Wednesday, January 31, 2007

American Idol auditions

No t.v. program has EVER made me cry the way I just did now, watching 64-yo Sherman audition! That was just so special.

Sherman's wife of 20 years was diagnosed with cancer not long ago. As part of keeping her spirits high, he came up with a plan to get himself on American Idol and she helped and supported him. She passed away 2 days before the LA auditions. He got on, explained his story, sang his song just for her. I was crying so hard at the lyrics but can't remember them now! I think it might have been You Belong to Me, but not sure. It was so touching.

Bravo Sherman!!!!! (((((Sherman)))))

More about Ray's Arithmetic

I keep bouncing back to the idea of buying that old copy (can't remember if it's a 1890's one or 1905) and then maybe buying the CD thing. I just have a love for old things and have thus far stopped myself from buying stuff--although I did inherit a few old books that were my great-grandmother's--and the temptation is sooooo great. It would just be so cool to have this book in our hands that some kid over 100 years ago used!! I would get at least one book out of the deal. lol. I have to think about this, but I can't take too long or it could disappear!

Wednesday update

The past few days have been kind of blurry. I haven't been super well. The 12yo has a cold. His sister's barely been sleeping. Ds is getting super tired. Dd's been sleeping in... Something in the air!!

Yesterday, I decided that we needed some sort of structure for the morning to actually get things done. It was for ME more than for the kids. Dd actually did her own self-directed thing for the most part and I called the 12yo to come work with me at specific times. He LOVED the simple schedule. As soon as he saw it and read it, he said, "I like this. This is better than the other things we've done." It's simple, straight-forward, tells him what needs to be done without putting the pressure on him to figure out how to get all his work done (I just really don't think he's ready for that). I said something about it being for today and he said he wanted that every day. I asked, "In the same order, every day?" "Yes!" Great! If that's what will work for him, so be it.

What's the schedule?

8:30 - Phonics/Spelling

9:00 - Reading

9:30 - Writing

10:00 - Math

10:30 - Science/Social Studies

The stuff I'm having him do does NOT take 30 min. each. So, it gives him a brief lesson/work time, then he can go do whatever, then he comes back, etc. This is soooooooooo him. I've tried Charlotte Mason-type schedules before, but they didn't leave enough open blocks. It's still not as much work/as many lessons as we need to work to getting in, but there's always the afternoon time we can work out. And for right now it gives him a framework, he knows what's expected, and he knows he gets frequent breaks. (Have I mentioned that the schools classified him as ADD/ADHD?) The breaks also mean that I can do something with somebody else. Despite being under the weather today, he was quite enjoyable and it worked very well.

To add to all of this, I ended up learning about Ray's Arithmetic series last night and spent quite a while looking at different stuff online. I ended up telling him about an old copy available on ebay and was just talking about how the books were set up and he asked if it was something he could do--his interest being that if I bought this cool, old book, would he be able to use it to work from. :) Then he came up on his own with the thought that with such an old book, we probably wouldn't want to handle it that much anyhow. However, the whole approach to the math intrigued him, and I had been contemplating having a couple of the books on hand anyhow, so I've been looking further into it.

THE FOLLOWING IS A BABBLE TO HELP ME SORT OUT MY THOUGHTS A BIT. I can get just the basic books bound, for about $45US or so, not including some extra books that can accompany them (which includes some guides/keys as well as extra-practice books). OR, I can buy a CD for $59US from which I could print ALL the books (including high school level geometry, algebra and more) and accompanying books--20 books in all, I think. I really prefer having a book, but the 8-volume elementary set is going for $78US at this one place and I can get 20 volumes for $59US (plus the cost of paper and ink, but the 20 volumes include volumes that just can't seem to be found ANYWHERE else). I don't know that I necessarily want all 20, but I definitely want the algebra book. I can actually print that off (with difficulty) at one site I found. But the other intermediate/advanced are nowhere to be found. And if I should decide late that I do want them available, I'm going to have to pay $29 for the intermediate CD and another $29 for the higher level. But I'd have my bound books... *sigh* I could coil-bind, but it's not quite the same. I have to decide if my obsession (lol) with actual books is worth the extra cost and hassle! Probably not. Logically I know it isn't. It's this total emotional reaction on my part to not having a physical book. lol.

Another thing to add to my weirdness list. ;)

Monday, January 29, 2007


I've been tagged by Heather to include 6 weird things about myself in a blog post. The details: Each person who gets tagged needs to write a blog post of their own 6 weird things as well as clearly state this rule. After you state your 6 weird things, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says "you're tagged" in their comments and tell them to read your blog for information as to what it means.

1. Despite being a woman, I can't stand shopping. It's so bad that I have to go shopping with my dh to succeed in buying anything!

2. I'm really neither left-handed nor right-handed, but I'm not ambidextrous either.

3. I have one ear higher than the other.

4. I don't speak my mother tongue--English--at home (except with the dayhome kids).

5. I can do the Vulcan greeting with both hands and can open and close the fingers in that position as though cutting.

6. I like to have my pens/markers be put back in the package in the same order they came in (it's usually some form of colour pattern, like my Staedtler pens, almost a rainbow pattern).

