow, the 15yo has declared she's rethinking her career choice and going back to what she wanted to do for many, many years before she started watching CSI: become a pediatrician.

So, there's this part of her that has high goals--college is not 'good' enough, has to be university (and all of her interests the past 4 years have been demanding ones: medicine, forensics, law, business) and yet there's this other part of her that begrudges the work she has to do, is envious of her friends in the sports programs in the city where they only take 2 classes each day... How do I help her see that if she has any hope of getting into the programs she's been interested in, she has to work at becoming somebody who wants to excel, regardless of what task is sent her way? How do I help her focus on her education rather than on her schooling? These are the questions that challenge me now. Of course, with her recent admission of a change in career desires, that has changed somewhat the courses she needs to go for. Doesn't affect what she needs to do this year, but she could scrap all the CTS courses, if she wanted to, and just focus on the core courses.

Lost my other thoughts... Have been awake since 4:30, unfortunately. My mind's not working so well this morning.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Sunday Morning Babble

I get a long weekend this weekend. My bil and sil (niece's parents) have tomorrow off, the two oldest's mom has tomorrow off so I've given them the day off and made plans with a friend for in the a.m. and park day in the p.m., and the 10yo still isn't done moving (afaik) so I don't have her yet. Unless I get a call later today about her coming tomorrow, I just have my kids tomorrow.

I have my vampire lapbook to finish today. I had hoped to work on a faux-quilt multiplication checkerboard (mine doesn't look like that, but I can't find a quilted version online) the 15yo and I had started a year or so ago, but I can't for the life of me find it. WAH!!!! The bulk of it had been finished. :(((( My thread is also missing, but I think I may have lent it to my mother when she borrowed my machine several months ago. But I'm not sure. I want my checkerboard back! And with my thread missing, I can't hem a pair of pants I bought a couple of months ago and still haven't worn because they're about 4 inches too long. *sigh*

I'm trying to think of 'inspirational' things for the kids to work on this week. Dd will probably still keep going with "Around the World", with me adding some, too, and maybe seeing if ds or the 12yo would like to start one--it'd be good to have an English model, too. The 12yo's science unit at the moment is ecosystems, which seems to interest him a bit, so I'd like to incorporate something 'more' than just going through the textbook. We can't do the 'create an ecosystem' activity described in the book because you're supposed to get critters from outside. We could modify it, however. I need to brainstorm ideas that tie in with what he's working on. I guess that means reading through the unit today! A lapbook is always a good idea... He could have a section for 'biotic' and another for 'abiotic' and different sections for the different parts of the unit. I wonder if he'd go for it? He'd definitely do a first one if I said we'll try it out and he gets to decide afterwards if he wants to do other work in the same manner or something similar. This is sounding good!

I need to work out what the 15yo has left to do for coursework she wanted to have done by the end of January and give her a rough idea of the work she has left to do and a general timeline that different sections should be finished by. She was so motivated and excited last year about working hard this year to finish a semester early, but it's just not happening. There have been definite illness issues and just plain tiredness. And I'm probably giving in too much to letting our work times slide a bit. I'm not sure she realizes what exactly is left to be done and how far behind she's getting, which means I need to show her. Her full-year subjects are okay (except maybe math)--it's the ones she said she'd have done for the end of Jan. that aren't. She has other subjects to take on after January!

Ok, done my babble. Moving on to work now.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mid-November Already

Time is going by so quickly!! It's already Nov. 11, Remembrance Day. We watched the video "Pittance of Time" in honour of the day and all the people who have fought and continue to fight for us. I think of the local soldiers who have been killed the past few years overseas. I never thought about this type of stuff as a kid and wonder what sort of effect those school assemblies actually have on kids!!

As for homeschooling, we had a bit of a slow week, yet it was still better. My work expectations for the 12yo have been clearer, so he's been doing more. I have my planning done and know what's coming next with him. The presentations idea hasn't been happening too much, but part of it is because I'm finding a clash between personality and materials/presentations. Maria Montessori noticed that some children never felt the need to touch any of the materials or sit in on presentations. There just seems to be such an avoidance on his part of working with hands-on things. Which is so ironic because he touches everything else!

With dd, the Around the World work has been keeping in her busy and she's been a little less moody with things. I think she has been craving a little more structure and now getting it, she's a little more relaxed. This is good. She still has choice, but not everything is undecided.

I haven't yet finished my first lapbook. It's taking forever. I'm being a perfectionist about it instead of just putting it together as a model for the kids. Okay, I will finish it this weekend. There. Done.

I still feel a bit like we're behind. Especially with the 15yo. And I'm feeling guilty because I feel like I need to put my foot down more and insist on the work times. Which I will definitely be doing Tues.-Thurs. this week as the two oldest are not here on Monday and we are going to a career fair on Friday, which does count as a school trip and they will have things to do for it, but it means that much less time for the 15yo to work on her math and social studies and all that. Especially her social studies. She wanted to have it all done by the end of January. We're 2 months into the semester with her textbooks and she hasn't even finished the first of six themes. I'm going to have to find a way to speed things up a bit. I had hoped to take a more interesting approach, but it's not working and she'd rather just have it all done. So, I'll help her just get it all done.

Okay, good to have some thoughts out. Now I need to go do some cleaning. :D

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Around the World in 80 Days

I was inspired by a local support group's advertised "Around the World in 80 Days" 'workshop' that they are having for member families. We're not participating in that but it got an idea going in my head of starting a binder entitled "Le tour du monde en 80 jours" (French version, naturally). I set up a very simple research form, something like this:

Jour #1
Pays visité (Country visited): _______
Continent: ______________
Population: ____________
Langue(s) parlée(s) (languages spoken): ____________
Informations intéressantes: ________________________
Carte du pays (et autres images, si désirées) (Map of the country and other images if desired):

I left the bottom half of the sheet blank for images that can be pasted on. I forgot to put Capital and will make sure to add that to the other sheets. I also printed off a map of the world with the countries outlined from here. The idea is that we (whoever wants to participate) adds to the binder a sheet on a country they've learned a little bit about.

When I had discussed the idea of doing a country a day, dd balked. I tried to explain a bit but she had herself imagining some huge thing for every day. That's not my goal for this. It's to have her enjoy exploring the world from home, working on some easy research skills and just enjoy learning something new. Ok, and admittedly, I'm hoping this will be a starting point to some more in-depth geography studies. Once she saw the sheet and saw the map where we put a point for our starting place, she said she could do it, but grumbled a bit. By the time she was done, she was asking for another one! She loves it! (Despite me insisting she write in cursive ;).) And she loved putting a point in the middle of Egypt (the country she had chosen) and joining the lines on the map. Of course, I only had one sheet done up so she couldn't do more today, but I'll have more ready for tomorrow. I'd better: she plans on going to some tropical place tomorrow. ;D

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Want a Challenge?

