Saturday, September 30, 2006
One realization that came was that I have not been paying attention to the whole child lately. My focus has been so much on getting work going--academic--that I've been forgetting other things. This is not good. Especially for the 12yo. I need to make a concerted effort to have our homeschooling experience be enriching, interesting, fostering a love of learning. This does not mean putting the academics aside, but adding to them or changing how they're done. Another realization has been that the way things are currently set up involve me being after him all the time and him getting away with not doing a lot because it takes him an hour to do what would only take 15 minutes--he starts doodling, or rolling, or just takes off. I don't like this!
At the same time, my babbling led to a creative way to help the 12yo with his work. Here's my idea: I'm going to set up a schedule which alternates between a sit-down type of work and something where he has to move or do an entirely different activity. This has, admittedly, been somewhat inspired by Charlotte Mason's approach. But here's the catch: instead of spending my time trying to get him to stay on task, I'm going to switch activities once he chooses to go off and lay on the floor or do a front roll, doodle or whatever it is he's chosen to do instead of the assigned work. I might even say something like, "Oh, I see you've chosen to do something else right now. We'll come back to it later. Let's do this now." So, let's say I explain something from his next math lesson and before I finish or he gets to a question, or he only finishes a few questions, he gets up and does something else. I will then move onto something else, like a sensory integration activity. He'd probably finish something like that, so then we'd move onto, say, phonics. As soon as he takes off, or if he finishes, we move onto something very different, perhaps a science experiment. And have fairly frequent 5-minute breaks in here and there.
Here's the catch, though: let's say he ends up quickly going through everything scheduled because he decides it's to his benefit to just keep all the activities moving along (he's not a stupid kid, he'll pick up on it quickly!). The thing is, once he hits the end of the list, we start back over with the stuff he didn't finish. :D This will mean keeping the list fairly simple the first day and gradually building up so that he feels the success of having done everything.
I will have to also be a little firmer and clearer with my expectations. He gets away with stuff because I let him. I admit to that. There's no reason, however, that he can not work more, other than his desire to avoid all 'bad' feelings (stress, fear of not doing something right, and even feeling bored). I need to set some explicit limits as to what needs to be done before he can move onto other things. He'll probably ask why the others don't have to have things set up that way. Thankfully, I'm already prepared with Marva Collins' wonderful approach to this: "Does she wear the same clothes as you? Is she the same age as you? Does she have the same interests as you? No, she's not you. Why should she have the same work structure as you if she's not the same as you?" Of course, if he presses it a lot, I could just point out his older sister's mostly self-directed approach and what she has to do and say, "So you'll follow the same schedule and do the same amount of work as your sister? How is that going to help you when you're not the same person she is?"
We'll see how it goes. One thing to be said about Montessori is that Maria Montessori encouraged experimentation and I think I'm definitely being good on that front!
Friday, September 29, 2006
We're getting better at working but... something's not right and I can't figure out how to fix it. Maybe the problem is I'm spending too much time trying to fix something without stepping back and observing what's going on. Cardinal rule of Montessori: observe!!
So, what did I observe today?
The 12yo is developing even worse habits in terms of sticking to a single activity. I was very clear with him today that his behaviour is not actually ADD--it's simply making a decision to leave something for something else that seems better. I know that gets labelled as ADD, but I worked with a boy once whose mind flitted to 10 different topics in a 30-second span: THAT is what I consder ADD. This is about priorities and habits more than his mind not being able to follow through on a task. It's a not-want-to attitude. Or a 'the grass is greener on the other side' attitude. Seeing what that person is doing is much more interesting than sitting down and eating the orange that he cut. It's not simply that activtity caught his interest and distracted him, it was that he didn't want to miss out. After taking a piece, going over and getting involved with what someone else is doing is much more interesting than sitting down and finishing his orange. This is daily with him, especially when it comes to work time. He'll sit down then if I'm not there to make sure he stays there, he goes off into the living room, usually doing a front roll or something. He'll finish a single question and takes off. Somehow or other, the ability to do a task from beginning to end, a vital Montessori lesson, needs to be given to him. (This has got me thinking--maybe I should give him some small Practical Life activities to do!)
As I type this, I realize that there are things going on behind the scenes that I don't know a lot about, but it's family stuff and it does stress him out. Seeking something more pleasurable, regardless of what he's doing, makes him feel better. Which reminds me that we did little tackling of emotional vocabulary work this week, which was on my mental plan of things to do. I had hoped to have worked through most of the unit on emotions in the book Building Moral Intelligence and I haven't even started.
So this brings me to another observation, but a self-observation: what am I doing or not doing? I'm not doing my lists and following through. Doesn't this indirectly affect the kids? Is it not a subtle modelling of what I don't want them doing? I'm spending too much time at the kitchen table when there are other spaces worthy of working in where the 12yo and dd are much more comfortable working in (like laying stretched out on the living room floor). I have so much laid out in Homeschool Tracker yet have barely opened it up this month. I think I need to take FlyLady's advice and get a morning routine written down, which starts with looking at HST and specific sections to see what sort of lessons I'd had planned out and want to do. Also, having my own list out and visible, a list I need to check off, may provide a good example to them. Again, I'm trying to fix things instead of just observing!!
Ok, more observations:
Dd really wants to spend more time working with me but she doesn't want to make all of the decisions. (I just offered to have us work on a project together for school work and she said that was a really good idea. I also think I'm going to have to work more time in the morning before school, in the evening and during the afternoons to do little amounts here and there with her.) Dd is also resistant to anything that's new. She loves writing poems on the computer. She would love to do daily typing if our JumpStart Typing wouldn't cause the computer to crash (it's actually related to the computer crashing for any reason and JumpStart Typing is the latest program the 'cancer' has decided to attack). She has been difficult this week and finally had a fever today. She may have had fevers the other days and I just hadn't thought to see if that was one of the causes of her low attitudes.
