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.

Am I Bad?


I feel like I'm being devious.

The first site I hit upon when doing my Montessori high school search was a thing in Wikipedia. It reminded me that I'm not giving the kids the feedback they need on their progress. So I decided to do a month report for the kids, starting with the 15yo. I'm working on her French section, saying what she's accomplished and what she has left to do to finish French 10. She's FAR more capable than that, but is convinced that she can't do French Language Arts. As I was going through the Alberta objectives, I realized that I could have her cover French 10 and 20 for sure this year (she's already touched on at least half the stuff), and possibly even French 30. She'll then be able to move into FLA 10-2 and 20-2 stuff for sure for next year. But I'm not going to tell her that. {devilish grin} That's why I ask, "Am I bad?" Well, I'll tell her eventually, but I'm not going to tell her that's my plan. She'll panic and resist.

There are lots of things she lacks confidence in, lots of things she's convinced she can't do better. And there are things with the 12yo and even my dd. I have to wonder if there's something I should have been doing all along to help this, or if there's something I've been doing all along that has encouraged this negative thinking. I'm brought back to Marva Collins saying repeatedly that the kids need to believe in themselves before they truly excel. She gives them constant feedback, even if it's a little over the top. I think this is something I need to work on. Growing up, I had the "Excellent!" stickers or the "Good job!" stickers and things like that. But not enough real feedback. I guess part of me figured that the kids would just know how they're doing. It's silly of me, isn't it?

Ok, gotta go back to my reports and Montessori high school searching.

Montessori and High Schoolers

The 15yo tends to be fairly self-motivated, but the motivation she used to have is flittering away. Part of it is that her sleep cycles have changed and she's tired most mornings. But there's something else. And I'm not sure what it is. I think it could be the added pressure of having to do certain coursework. But that's just a guess.

She was so eager at one point last year to finish school early. That eagerness is gone. She wanted to improve her typing, but she's not willing to do what she needs to in order to improve. It's this element that has really got me thinking about Montessori and high schoolers.

The tricky part in Montessori is always to know how much and when to step in and how much and when to step aside. I'm feeling lost at this point with her. As I write that, the idea comes to mind that I need to conference with her more. Set aside some time where she and I can talk. Something that's set up with a set time so that it's being done because that's the schedule, not because there are problems. She's at an age where she really wants to and can direct her studies and life much more, even if she's not ready to be totally on her own. I think if we conference more, it'll help her become more aware of what she wants for her education and schooling.

I think I'm going to try to find some Montessori high school websites, see what I can glean from them. The Montessori approach worked so well for her in junior high, but she's hit the next age level and the curriculum has no choice but to be more restricted because she's going for an Alberta high school diploma. I need to have a better sense of what my role is for her right now.

It's Saturday--and a Long Weekend!

This is our first real long weekend in a very, very long time. Dd actually made the comment yesterday that long weekends are always shorter than the others. It was very insightful because she's right: our long weekends are usually spent with my mom, dh's parents and family or both. There's no time for just us because whatever time is left, if there is any, is spent rushing around getting things done.

That's not the case this time. :D

I'm not working, dh isn't working, dd has a skating lesson and we'll go to Mass and that's it! We're doing Thanksgiving stuff with both families next weekend instead of this weekend--not entirely sure why, but that's what my mom and in-laws each decided independently.

That doesn't mean I'm taking the weekend off and doing nothing at all. Since the kids spent so much time in front of the tv watching their dad play XBox last night, plus they each had 40 minutes, I'm not allowing them to have a movie or XBox during the day today, which they usually do. Instead,they're going into training. Housekeeping training.

Their room has fallen apart. The basement--where most of the toys are--needs to be cleaned up and gone through. The general housecleaning needs to be done. There are toys that have been laying out because they were using them daily but no longer are. And more. So, I think we'll do a little stint in the basement--I can't spend too long due to allergies, although dh did bring up the point that if we kept it clean down there, the dust and everything wouldn't be so bad--and rotate around places. I'm thinking of making it a FlyLady Crisis Cleaning-type thing. But modified for kids. Let me work out a plan:

10 minutes - basement
10 minutes - bedroom
10 minutes - basement
10 minutes - living room/family room (picking up and putting away toys, other items, dusting)

That'll be enough for the kids' first crisis cleaning. Their bedroom, with the three of us working on it, won't take more than 10 minutes. It's just that it's a small room and the slightest thing on the floor makes it look horribly dirty.