Here's a challenge for you and your kids (don't give any clues to your kids--just let them answer as they think!):

Question: How thick will a folded piece of paper be if you fold it in half 50 times?

Take a piece of paper. Fold it in half.
Continue folding it in half, keeping track of how many times you are folding.

What did you discover while doing this? How close was your estimation?

I'll provide more information in a few days! :D Feel free to share your results and observations in the Comments.

ADDED Nov. 5:
As indicated by someone in the comments, a piece of paper can actually only be folded 8 times--although sometimes you can only reasonably manage 7. Don't tell your kids this! My kids had a great time trying to see just how much they could fold the paper and if the size of paper made a difference. Once they saw how thick 7 or 8 times were, I asked them to think about how thick it would be if, theoretically, you could fold it in half 50 times. (The answer is that it would go past the sun!) You can have older kids work this out by thinking of having sheets of paper and doubling the layers each time. Those who are into exponents can do the 2^50. They can chart how many layers there are at 1 (2^0), then doubled, then doubled again, etc. If they aren't yet at those math skills, you can tell them that doubled 9 times (2^9) is 512, a little more than a pack of copy paper. 10 times is twice that. And so on. We worked out that you would need over 2 quadrillion packs of paper if you were to double the layers each time until you had doubled 50 times. That's over 200 trillion boxes of 10-packs of copypaper. The results thoroughly impressed the kids. And they loved discussing the math involved!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

November 1st!

How did November get here so quickly?!

Today was a sort of new start. We had a class meeting this morning and I put in place that we are to have 2 hours of 'learning time' after lunch. Since the oldest has specific subject work to do, the others We only made it to 1.5 hours today, but the internal clocks are still working on the old time. It went over just fine and the kids did really well--especially for a Wednesday! Of course, two of the kids spent their time drawing in the morning, which was quite all right with me because it's something they haven't done in quite a while.

I still find myself dragging what with the time and weather change. I'm tired plus my sinuses are acting up. Then, of course, there are things to keep me busy, like Halloween last night. Didn't do any planning at all for today so had to wing it all--it worked out, though, as the kids kept themselves busy with reasonable activities.

It's 3:40 and I'd rather just go to bed right now. Ds is feeling the effects a lot, too--he unintentionally fell asleep just before lunch while I read to them from a book. He's been super tired all week. Have I already mentioned that I hate time changes??

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Our Fairy Princess Whippet

I thought I had a couple from the side and back, but apparently not. I'll have to take some of her later. She looks like a ballerina dog from behind!

An Unschooling Halloween

I'm still suffering from this darned time change, plus it's Halloween. I found a bunch of Halloween stuff for the kids to do, if they so chose (although I did insist that the 12yo read some words to me; dd did everything I printed off!), the 12yo drew for a while, the pianos (full-size electric plus a small lap keyboard) have been played, some have gone outside to play, the 15yo is researching the Salem Witch Trials and witchcraft in general (not writing anything up, just searching and reading). It's only 9am but it feels like 10 and... ugh. I hate time changes!

Have some errands to do today--library and bank--then we'll have a movie and Halloween cookies in the afternoon. Dh is taking our kids trick or treating tonight while I hand out candy with our Fairy Princess Whippet. I'll have to get the picture off of my camera...

Monday, October 30, 2006

This Week is Not Starting Well

With the time change, I've been awake since 4:30, after not having gone to bed until close to 11 last night. So, I'm tired and grumpy but am determined to get us back on track with some routines this week. That can be difficult when I'm tired and grumpy.

To add to it, ds comes down, is all happy because it's not a school day, I say it is, and because he's not had enough sleep, he starts crying. I've sent him back to bed.

May this day improve!!! I hate time changes. :(

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It's Sunday

I'm all out of sorts with this time change thing. I heard on the radio the other day that this will be the last time the clocks fall back in October--as of next year, it will be the first Sunday in November. I say scrap the whole Daylight Savings thing to begin with! Saskatchewan has got it right!

As for homeschooling and Montessori... I've been a busy girl today and am wearing down. I've printed off addition facts booklets, prepared math worksheets--some for use with the Bead Frame, started preparing a math test for the 15yo as she's just about done her unit, looked through her social studies stuff to try to speed that up a bit, planned out what I want her to get done this week--using HST and getting the schedule she developed put in, worked out a new schedule for the 12yo--I have been coming across a lot of stuff this weekend about some kids needing solid routines or schedules and have learned over time that when things pop up like that at me, it usually means it's something I should be implementing*. I've also found a bunch of Halloween stuff in French for the kids, put a sheet together for the Guy Fawkes Day poem so the kids can memorize it (I've just been hit with the idea of doing something a little different this week with the 12yo--having him do his spelling by using the poem). Jane talked about her folders and it reminded me of one Montessori mom I know who has folders for her dd's. I'm not sure how Jane's are set up, but the other mom's is per child with certain work to be accomplished for the week. I've set up something similar with two additional folders: an orange one for this week's themes (oh, just remembered, need to get All Souls' Day and All Saints' Day things in there), another one for general things they might be interested in using (there are some maps in there right now). Each child has a colour-coded folder so they see quickly which folder is theirs. I actually have a folder holder thingy (that's specific, isn't it?) that can sit in the middle of the table or something.

I was hoping to work on a Homeschool Control Journal or Manual today but I'm feeling too beat now to be able to think about it clearly. I'm taking FlyLady's Student Control Journal idea and modifying it to suit our homeschool. I'm thinking of things like general routines for everyone to follow--getting your pencil box, books, etc. first thing, group clean-up in the afternoon, weekly schedule for other stuff like cleaning the van--and more specific things like Code of Conduct that they can add to as things come up, specific student schedules, a calendar so we can see what we have planned when, maybe even have a page of homeschool/friend contacts.

Oh, I've got laundry to go put in the dryer. Time to go.

*I recently had the book or recommendation for the book "Bud, Not Buddy" show up in some way or another repeatedly over a couple of months. It was literally in my face at the library one day--on cassette--so I got the hint and took it out. It was an absolutely wonderful story! The kids and I all loved it. Also brought up lots of chances to discuss historical matters--the Depression, how Blacks were treated at that time in the U.S., and more.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Types of Play

One of Jane's comments has got me thinking more, about seeing the children's play as work.

I think there are different types of play that children engage in. There is the type of play where they are alone but somehow building on certain skills or processing what's been going on in their lives. That's a play that is work. You see the skill building or thought process development when they are building something completely new or are trying to figure out how to do something. You see the 'life processing' when, after having seen a burned house, they are playing with a fire truck and reinacting the firefighters putting out a fire. In group play, you see a lot of the negotiation and more of the reliving and processing of life matters--divorce comes into play, fears of being kidnapped come in. All kinds of work being done through play.