Ds is still so very much in play mode, especially when my niece is here. Just how he is at that point makes it impossible to really get him to do something. [Solution: do stuff with him before play time begins. Do stuff when my niece isn't here.] He's also been fussy this week. We've probably all been fighting off a bug and that's affected our work time and the flow to the day.
The 15yo is doing fairly well, as usual. I still am a bit fearful that she's not getting as much done as she should be, and yet, because we got a late start and she definitely has been fighting off something this week, I just kind of have to accept it.
So, with some observations made, I can now reflect on them and then see about a different plan of action for next week.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
The 12yo bought himself a ukulele yesterday and brought it today. That inspired dd to play the piano for a bit and then to play my guitar later on (although, she only goofs around on the guitar--her hands are really too small still to do anything with it). This led to the lap harp being played and eventually, to a small band: dd on the lap harp, the 12yo on his ukulele, ds on the guitar and the 15yo at the piano. The 15yo doesn't really play piano so she was making up all kinds of crazy stuff and 'singing' to it. I've got a little bit on video, but not enough. It was too funny, though!
Inspired by them, I pulled out my flute and played a couple of songs for my niece. I haven't played in so long, my facial muscles got tired almost immediately!
The 15yo and I finished watching the BBC version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I really don't ever want to watch it again. It was not at all what I envisioned when reading the play! Far too serious and a fairly dark set. The play within the play put on by Bottom et al. is wonderful, but... I've requested the Hollywood version so that the 15yo can see how the same play can be interpreted in more than one way.
Oh, ds is strumming away in the background. No attempt at notes just strum-strum-strum to a particular rhythm. He has not done any language arts or math today, but he spent a long time working with his K'Nex and Lego. I see that as the equivalent of the Alberta Program of Studies "Building Things". :D
Dd, otoh, had a bit of a meltdown. It's been weeks of resistance and a sulky, helpless attitude whenever it's time to work and complaining she can't do anything on her own, that I never help her and more. I ended up saying to her, "If you're not happy with the homeschooling and I'm not happy with the homeschooling, why are you here?" So we talked a bit about what would make her happier and how we can plan things better together to have smoother days. She is just so utterly convinced that everything new is too hard. (This is not a child with a learning difficulty.) She has such a hard time dealing with the fact that she doesn't know everything and some things are difficult (or take longer than half a second to learn) but surmountable. She has been like this since she was a baby. I still remember the fits she had trying to do something around 9 months or so that she mentally knew could be done (although the activity was designed for older babies) but she couldn't get her hands to do it. So, on the one hand, there could be some merit in giving her really easy stuff for a bit, build up the confidence and positive attitude. Otoh, she'll fall into the same trap of thinking that challenging things are bad because she thinks she can't do them. This is something I probably need to deal with daily and not just when there are meltdowns.
Ds is still such a kindergartner. I'm almost wondering if I should have waited a year to register him for grade 1 homeschooling. But the board just looks at work, really, and he can do grade 1 work, so... We only do about 5 minutes a work a day plus fit in a story I read to him on our good days. It doesn't help he just had his birthday and has new toys!
So, today is Wednesday, usually our slow day. But I'm prepared for it today. I'm pulling out the timer and making sure the 12yo sticks to it. I would love to be able to sit down and talk with him about his schooling but he just wants to avoid all 'bad' feelings and it won't get anywhere. I was reminded yesterday of how Marva Collins really spent a lot of time building up the kids' confidence and their sense of choice--they can choose to be better. I think I need to do this with him. I'll go find the quotes I took from Emerson a while back when I was feeling inspired by Marva and print them off. He and I can start reading that a bit today. As for the others and Wednesday, the 15yo will make her plan as she did yesterday and dd and I will have our first private planning session.
My plan for today, other than the timer and individual student planning: The 15yo already has her schedule, but I still have not done a French phonics lesson with her and dd since the beginning of Sept. , so I hope to do that today. This is supposed to be an almost daily thing! I think I need my own checklist and have it posted so I can say, "You know what, I really need to do this with you today." I'm getting a summer/fall art activity ready for ds: putting the leaves on the trees for the summer page and picking multicoloured leaves with some glued to the 'ground' for the fall trees. I also want to do some letters with him and some math. (We did some yesterday. It was so cute--he was so proud of himself!)
Well, I'd better get to work!
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
It will be available everywhere soon, if I can succeed in marketing it:
That, or maybe it can be a centrepiece!
It's not fair of me to show our dear Sunny and not Ariel, so here are a couple of pictures of Ariel in her favourite places:
Onto school-related matters, we have not been sitting down and doing our morning planning. We must. They are unfocused and not moving towards reasonable work. Especially the 15yo. (Well, she's doing more than her brother, but that's not what I mean.) She's got a ton of work to do and she's slipping into the, "I don't really feel like it," mode. While she's doing fairly well at following her schedule, she's just kind of floating through it. She needs more direction to her days and her weeks. The best way is for her to determine how much she should get done, especially in terms of thinking of her deadlines. The way her math is going, she's going to take a year and a half to finish a one-semester course!!
And I'm thinking of moving our morning silent reading to another time. It's just not working. I think if we did our planning and moved straight into work, things will flow better. I think we'll go back to silent reading after lunch. Or perhaps make it what I had planned on making it but our crazy schedule lately has not allowed it: Reading/Writing time after lunch.
Monday, September 25, 2006
I've had enough rain. I was not designed to live in place where it rains all the time. We had a few days of no rain, but it's back again.
I just want the autumns I remember to be back. With the cooler weather and the colours and the leaves falling. It's kind of begun, but not much. Everything should have changed colour by now. A ton of leaves should have already fallen. But it's behaving like summer out there.
(No, this has nothing to do with homeschooling nor Montesssori!)