1. Correne!

I'll try to come up with others. I think Heather already got Jane.
I'm not sure I know 6 people with blogs! lol

Sunday, January 28, 2007


I'm going to implement that idea of everything set up for the week (only for the one) with the option of having Friday off that work if he chooses to do it all earlier. I think it could kick-start him a bit (at least maybe for a week!). I decided this upon further reflection: most of our talks result in little being done. He knows how to give the 'right answers' and just says what he thinks you'll want to hear. I think if it really got to what he wants out of math, he would only get as far as really not wanting to do math at all. He won't go past the fear. If he doesn't do grade 7 math until next year, or complete it until next year, then so be it. Stronger basic skills will make the later stuff so much easier. So much of the junior high stuff takes forever to learn if they don't have the basics mastered. And that means he'll not really master, without a calculator, how to do the junior high math and that will severely limit his math options in high school. This is not a child who is incapable; in fact, he even quickly, and very closely, estimated, a conversion from stones to pounds the other day. He does little things like that every so often.

What else have I decided? Oh yes, I've posted something that I'm offering music lessons at 2pm 3 afternoons this week. That was inspired from the Free at Last book. Next week, I might offer crochet lessons. :) I'll try this out for a while and see how it works. I can completely foresee at least one of the kids saying, "Can you do lessons on ____?" 2pm is actually after our regular work time. I have two reasons for offering the lessons at that time: to increase the 'work' time and to allow the oldest to be able to participate! Also, I can end up being so divided between kids when they have different work that they're doing, by having it at a time when everybody's done their work means I won't be pulled away to do something totally different.

Oh, I just realized I've goofed in my planning--on Tuesdays, we're usually out at 2pm, off to the library. Maybe I should change it to 1:30. I don't think the oldest has been working past that anyhow. 3 hours in the morning plus 12-1:30 means she's still getting 4.5 hours. Okay, so I'll change that.

[Totally off-topic: I'm watching tv as I type this. A Crispy Minis commercial came on with the woman deciding if she can have a snack based on her exercise level for the day and what she had for lunch. What the...? What happened to having a snack because you're actually hungry? Back to the regularly scheduled program. ;)]

So, what does my week look like?

ds: I'll ask him each day if he wants to work on writing or on reading. He's gotten into reading lately, not lots, but it's exciting for me to see his interest. All because of a Scooby-Doo rebus book he pulled out of the bookshelves. He started reading little words like "le" and "non" and can't remember what else. Then he tried to read some other words on his own. Also, if there are a bunch of random words (like the 'flash cards' you can cut out of the back of the book), if I tell him to find me a particular word, he's pretty good at picking the correct one or seeing why it isn't the word I was asking for. I found some other rebus books at the library and these have the words written in small underneath the pictures. I hope to go through those this week with him. For math, I'd really like to do the Teens Boards with him. I don't know what to call them in French. I'll have to do a search online. Also, he really wants to do more science things from this one kit, so I'll have to make sure he has the time to do that.

dd: I'll prepare some multiplication tables books for her to work on, or maybe do something with the bead bars. Something low stress! We have a French Fairytopia book to work through and I'd like to do a really simple story or maybe work on daily journalling in French. Something simple that doesn't take too long, but will help build up some confidence in writing. And she's got a ton of (English) books from the library, a box of (English) books brought over by her uncle today, her (English) story that she's writing, her Around the World project, piano, of course she'll spend some time drawing... She's a busy girl!

oldest: social studies and math. I've already worked out the questions for Mon-Tues. for math, and for social, she's going to be working on written assignments: one Monday, two on Tuesday, two on Wednesday and a last one on Thursday. Then we get to seeing what needs to be studied more in-depth for her exam the following Friday.

other: I just noticed the French Dr. Noggins packs I bought before Christmas. I'd like to do some of that with the kids this week.

Okay, that's it. Time to do something else!

It gets worse!!!

I just read something through an email about that program I was complaining about to get kids to clean their rooms. Apparently, it comes complete with videos and the children watch them and DO WHAT THE LADY IN THE VIDEO TELLS THEM TO DO. Not only that, but they do it willingly because they're so excited to do what this lady tells them. But they won't do what their parents tell them.

I'm speechless.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Oh, too funny!

I was doing some searching online and came across something where somebody was sharing why kids should go to school instead of be homeschooled. One of the reasons was so the kids could learn to stand in line.


I mean, really. OMG. That's just too funny. Where would we be in the world without public schools showing us how to stand in line? lol. You know, you've got to be certified to teach your kids, right? ;) hehehe. I just can't stop giggling. The thought of people only being able to learn to stand in line in school is just ludicrous. Do people not take their kids to the store? The library? Movies? Food courts? Other places that require waiting in line? THESE are the things in real life we line up for. We get lots of practice. Why do we need to learn how to line up to get from one part of a building to another when NO adult does that? OMG, too funny.

More Musings from a Homeschooling Mom

I just finished Free at Last by Daniel Greenberg. Another book recommendation! It's also got me thinking more about our homeschooling and things I wrote earlier today.

Why do creative pursuits need to be in the afternoon? Because of my fear that no work will get done and that one in particular will not develop the skills he needs.

What if I worked with him on a daily basis to look at what he's doing? Or what if I still have my requirements--phonics and spelling all that, but I give him true freedom during the day to decide when? What if I made our work period from 8 (recently it seems to be starting at 8:30!) until 2 or 3, with anything educational being permissable? What if we all worked out in a "class meeting" together what those educational things could be? What if we functioned on a more democractic basis?