There is another sort of play. One where little of that processing work is going on. It can be the above play, but instead of processing life or working out problems, it's simply destructive or lacking any real focus or purpose. It can be play where the child is bored and so needs to keep himself entertained because he doesn't know what else to do. Or the kind where the child is avoiding other stuff, often something she doesn't want to do--usually because she's afraid on some level of what's being asked--but it can be just life in general. The kind where the child is not really engaging in anything. This second type of play is okay--but when it's persistent, especially in the case of avoidance, it needs to be looked at. Mind you, it's doubtful that we would take the first kind of play and encourage a child to do that each day, all day, for 18 years. We would have to wonder just what is going on with this child that this type of play is the only thing he or she can engage in!

This second type of play, the older the child in particular, can be a sign of emotional difficulties. Not knowing how to deal with their emotions, the children escape them by engaging in a safe activity. Nothing safer than laying on the ground, playing with a ball or small hockey stick, rolling a car around on the ground. Or they engage in social play but you see that they are the ones who never bring anything 'real' to the game, which in turn has the others frustrated because the game is meaningful to them. The former bring no challenge to themselves, no pushing forward, no processing of real life. It's escapism.

If you haven't seen this type of play, you may not know what I mean. I see it regularly and know that it's a problem--the longer it continues, the worse it gets--and it almost inevitably bring others into the avoidance. The latter aren't trying to avoid anything, but they get caught up in enabling another's avoidance of their fears.

Most of what children play is beneficial and when it isn't quite challenging enough, they automatically add some other element to it to make it more complicated. But not all kids are able to do this, so all play can not be seen as being the same.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Dairy Rant

I saw this commercial on tv last night that just ticked me off. It was all gushy and warm about how good milk is for kids and how they 'need' at least two servings a day and blah blah blah.

Well... BS!!!!!!!!!!!! (Those of you who know me know I'd never actually say or type out the words represented by those two letters. :D)

The dairy industry has got some hold on the nutrition people and it just makes me sick. The vegetarians managed to make enough of a fuss so that the Meat group has long been the Meat and Meat Alternatives group. Well, what about the Dairy and Dairy Alternatives group? Not only are there plenty of vegetarians who do not consume dairy products (primarily vegans), but there are plenty of us who are allergic to dairy products and can not (or should not) be consuming them.

I'm so sick and tired of the ads in magazines for milk and the stupid milk moustache. Milk does NOT do MY body any good!!!! Yeah, right, I'm sure that water retention, at times severe colitis (I was actually worried at one point that I had colon cancer it had gotten so bad--before I realized my dairy allergy (or severe intolerance) had escalated), abdominal cramping, mucousy throat, increased sinus problems and more are all just wonderful for me, aren't they? And when I think of it, a milk allergy probably isn't quite as uncommon as one might think: in the 5 years I've been in this home and run my dayhome, the first girl had a dairy allergy; I suspect my nephew, who came just after, is dairy allergic; the 10yo (who was added after that)'s mom is dairy allergic and she (the 10yo) may very well be, too; the 15yo, her dad and various people on her dad's side are dairy allergic; I'm dairy allergic; I know at least one homeschooling family whose kids are dairy allergic... So, all the kids in my dayhome have been touched by a dairy allergy in some way (or, in my nephew's case, suspected of it).

Oh yeah, and the things about eating yoghurt to lose weight? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I gain two pounds just by having something made with milk. I've been bad and having things with milk in them all week and I gained 4lbs overnight.

And since cow's milk (and goat's milk and whatever else is out there) is milk designed for baby animals, how the heck is it a vital requirement for our children? Sure, it can be helpful, but the ads always make it sound like you've GOT to have dairy. So how come Health Canada does not have alternatives for dairy listed??????? If calcium is so important, how come the dairy industry has this monopoly over calcium consumption? Not that the food groups are terribly detailed about the meat alternatives, but it would be nice to let people know that it doesn't HAVE to be dairy products to get their calcium.

Furthermore, I have a beef about these peanut-free labellings that are popping up everywhere. What about dairy-free? Now, I'm not saying: get rid of the labellings. Peanut allergies are usually much more serious than dairy allergies and the serious peanut allergies are certainly much more common than the serious dairy allergies. My problem is that dairy is in just about EVERYTHING. "Modified milk ingredients." "Skim milk powder." "Something-or-other caseinate." "Whey." Part of me says, "Well, you know, these are all processed foods and you'd be much better off just eating natural foods." But, hey, I'm jealous. People with peanut allergies can go have that Quaker granola bar BUT I CAN'T! I can't eat the M&M's that weren't made in a peanut factory. Heck, I can only buy President's Choice chocolate chips because they are the only ones I've found in regular grocery stores that don't have milk in them. Fortunately, they're the best. But that's not the point. There's so much out there with milk or that says, "May contain traces of milk," which means it usually does, and just a trace is enough to build up in me and make me suffer.

I would have less of a problem with all of this if it were more widely said that milk itself is not necessary, just that milk is a source of calcium and calcium is necessary. But so often, the ads say things like "milk is important" or "you need x servings of milk" or they simply rely on the food guide (darn food guide needs to be changed!) so that they say "recommended".

OMG! I just decided to see what the Canadian dairy sites might have to say for those who are allergic to dairy products. Despite mucous production being a HIGHLY common symptom of a dairy allergy, I found this on one site:

Does Milk Cause Mucous?
This is a common myth. Research shows that milk definitely does not cause the production of mucus. People who believe that milk causes mucus report some symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, thick saliva, more congestion than people who don't believe this myth. Moreover, a recent study show that milk intake is not associated with increased nasal secretions, symptoms of cough or congestion.

How about it's simply that those who are ALLERGIC to milk will report that they feel mucousy? Did they consider that? Or perhaps there are people who simply aren't aware of the mucous production? I know I didn't pay much attention to it until I had gone completely dairy-free for a few months because I was nursing and my ds was reacting (although now I wonder if he was actually reacting to my reaction or if it was actually his own reaction to dairy). I was enjoying a very good spring and thought it was just seasonal allergies were being good to me that year. I realize now it was probably that I was just less mucousy. When I re-introduced dairy, I became acutely aware of my reactions. Anything with butter is the worst--immediate, thick mucous. A shortbread cookie plugged my throat and nasal passage so badly once that I almost couldn't breathe. I guess they are essentially saying that it's only my imagination or that I brought it upon myself? I resent that! I only believed the mucous link AFTER it happened to me! And I say this now as a mucousy person who has had too much dairy today!

I've come to the end of my rant. I know this will accomplish little but to release some steam. And perhaps be another reminder to myself to eat more natural foods because then I don't have to worry about the dairy in them.


So... how was your day? ;) Mine was good. The Halloween party went great. I've had so much sugar and dairy and just plain food I have no appetite now but am horribly thirsty. Yes, this is a strange way to end a post, but it's Friday evening. I'm probably a little loopy. Oh, and a little tidbit: the 10yo won't be coming for at least another week as her mom isn't done moving everything over and getting everything set up. Trying to do all that in one week while working is practically impossible. But she is still coming!