She was at heart a scientist and yet a product of her time. She fully expected children to want little prizes for good work and behaviour. But she found that in each of the early classrooms she had set up, the children just did not want prizes/rewards. She said some appeared even insulted that they should be given a prize of some sort and that one boy, whose focus was on his work, cared so little for the reward the teacher had given him that when it fell to the floor, he let one boy being punished have it. The boy who was being punished (the child who had not yet learned to really work) enjoyed the prize much more than the boy who had 'earned' it. Rewards did not lead the children to better behaviour and work; suitable work led them to better behaviour and work.
More modern research into the topic has revealed that rewards are not all they're cracked up to be. While they became a huge part of child-rearing, due to the likes of B. F. Skinner and others, they have not proven to be of true benefit. Punished by Rewards is a parent and teacher must-read, imho. He goes through study after study on the negative effects of rewards, and much of the studies are not even about kids. I recall his account of a business place that set up a reward system for the personnel. It almost destroyed the company.
Rewards, as Debbie wrote in her blog (http://a-step-at-a-time.blogspot.com/2006/09/reading.html) , have the focus turned toward the rewards and not on the actual intended goal. The motivation becomes external, not internal, and so the child is not actually motivated to read or do whatever it is we want him to do if his primary focus is on the reward. The total opposite can actually happen. Kohn relates in Punished by Rewards that in one little experiment done, kids were rewarded for the amounts of a particular drink they consumed. A control group was monitored as well, receiving no rewards. At the end of the time span, those who were rewarded for the amount consumed stopped consuming that beverage. This does not surprise me. I've known of children in schools who read only for the rewards, even if they did read on their own beforehand. Once the rewards were gone, their desire to read was gone. The business mentioned above had less productivity. Why? Because everybody was in competition with everyone else and trying to be #1. In the focus on the prize, they lost their creativity and willingness to work together.
So how come my 'sticker chart' mentioned in another post is not a reward chart? Because it's got nothing to do with, "Oh, you'll get one sticker for every 15 minutes you read!" That is an attempt at manipulating a child into doing what I want him to do. My goal is to help him stretch himself, see what he's really doing and hopefully aim to improve upon it. Seeing things really helps him. Keeping a chart will let him see how much he actually gets done. Do the stickers, or whatever he (note) chooses to mark the chart make the whole thing fun? Yes! But it's got nothing to do with winning stickers and everything to do with making the chart visually appealing and the process of recording a little more interesting. He does not get a prize if he earns x amount of stickers. He will not have me saying, "Remember: if you want another sticker for your chart, you're going to have to read more!" Will he become more focused on the stickers? I don't know. I hope not. If so, I'll have to keep bringing him back to the whole point: the chart is for him to assess his reading amount and how far he'd like to go. I would frankly be happier having him not read at all than having him reading a whole ton simply for earning stickers or something else. And frankly, how would you prove that an underachieving child had actually read that amount and not just spent the time looking at books?
Which brings me to something else: reward systems can definitely create an atmosphere where certain children will feel the need to cheat in order to get their reward. If they do not feel they can get as far as they want to without cheating, they'll give up or they'll cheat. It's a negative atmosphere, one that doesn't have its focus on helping the child feel better about himself and his abilities, but on pleasing some system outside himself.
I'm going to put one last thing in here: B. F. Skinner was one of the major proponents of behaviourism, which is a fancy word about how external stimulses (punishments and rewards) are what motivate people's behaviours. If you can give the right rewards and punishments, people will behave in the way you want them to. Skinner is someone I learned about in my (non-Montessori) teacher training and it wasn't really said that what he was suggesting was a bad idea. After all, how many classrooms (non-Montessori, of course!) have reward or punishment systems set up? But I've since learned that Skinner was a man I would consider somewhat frightening. He believed so much in behaviourism that he felt everybody was simply a product of the stimuluses around them. (He appeared on a TV show for an interview and essentially said that it was the stimuluses of his life that had brought him there.) There is no true free choice or anything like that, no means of truly making a choice because your choices (which are a form of behaviour) are already predetermined by the stimuluses you've had in your life. He didn't say that in so many words (at least, not that I've read, although I wouldn't be surprised if he had), but that's the full meaning of it. He also believed that his system could be used for social engineering, meaning the government or specific groups should use the techniques to improve society. Essentially, some people should purposefully set about to manipulate society to behave the way that group wants. (insert wide-eye scared face here!)
So, if you are using rewards with your children, think about the reason for it, think about the aims of behaviourism, and whether you really feel it's the best course to take. And read Punished by Rewards! :D
Sunday, September 24, 2006
I've started the thinking process and planning for dd and ds's science. I had a look at the grade 1 science topics, figuring it would be a nice gentle way to start off something more structured, and it will be. The topics are:
needs of animals and plants
I'm going to start with seasonal changes, as we're in the midst of seasonal changes right now. Activities I will introduce to them are: tracking the amount of daylight each day (graphing), noticing and recording plant changes (this might involve drawing or using the camera), noting animal migrations, make little booklets on summer and autumn (activities, clothing; for ds, I was thinking just labelled pages, but for dd, a few lines or a short paragraph for each page). This will be an on-going topic since autumn seems to be taking a LOOOOOOONG time to do its official switching this year. (I've never seen anything like it--grass is as green as can be, barely any yellow/orange/red leaves around, the geese are only now starting to slowly pack up their bags and go.) I'll see if I can find some books at the library on the seasons to have laying around or to read to them.
So that planning is done. I haven't figured out social studies yet, but that's ok. One step at a time! I have a Canada map that I could play games with them to work on some basic geographic knowledge.
As for this week in general (or more specifically--depends on how you look at it and the term 'in general'), the 15yo will keep going with what she's doing. I've got to get French work going a little more intensely and talk to her about the amount of work she's doing and how she will fit in 4-5 hours a day. The 12yo simply needs to spend more time working. I've got social studies ready for him for this week, I need to get some French done for him and everything else is set. Although I think I'm going to set up a reading chart for him. Make it fun and visual--seeing things and progress helps him a lot. He can colour off a square or put a sticker or something. (This is not the same as a reward chart! More on Montessori and avoiding rewards in another post.)