And yet, he has a desire for a schedule. How does that fit in with all of this? Have a schedule and he decides on a daily basis if he will follow it or not? Or perhaps I simply direct... well, not necessarily direct, but initiate more things, but things that they will enjoy? Or in other terms, in true Montessori fashion, how about being prepared with a variety of activities/lessons and invite them? Or have things laid out? How do I work with him in what he wants deep down but is afraid to work towards? Perhaps if he is to have a schedule, I can act as a consultant, but he has to develop it himself. Aha, this sits well with me. I'm tired of being the enforcer, but know I need to be a strong guide. If I could take the same approach with everyone, an à la Marva approach, I'd feel better about it than trying to direct one all the time while everyone else is choosing their own way. How is he to become independent that way? Especially when he's being treated differently from everybody else?

Other thoughts I had last night were to scrap the grade 7 math for now and really just focus on the basics or on new stuff that he can handle for sure. Right now he's in the fractions section. He has little grasp of multiplication and division--the fraction work being asked of him is too advanced. Although if I had some specific fraction materials, then it could be done, but it's not because he has any desire to master it. So that brings up a further question: what does he want in terms of math?

It all comes back to working with the kids towards what they want. Although I'm not willing to grant them free-play time and movies and computer all day long. It means having my little talks with them more often. It means doing my part to have more available, even if they don't choose it.

Whew. I had just finished doing some treadmill and stretching (all the while reading Free at Last) before various thoughts popped into my head. That exercise must have gotten some blood flowing in my brain. :D

It's Saturday!

It's Saturday the 27th, to be precise. Where has the time gone????? It's almost February!!

I started my musings last night on paper. I'll keep going with that today, in addition to some household work. I haven't really figured anything out yet. Just thought about different areas that I would like somehow available for activity. Because I can't have things set up with an art room/area, a woodworking room/area, a sewing room (actually, that I might be able to do!) and things like that, I may need to explore the idea of a rotational schedule. Present one type of thing some day and let it keep going until interest starts waning? Like, get a bunch of books about painting and painters from the library, bring out the paints (how? have bins maybe?) and let the fun begin? If this is an idea I follow through on, unfortunately, it'll have to be only afternoon work. Why? Part of it is because it's so engrained in the kids that afternoon is not bookwork time. Also, with the 15yo working on stuff at the table at the same time, and often with a laptop (or two, if mine's there), PLUS the snacks that go on and then lunch, it's just not going to work to have art or other messy stuff going on at the same time. And why do I say "unfortunately"? Because I would love to have the flow of activity over the course of the day rather than things compartmentalized, but I just don't see how that can happen.

The ideas in my head are starting to form together, but they're still not really connected. I have short visions of having time (days) with things like knitting/crocheting/sewing being a focus, and other times science experiments each day, other times maybe something like chess... The tough part will actually be to have myself commit to it. But I think I can. Since reading Bright Minds, Poor Grades, I've become more aware of my own underachieving tendencies: great plans, little follow through. The book has helped me examine a bit of my own attitudes and I've seen improvement in some little things in terms of following through, sticking to things I want even if it means having to do things I don't want to in order to have what I want (for example, I'd like a clean kitchen after lunch, but I don't exactly want to spend the time cleaning ;) ). If I can make sure I'm not trying to do too much at once, too many changes at once, it'll work.

Friday, January 26, 2007


My regular educational musings about what I'm doing, where I want to be going, etc. :) It's kind of my "Sharpen the Saw" as the FranklinCovey company puts it. Or I suppose in Montessori, part of my own inner preparation.

I've been reading Free at Last, a book about the Sudbury Valley School in Massachusetts. It sounds like a wonderful school! It's like unschooling, but in a large group with a wide range of ages which means the kids are exposed to so much. The freedom they have, although coupled with responsibility, is truly admirable. I find myself, of course, examining my homeschooling. There is so much in the book that I find appealing, yet I don't have the environment (physical resources as well as sheer numbers of children) for anything like that to happen. It's like homeschooling with Montessori: it's just not the same as what happens in schools because the physical and 'human' environment aren't the same at home as they are in a classroom with varied ages.

And so, I find myself thinking about what it is that appeals to me most, that something that speaks to me on a certain level, a level that needs to be listened to. While I admire the total freedom they have, I know I am not personally comfortable with the idea of letting a child do nothing but one activity for years (like the boy who fished for years and years, all year long), nor am I comfortable with the idea of leaving them completely undirected. So it's not that. The various activities that they can and do participate in, freely, marvels me. And so I think it's about something I've brought up before: the need for a more inviting, enriching environment. Which can be a formidable task in itself.

But then there's something else: I find myself torn in different directions. I have 2.5 years (not quite) to get one up to grade level. He won't do it of his own accord and so, as Marva Collins did, I need to direct him enough with inspirational things and drill him with skills until he's able. I have to admit that I haven't done the inspirational thing as I'd thought of doing. I just realized this week I have yet to do Emeron's "Self-Reliance" with them, something that Marva found so vital in her classrooms that I believe she did it every year. So, on the one hand, I want to have an environment where I do show the kids some things and they have certain freedoms, yet on the other hand, that really isn't what is suitable for one of them (well, and for the 15yo, whose studies are made up mostly of provinical requirements to get her diploma) because I really feel the need to direct him a lot. He's not stupid; he sees the discrepancy. (There's also the aspect that he's not mine and so isn't with me all the time.)