Halloween Party Today!

I'm having my homeschool Halloween party today. If everybody can make it, we'll be 27 people. I've never had that many people in the house so it'll be interesting to see how we all fit. It's a good age mix and we've got a scavenger hunt in the neighbourhood planned plus probably put on a video after that since it doesn't look like it's going to be super warm today to be able to spend more time outside.

Unfortunately, it looks like Jane's got kids who may be too sick to come. :( I was hoping to watch Sam in action. :D He looks like such a character in her photos on her blog. [See blog link to the right.]

So, what do the kids and I have to do this morning in preparation?

  • Cleaning/organizing: put some stuff in the basement to make more room, dust, vacuum, make sure the main bathroom is clean, sweep and wash the kitchen floor, cover up the school shelves with sheets so the materials don't get touched, move the kitchen table, bring chairs into the living room. Make signs for the upstairs doors: Bathroom and Do Not Enter.
  • Decorate!
  • Food preparation: I have another loaf of green bread to make, sandwiches to make and punch to prepare. Shoot, I forgot to make ice cubes last night. Should do that asap. Oh, another shoot--we forgot to make our ice hand to put in the punch. I don't think it'd be ready in time if I prepared it now. :( Oh, I also don't have any new gloves to use. Shoot.

That's not too bad.

On a totally different note, I started working out presentation plans for the 12yo for math. It feels so good knowing what I'm going to direct him to do, and it's broken down into individual lessons. This isn't a week plan, but kind of a unit plan, in the order I will present it to him. Since he doesn't turn to materials on his own and work on his own, I'm going to prepare worksheets for him to accompany each presentation. I just need to keep going with that planning throughout the weekend for next week. I feel like I'm returning to Montessori--not sure how I completely strayed, but I did.

What's on my plan some of you may be asking? Well, it's upstairs at the moment and everybody's asleep still, so I'll try to do this just by memory:


facts--done with facts booklets and/or worksheets
-bead bars
-Strip Board
-the addition charts, in order (you can see an image here)

larger operations--to be done concurrently with facts practice
-Golden Beads (incorporating place value work--this seems to be a difficult area for him and he needs a little lesson to see what it means when a workbook or textbook asks "2 hundred more", "4 tens more")
-forgot to add this one last night: Snake Game
-Dot Game
-Bead Frame (mine is just a regular abacus--doesn't look like this one!)
-Decimal Fraction board
-word problems

related items
-algebra (a+a+a; a+b+a+c; 1 + a = 4; etc.)
-perimeter of triangles, quadrilaterals, irregular shapes
-patterns: 1, 4, 7, ...

Oh, it's already time for me to get myself going. I think that was the extent of my plan. There were little additional details here and there, but can't remember them. And, to be honest, this plan is really applicable to dd and ds and the 10yo (coming back Monday! yay!) But somehow laying it out like this lets me see the whole picture and I can now work my way down through the details.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Work Today!

We've barely done anything all week. I read Jane's account of her kids keeping happily busy and wish this bunch would do that! The 12yo always turns towards play and pulls everybody else in with him. Dd and ds were total, happily busy, unschoolers this summer. It all changed when the two oldest came back for school.

Anyhow, because we've barely done anything and the two oldest are getting severely behind--especially the 15yo, although I think we could scrap a lot of the social studies assignments and go through everything very quickly--we need to do SOMETHING today. Tomorrow is scrapped--Halloween party preparation in the morning and then the party in the afternoon. I know that we are 'restarting' school on Monday with the 10yo coming back--yay!--but I just have to get rid of my guilt. hehe

So, today, they each need to do at least 10 minutes worth for each year they've been in school. So, dd in grade 4 has to do at least 40 minutes. The 12yo, in grade 7, needs to do 70 minutes. The thing with that is that 70 minutes of work will undoubtedly stretch out the full 3 hours of the morning. Ds only needs to do 10, but he's got back into his subtraction workbook and will undoubtedly be spending at least 30 minutes. So, expectations for work, but nothing unmanageable.

As for my work: I need to work tonight on getting presentation plans ready for next week. I wasn't sufficiently ready for this week and while I used some on Monday, I think I would have flopped later in the week. So, I want to get going on this tonight and through the weekend so I'm well prepared for next week.

Must eat breakfast now!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

They're all getting sick again...

With our Halloween party coming up on Friday and the requirements for that, the excitement about the 10yo returning and now illness creeping in again, I'm going to be super gentle on myself and the kids today and tomorrow! Lots of group stuff together. We might even be able to finish reading "Among the Barons". If you aren't familiar with the "Shadow Children" series, check them out at your library. The first is "Among the Hidden".

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Very Strange Day

I think there must have been something in the water or the air. Dh said the kids at school were difficult and I had my fair share of kids--and technology--being difficult today, too.

I woke up too early to start with. Came down around 5:30. Discovered the computer was off. Uh oh. That would mean the monitor might not come back on. Started up the computer and it just kept restarting and restarting, with some brief flashes of one screen that seemed to have options between restarts. So I up-arrowed and it stopped restarting, but the monitor kept turning itself on and off. I finally gave up trying to get it to work and just worked on preparing for the day. I had things I had wanted to print off but couldn't, so I felt out of sorts. [We eventually borrowed a monitor from the two oldest and will see if our monitor is perhaps still under warranty.]

Dd, despite having fallen asleep around 8 last night, was still sleeping at 7:40 this morning. She doesn't sleep that late, but she's been so tired and a bit sick, so I just left her. She finally got up at 8am. So that threw the day off a bit, too.

On to work time... The 12yo was very willing to work today, although did keep laying around on the floor (I still can't decide what to do about that--do I let him? Do I insist that he sit up because usually it means that he's not really paying attention and is certainly not looking at what he needs to be looking at? Is it that important how he's sitting? If he's not looking and he needs to look, then yes. What's the point of me sitting there 'working with him' if he's not working?) or just getting up and leaving. (It didn't help that the oldest was trying to finish up something that required a lot of my help.) It turned out to just be a very difficult day in general with him as he was constantly doing things that annoyed other people. One incident in particular left dd very unhappy, involving him tapping the back of her chair. She'd asked a few times and he had apparently said, I'm stopping, but still did it. Well, people don't want to know that you're stopping to annoy them, they want you stopped! He received many little lectures over the course of the day.

To boot, his sister was in a mood today and the two of them were having little sibling fights on and off from about 11am on. About being in their way, and the 12yo--who was in a "I need to touch everything" mood today--playfully kicking her and she got mad; but then she had her share of just nagging on him and I finally had to say to them, "You know what? If you two have such a need to argue with each other, do it at home. I don't want to be around it." I can't remember if they stopped. They stopped that argument, but it seems to me there were some other issues later. Then the oldest simply got hyper. Too much sugar, I kept teasing her. And it truly could have been. Or maybe it was just release.