Oh, babble time as my thoughts have increased exponentially:
The 12yo needs to spend more time reading and writing this week. He has done no writing since being back. I just had the thought of following WRTR's writing lessons, but that left me feeling absolutely horrible. It's the most stagnant, boring thing I've ever encountered. It may work, but... There's got to be a better way. What was I going to have him do? I was going to have him keep a reading dialogue journal. Read about this in a Lucy Calkins(?) book. He can just write one sentence for now, but he needs to write something so that he can build on it. Another option would be to have him do a type of Thomas Jefferson Education approach: have him write about what he's learned that day. This could actually be a good motivational tool because it can lead to, "What would you like to be able to put in your summary?" Kind of like Marva Collins putting a child's behaviour grade in at the beginning of the year and telling him that it's his if he makes sure to keep it. (I know I'm throwing out names and stuff everywhere. I told you this was a babble and that I had too many thoughts!)
Let me organize this visually so I can see it better. Everything's getting muddled:
- LA: phonics/handwriting (WRTR), assigned reading (modified version of Sherlock Holmes is what I've decided upon, despite my earlier mention of Robinson Crusoe--he's more interested in Sherlock Holmes), but then... do I have him write about his reading AND about his day? Sure. Why not? Get the habit going now. The more he writes, the better. If he only writes a sentence for each thing, then so be it. That's still two sentences a day, ten sentences a week and forty sentences a month (roughly). Not bad!
- Math: already decided--pages planned out from his textbook (which reminds me, I have to go into Homeschool Tracker and reschedule since we ended up having a "PD day" on Friday) and multiplication tables practice (each day a different way for the same table: bead bars, bead frame, graph paper, basic skip counting)
- Science: still don't have his text
- Social: have this week's lessons taken from our school board's website
- French: I have one sheet ready. I'd like to have a sheet a day in addition to any oral stuff. But am I going to be over-doing it? I mean in terms of my own time and sanity--am I trying to prepare too much right now? I'll have a look at the topics I want to cover first with him and see what we can do. It's not a priority right now.
- What else? Maybe encourage him to work on typing (he can get early high school credits if he can meet the standards) or computer programming or something. He'll undoubtedly spend time drawing, too.
That's enough babble for now. I've got to go put stuff into Homeschool Tracker (Plus) for the week and get some other stuff done. I haven't been good at tracking which is going to be a goal for me this week--take time each day to put in what they do. I might just leave the program open and put in their stuff as they do it. Oh, too many thoughts and things to do!
Friday, September 22, 2006
I love what homeschooling can do for students. I'm thinking that, in some ways, I can be even more 'Montessori' with the eldest than if she were in a Montessori high school. From what I can tell of the few Montessori high schools out there, there tend to be schedules because there are different teachers for different subject areas. There may be a bit of freedom in some ways to move at your own pace, but it really is much more like a regular school than the other levels. Maria Montessori hadn't really planned it otherwise. She felt that after the Erdkinder period--ages 12-15--if those needs were satisfied enough, the student would be ready for more serious study.
Where this differs at home is that the 15yo, largely because she is mature and self-motivated, has created her own schedule and determines a lot to her own pace. Instead of perhaps having a group studying Shakespeare and she has to wait until the appointed group discussion or what have you, she has the option of flying through it, if she so chooses. Which she has chosen. Instead of reading a novel she'd brought from home, her silent reading time is usually occupied by Shakespeare. This is then followed by her watching a BBC version of that scene or act. She originally thought Shakespeare was going to take her several weeks (I think she actually said 9!) and within a span of two weeks, she'll have read the play, watched two versions of it, discussed things and done written responses. We've schedule LA to take the full year instead of one semester, as is usually done in schools here, but the way she's going, she may very well finish everything in one semester!
On another note, I tried to skip the handwriting focus in WRTR to get to the spelling rules notebook with the 12yo. Big mistake. It was so horribly sloppy, it looked like a child in grade 1 or 2 had written it. So we discussed this a bit yesterday and I did the first set of letters that start at the 2 o'clock position: a c d f g o s qu (I think that's it). I did share about the rules ahead of time--like letters need to rest on the baseline and short letters don't go above the midpoint--and followed pretty much the script for how to do each letter. What a difference!! He didn't want to let on too much, but you could see he was proud of the improvement. It just took him paying more attention to the details and knowing what the specific details were. We'll keep working at this.
On a totally different note, my stupid monitor is still problematic. It turns out it has nothing to do with how the thing is plugged in. There's something electrical going on inside and when it isn't working, you have to turn the power on and off for a while until it gets going again. At least, that's how it is right now. Dh and I need to decide what we're going to do: Do we see if it's still under warranty and get it fixed or replaced? Do we buy a new one? Is either option worth it since we have a computer that spends a considerable amount of time crashing and nobody can figure out what's wrong with it? The darn thing spent 4 days at a shop and didn't crash on them once. argh.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Ok, that's not at all true, but it should be. lol. I could not use my computer last Friday. Since we've had problems with it crashing for 2 years and it's progressively gotten worse, we thought the brief working of the screen had something to do with the computer itself. So I took it into a shop and only got it back yesterday. As dh and I fully expected, they couldn't find anything wrong with it because the darn computer refused to crash for them.
Before this, I'd discovered that it was the monitor itself that was the problem. Even not hooked up, you couldn't get the display to do anything other than a momentary flash when it was turned on. I got the computer back, called dh to update him about what was going on and he bought a new monitor on his way home from work.
Putting all the cables back in place before installing the new monitor, he tried various things to get the monitor to work. It didn't, so I located the plug in for the monitor to remove it. Except the plug wasn't completely in. "How can that be? I checked everything, didn't I?" I thought. I pushed it all the way in and the monitor worked. I felt like such an idiot. We had supper and dh brought the new monitor back to the store, unopened.