I still feel in the cases of Montessori and Marva that inspiration is key. Marva provides a key to turning around the older child who has lagging skills and no self-confidence. Montessori is what allows the child who already has some confidence to keep building on it. And back to the Sudbury Valley school, it's the type of thing that a child with some desire to learn and some sense of self-confidence, a willingness to be responsible for oneself, that child will be self-directed. I could see both my kids flourishing in such a school (we have a very small one in town based on the Sudbury model, but it's VERY small and only English, although one of the owners is a former French Immersion teacher), but I could see the 12yo just meandering or avoiding all that he fears. For years. Forever. Hiding behind them, lying about them, making sure nobody would see those particular weaknesses. Sure, he might become really good at playing guitar or cooking, but I could really see him becoming an adult who can't read and write because he was too embarrassed to have others see that. Although, perhaps I'm wrong and the fact that a lot of the kids do read later would encourage him, at least not have him feel so badly.

So, to carry out these two different models in my home... I almost feel like I need to be cut in two. Or cloned. ;)

I find myself back at where I've been before, each time with a slightly better sense of where I'm heading. It'd be nice to have a nice big jump. ;) I see how I need to figure out a way to structure things so that the opportunities are there for my kids but that the 12yo still gets the things he fears most (the basic language arts and math skills) AND has a chance to be inspired. But this is one of those things where I have all these details that I need to somehow put into a whole. That's not my strength. Give me a whole and I'll show you all the details!!!

I'll have to work it out on paper. I have a need to physically write when I really need to work things out.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Manipulating children to clean rooms

I had a post yesterday about our unschooly day (which we seem to need once a week) that ended up with a lot of instruction on health matters, learning about Venus flytraps and having two kids go outside to play. However, blogger was having problems and it got lost. I might touch again on that later.

However, I just heard about this program. Because I'm going to speak so negatively about it, I should perhaps not share its name or the link. It's a gimmick to get kids to clean their rooms. More than that, it comes across as so lovely and enchanting and FUN, that many parents are going to love it. Many already do. Yet I hate it!! And I think every Montessorian will hate it, too!

A large part of the program is focusing on rewards so that the children will keep their rooms all nice and clean. They go on about how children learn to feel proud of their rooms and keeping them clean and all this because they willingly clean it every day (to earn this reward) but given I feel so passionately against rewards (please read Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn if you haven't already!) and the manipulation behind it all, I'm just appalled! I can see the other side and why parents would love this program and find that it helps so much but... It's old Skinner conditioning. Manipulating the child to achieve a certain behaviour. Not actually working with the child to find the value in cleaning the room or helping them or supporting them, but manipulating them. Essentially, it's easier to bribe the child than to spend time working with them!


Saturday, January 20, 2007

I have to recommend this book!

This book I'm reading, Teaching the Restless: One School's Remarkable No-Ritalin Approach to Helping Children Learn and Succeed is fantastic! Whereas a lot of Free Schools that I've been reading about seem to have only 'self-initiated' learning, Summerhill actually has a class schedule, with the kids able to attend classes if they wish, and the school in the book, Albany Free School, has sort of grade-level classrooms and lots of different areas to do things, with the kids free to go where they wish, but also all kinds of adult-initiated activities (like Montessori) with the kids free to choose if they will participate or not. Also, they are very focused on helping a child's emotional growth and really stay observant to see how they might help out, not just a 'let the child be' sort of thing. I'm loving this book and wish I could see the school in action. Of course, it being on the other side of the continent, essentially, and in a different country... Not to mention that I don't have a passport, which means I can't go to the US in the near future. ;)

If you are at all interested in alternative schools, this book is just wonderful. It's also been recommended/praised by such authors as Joseph Chilton Pearce (Magical Child), Thomas Armstrong (The Myth of the ADD Child) and John Gatto (author of lots of good stuff ;) ).

Friday, January 19, 2007

Great way to end the week

I'm laying here in bed, laptop on my lap (go figure), dd next to me and we're watching the Canadian Figure Skating Championships--ladies' programs. This is the life! Oh, and we've got an orange kitty laying between us. How could life be any better? lol.

Because Wed. and Thursday were rather 'off'', and dd and ds had new Lego, and I've just been fighting off something, this morning just remained unschooly. Which meant that dd and the 12yo played with Lego, ds played with my niece (almost 2), the 15yo and I chatted a bit, actually did a quiz on Citizen Participation (a unit we actually haven't looked at yet in her social studies; she still managed to pass!) and not much else. I did put on The BFG for a little bit, too. We're quite enjoying the story! But we've liked all of Roald Dahl's works so far, I think.

This afternoon was a field trip to an ice sculpture display 'thingy', which included a mini-castle with a small slide--all made out of ice--another small slide off to the side (yes, made out of ice), a small maze made out of ice, and a larger slide made out of ice with an apparent safety hazard since only people 16 and older were allowed to go on! I'd share pictures, but my battery died and I didn't even get ONE picture off. :( We then walked down one of the main streets, window shopped a little, had a snack at Tim Horton's, stopped in at Army and Navy (got some stuff we don't find at other places) and then came back home. Dd and the 12yo resumed their Lego building and playing (they do this now and then--it's like they have to play Lego until it gets out of their system, then they're able to come back and work on academic things), ds played by his lonesome (my niece was already at home) and the 15yo and I had a good chat about various things. It was quite nice. She can keep a lot of stuff in, and was able to let a few little things out today to a small degree, with me able to share my own stories and she knew I understood. Very nice.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Thursday and Friday