My niece was super crabby this morning and flew into ear-piercing screaming tantrums at the drop of a hat.

I can't remember too much with ds, except for him constantly playing loud things around us and he and the 12yo playing with little hockey sticks and being noisy in the van. Dd was actually the only 'sane' one today. She got herself dressed, had breakfast, saw a book I had pulled out laying on the table and proceeded to reading nursery rhymes and folk tales for the next 40 minutes or so. Then she found a Star Wars colouring book and coloured for a good while. She was totally self-directed and calm and content. (She's now massaging my shoulders--don't I have a great dd?? :) Oh, she's gone now to go read Nancy Drew.)

We 'quit' school early and ran some errands, came back for lunch, then ran more errands. It was when we came back that the fully insanity of the two oldest came out. What a crazy bunch! They ended up putting notes on each other's backs about kick me and the oldest was laughing incessantly. Someone put a note on my back, I scratched out 'kick' and replaced it with 'hug'. Then the oldest took it off, scratched out 'hug' and replaced it with 'save', so it said "Save me". She then created a little sign for herself with "Hug me" on it and taped it to her mom when she arrived.

It was a very strange day.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Life is always full of twists...

I got a call this morning. The 10yo I homeschooled last year, who has been in public school for two months, will be moving back near me and will be coming back to homeschool with me as of next Monday. I still feel in shock a bit. I'm a little afraid to get too happy about this in case it's not really real or things could change or something this week. If it's real, I'm very happy that she'll be back with us!

This means there will undoubtedly be a bit of an adjustment period for a little bit. But at the same time, I have my 6 back and she and dd will undoubtedly keep themselves busy with various work as they have similar desires in wanting to write stories and draw, something dd has not done a whole lot of the past while. She doesn't like to work alone--so typical of an elementary child--but her brother doesn't always feel like drawing next to her. This is probably the primary drawback of Montessori at home--respecting and meeting the child's natural inclinations isn't always do-able if you don't have enough kids!


On other matters, I had gotten a bit ready for this morning, but not as much as I would have liked and was rushing and felt flustered. With the birthday party and everything yesterday, I didn't have the chance to prepare things much. We actually didn't end up having a typical school day today. It felt rather unschooly. But it's dd's actualy birthday today and birthdays are always days off. It's just that we had the party yesterday, so it all felt kind of strange. I printed off song lyrics to a song the 12yo likes and he read most of them to me. I then re-read through it aloud and asked him questions about what he thought different parts meant. His sister overheard and added her thoughts in here and there, too. This ended up leading to a search online for the video for that song and for information on the band. They spent quite a bit on the computer listening to different songs and looking at different videos; I knew I had lost them to any of the other formal work I had planned. However, I inadvertently did some of the poetry study the oldest has to do for her English 10 credits. She's not quite done Shakespeare, but just about and we can move into poetry.

Oh, dh has arrived, I will go. Just to say that for a day that was supposed to be a day off, it turned out pretty good. :)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Sick Days and Realizations--Very Long--Warning!

It's wonderful how sick days can be so easily handled in homeschooling!

Ds' cold/flu has been building up all week and he finally lost his voice last night and this morning. After drinking some heated up apple juice, we got it kind of back. Dd didn't look so good, voice going funny and she was complaining of a headache. I thought about calling the two oldest and cancelling for today, but thought, "Hey, this could be my chance to work with just the two of them."

When they showed up, one look at the 15yo told me that I should have called. Neither her nor her brother had managed to sleep well last night. The 15yo looked particularly exhausted. So I cancelled school for the day. They stayed to watch Little Mermaid and then I took them home and just had my two and my niece.

I had a brief thought of, "Oh no, we're going to be yet another day behind in work!" but it got very quickly shut off and faith popped in. Thoughts reminding me of how things tend to work out when I don't fight too much [ha--reminds me of a quote from Marva Collins, something like: "You will succeed if you don't spend too much time trying to fail"] came in and calmed any worry that had begun. The bits and pieces of my ponderings the past while and my feeling that things aren't fitting together right came forward, but not in a worrying way at all. I instead had a sense of peace with the return of the faith that everything will work out just fine.

At one point, I sat down yet again with Marva--it's taking me a long time to get through this book!--and something she said caused some thoughts to come in about pairing up the kids more for lessons and work. There's absolutely no reason why the 12yo and dd can't be doing reading together or even math, for that matter. Or science or social studies or... You name it. There's no reason not to bring dd and ds together for some little lessons on cursive. Or the four of them together to cover FSL-specific topics. While I've had these thoughts in the past, it only hit me today that the entire day can be a matter of pairing up kids over and over. Maybe not so much the 15yo, but there are still things that she could do with the others. The 12yo does not like working alone and he will undoubtedly balk at this idea initially--insecurity on his part due to dd's advanced skills--but I feel strongly that this is a key to regaining the flow and... I guess sense of community we once had. I don't know how it came about that they all worked so individually on everything, but it wasn't always like that. I wonder if having one less child this year (due to the 10yo I had last year moving and going to school) has changed the dynamics in a way I hadn't anticipated. I bet you it has. As I write this, I'm reminded of the Montessori 'edict', if you will, of the more children (within reason), the better. Why? Because they rely less on the teacher and more on each other.

{big lightbulb moment}

{letting the 'aha!' I've just had settle in a bit.}

Now I've lost the thoughts I was originally going to post. This awakening, realizing that the dynamics are changed and I'm going to have to guide them back together a bit more... Wow.

Okay, now that the Montessori realization has taken place, back to the originally scheduled post. ;-D

As I said, I was reading Marva and it got me thinking. I wrote a few things down and did a bunch of other things. Then I was at the computer playing, but had some work papers on the desk, too. While waiting for different things in the game, I started just writing the ideas that were coming to me. And I came back to an idea that I've had in the past, but somehow it wasn't then quite as clear, or perhaps didn't seem quite as do-able, as now: lots and lots of lessons. I need to pull my focus away for a while from the 3 youngest's independent work and just show them lots and lots of different things. Essentially, I'm starting from the beginning.

Now, I can't really have the Montessori environment--totally filled with hands-on materials and lots of kids to choose from for projects--but that doesn't mean that I can't provide them with a lot of information and essentially open lots of doors for their personal interest areas. While I'm not sure that what I'm verbally explaining is anything different from what I may have said to others in the past, there is a certain clarity with it now. And a joy that I'm veering away from feeling like the police officer-teacher who's got to make sure the kids are 'doing their work'. Typing that now, I'm reminded of a post on a Montessori list where the person asked one teacher, "Is it their work or is it yours?" Essentially, is the work that the child is working on more-or-less independently something that they've chosen or that fits well with them or is it work the teacher has chosen for them to do?