I come down to the computer this morning, thinking of my silliness, but lo and behold, what happens? The monitor won't work. I unplug it, plug it back in, change where it's plugged in... The stupid thing won't work. I go have a shower, thinking dh is not going to be happy about having returned to the store last night, come back to the computer and decide to fiddle around with the plug. If the plug can be just a certain way in the slot, the monitor works. Stupid thing.
And so it is my opinion that young children should not have to be subjected to the stresses of ridiculous modern technology that is so poorly built it can not even last 3 years. In the 3 years since we've had the computer, we've replaced the power supply, replaced the hard drive and now have a monitor that may or may not work, depending, for now, on how the cable is plugged in. I've still got my Commodore 64 which works just fine, except for the 3 key having been broken off. They know people are going to be buying new systems within 5 years (often 3) because of all the improvements made to the processors, so why bother making something that will last long, right?
[Okay, the real reason many Montessori schools do not allow computers for kids under 6 and some schools for kids 6-9 is that they feel kids need to be spending more time with real things--moving, touching, feeling, seeing 3D, etc.--rather than sitting in front of a computer; whatever a computer can truly offer to a child's development at that age can be offered in another way that supports whole development much better. These same schools will discourage computer use at home for the same reason--there are far better things the child can be doing than sitting in front of a computer screen (or tv, playstation, etc.). For kids 9-12, these schools recommend computer use at home only for work purposes--making nice reports, for example, or doing searches on the internet. People who scream, "But how will they learn the computer skills they need in today's world?" can be reassured that more than one study has shown that kids introduced to computers in junior high through college were still able to gain the same level of proficiency.
Did/do I follow these recommendations? No. Only because I'm not convinced that a little bit will do much harm. My kids' screen time is greatly restricted most of the time due to believing that they can be doing much better things but my kids' behaviour also deteriorates if they get more than a few hours total a week in screen time.]
Saturday, September 16, 2006
We have All The Right Type (ATRT) as well as a JumpStart Typing program. JumpStart is great for dd (almost 9) and for my ds when he'll be ready to start learning more about typing, but it's much too childish for the 15yo. ATRT is something my dh is allowed to have at home due to school licensing of the product.
WRTR is The Writing Road to Reading. It's a program created by Romalda Spalding, who worked with Samuel Orton who based his work on Maria Montessori's, from what I understand. Orton's focus was on a type of remedial work and Spalding created something general for classrooms as a regular program, but which could also be used remedially. A number of homeschooling parents use it. It's like Montessori in that the student is presented with the written sounds and learns to write them at the same time. It's much more structured and sequential than Montessori, which is why I'm using it remedially for the 12yo.
The 12yo has been identified as having CAPD. In a book I have, Helping Children Overcome Learning Difficulties by Jerome Rosner, he has an assessment area to determine a child's ability to work with sounds. When I first started working with the 12yo, he was at about a mid grade-1 level. We did the program for about a month and he caught up almost entirely (I think end of grade 3 is the highest it assesses as there aren't any further skills developed/necessary for reading and writing in terms of auditory processing). I stopped doing it then various things happened and he stopped reading for a while and now he's regressed and is only at about a beginning grade 2 level in his ability to work with sounds.
Here's an example of the early work: Is the sound 'm' at the beginning of the word 'make'?
Here's the stuff he's working on: Say 'spider'. Now say it again without the 'p'. [Cider] He has difficulty with this and it blocks his ability to read and spell correctly. As this improves, his ability to sound out unfamiliar words and to write down words will improve.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
It really is about half the bulk of their course work. The 15yo has her math, social studies and legal studies waiting for her. And she's been dying to get her legal studies coursework going. The 12yo has math, science and social studies coming. Although I do have a workbook here we've been doing for review for his math, it's not the same.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
I've got one going for high school credits and wanting to have certain courses completed before the end of January and another who has a lot of catching up to do and we've barely done anything!!!
Mild panic set in, but only for a minute. See, when I'm not tired (had two good nights of sleep in a row--that's almost a miracle!), I can think fairly quickly. I realized I've got to get things going no matter how difficult it may be for the kids to adjust. Kids in jr. high and high school are given almost no time to adjust. My dh is already giving a quiz or a test this Friday. We haven't even begun social studies or science. But we don't have our resources, either. I think mentally, because we haven't received our resources, the feeling has sort of been that we don't really need to get started. But we do. There's no time to waste for the two oldest. I'm not at all worried about my kids, but mine are a lot younger. I'm also not being paid to have them here!
So I've spent a couple of hours on the computer again, planning and prepping for tomorrow. The 15yo's got an assignment sheet for the next two days, summarized as follows:
French: do some phonics/spelling work, read a story I've selected and discuss, study avoir and être
Math: review her math journal from last year, work on division (something she's afraid of!)
English: read some sheets on Shakespeare and plays, write some notes on them, get started reading A Midsummer Night's Dream
Social studies: do the first assignment I've set up (focusing on the K of the KWL strategy: "What do I already Know about these topics?" (the W is "What do I Want to know?" and the L is afterwards, for "What Have I Learned?") )
Typing: do the first typing lesson
For the 12yo, I already had the week planned out on Sunday, but we skipped today and some things from other days. Basically, he'll be told he has to do LA (phonics/handwriting, read a story with me, start the questions that go with it, and silent reading), Math (two pages in his workbook) and French (a worksheet I have for him).
We have almost no time on Friday to do work due to plans. They'd better be prepared to work tomorrow!
I'm really wishing our resources would come...