Okay, here's some brainstorming on planning:

-science: has been wanting to work with this Science in a Bottle thing we have. I just need to sit down and look through it to see what he will be able to do from it, on his own or with someone else.
-French: I'd like to do something a little different for him with learning letters/sounds. Hm... maybe Sandpaper Letter hide-and-seek. It's the 2nd period for the Sandpaper Letters, just using a little larger space. I place up to 5 letters around, perhaps naming them as I go, then I ask him to find me a specific sound, then we practise how to write the letter. Once he knows more sounds/letters, then I can place more than that around.
-math: He's LOVING the simple worksheets I've been making him for math. I use a program called Basic Facts Worksheet Factory, a free download from Schoolhouse Technologies. He saw dd have a page the other day and he had to have one, too. (See how important it is for them to see others doing things to inspire/encourage them?) He's asked for one each day since. He's getting quite good at them. He discovered yesterday that the questions were all in order (all +2's) and stopped figuring out the answers. They all do it at some point. So I gave him mixed up ones today and will continue to give him mixed up ones. I'd also like to maybe do a sheet on my own next to him by using some of the materials we have. He's relying too much on fingers and who knows what and it's really best if he sees it all.
-As an extra thing, I wouldn't mind doing some geography work with him. Talk about three continents: ours, Europe (he can associate that with Grandpa, who's from England) and Africa (where some friends are from).

-math: her MathSmart3 book is not working for her. There's little explanation so she approaches each question as though she doesn't understand what to do but she doesn't wait for me to show her anything, either, and ends up getting all stressed out (no model to show her if she's doing it right or not, even though she usually is) and having meltdowns. So we've put it aside for now. I need to go through math objectives, maybe local grade 4 objectives for now, and draw up a simple list and see what she would like to do first. I might add in some things I know she can do and enjoys doing from another grade level, like working with integers or perhaps beginning pre-algebra.
-French: I bought this little grammar activity book from Scholastic and laid it out on the table today. I asked her to pick just one to do. She seemed to enjoy it. They are rather easy, but not so easy that she'll always get 100% on her own. I also want to read with her.
-social studies: encourage her to pick another country for her Around the World project.
-English: she has a story on the computer that she works on regularly as well as a new story she's begun planning on paper. I don't think I need to direct her with this at all!
-science: probably the science thing with her brother

The 12yo:
-just put him back on his routine! He is doing very well with it. That's enough for the last two days this week. Besides, we have a Clue story we began that he's going to want to work on!

The 15yo:
-help her with her last unit in social studies; hopefully she can finish it in two days, which would put her ahead of schedule and give her more time to work through assignments/essays and exam prep
-she has her unit 2 test to do tomorrow (which I think I will approach a little differently: go through each section with her talking about what it is and where it matches up in the textbook (open-book test) so that she begins it with a little more confidence than todays); start her on unit 3 on Friday (I don't even remember what unit 3 is! Should perhaps have a look)
That's ALL I insist on for her before she's done her social studies exam, which she's in total agreement with. Everything else is up to her.

Well, best be getting to those math objectives for dd!

Babbling and stuff

I requested this book from the library called Teaching the Restless: One School's Remarkable No-Ritalin Approach to Helping Children Learn and Succeed and it's just wonderful. I heard about it on the AERO site, a site about alternative education, including "Free Schools", which the school in the book is. I had read one of A.S. Neill's books in the past about Summerhill and while I found it interesting, I felt he reached a point of almost abandoning the kids a little too much. The school described in this book doesn't do that. It really does focus on helping the kids to grow rather than just assuming that they will on their own. They still have the freedom to have lessons or not, just like for Summerhill (and for 'pure' Montessori), but the director really seems to know his stuff and works at helping kids with their emotional well-being. It's a fascinating book. I think Montessorians might consider exploring more the idea of Free and Democratic schools. They've got some great points that complement the Montessori approach.

The book completely brought out one of Deepak Chopra's "things" in his book about coincidences: I've been reading Aldous Huxley's A Brave New World this past week or so and have learned all about this society's soma and drugging and all that. Wouldn't you know it but today there is an allusion to that all in Teaching the Restless. Had I not been reading the book, I would not have really understood!

Ds went to bed early last night, but I didn't because I'd started the Teaching book and was too interested. He's still tired and sensitive, though, but not nearly as bad as yesterday. But I didn't sleep well and kind of let it be unschooling and play today. I find it so hard to follow through on plans when I'm tired. I suppose I need to figure out a way to address that, because it can end up causing serious problems in getting the kids to work! Or, thinking about the book I read on helping kids with motivation issues, I have a problem: when I'm tired, my plans go out the window and part of it is because I don't "feel like" following through on them. Now, this means that I don't achieve what I want to with the kids and that they go undirected if they are not being self-directed. So, by choosing to go with my not feeling like doing stuff, I'm choosing to not reach my goals! Ach! (This book, Bright Minds, Poor Grades has been insightful for ME, perhaps more than for my work with the 12yo!!)

In any case, ds did a math sheet and we reviewed (cursive) abcde, dd and the 12yo did art this morning, while the 15yo did an online social studies practice test (got 100%!), then went outside while the 15yo did a math test (55% :( ). She was so convinced she was going to fail the test and that she "can't do tests" that she didn't even ATTEMPT to use the equations she was supposed to use. *sigh* It was a unit she hit a point with that nothing was sticking and I thought a good break from it would help but our review this past week did not seem to help and she bombed her first attempt at the test. I had her go back and check certain questions and gave her the points if she could figure out her mistake. She ended up with 55%, which is a passing mark here, but is a really sucky mark. She was so... what's the word? Downcast? Not sure. Not happy, though.

