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?:) )


Lisia said...

Of course I made it to the end - your posts are always interesting :)

I too feel that "lots of lessons" is a key to Montessori homeschooling, helping create the atmosphere of enthusiasm for and satisfaction in work, which other children help create in a Montessori classroom. My kids like presentations because of the novelty value and because we are working together. They feel they've achieved something - they've mastered something new.

When I'm preparing and making regular presentations, things hum along. When I slack off in this regard, a general negative attitude to work creeps in - we all become reluctant.

Thanks for introducing me to Marva Collins. Interesting book.

Hey, I posted a comment on your "3-Period Lesson" post but not until it was a week old, sorry. I'm still learning blog commenting etiquette. I think maybe I need to comment right away or if I'm slow with my comment, put it on the latest post rather then the one it relates to so it doesn't get missed.

Daisy said...

The end of your second paragraph is so tied in with the confidence talk about the Marva Collins book!

I'm eager for this week, although wondering if I have the time to be fully prepared for tomorrow--dd's birthday party today--but I'm excited to be doing something other than policing or dealing with grumblings! Period 1 is all about just showing them. I can move into period 2 if they seem ready, but it's not necessary.

Yes, I did read your comment and thought I had responded, but I probably said, "Later," having been on the computer too long, and forgot about it! I don't know what blog netiquette is, either, so don't worry. :D Anyhow, your breakdown sounds really good. I'm glad to have it concurred that little time is spent in period 2 in a typical school. Ironically, a lot of tests are poorly done multiple choice and are often a period 2-type recognition activity! I'm quite certain that Maria Montessori or a Montessorian stressed the importance of period 2 activities. The work with the timeline cards, things like that. (Oh, another realization--I was trying to show the kids how to make a timeline the other day, but that was essentially moving straight to a period 3 activity. The activity didn't go so well and now I know why.)

Ok, really have to go finish working on party preparations!

Debbie said...

What I took from your post was the importance of children working together. I've been trying to find a way to juggle teaching my 2 (don't laugh) children. They are 6 and 7. Math is the most difficult, I find. They're usually doing different activities and I just go back and forth between them both. I was considering teaching them at different times, but I really don't want to do that.

Lisia said...

I agree period 2 activities are important. Without them, children face a real possibility of failure when they tackle period 3 work, and are more dependent on the teacher.

Pam said...

Man I got to the end of that post and all I could think was "What is this blithering nonsense about and why did I just waste n minutes reading it?"


Gosh Daisy...I think I need to be a fly on the wall of your homeschool. I could learn a lot from you...(wait! I am!)

Daisy said...


Too funny.