The two oldest are gone for this afternoon. It's still rainy and crummy outside and everybody's kind of sluggish. (Well, they were. Ds seems to have 'woken up'.) People think 5 kids is a lot and that it'll be really noisy and all kinds of things. (That's because people are too used to public school settings with 5 kids all the same age!) It's been so quiet and everybody so calm today. Amazing how the weather has such an influence. I know I say that a lot, but I never noticed it as a child. It took one of my supervising teachers for my teaching practicum to point out how the kids' behaviour changed with the weather. Once I started to observe, I saw how right she was.
Tomorrow will be Thursday, naturally, and I plan on full steam ahead with their work. :D
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Progress, not perfection.
It's a wonderful thing to keep in mind and completely sums up today. :)
My earlier plan I knew would never happen. The point is that I have that much planned so that it gets worked toward and there's always something to do.
I did the timer thing this morning. The 12yo said he didn't want a timer. I asked him why. He said it made him nervous and feel rushed. So I explained the point of the timer was not to get as much done as he could in that time or to finish everything in that time, but just to stay focused on work. He decided to start with math, which was fine by me, so we went to the next page from his workbook. I had him look at it and estimate how long it would take him to finish it. He said an hour. And he meant it. (No wonder he stresses out so much!) He pulled away from it at first, his fears getting the better of him, but then got into what needed to be done and did half the work without any guidance or assistance from me. I looked at the timer when he was done.
"Remember how you said you thought it would take you an hour?"
"It only took you 14 minutes."
A good lesson for him.
I ended up helping his sister after that at the computer, so he pretty much just had snack, hung around, etc. I then did some auditory work with him and started the WRTR phonogram cards and writing. So, we've made progress, even if his work time only got to about 45 minutes and his sister's about an hour. I'm not sure how much dd actually did, but she did read first thing, did a page of math and worked on cursive.
Monday, September 11, 2006
I read to dd and the 12yo part of a book I found on Thomas Edison. They liked that he was educated at home. :) We also made it to the playground this morning, transferred the betta to the other aquarium AND ds helped me repot the plant this afternoon. So, not too bad all-in-all. Oh, and I even went over some of the school's field trips to see if the kids were interested in them. The 3 oldest will go see "The Barber of Seville" in February and dd and the 15yo will go see the first act of the ballet, "The Nutcracker", in Dec. So, got lots of stuff done, just not as much bookwork as I would have preferred.
So, how to make things work better for tomorrow?
I'm going to give planning sheets to dd and the oldest. They can figure out a few things they would like to do, including the things I want them to do with me (review of French phonograms, start writing them down). I've found in the past this helps focus their attention on activities and they get going on their own. After about a week or two of planning sheets, they tend to scrap them and just get into work without thinking it all through ahead of time. The 12yo will not, in my experience, fill one of these sheets out so I've already got my schedule in place for him. He'll have to work on today's unfinished work and work towards finishing tomorrow's work. I didn't plan a whole ton of stuff this week, so it shouldn't be a problem. He has two questions to finish on his math sheet and then tomorrow's sheet to do. We need to do the Writing Road to Reading work we didn't do today (I won't double up on that), we'll read the story in Literacy Power together and he'll get started on the follow-up work for that, and he also needs to start reading a very simplified version of Robinson Crusoe, the book I've decided to assign to him for reading on his own. Oh, and write a very short blurb--can be just one sentence--on what he's read. I actually want him to write a letter to someone in the chapter or to the author. I don't care if the letter is only one sentence long, "Why did youwant to become a sailor?" I insist that he writes. Other than that... there's social studies scheduled for tomorrow--label and colour a Canada map (I think we'll play some games with a Canada puzzle map I have, too)--and I'll continue reading from the book on Thomas Edison.
Hold on a sec. What I need to do first of all is make sure the desired routine is clear. That is, make sure my expectations are clear. I should type something up and post it on the one wall in the kitchen area. I'm also going to get a little Control Journal à la FlyLady set up for the 12yo. If it's written down and clear what he needs to do, that's it. There's no forgetting on anybody's part, no nagging on my part, just "You've checked your list?"
Hm, bringing up FlyLady makes me think: perhaps a good way to get into a work groove is to set a timer tomorrow for 30 minutes or something. Then we're not trying to get used to having 3 hours ahead of us, just need to focus on something for 30 minutes, take a small break if desired, then move onto something else for 30 minutes. We need something to kick start ourselves or they'll never get working well. I've seen it happen after breaks in the past. It's too easy to let tiredness and other things take over. If I set a timer for not too long, it should work.
There! I've got a plan that I think should work! I guess only tomorrow will tell. :D
Today is the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the US. I still remember that morning. We were listening to the radio and ended up turning on the tv to watch the news. It was unreal. Or surreal. I left to go pick up a girl I was taking care of and still remember being a block away from her house when the first tower collapsed.
Emotions have overtaken me. Too tired to go on about something so sad.
I got to bed kind of late, close to 11. Fell asleep right away. Was woken up around 11:20 by ds who was thirsty and couldn't find his water bottle. I let him use his sister's (who was also awake at that point) and went back to bed. Fell back asleep. 30 minutes later, ds is back in our room complaining he's thirsty. Let him again have some from his sister's but went downstairs and got a sippy cup to replace his bottle as I couldn't find it anywhere. I wanted to make sure I wasn't bothered again by water needs!
Was woken up around 1:30 or so for... can't remember what reason now. Think it was the cats. Yes, it was. One of our cupboards wasn't completely closed and our younger cat had pulled out a bag of powdered milk. Didn't fall back asleep right away. Then I was awake at 4:45 (can you believe it? 3 hours straight of sleep!), unfortunately, not an uncommon time for me to wake up. I got back to sleep by 5 but then was woken up at 5:10 by dd crying--she'd fallen out of bed and whacked her arm against something while doing so. (Is it okay for me to laugh at this point? Not that dd fell, but that it was one thing after another to wake me up?) I knew there was no way I'd fall asleep after that, but I went back to bed anyhow. Got tired of laying there so got up at 5:45, which is actually fairly normal for me, except that I usually don't get less than 6 hours of sleep.
