Thursday, April 27, 2006

So far, sort of so good

My plan for yesterday worked fairly well. It got the 9yo putting more effort into things and the 11yo actually got a fair amount of work done (although not as much time spent working as I would have liked, but there were issues with me having to monitor a testing situation). "With freedom comes responsibility." Both children are trying to shirk responsibility now and with too much freedom, they are quite irresponsible. My lessening their freedom seemed calming to them a bit yesterday, so I think I'm doing the right thing.

I'm considering using the Writing Road to Reading phonics section to work with the 11yo and possibly the 9yo, with the others joining in if they wish. The 11yo is really stuck remembering sounds and rules and all that. Phonics Pathways (which we've been using) is good, especially for his eye tracking, but it takes time to get through all of the sections and doesn't quite get as explicit in possibilities for different sounds. I think I will also adapt it to work with French phonetics with the 15yo. She has read so little French the past couple of years she struggles with the simplest of words. She is so capable so I need to provide her with something to get it all back on track and to have her regain her confidence.

I was just thinking that this may not all seem very Montessori, and perhaps it isn't, but it is taking each child and finding what will best help them instead of using a blanket approach for all.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Things didn't go as I had hoped. Dd decided she wanted to learn about flamingos, but once at the library, we couldn't really find any suitable books and she was so discouraged, she didn't want to see if there were any to request from another branch. I may try to help her do online research, which I try to limit until fter they've already got most of the information they want.

The 9yo was in a mood today and did pick a project--rabbits--but then proceeded to the computer immediately. I had her come back and asked her what she was doing. "Research." "What do we usually start with, instead of the computer, when researching?" "I don't know." Once I stood firm on her starting with books, she refused to do any project.

The 11yo is fighting any kind of learning, especially anything involving reading and writing. He didn't pick anything he wanted to learn about.

The 15yo picked out something last week: Jack the Ripper. I wonder if it'll be something she'll be able to share with others. I'll have to talk to her about 'audience' before she begins narrowing in on her topic.

I feel very un-Montessori in what I want to do--we'll see if I feel the same and follow through tomorrow: I want the 9yo's and the 11yo's time much more structured. They are similar in a number of ways and fall quickly into goofing off mode--and this can last for days/weeks if not nipped in the bud. Trying to work with them to get them back on track is frustrating, to say the least. It'd be different in a classroom full of other kids working, I think. Here, the tendency is towards entropy. :( With certain distractions this week, they are taking full advantage of it and doing absolutely nothing. Seriously. The 11yo spent close to 30 minutes rocking in the rocking chair with a baby block in his hand on Monday. I need to pull them back. I need to direct them more as they are not handling freedom well at the moment. Any work habit the 9yo had has slithered away and hid somewhere. The 11yo hasn't had a decent work habit in two years. Things have got to change. And I've got to be the one to direct the change.

So, what I've got at the moment is a list of things for them to do tomorrow, with guidelines on minimum time (and minimum questions) they should be spending actually working on these things. They get to pick the order. If I don't state approx. times and amount of complete work, they'll take advantage of it. They're both quite talented in getting away, or trying to get away, with doing the least amount possible. The 9yo will write one sentence in cursive, which takes a whole minute, and says she's done cursive. She'll do 5 addition problems (she's currently working on multiplication) which take maybe 5 minutes and little effort and says she's done math. She somehow got in her mind that if she did a little bit of everything, she could be 'done work early,' even if that means that she's done 'everything' in 20 minutes time (during a 3-hour morning work period.) This was something we had ONE day many moons ago when we had other things we wanted to do and she still seems to think it applies. Or the 11yo will take 30 minutes to do 2 math questions--not because it actually takes him that long to figure them out. It'll be made clear that it's the amount of time actually spent working that counts, not how much time you spend in front of the questions, or out of your spot after having said you would do math. I know this isn't Montessori, but I'm not sure that even Maria Montessori would have let these two be much given the circumstances.

The oldest is doing fairly well, although I do have to direct her to more French work. Dd is doing quite well, too. Ds learned to tie his shoes with both 'bunny ears' and a single 'bunny ear' this past week, plus still likes doing all kinds of math things, reading the clock and all kinds of spontaneous things that help him progress. I've started introducing little things to help alphabet/sound knowledge along further as I can tell he would like to read and write, but he doesn't have the skills to do so yet. It's just the two really reluctant learners, both lagging academically, who seem to have reached a point of just wanting to do nothing productive/useful and play. Part of it has been that certain routines got affected with different things going on and they've not gotten back to them. I also know both have stress issues in their family lives right now, which may be part of it, but at the same time, I can't allow them to disrupt everybody else. If they would at least spend their down time reading, writing, drawing, something other than the various things they do that hurts everyone else's work time, I wouldn't have a problem. Well, not as much. ;)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Tomorrow's plan

I was just re-reading what I've written in the past. It hits with what I wrote recently in a journal and what I keep writing about that I know I need to do and can't seem to get myself to do: focus on cultural content.