There is a lot the kids will absorb in little lessons, even if they don't do immediate follow-up work on their own. I frankly don't care about the independent follow-up work for right now for some reason. I think it's that little faith thing that re-entered today. It'll happen when it's time. The lessons I'm thinking of are short and with my recent realization of the 3-period lesson still being applicable, they won't be stressful for the kids--which means it'll be good for me, too.

So, what have I worked out? I realized that there are far more subject areas than I had been keeping in mind. If I can set out a rough sequence for a lot of different areas for the week, and make sure it's all prepared ahead of time, then I can give lots and lots of lessons and not wonder how to keep them busy and focused on their work. There's a lot out there in the world that they could be exposed to! So I'm going to do my best to set things up to be able to do that. Here are the areas I've come up with for lessons so far:

-handwriting--print, cursive, matching both, etc.
-reading (which has a whole ton of different things that can be a part of it, from reading games to reading books/poetry/plays/etc. and discussing)
-vocabulary/word study

That's just for English! All the same goes for French. And German with dd.

-math tables
-lessons from Montessori sequence or textbooks (this includes arithmetic, fractions, exponents, algebra, etc.)

Social Studies:
-stuff specific to Alberta Program of Studies/textbook

-stuff from textbook
-science projects
--the above in the various fields: botany, biology, zoology, astronomy, chemistry, physics...

-technique or other specific application instruction

-visual memory lessons/strategies/games
-auditory memory lessons/strategies/games
-tactile memory work
-activities that fit in with kids' sensory interests and needs (for example, the 12yo loves having pressure all around him, like being rolled up like a hot dog in a blanket)
-religion: this could be incorporated into a reading or memory lesson, or could be something very specific like a teaching or practice of the Church (all the kids and I are Catholic)
-Moral Intelligence and/or ICPS activities
-specific interests, like the 12yo would like to begin computer programming
-care of the environment (taking care of things--from polishing pots to cleaning up a cubby to washing out a pet dish to watering a plant)

This is unlikely to be all-comprehensive. But to give you an idea of where my thoughts have gone to. And pairing the kids up, or grouping them more than in pairs, will help a lot.

Another thing that occurred today during my first pensive session after reading half a page of Marva was the realization that my plans a year ago to have the different subject areas tied together happened a bit, but not as much as I would have liked and this year, it's not happening at all. Everything has felt disjointed because it is. I'm not feeling the connections--rather, not looking for the connections--and so the kids aren't, either. So a little inner-reflection is showing me that I have been rather disjointed and that's just manifesting itself around me.

Did you actually make it this far? If so, I'm very impressed. :D Leave a note in the comments section just to let me know. I'm not sure that this babble is particularly interesting to others, although it definitely helped me sort some things out, so my apologies if you ended up suffering through that long thing, ended up here thinking to yourself, or yelling it at the monitor, "What is this blithering nonsense about and why did I just waste n minutes reading it?" ;) You will be relieved to know that NUMB3ERS is about to begin so I have to stop now. (hahahahaha--yes, it's a Friday night after a long, tiring week. Does it show?:) )

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Have you heard of NaNoWriMo?

Why Do Things Work Out Beautifully Some Days...

but not others?

I tried posting earlier this week, but I either had run out of time on the computer or Blogger was really, really slow.

I can't remember how Monday went. I just remember feeling discouraged Tuesday morning, trying to figure out, once again, how to help everybody with their work when they all wanted to work with me, with my undivided attention.

I babbled in my HST+ journal for a bit that morning. One thing I wrote was, "I need to reassess, pray, ponder and pray some more." It's been two days, so I no longer remember what I did after that, but everything fell together wonderfully. The 12yo and dd wanted to play outside in the snow. They ended up signing contracts that they promised they would get certain things done after they came back in. They went outside and I was able to work with the 15yo by herself. They came back in and dd was frozen, so she was busy warming up and I worked alone with the 12yo. The 15yo had reached independent work by that point. Then I was able to do things with dd. It's not the sort of setup I'd prefer, but it has me thinking about perhaps focusing less on getting dd and the 12yo to do a full three hours of work and just jam-packing in some, or figuring out other ways to make sure each child does get some alone time with me. I'm also considering doing the contracts on a daily basis. I didn't do it yesterday because we were all so sluggish. (What is it about Wednesdays??) I have heard of a number of Montessori schools doing these contracts. My gut reaction is that this is not really a Montessori technique and goes somewhat against the principle of allowing the children to flow from one activity to another, but I do not really have a Montessori environment. I've realized this before and tried to work on it, but I'm fighting it less and just trying to make sure I meet the kids', and my, needs in whatever way will work.

The 12yo has had a little boost this week in attitude. Not sure why. But he's a little more eager to do things, learn things. He overheard me talking to his dad--which I purposefully did--and he came to me afterwards saying that he didn't want to do silent reading but read with me. I told him we'd have to work on getting more reading sessions in if he wasn't going to read silently and he said that was okay. My instincts tell me this will be a temporary thing. What little we've been managing to do from The Writing Road to Reading is already making a bit of a difference and something in me says that he wants a better handle on the phonics and syllables before going off to read on his own. If I can get 2 or 3 reading sessions in with him per day--say literature, social studies and something he's interested in--I'll be able to assign him some short passages for silent reading soon and he'll be okay with it. The confidence has to be built up.

Speaking of confidence, I'm reminded of The Marva Collins Way which I'm re-reading right now. I think I'm going to have to buy the book and stop borrowing it from the library. Her primary focus is on confidence and attitudes, all filtered through the education she's providing. A student's attitude makes all the difference. And their attitude is affected by their level of confidence. The fussing about work is not about me or the work, but about their confidence and attitude. I don't recall ever fussing about school work when I was in school. But my focus was on learning and doing well and I was determined to do it. The only time fears came into play was for oral presentations and social studies tests. ;) But I can look back now and see how attitudes got in the way of many students' success. And if those attitudes don't change while they're in school... I don't want that for these kids--mine or the others.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Time to Plan for the Week

For the first time, I'm using my Homeschool Tracker Plus to help me plan for the week. There's a journal section and I'm babbling out my thoughts there and getting things organized. It's going quite well!

One change I made to my planning technique is this: use the priority coding I learned from either Hyrum Smith or Stephen Covey. What is this technique, you ask? Well, I'll share.

Here's how it works: you list all the things you would like to accomplish for the day (or week, in my current case). Then, thinking about your priorities, which you've hopefully already thought about, you go through and label the items A for the "musts", B for the "shoulds" and C for the "coulds". This way, your attention is brough to your A's and you make sure to get those done instead of letting your focus move towards things that just aren't as important to you right now.

For a daily list, you would then give them numbers in the order they should be done in. However, for my weekly planning, I'm not going to do that. Or maybe I should. I was thinking it wasn't necessary, I just want to be able to know what I really have decided must get done, but perhaps it would help to have the order of some activities planned out, too.

Want to know what this looks like? Ok. I start with my list as the things come to me for the subject and student I'm working on.