As for me, I'll continue working on things in the den, do some laundry and clean the bathrooms. Oh, and the kitchen floor. Since we got a new dining set, the floor has been rather neglected because of the size and style. The chairs are bigger and harder to move around and there's a cross piece on the bottom of the table. I've let the added difficulty remove my habit of sweeping and mopping it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Early Rising

I've been kind of sick the past few days--yesterday, my nose ran non-stop. My poor skin is so irritated that even though I bought myself some nice, soft Kleenexes, they still hurt. :(

I was so tired, I made myself go to bed early. Turned off my light around 9:15. Although I'm almost always awake at 5am, roughly 9pm-5am makes almost 8 hours of sleep. The thought was very promising. Except that I was awake at 4 instead of 5. :( I flitted in and out of sleep until about 5, got up, got dressed and ready and went to lay down on the couch downstairs. Once ready, I can usually fall asleep and sleep until 6:30 or so. But I didn't. My congestion got to me and I just could not get back to sleep.

I thought it was just me.

I put the kids to bed early last night. Ds has been almost unbearable lately. But he was up and thoroughly awake at 6:20--he's usually not up until close to 7. Dd was up at 6:30.

Why are we so sleepless?

And how is today's homeschooling going to turn out?

I'd like to just go back to bed and sleep... Or try to, anyhow!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Misc. Babbling

The power went out this afternoon. It was interesting being in the house, the kids quietly reading, no sound of the aquarium, fridge or any other electric 'thing'. It was quite nice. I only wished I couldn't hear the traffic, too. It would have been totally peaceful.

Of course, my enjoyment of it left me when the power came on and I realized that the monitor would have turned off, which would mean difficulty in getting it to work again. I probably spent over an hour, doing sessions here and there of turning the power button on and off. It's finally on. :) (If you're wondering what I'm talking about, see other posts on my computer problems!)


The flu shot: Do you get the flu shot? Do you have your children get the flu shot? Yahoo News has articles in the spotlight right now, making a fuss about kids not getting flu shots. Well, why should they? Sure, those who have health issues which would make the flu shot very advisable really ought to. But they, in the US, are really pushing to have ALL children ages 6 months through 5 years vaccinated.

It sits wrong with me. What are we doing to our immune systems? What genetic changes may be taking place as one generation after another avoids, or tries to avoid, things like the flu through something as artificial as a vaccine? It makes me think of all the anti-bacterial products out there. People don't realize how they are affecting their immune systems, and their kids' immune systems, by trying to remove every germ and every bacterium. Our immune systems develop proper functionality by being exposed to things they have to deal with. Studies have shown that kids who live in practically germ-free homes have weaker immune systems than others. We're so worried about getting sick that we try to eliminate everything we can, just encouraging our bodies to get sick if they do encounter those germs!

The 15yo came to me very germ-phobic. She's not totally relaxed about it all now, but she's much better than she was. I shared with her the information about immune systems and how there's actually benefit to a young child's immune system when they stick something from the ground in their mouths. The knowledge that a little bit of most germs and bacteria not going to really make you sick or cause you to die, and can actually be a bit good for you, helped relieve some of her anxiety. (Really hearing that your immune system can get weaker if you constantly use anti-bacterials really hit her.) A lot of it had to do with young kids in the house and with some food item falling on the floor and me giving it to them afterwards if the floor was reasonably clean (I'm not at all suggesting you should keep a disgusting floor and eat off of it, but a reasonably clean floor will not do anything damaging to you!). She learned about the 5-second rule which is a favourite joke around here, but also to say, "Oh, it's good for the immune system." She no longer automatically throws, say, a grape away if it's fallen on the floor and been there for a second.

What's my point? Going from vaccines to bacteria? Haven't a clue. I told you in the subject line this was a babble, though. :D

Kids are so cute!