Once she finishes the unit 2 test tomorrow and we get started with the 3rd unit, then I think I may give her one of the questions from unit 1 to do each day. Or maybe just a review question each day, period. She needs to go back to the same stuff over and over and I somehow have to have her change her perception of math from being "I can't remember how to do this" to "I can think this through". Well, now, in saying that, perhaps daily review is NOT the thing to do but a daily THINKING question. Something basic that she needs to think her way through, even if it means starting over in algebra because it's as though she's forgotten completely how to think her way through the questions, even simple stuff like 8=4n. She knows n is 2 but she doesn't "remember" how to solve it mathematically. For something more difficult, like 8=2n+4, she has no clue how to approach it. I don't get it. She flew through this stuff in grades 7 and 8, did lots and enjoyed it. Stuff started falling apart last year. What has happened? Or maybe something got hard last year and all her old doubts came flooding back and her approach to math is through that filter. She may need some just general confidence building before anything serious. I'll have to think about this more.

Two more days left this week. I feel so confused! I somehow wonder how the week is already more than half over, yet can't believe it's already the end of the second week back. Wow. So, what are my plans? I'll post separately in a little while.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Trying Day

Ds has not been getting enough sleep lately. He just wakes up too early and can't get back to sleep. He's getting crabbier and crabbier. He's sitting next to me right now, having just come down from upstairs, where he's been crying about his Lego. See, he bought himself a Lego kit today, but it was a little too challenging for him to do on his own, so the 12yo started helping him. Well, after discovering that half of it was done and the 12yo had made a mistake near the beginning, he went into his 10th fit (crying fit) of the day, the 3rd or 4th with the Lego. I'm not joking. But it's past 4, I can't possibly have him nap at this hour.

I sent him upstairs to calm down and picked up all the pieces and put it back in the box. He came back down and he said he still wanted to play with his Lego. I told him he had to play it away from me; I just can't handle his crying anymore--it's one thing to be in tears about being hurt or something truly sad, but when he's this tired, EVERYTHING is sad for him. He's had his 11th and 12th fits because he thought he'd lost a piece. He came down and started crying again; I told him he needed to go back to his room. He's come back down now and told me he's not sad anymore because he found the piece. But then he started crying because he WAS sad about having lost the piece...

Somebody's going to bed early tonight... ME! ;)

On another note, I just realized I've been a bad girl--I have not been sticking to the Work First Policy with the 12yo. Two days in a row, his reading has NOT gotten done. Yesterday, we'd made a deal that he would read in the van while we went to the park. I agreed, but then we didn't take steps to make sure that it got in the van. Today, by the time we got to the reading, it was 10:20, his blood sugar had gone low and he was a little drained (and yes, this was before the reading was brought up) and so I said we'd do it later, but then we didn't.

I'M SABOTAGING MYSELF AND HIM! He and I need to talk about this tomorrow. He's had 30+ minutes less of reading than he should have had with me.

On a really good note, however, I've started going through this book about writing and found these story planning charts. He was just "on" this morning, quite focused and interested and we started planning out a story together based on the movie and board game "Clue". We got quite a bit of planning done and are enjoying how it's going along. He asked if this was like what people had to do when they wanted to make a movie, and I said it was kind of--they have to figure out their story (who, what, where, when) before they can really do anything else.

He's been talking fearfully about high school this past week and it came up again today. I think he's afraid of being bullied more than anything. But he's such a little squirt right now--only in gr. 7--and does spend time with high schooled kids, so that's got to be a bit intimidating! I've got two years to help him build his confidence. He just has to go to high school, I think. It's only fearful thinking that is stopping him. When he checks out all the stuff available at the school he thinks it's cool and wants to go.

Well, dh is now onto his 15th crying fit. He's lost another piece. Time to intervene.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Kids and the real world

Montessori Mom left a comment after my post about "Don't you want to hang out with your friends?" that inspired me to write.

She talked about, in Montessori, how the adolescent is seen as wanting to find a place in society. That is very true. Our current model of schools does NOT allow for that. The society kids live in and socialize in is not a reflection of the society outside of school.

It would be WONDERFUL if there were more schools that approached the Erdkinder idea. Slowly things are changing here--Registered Apprenticeships for senior high students (wish they could come up with something for the junior high kids who are REALLY seeking out a connection with society), there's an all boys boarding school in a nearby town/city where they don't have an Erdkinder environment, yet the boys do all kinds of outdoor activities, planning, they have to be a part of a work crew for the upkeep of the school... It's much more realistic and in-tune with an adolescent's needs than (only) sitting in a desk half the day.

The oldset I homeschool (not mine) is almost 16. Because of homeschooling, she has had the time to work out a bit of her place in society. She participates in competitive diving as well as has a paid job coaching gymnastics and diving. She's dealing with money, and 'customers' and real-life things, you know? And she definitely does hang out with friends, just not in-between classes or at lunch. (Just like adults in the real world.) If she didn't have these outlets, she'd probably be just another student going through the motions of school, either oblivious to how things are different in the real world or waiting for it to all be done with so she could get to the real world. She, too, would think that high school life is about friends, because that's often where the only true enjoyment comes in. (That's so sad, isn't it??? I think of all kinds of things I've read about high school and why kids shouldn't homeschool but should go to high school and it's got nothing to do with the education at all; it's all about the 'fun' that goes on. Which, I have to wonder, is maybe just some makeup to hide the "non-fun" of the available education?)