--review phonics cards/sheet
--have him write down specific phonograms
--continue spelling notebook
--reading with me: War of the Worlds
--writing: Dear _________, [one sentence comment]. Sincerely, N.
--silent reading

Then I think about what I had decided was really important to continue or to start at this point and prioritize with my A, B, C's.

B--review phonics cards/sheet
B--have him write down specific phonograms
A--continue spelling notebook
A--reading with me: War of the Worlds
A--writing: Dear _________, [one sentence comment]. Sincerely, N.
A--silent reading

So, now I will apply the numbering. No, that won't work in this case. See, if I do the B's, they will probably be at the same time we do the spelling notebook. So, the original purpose of the A, B, C's, as given by Smith or Covey, was to keep yourself doing only your A's before you got to your B's, but that would give something very strangely organized if I do that. In my above case, it's the B's with the spelling notebook or not the B's at all. Maybe I can still kind of work out an order:


B--review phonics cards/sheet
B--have him write down specific phonograms
A--continue spelling notebook
A--reading with me: War of the Worlds
A--writing: Dear _________, [one sentence comment/question]. Sincerely, N.
A--silent reading

Nope, it's not going to work because I often give him a choice of what he wants to do first. Ok, so much for that! lol. However, having decided the A's and the B's helps me having things focused better.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Is it ever too late to start Montessori?

This comes up now and then in the Montessori groups I'm in: Is it too late to start with Montessori?

My response: It's never too late.

Montessori isn't about the method. Maria Montessori avoided using the word 'method' for a long time because she didn't want people to get stuck on the idea of 'this is how you do it all'. Of course, that's what people were looking for and so it became a method.

Montessori is about the kids. I think of Alfie Kohn when I write that. It's about respecting children, believing in them. It's about guiding them, helping them. It's about working with them and avoiding doing things to them. It's about recognizing children as people in their own right.

Of course, Montessori, as an educational approach, is more than just that. It's about figuring out ways to help a child's development, the whole child's development. Figuring out ways to help them become gradually more and more independent and free.

And so, it's never too late to start with Montessori because it's never too late to start to focus on an individual child's needs. Never too late to look at what sort of obstacles--mental, emotional, etc.--a child may have that the adult can help break down. Never too late to do what you can to inspire a child.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

It's Thursday

I don't really have much to say. lol. It's been a strange week and I've been mentally off. I'll go somewhere in the house to do something and get there and forgotten why I was going there. I'll take something I want with me to another room and realize two minutes later that I have no clue what I've done with it. These things, while they tend to happen now and then, have been more than once daily occurences this week!

We took advantage of the free things at WEM today. Tried to get going quick enough to go golfing before lunch, but we were too slow so just hung around Galaxyland. Great fun! I could, apparently, never go on the major roller coasters or anything--I became dizzy-feeling just with going on the 'medium' coaster for kids. Although maybe that's got to do with my ears and slight congestion and being mentally off this week.

Yesterday, the two oldest partcipated in the dissection of a squid. They were both rather squeamish. The oldest has long had the desire to be a vegetarian because she feels bad for the animals, so, although it was scientifically interesting for her and she wanted to do it, it was with mixed feelings. It went well, except that the 12yo didn't eat and drink enough at lunch and ended up feeling ill because of the smell while there. Even I was affected by the smell and didn't realize it until near the end. Dd and ds watched the entire dissection and found it thoroughly fascinating.

Because my mind has been so wonky, I haven't done my morning conferences as I had planned. I only realize that in the afternoon, as morning things only being to process at that point. ;) lol. I do know that I've got to work out a plan for tomorrow so that the kids will work in the a.m. The two oldest are getting behind! Especially with the 12yo quite certain he wants to go to school for high school, possibly even for gr. 9. He's got a lot to work to do to catch up, and he knows it. I've just got to try to set things up so I don't need my mind to remind me to structure things for him. hehe

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

More ghostly happenings at Rutherford House

As some of you know, Rutherford House is a favourite place of ours to visit. (I almost wrote 'favourite place to haunt'. lol) Not that there's anything particularly fun or fascinating at first glance. It's because of our strange experiences every time we go.

Today was one of the best:
  • The 15yo was watching over my niece and bringing her in different rooms. Before I managed to get to Hazel's room, the 15yo had gone a few times into it and came to me saying that my niece (20months) did NOT like being in that room and she kept being worried about one corner in particular and kept staring there.
  • I was taking pictures in the master bedroom; everything was just fine. I went into Hazel's room, where I found one area of it just gave me the chills all over. As I took pictures, I noticed the camera display flickered as though I were playing a movie on a VCR with bad tracking. This was not while I was playing a video, just the regular display. I went into the next room; the garbling on the display was towards Hazel's room. Went to the master bedroom; it calmed down and stopped completely. Went back to Hazel's room, it did a few more flickers before stopping.
  • The 15yo felt sick, as usual, if she spent 'too long' in Hazel's room. I started feeling sick and kind of weighed down. We talked about it downstairs and she asked if I felt sick to my stomach. I said no and kind of paused when trying to find a word. She said, "Slow feeling." That was exactly it. We both get the same kind of feelings in that room. Either she identifies my feelings or I identify hers.
  • The 12yo complained of a deep pain in his arm after spending time in a hallway where I'd ended up having a deep pain in my arm. It took over 30 minutes for the pain to leave him.
  • We tried to get details from my niece, but that was very difficult due to her age. We managed to ask her if she'd seen a man, a lady, a child and she said yes to a lady. There had been another lady there, so we weren't sure if that was it. We asked her to show us where the lady had been. She pointed to the corner she'd been watching earlier.

A great visit!!!

Monday, October 09, 2006

It's a Holiday Monday!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

My plans for the day: work on laundry, finish cleaning up the house, put together part of a FlyLady control journal, work on school stuff, go to the bank. Oh, and do some fun stuff: play with the kids, read, play piano, work on the blanket I'm crocheting, play Sims 2...

I need to 'verbalize' me school plans here so I can write a simple list in my planner. I've not been using it lately and it shows! So, here goes:

Summaries: I need to finish my month summaries for the kids. I think the two oldest's are pretty much done. I want to do a summary for dd and ds, too, so I have a record of what they did for Sept. Their summaries will be very different than the two oldest's.

Week plan: What am I going to do with each child this week? What are some musts? The daily meetings for sure. I'd like us to keep working on the emotional words chart. We've been gradually adding to it. Tomorrow, I'd like us to see if we can come up with 100 things to be thankful for, in honour of Thanksgiving. Maybe I'll start that today with my two. I need to preview what's in textbooks for the two oldest, decide what sort of subject-oriented work I want to do with ds and dd. Figure out my primary goal and focus on that.