In the past, this has meant a very difficult school day. Largely because I can't think on my toes and a lot of my plans are written down in a very general fashion because I know what they mean, but when I have such disrupted sleep, and so very little of it, nothing comes back to me. And yet I know today is crucial to getting a routine going or the whole week will be wasted. So I need to make sure my plans are clear enough before the kids get here so that I'm not having to think on my feet. Fortunately, if they only do about 1-1.5 hours of bookwork this morning, that'll be okay as I have a pot that needs replanting (dh bought the potting soil for me yesterday) and we bought a bigger aquarium for our betta and can prepare the water and transfer him today. But I need to get them working. Ok, really, I need to get the 12yo working. Everybody else works just fine but can be pulled into whatever he's doing.
I've had the thought before but realized it again yesterday how much I feel the need to function as a school with the two oldest here. Having them here for only a set time changes things, as well as just personality-wise as the 12yo demands an imposed structure. I would not be so structured if it were just my kids. Mind you, even within our school structure, my kids still have more freedom than the two oldest, in part because of their natures, and perhaps lack of previous public schooling, and in part because of their age. For the oldest to get credits for her diploma, she absolutely has to spend a considerable amount of time during the day working. What am I going on about? No clue. The thought got lost somewhere.
I just realized that I've lost the things I'd printed off yesterday for the two oldest. My brain is incapable of reasoning out where I would have put them. I'll have to do a quick search and reprint if I can't find them. No way I'm going to park day today--I don't think I should be driving anywhere with my current lack of brain power!!
Sunday, September 10, 2006
I'm eager to have some structure to our days. Eager to get going on guiding and helping the kids with their work. I've just spent several hours working on the computer in preparation. oof.
So far, I have an example schedule set up for the 15yo. Unfortunately, she can't set up something more definite at this time because we still have not received our resources from the school. However, there's still a lot she can do. I also found typing tests from our school and printed those off for her so she can see where she's starting at for keyboard and number pad AND I typed up a list of things she needs to do this week. I've got to now put that into HST (Homeschool Tracker) and check it off when she does it. There's something about the HST printouts for the assignments that turns her off so I've got it set up a little more simply. Means more work for me, but a better guide for her.
For the 12yo, I've started working on some simple French worksheets to get him into doing a bit of written work. I've also got his week planned out and tomorrow's assignment sheet printed off.
For dd, I haven't done up anything on the computer, but she's so highly self-directed there's not much for me to do. I need to put some stuff into HST, print it off for my purposes and make sure I do certain work with her this week. She'll be doing French phonics work with the 15yo, some verb work which she'll start with the 15yo (but the 15yo will get into more advanced stuff) and I want to begin place value with her. Maybe see if she'll work in some of the workbooks she asked me to buy for her. For ds, it's basically work on letters, work on how to write numbers, maybe pull out the 100-chain again. For social studies and science for both of them, I'll get some Canada maps printed off for colouring and labelling and I have a science kit from which we can do some science experiments and some science books to read aloud.
The primary focus this week will be on routines more than on work, though. Since the oldest are arriving very early, I'm thinking we'll start our morning meeting at that point, have some read-aloud time from Prince Caspian or a French book, move into silent reading shortly before 8, stop after about 20 minutes (for those who are ready) and get started before my niece shows up. I had been planning on waiting until after she arrived to get started on more formal work, but she's been showing up around 8:30-8:40 lately. This means that our work period should go until 11:30-11:40 but we are far too used to breaking for lunch at 11. I don't want to cut out 30 minutes.
Back to the routines: we break for lunch around 11. Have lunch, clean up. Then it's quiet time: Writers' Workshop, reading, research, etc., while I put my niece down for her nap. After that, I'm calling it "Options" time. This means anything BUT free play. They can do music, art, handwork, science experiments, computer learning stuff, I can read aloud to them, discuss certain topics, things like that. The 15yo will therefore have time to work on her stuff and will not feel like everybody else is "done school" for the day and she's not. Besides, I've written it before, I've never wanted our afternoons to be total free play!
Let me rewrite the routine without so many words:
- Morning meeting: plan day, discuss issues, events
- Silent reading
- Work period
- Quiet time
Feels good to have my thoughts organized a bit better. But my body needs a break from this computer!!
Friday, September 08, 2006
And I'm totally at peace with this. :)
I'm apparently not alone in finding this week difficult to get going with. Others I know have expressed the same sentiment. We have such beautiful summer weather, it's hard to feel like it's September and time to begin school. Funny how we can be so tied to the seasons and weather without realizing it.
Regardless of weather next week, the kids know we will get started. I knew this week would be almost impossible, despite some attempt at goal. I'm eager to begin. The 15yo is, too, just not her math and social studies. ;) We're going to take her math nice and slow this year--she has a full year to finish what is usually a one-semester course--and I know she is very capable of being very strong in math, but fears block her and I'm going to tackle those things a lot. As Maria Montessori said, our duty is to remove the obstacles in the child's path and that is my main focus for her math this year. It's far more important to me that she lose the fear and gain mastery than it is to finish the textbook.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Tomorrow, we'll get started with our little morning routine: meeting and silent reading, maybe start a read-aloud on my part. Then we've got some more errands to run and then in the afternoon, work on shirts we bought in June--we have some fabric glue and want to make 'school shirts'. The oldest has always loved the idea of a uniform, even for school with me. She's so much like me it's scary (I, too, as a kid, loved the idea of wearing a uniform). lol. However, I was never quite as goofy crazy as she is. I had to become an adult before being able to be truly goofy. :D And even then, what's goofy for me is fairly tame for others. lol.
So, it's a gentle start to the week. I've got to find some way to reach the 12yo so he calms down. I'm quite convinced the hyperactivity is the result of different feelings about the start of the school year and being with my kids again, but he's so out of touch with his feelings and doesn't know what to do with them so he acts up. Oooh, maybe I should get started on "Building Moral Intelligence" tomorrow. The first unit is all about feelings.