Something I had hoped to do today but we'll work on tomorrow is generate questions the kids can find resources at the library to help them research. (Tomorrow is our library day.) We'll also talk about different kinds of ways to present research so that they don't all feel they have to give a written report and just a written report. Things that come to mind off the top of my head: diorama, PowerPoint presentation, oral report, collage, taped (audio or visual) component... Of course, this doesn't apply to ds (5yo), but I would like to encourage him to find non-fiction books, especially in French, while we're there. He's begun imitating others in 'writing' stories (just scribbles, although he will occasionally write 'words'--actual letters, not necessarily matching up with sounds) and this could be a good way to provide him a means of progressing.

One more thing for me to do before Wednesday is pick out a science experiment to do. Haven't done one in ages with the kids.

I'm REALLY not good at this!

It's been more than 5 months since my last entry. I'm going to give it one last go and see if I can make this a good habit and hopefully, in turn, provide something useful to others!

I'm not even going to attempt to summarize the last 5 months--remembering the past couple of weeks can be difficult enough. ;) However, I can give an idea of where we are at.

Spring has sprung and the kids really want to be outside a lot. It's only just hit me as I write this (see, I really ought to write more often) that I ought to take advantage of that and try to incorporate that into their learning more. I wish I could be more experimental and just go for it with the kids, as Maria Montessori seemed to be, rather than worrying, planning, etc. I suppose it just takes a certain amount of practice.

We still have a little over 2 months left of school to finish, with some of the kids having to finish certain work within the next month--has to do with the type of registration they have and plans for next year-- and my own kids being able to just keep plodding along at their own pace. I'm trying very hard to get the 11yo to do more writing. An idea I had had in the past has come up again, but with a twist: since he's so dreadfully afraid of writing--because he worries about the spelling and what to write and thinks it'll be "stupid" or have to be redone (damage done from his previous school)--I want to tape him as he tells me about something, or makes up some story, and then have him transcribe it. I've proposed the idea to him in the past, but sitting down and having to think of something somewhat sensible to say in the tape recorder just doesn't cut it for him. So, I'm going to have a tape recorder on when he arrives tomorrow morning and tape one of his usual morning updates, maybe transcribe it myself and hand it to him as one of his written projects. He'll say he didn't write it and I can tell him about Stephen Hawking, and even show a picture of him, and say, "How do you think he writes books?"

This has got other thoughts going: I think he's got misconceptions of what writing really is. I know I said something about being willing to type up final work of his, but he seemed to think that meant it would be my work. I asked him if authors typed up all the books we buy in stores; he admitted that they couldn't. I somehow have to get across to him that writing is just someone's message, but written down. I think my tape recorder idea could work. We'll see. (And hopefully I'll remember to post about it. :D )

So, I guess that's an experiment on my part. (Pat on back.) Wait, I'll hold off patting my back until I actually do it.

Back to what I was saying... The 11yo needs to work on writing and reading--he is still so dependent and he can't learn about all the other things he wants to know about on his own because he can't read or even know how to spell things well enough to find what he wants. This and math are major priorities as he'll be heading into grade 7 next year and has only 3 more years until high school, which he's fairly sure most days he wants to attend (we have a school nearby that he would absolutely love going to.) Even if he decides not to go, he sees the importance of at least being at a level where he has the freedom to actually choose it rather than be forced to not attend. Oh, and he also has some minor testing to do in the coming month, required by our school board. We'll see what I can get him to do.

Other than that, I think this week's focus is getting some of the testing (reading and writing) done for the 8yo and the 15yo. They've done the reading today, we'll do a writing practice tomorrow, see if they want yet another writing practice on Wed. and then do the test on Thurs. I'm at a loss as to what to do with the 4 others during this time. It was very rough trying to get the 11yo and the 9yo to get into any kind of work this morning and even the 5yo was asking me what he could do. I spent so much time trying to get the testing in place, monitoring it and handling a cranky 14mo that I just didn't seem to be able to come up with something to get them going. It probably would have helped to work out some sort of plan together before the testing began.

Since tomorrow's practice test is going to be just like a real test, we'll have to set up a normal work time beforehand, I think. But I also have to figure out how to bring some life back to our school work. The nice weather is calling to them so much, but with the 11yo having to complete certain work within the next month and the 9yo possibly heading off to school next year, there are, as un-Montessori as it is, work requirements. They're not interested in figuring out requirements, so perhaps I simply create a plan or contract with them for tomorrow and let them decide when they'll do it.

This has gotten quite long. I'll leave it for now and hopefully come back in a few days to share on how the "tape recording writing" went.