I insisted that ds (6) do some school stuff with me last night because we hadn't done any together during the day at all. He picked his addition workbook and did some in that. He picked a page where he had to work out the questions then colour the section the correct colour. He didn't get to finish it and this morning, during breakfast, he announced that he wanted to work this morning.

So, he gets his book and brings it down to the table. He flips through one page at a time, reading aloud some of the stuff he's already done. "2 plus 1 equals 3. I already knew that!" "3 plus 4 equals 7. I already knew that!" (He actually doesn't have that one memorized, though!) He had so much joy in going over what he's done and getting to the page he needs to colour.

Ok, it was probably one of those mommy moments where you are just filled with awe and love for your little creature! :D


Maybe there is something to parents wanting to homeschool their children due to school security. Or rather, the growing security schools feel they need.

I'm watching the Today Show or Good Morning America or something like that. They visited this school in Hoboken, NJ, where visitors have to have their picture taken, have their photo id scanned or something like that, where all the kids have to wear id's... This security guy evaluating the school said that the only thing he wasn't happy about was that their security system was not linked up to databases on sexual predators and violent offenders. (!)

More and more schools seem to be turning prison-like. I guess there are lots of buildings now which have a security guard and people have to sign in and wear id's and all that, but for kids? It's scary that our society has perhaps reached a point where schools do require all that. I keep thinking there's got to be another way to make our schools safe, but I don't have any ideas. And so, I can thoroughly understand parents who are worried about their kids' safety in school and who don't want to have to send their children to what seems like a medium-security prison each day.

I'm sure that those who started public education never imagined it would get to this point...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Holy Cow!!!

Absolutely nothing to do with homeschooling or Montessori:


Check this guy out!! (Hopefully the link words correctly!!)


Okay, about today:

The 12yo showed up looking pale today and visibly not well (not just an act!) and kind of just laid around for a while, then listened to me read to him a chapter from a simple version of War of the Worlds (I had tried to read the original at one point, but when the first sentence in the book covers practically half a page, it's not very encouraging!), he looked in the shelves and pulled out a chemistry model kit (a cheap dollar store thing) and listened to me read from Narnia just before lunch. 15yo's feeling better and did some social and math. It's been since last Thursday that she hasn't done any math--tsk tsk on us. Of course, she wasn't feeling well, but it's slow going when you're forgetting all the new stuff you've learned. I also did a little bit of vocabulary stuff with her from a book called... not sure. Too lazy to go get it right now. Dd read a French book, did some math and read her Goosebumps for a while. I've done nothing with ds.

It's just after lunch and we're waiting for the 15yo to head off to a dentist appointment. I'd like to do some work this afternoon as the 12yo's colour has come back a bit and he's much more energetic, dd hasn't done much and I'd like ds to do something. Hm... What to do?


On another note, I've come across things online with people freaking out over the school shootings and thinking of homeschooling. Well, to be honest, I'm not sure that's reason to homeschool. Look at the most recent shooting: an Amish community. Had absolutely nothing to do with them. The chances of something happening in a school just aren't (usually) that high. A child is far more likely to have the snuff beat out of him than be in a school where some lunatic comes in and shoots people. And the chances for an individual child being beaten up aren't that high!

What gets me is there's all this discussion now about what's going on in schools--two of the three schools had nothing to do with what was going on in the school. The Amish case is clearly one of a man who snapped for some reason. Afaik, it's the same thing with that other man who killed the girls in that other school (sorry, places and names have never been a strong point for me!) What's this got to do with what's going on in schools? Who says that schools have anything to do with what happened with those two cases?

Ah well, c'est la vie. People getting all hyped up and not thinking rationally...

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Really Great Day!

It turned out ENTIRELY different than I had planned, but it turned out great nonetheless.

I got going late this morning but still managed to do some letter work with ds during breakfast. One point for me! I also pulled out the sand later in the morning for him to trace letters in. And he played with playdough and lots of time outside.