There is just so much talk about homeschooling doesn't prepare children for the real world, and how public school supposedly does, yet when you analyze it, public schools are far removed from the real world. The Montessori environment, while not set up the way other places might be, functions so much more like the real world--various ages interacting together, chances to work on projects, the children decide just how long they will work on something instead of changing subjects every hour or so... And freedom. Adults have a lot of freedom they take for granted, which is perhaps why so many don't see the lack of freedom that kids in a typical public school have. Adults get to make a ton of decisions--what do public school kids do for the most part? Sit, listen, discuss only when allowed or told to discuss, and work. Work they didn't choose in the first place necessarily.

Ah, enough of this for now.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

How come we don't send our kids to school starting the day they are born?

The following is a rant. It is in response to a variety of comments from different places online accusing homeschooling parents as being afraid of the world and that a parent's desire to protect their child is a disservice because the world is a cruel world and they need to learn that and how to deal with it.

Many people criticize homeschooling parents for not sending their child to school for 12 years, starting at the tender age of 6, because, supposedly, the child won't be prepared for the 'real world' afterwards. They even talk as though a child who was homeschooled until high school can (and really ought to, as though their future lives depended on it) go to high school and learn all the 'social skills' they need for the 'real world'. (Which kind of begs the question: if it can all be learned in 3-4 years, why the dire need to send them to school before that?)

Now, if 12 years of school, with a stranger as primary caregiver, is supposed to be good for them, then why not start them earlier for full-time schooling? Give them the full 18 years! There's a wealth of information out there about how much babies can learn. They could go to special schools where they will have all the Lamaze toys and Mozart playing in the background and flash cards being presented to them and early potty training and the Doman method and everything, all from specially trained teachers. They will learn even earlier on how to interact with others and all the other 'social skills' that they need (I've yet to have someone actually clarify what these missing skills are). Ideally there will be lots of adults, so that they learn not to be clingy to their moms and will have less stranger anxiety because there will be fewer strangers. And of course, they will be segregated according to age, because it is apparently so vital that they learn how to be with their 'peers'.

Of course, because this is the 'real world' in this classroom, we have to make sure there's plenty of adversity. I mean, the real world can be cruel. Let's make sure some cruelty is available to these babies--they've got to learn to deal with it! I'll leave it to the specialists to figure out what sort of cruelty can be allowed so the babies can deal with it. Perhaps it's in not having enough toys so that the 10-month old has to 'learn to deal with' another 10-month old who has a toy. Or maybe it'll be by having loud, scary noises out of the blue. You know, anything--kids have to learn to deal with it!

Sarcasm hat off, I'm so sick of hearing this. Maybe it's my own background in education and child development that causes this to irk me so much, or maybe it's just that I would like people to use a little common sense and they won't. I would really like people to consider children for what they are--NOT miniature adults with full reasoning capabilities (although adults are proving themselves not so good at that themselves ;) ). I would really love for people to try to find a psychologist who would say that it's actually GOOD for a child to be bullied in elementary school, GOOD for a child to be surrounded by people doing drugs/alcohol and good for a child to have a whole multitude of horrible things around them, like growing up in an abusive home, or a home where the parents don't really take care of the child--that encourages independence, right?

People are so busy rationalizing things to prove homeschooling bad that they don't realize that what they're saying actually has no foundation. And a house with a poor foundation falls!! Of course, they're not interested in exploring the other side, just spending time defending what they already believe. I suppose that's the case with everything, but with homeschooling, man, can it get to me sometimes.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It's Thursday?

This week has gone by soooooooo quickly!

Let me do a recap:

Monday--well, my Monday plans were silly. I've shared this before in this blog and always seem to forget. On the day back, *I'm* raring to go, but the kids mainly just want to share what they got, socialize, etc. The 15yo got a decent amount of work done, the 12yo set some goals, dd did a little work and ds... I think he just played. lol. In the afternoon, we went to our weekly park day, where dd, ds and the 12yo spent 2 hours skating!

Tuesday--started getting into a better work routine. Had our afternoon work session until about 1:30 or so, then ran some errands.

Wednesday--work routine is getting even better, although the 15yo had an eye appointment at 10:30, so she was picked up around 10, cutting her morning work time by an hour. Then she didn't get back and wasn't done lunch until past 12:30. She still managed to get stuff done, but she's essentially done NO math all week. Just a little on Monday. The 12yo tested this new routine and complained about the Work First policy and other things, like not being able to watch a movie in the middle of the week. The 15yo pointed out that that's how it was when they first started--we worked in the mornings, had free time in the afternoons, movies only on Friday... I have spoiled him way too much. However, I've become aware of it and am determined to stick to this new way of doing things, whether he really likes it or not!

At one point, he complained about the work I was having him do and how he just wanted to do it later (procrastination?) and I explained to him the 3 levels of high school here--the advanced for those who do well, the average, for those who can't handle or don't want to do the advanced, and the low level, which has a bad stigma with it and doesn't even give you a diploma and really limits job options afterwards because of the stigma. He hummed and hawed and I said that he has some goals to reach within the next two years--the time to start working on them is now, not in two years. I also added in, "I'm not going to let you fail, so this work needs to be done first," or something like that. Within a minute, he'd buckled down and did his work. Not totally focused, but he still managed to get it all done by lunch. There's a part of me that would love for him to go spend a day in a junior high--get a huge wake-up call as to what really goes on.