Other school stuff: Figure out which language material I want to work on. Possibilities: grammar materials--symbols or cards, vocabulary cards, French labelling activities on The Classroom. Check in Homeschool Tracker to see what I have in there and what I can use this week. Print off FlyLady's No Whining sign

Well, it's still not totally light out and dh is still asleep. I think I'll play (Sims) first and work later. lol.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

More on Montessori and High School

Found this at Meadow Montessori:

Each student is assigned a mentor (with a limit of 10 students to one mentor). The role of the mentor is to guide his/her students both philosophically and practically. The mentor spends time each day with students in discussion and academic support. The mentor is also responsible for coordinating the student's schedule, assisting with college selection and applications, and always--ALWAYS--searching for and exploring additional educational opportunities.

I'm thinking that a daily little meeting with each of the kids would be good. Not as part of the group, though; as one-on-one as possible. Then we can tackle such things as:
  • How's it going?
  • How much have you finished in these areas?
  • What would you like to accomplish by the end of the week? Ideally and realistically?
  • How long do you figure it would take you to complete ___?
  • What is your primary goal for today?
  • Are there any subjects stressing you out right now? Which ones and why?
  • What is going really well?
  • How do you feel about your studies in general right now?
  • What can I do today to help you?

Of course, not all of these questions would be covered each day, but a little one-on-one connection time sounds like a great idea. It could still happen around the table and in our group, but more focused.

I'm trying to figure out what they mean exactly by guiding the student philosophically. When I think of philosophy, I think of my university course and things like Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy and one of Bertrand Russell's works on epistemology (what is knowledge? what do we know and how do we know that we know?). And yet, I don't have a problem with looking at the Montessori Method as a philosophy, but it's a part of the philosophy of education. But how do you guide someone philosophically in general?

Musings on a Sunday morning...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

What the heck is THAT supposed to mean??

I'm back on the computer, reworking my French plans for the two oldest. I'm going through copying down content for first year FSL, and come across this in the section on vocabulary:

*demonstrate an understanding of vocabulary associated with
-important people in the classroom

I'm sorry, but isn't EVERYBODY in the classroom important???


I'm pouting.

Dd had her first skating lesson of the season this afternoon. I really wished I could be on the ice skating, too. But the current skating schedules for adults don't work for me. And I'm not sure I'm prepared to do semi-privates. :(

Why am I pouting about this on a Montessori homeschooling blog? Because it's my blog and I can do what I want. ;)

"It's my bloggy
And I'll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to
Cry if I want to.

You would cry to
If it happened to you."


Ok, done pouting. :D

Who Woulda Thunk It?

I'm totally mathed out! I love math. "Bring it on!" is my usual motto. But I just spent over an hour working in one section of the 15yo's textbook and I'm barely more than half done. And I just can't take doing more of that stuff. What are they trying to do to high school students? lol

At least I'm doing the work ahead of her to be prepared for things like this. I can pick specific questions for her to do instead of doing them all and getting sick of it.

3-Period Lesson

One more thing I found, from Marshall Montessori IB High School--from the biology teacher:

The Three Period Lesson:Each unit will be presented as a Three Period Lesson. During the first period, at the beginning of each unit, the instructor will present a story (conceptual summary) to introduce the unit, give an overview of the unit schedule, present mini-lessons, and discuss assignments and project requirements. During the second period, students will become an expert on the content and processes through research, exploration, experimentation, and application of their topic in a paper, created piece, artistic expression, etc. During the third period, students present their final product to the class, sharing their knowledge and collecting the expertise of their classmates. Students are accountable for both the material researched and presented.

I had never thought about a 3-period lesson approach for high school. It's a huge part of the preschool/kindergarten Montessori experience, but not really talked about after that. It's almost so simple. The above is an adapted 3-period lesson for older kids, but why couldn't a more traditional 3-period lesson be done with older kids, especially those needing to feel more confident?

Period 1: You present the information. I think I do what teachers tend to do--try to get the kids involved in this stage too much and too quickly. Some kids are ready, others aren't. (Omg, as I type all this out, the various pieces to different problems are all fitting together and making themselves so clear!)

Period 2: You have them identify things. This could apply to all kinds of things. I'm thinking math here, specifically, but even in LA and French and the 12yo's science, and with dd for German and... (Excitement is growing.) I show the 15yo the equation we'll be working with. Explain and provide and example. Then I ask her questions to show me the different parts. I provide an incorrect example and have her identify where it's incorrect. This is the recognition stage of learning. I rarely had to spend much time in recognition stage as a student--sometimes 0.0001 seconds. Am I expecting the kids to be like me? You know, it's funny, I learned about the recognition level of learning in my teacher training, but few programs actually incorporate it. It's vital though, I think. Too many programs move too quickly from the presentation to the recall/understanding stage (Period 3).

Period 3: Have them use their knowledge to attempt questions on their own.

I love wonderful insights. :) Marva Collins, while I'm not able nor willing to entirely adopt her full approach in our homeschooling, got me going on realizing the confidence levels have to be built up, there are ways to talk to kids and approach kids to help them be more confident and motivated and simply direct them when they're unwilling to direct themselves. But it wasn't enough, because I feel so strongly about the Montessori approach. I couldn't fit the pieces together between the two somehow for the levels I'm working with this year. But I'm beginning to!

Great Quote!

Yes, I'm posting a lot this morning:

Adolescence is a vulnerable time due to physical changes, doubts, hesitations, violent emotions, and discouragement. The support of an Erdkinder or Montessori environment during this critical period, including various experiences of productive work, will result in the adolescent developing a greater sense of self worth and self confidence, a sense of justice, moral conscience, responsibility, and will contribute to economic independence.

Excerpted from Maria Montessori’s “From Childhood to Adolecence”

This has got me thinking: I think I've been unconsciously trying to force the 15yo for sure, and maybe a bit the 12yo, to conform to 'standard' education this year. I've been relying on textbooks and school-initiated stuff and not thinking about them.

I think I'm going to scrap the 15yo's social studies assignments that I've given her. "Productive work" is not reading through a dry textbook answering questions. I'm going to sit with her, look at the objectives, and see what kind of projects we can come up with--for her and for me. She'll still cover the content, just in a very different way. She enjoys the research process and feels fairly confident in it. Sitting with a textbook like her social studies textbook turns off parts of her brain. Although she'll need to deal with it sometime, it doesn't have to be right now. Or, it can be in small bits, like looking up stuff in it. If she had true interest in the course, the textbook would be fine, but she was really hoping she didn't have to do social studies at all (at least, not required topics). A project approach will be much more interesting and motivating.

For the 12yo, I'm going to pick and choose things from his social studies and science for him to do and be prepared to pre-read things to then summarize sections for him. I'm asking too much too quickly. I had in mind that I'd like him to be blended or teacher-directed in grade 9, but is that fair? And to force it now? There are more pressing issues: confidence levels, reading and writing levels. Let me expose him to the textbooks and the type of work involved without requiring all of it.

I love blogging. Writing is a huge way for me to sort out my thoughts.