The two oldest showed up late. The oldest was visibly not well--looking drained and pale. Her brother (the 12yo) took his stuff upstairs, found all the car books he had taken out last Fri., brought a couple down and sat down to read. Not sure how much he read, but I was able to see that he was actually reading some things here and there, even if most of his time was spent looking at the pictures. Dd and ds had already been reading (okay, for ds 'reading') for 15 minutes, with no hint of stopping right away, and I could tell there was no way I was going to get anything started with the oldest, so I sat down and read, too. The 15yo tried to follow suit but ended up just laying on the ground, her cheek on her book. (Poor girl has been fighting off the flu since last week.)

My niece showed up and ds went off to be with her. Dd went off to her room--thought she was reading but she was looking at her jewellery. She hasn't been feeling super well, either. The 12yo tried to claim suddenly that he was tired and not feeling well. It's inevitable: as long as one is truly not feeling well but doesn't want to go off and be alone, the others have little desire to work.

I refused to let this be a wasted day, though, and decided to do as much orally or group-oriented as I could. So I finished a chapter in Narnia for them. I pulled out the math flashcards, which got ds thinking about this other set of cards we have and he asked for those. I couldn't find them, but did find our poetry magnets and a pack of 3-word rhyme cards. The 12yo did a few of the math cards but then got busy with the magnets. Dd went through about 2/3 of the multiplication pack. The 15yo was mindlessly absorbing it all. After that, dd went off to use the word magnets with the 12yo (they came up with some pretty kooky sentences, but what a wonderful way to read and compose!) and I helped ds with his 3-word rhymes.

I can't really remember what happened after that, but I know the 15yo did up a chart for the verb 'avoir' and I got through a spelling assessment with the 12yo (he's gone up about 2 years in his spelling level over the past 1.5-2 years, despite practially no writing and almost no spelling work--he's been reading more though, even if it's not 'enough', or perhaps I should look at it as 'not as much as he could be' and we have been doing more work with phonics this year) . I also managed to use some wonderful Marva Collins' style comments during his spelling frustrations, combined with things learned from a book I have out on underachievers and he sort of dealt with his emotions and stuck through some of the difficulties. What progress! I also did the spelling assessment with dd (right at grade level) as well something from a science kit with her--it's supposed to create rock candy. We'll see.

Oh, and after lunch, the oldest was feeling a little better, not much though, and wanted to work but you could tell she just would not be able to process much and she didn't want to leave the comfy chair. So, she asked for 100 times facts. I didn't keep track of how long it took her, but she completed the sheet and only got one silly mistake. Definite improvement there! She wasn't pleased when she saw how quickly I went through and corrected them though. lol. I had to tell her the story of my amazement when I was in school: I was the fastest and most accurate on our timed tests, yet our teacher just zipped through them so quickly that I, too, was thoroughly amazed.

There was also discussion of a quote I took from Marva's book, wrote on a sheet of paper and put on the window: School will not do anything for you if you do not wish to do something for yourself.

I have to credit Marva for creating a mindset in me today that I expected success from the kids, in whatever way they could give it. And to make as many learning opportunities as possible. I hope to get to some more traditional work, but if they do better with more oral and 'together' types of activities, then so be it. It was a day where the kids and I were all feeling like homeschooling was a great thing, without battles and few frustrations.


Second Thoughts

I'm re-thinking my plan to have the 12yo switch topics every time he leaves the table. Part of it has been due to reading one of Marva Collins' books. What am I really accomplishing if I have him switch topics? I thought I would be showing him that his learning is in his hands, to a certain degree, but I think it could backfire. Plus it requires a lot of constant involvement on my part and there are 4 other kids in the house.

So, what's my plan, then? Have his checklist, make sure he does work before he eats a snack (classic work-avoidance tactic), using comments inspired by Marva Collins: "When you're an adult, is somebody going to give you money to get food before you do any work? Of course not. You have to work first to be able to get food." He hates the timer, but I'm going to keep an eye on time and have him switch subjects after a reasonable time. If he really has not accomplished enough because of his dawdling, he'll have to work on it in the afternoon. I also need to make sure that I'm clear with him what he has to get done today before he has any free time.

I'm also going to attempt to track how much time he actually spends working and show it to him later. Got to go get this stuff ready!