Somehow he thinks I'm being unfair, but I'm not sure he realizes just what a kid in school would be doing, and how much more a kids who's behind would be doing. I'll have to figure out a way to show him.

So, that brings us to Thursday. I had put off introducing any social studies or science topics for ds and dd, but dd's been kind of wandering this week and I think she needs something new. She's resumed work on her Around the World in 80 Days, so social studies is fine for now (although I haven't read to them from Story of the World all school year, I think! I want that book done this year!) but she could use some science. So I need to figure that out this morning, print off the 12yo's list for the next two days and I think that's it. Well, and sit down with ds to do some language arts work because we didn't get much in yesterday.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Today's my PD day

Correne has inspired me to have a PD day to focus on school prep/planning. I think that's a great idea. Of course, I just read that some people will be going to a local rec centre and I'm tempted to go... We'll see.

I'm going to start my day off with some fun stuff--I know, I know, seems kind of hypocritical to insist on the Work First Policy with the kids, and here I am playing before I work, but it's 6:23 am, I can't go roaming around the house making noise and turning on lights while I collect what I need. Besides, although I naturally woke up early (I've been awake since 5:45), my brain's still not really on yet.

Then I'll move onto the things I need to get done: take care of the school room and the school shelves, plus the planning and prep. I can't think more detailed than that at the moment. lol. See? If I were to actually start working, I'd be sitting here staring at the screen or standing in front of something to clean up and wondering what the heck to do. (I think a nap needs to be scheduled in for today!)

I'm ready to begin schooling on Monday. This break was really, really good and I'm ready to get going again. Just when I'm more awake. ;)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

My baby's growing up!

My two kids had dentist appointments today. Ds had been so nervous and scared about it not that long ago, but by yesterday seemed sort of okay--once he was convinced that the dentist wasn't going to pull out his teeth and freeze his mouth in any way. We get there today and dd was called in first. He was all raring to go and tried to go with her. lol. The lady said she'd be back for him in a couple of minutes. Then a different lady came and called him and he was just so 'grown up' (as much as a 6yo boy on the short side can look 'grown up') about it and all confident and almost eager. It was just too cute!

Both kids were very happy about their visit and said they like this dentist office the best. Good. So do I. :)

On another note, I've been told for the second time, in less than a month, by a total stranger that my dd (9) is "so cute". :) I spend so much time with her, I see her differently than others do. Not that I don't think she's a cutie, but I'm kind of biased, you know. I don't think I can stand back and look objectively! I wonder what it is specifically that they find cute.

School resumes Monday!

That's only in 4 days! I don't feel prepared!!!

I have some cleaning I feel I MUST get done before Monday--'must' because I've decided it's super important for these areas to be cleaned up before school starts: the 'school' room, the kids' room, the school shelves area in the family room. This is very do-able.

I have some preparations for next week to finish.

  • I've already got the 15yo's and the 12yo's math put into Homeschool Tracker Plus,
  • I've kind of worked out the 15yo's social studies for Jan.,
  • I have a planning/goal sheet for her to fill out in general and a separate one for her social studies (when will she do the final exam, for example),
  • I have a goal sheet for the 12yo,
  • I have his science partially put into HST,
  • I've looked through his social studies but do still need to plan out a little more what he needs to do each week
  • I've got a bunch of different LA stuff put into HST for him
  • I need to really flesh out the work he is going to do next week--especially since I want to put him on a "Work First" policy that will ban all free time until he's got his work done (I'm implementing a ten-step program from the book "Bright Minds, Poor Grades")
  • I need to do some French plans for dd
  • I'd like to set up some science and social studies plans for dd, but it's not crucial that it be done this weekend (besides, she has her Around the World in 80 Days she can keep working on for social studies)
  • ds already has some French stuff put into HST and I think some math stuff; as with dd, I'd like to figure out some science and social studies, but not necessarily this weekend
  • I need to find the weekly planning sheet I had for dd so that she can kind of track what she works on and see what areas she's doing a lot in or nothing in. Actually, I should do one for myself to make sure I'm actually showing them different things!

I also need to finalize the routine I want in place for the first week. I had something set up and realized that I'm trying to do too much at once. I want to be able to really follow through and I can't if there's too much pulling my brain everywhere.

Well, off to do some treadmill, shower, give the kids an early lunch, take them to their dentist appointment, do grocery shopping and THEN get to some cleaning and planning. Busy day!

"Don't you want to hang out with your friends?"

I've been reading some forums where it's just anybody and everybody who can post. It cracks me up, but also bothers me, how many people advise teens AGAINST moving from public school to homeschooling because "Don't you want to hang out with your friends?"

Life is not about friends. The only reason friends became a major focus of school-aged kids is because they spend so much time in school. When you leave high school, life is no longer about hanging around friends all day long. Why is spending 12 years of your life focusing on friends supposed to be a good preparation for later life?

Of course, it totally ignores the possibility of homeschoolers still hanging out with friends, like they are cooped up in their homes all day long. (eyes rolling) So many people think homeschooling parents are keeping their kids away from the world, isolating them, that we're all just a bunch of hermits. bah. Ignorance is blissful for them, I guess.