The commercial is over. Time for me to go back and watch a brand new episode of House. :D
Monday, September 04, 2006
So, how nerdy are you? (Got this off of Jane's Escaping the City Blog--see links.)
I thought I'd be nerdier. After all, I was looking through a grade 7 math textbook at 8:30 on a Sunday night...
Maybe I was nerdier as a kid.
Now it's time for me to put my housekeeper hat on and do a House Blessing (check out FlyLady if you don't know what I mean).
Saturday, September 02, 2006
I've spent lots of time fleshing out ideas and looking at our resources and coming up with rough plans and the like, but part of me wants to know what the first week will look like, and I can't really do that. First of all, I don't even know if we'll have our resources from the school board by that point. Second, it'll be a weird week. Let me babble here for a bit:
Tuesday: I actually don't know at what time the kids will be coming for sure. But they're usually here by 8 with my niece showing up any time between 8:15 and 8:30. Now that I write that, I think I need to adjust the schedule I'd been thinking of, which was our work period would be from 8-11. It should perhaps be from 8:30-11:30. Does it really matter? Well, yes, because we need a set time for our work to be done at or the 12yo will... how do I explain this? He needs the structured limit in order to work. Otherwise each day will be, "Can we stop now?" Even if it's only 10:15. Otoh, if I simply say 3 hours every day, we can start when it fits well to start and we go 3 hours. That could be better. (I've always felt more comfortable in my homeschooling with routines rather than set schedules.)
Back to the point of what's going on Tuesday: the kids will get here at some time, we need to look over what they will work on this year (which will be made harder without the resources), I'd like the 15yo to set herself a schedule to start with (she's going for credit and needs to make sure she plans her time well) but it's just to get her going as she explores the various topics that will make up her program. The only requirement I will have of her is that she do French, math and reading each day. Other than that, it's up to her. We also need to get binders organized, discuss field trips they want to go on, discuss rules like the need to work for 3 hours in the morning and what will go on in the afternoons we're home (niece will take a nap after lunch, during which point it will be reading/writing time and then I'll read aloud to them from something we can discuss) and go to the library. We usually go to the library Tuesday afternoons, but we have the Not-Back-to-School park day that afternoon.
Looking at the list, I'm not sure it will fill up 3 hours. Mind you, it will undoubtedly take us an hour for the library in terms of travel and our time spent there. So, 2 hours? Yeah, that should work. I should plan in some other things. If we have 'empty time', the 12yo will resort to playing, being goofy or rolling on the floor because he doesn't know what to do with himself and usually doesn't self-initiate things (other than play and goofiness). So, really, HE's the one I need to make sure I keep occupied.
Wednesday: (blank mind) I don't think we have anything planned that day. No, we don't. I have no clue. We'll only have 2 potential work days next week--Wed. and Thurs.--because we're taking off Friday to go get ds' cast removed first thing in the morning then we'll do something fun in the afternoon. I know from experience that trying to insist on work when there's no chance of routine setting in doesn't work well. Maybe I should plan on read-alouds (Story of the World, a novel, a French book), a science experiment, I don't know what else. I think the 15yo will be ready to jump into work, though. Maybe I just have to play Wednesday and Thursday mornings by ear.
Thursday: See above for the morning. In the afternoon, park day.
Friday: Ds' cast off. Then either an outing or a little party. One of the things that need to be discussed on Tuesday--do they want to have people over this early in the school year?
After writing all that, I don't know that I feel anymore certain about next week than I was before. It's uncertainty that bugs me. And yet I can deal with uncertainty just fine most of the time. So what's the problem? I guess my main issue is that I fear the 12yo will move towards everything but work and stay there. He is my main source of stress. But honestly, if we took next week entirely off, other than getting things organized and the like, it would be fine. I think.
I think I'm just going to have to see how they are next week. Maybe plan for an hour of work for the 12yo for Wed. and Thurs., just to get things going a bit. We could also go to Goodwill on Wed. and see if we can get the Shakespeare the 15yo will be doing for English and maybe some other stuff.
It would be so much easier if the 12yo were motivated to learn and progress, but he's caught behind so many difficulties and fears and tries to avoid it all and drags others with him. However, it has been two months of summer and maybe a good break has made him more willing to get started. I guess I'll just have to see.
Friday, September 01, 2006
There was a link on the Yahoo! main page this morning for a news clip about short people and human growth hormone. The mother interviewed all but said that they gave their son HGH because they didn't want him to continue growing up short and being made fun of. [Homeschooling or a good Montessori classroom would probably have ended that mockery!] That as an adult, he would have difficulty in the business world as well as "find[ing] a wife". [Doctors predicted he would be 5'5" as an adult and now predict he'll be 5'8".] They also interviewed a man who is 5'3" who wishes he had been able to have the hormones as a child and had his own son have them. I can't recall how tall he grew to be, but around 'average' height.
Isn't it ironic in the 'land of the free' there is so much focus on individualism, yet when it comes down to it, they just want to be the same as others?
I also found it sad that that man grew up to be so bothered by his height and that the boy and his parents did what they did. I then thought of recent things on TLC I saw on primal dwarfism and kids who were very happy with who they were. And I thought of Danny DeVito, who is only 4'10"-5' tall. He seems like a man who enjoys life and his height certainly hasn't impacted negatively on his career.
We are not all supposed to be the same. While we all share in common characteristics, be it how we are physically or the schooling we decide for our children, there is nothing wrong in being different. I don't think we should aim to be different, because then I wonder if we are being true to ourselves, but however we are different from others should not bring shame or ridicule. And that shame and ridicule that we may feel should not lead us to something as drastic as giving perfectly healthy children hormones so that they can be like everyone else.
Celebrate who you and your children are for the individuals that you are.