Monday, February 26, 2007

A Tired Monday

My two were at a sleepover Saturday night and did NOT get to bed as early as they should have yesterday (we had supper issues--first miscalculations involving when to put the chicken in the oven but then we became quite convinced that the chicken was bad as it smelled strange which led us to ordering food and not finishing supper until almost 8!). And I had them get up a little earlier than usual. I want dd and I to get into a good habit of doing a few exercises in the morning and have time for writers workshop (her desire!). We also spent a little over 2 hours at a bowling alley this morning. After having woken up around 4:15 this morning myself, I'm just so pooped!!

We still managed to get a little bit done this morning, but our morning didn't even start as it should have because dd had to take a shower this morning due to our screwy schedule last night and not getting her shower then. We still did a few stretches and our writing--I've started a short story about a homeschooled girl who goes on vacation and has to deal with the reaction of a couple of kids she meets there who have prejudices towards homeschoolers. We have done no math. Dd did work in her French workbook, which probably wasn't a great idea because when she's tired, she can NOT handle not knowing stuff so she ended up having a mini-meltdown. (Ended up having a larger one at the bowling alley when she came in with the lowest score after the second game.) These kids MUST get to bed by 7:30 tonight!!

Oh, I also did some writing/syllable work with ds. We got through na ne ni no nu. Then he was tired of doing it. So I've put something together for tomorrow which is kind of like the Reading Reflex/Making Words approach. I used a cursivey font and have little squares with letters on them. Then I have a short list of words to make with those letters (sounds). Simple things like lac, sac, bol... Then I'll write the words down and he can trace over them in a different colour. He needs more practice with this, but he's really past the point of being interested in the sandpaper letters (although he does like playing Sandpaper Letters hide-and-seek with them, but it kind of kills the purpose of feeling the letters in the proper writing direction because he doesn't always want to trace them after he's found them). Ooh, just had a thought--perhaps he'd be interested in a different approach to the sp letters: I get a second box and ask him if he'd be interested in tracking the letters/sounds he learns to write. The ones he can do go into the second box, these ones being reviewed (at least a few) each time we do a writing session. It would be a visual way for him to see his own progress.

What else have we done? While they were eating a snack, I did some geography work with them with the globe. I have an old globe that I painted over to have the continents stick out (like the Montessori continent globes). I pointed to North America, told ds it was North America, then spun the globe and told him to find North America for me. He did and even said it was North America, which I was pretty happy about. ("Amérique du Nord" is a mouthful!) I goofed and gave him another continent with an A--Afrique. But anyhow, I did the same thing as I did with North America. I then had him find me both continents and then I added a third (Océanie). This is where it broke down because there were two continents starting with the /a/ sound and finishing with the /k/ (Amérique, Afrique) and I hadn't played around enough for it to be well stuck in his head which was which. After the third continent had been added, I asked him to show me Afrique and he pointed to Amérique du Nord. I didn't make a big deal about it. I told him it was North America and I wanted him to find Africa. He went, "OH!" and proceeded to find Africa quickly.

Then dd wanted in on it and was able to find me all the continents--although was surprisingly a little shaky on South America. I then went over the oceans with her. This was really shaky! She can tell me where the Arctic and Antarctic are, but beyond that... That's fine, we haven't done this in a long time. But I have to remember to come back to it in a couple of days!!! That's one of my problems--I introduce something or come back to something after a long hiatus but then don't do the follow-up that's needed. I think dd is probably ready for the 3rd period (Montessori 3-part lessons) for the continents after a brief. Oh, more tired realizations: I need to spend a little more time in the 1st period (presenting the information to them) so that they take notice of things, details.

I have no more thoughts. I'm so tired and more and more congested that I just can't think anymore. I'm glad the kids didn't want to go to park day!

Am I the only one?

This post has nothing to do with homeschooling nor Montessori.

Such fuss made over the Academy Awards and who gets and Oscar and who's wearing what and blah blah blah. Am I the only one who doesn't get excited over this? Do I care about who was wearing the best and the worst? And how much makeup? Should I???? I just think it's so odd that we hear people complaining about how they don't have time, don't have time, yet they spend their time reading about who's wearing what and who won what and watching the Academy Awards.

Furthermore, am I the only one who just sees this as a bunch of people casting judgment on another bunch of people? Why they heck should their opinions be taken as Gospel truth??

Another one of those things in life that I don't get.

Friday, February 23, 2007

It's Friday! What a week!!!!

What an odd week.

First Monday was a holiday.

Then the two oldest only came for Tues. We only got part of my plans done--did a bit of research on Mexico (including forecast and some useful Spanish phrases). Part of that due to an unplanned occurrence--my nephew being with us that day--part due to me being silly thinking after a long weekend and the day before leaving on a trip that the two oldest would have any desire to do work! (The plans were still worth it, though, because I was the one to initiate finding out more about where they're going to be and they quite enjoyed it--even found a beachcam to watch lol.) We got our Scholastic in, but ds was very sad because they ran out of what he'd ordered. :( But we still got his books and read them that night. (Scooby-Doo rebus books--can't get better than that for a 6yo boy starting to read lol!)

Wednesday was strange not having the two oldest here and the kids weren't interested in doing much (we also decided to go to Scholars Choice, which led to my two purchasing toys, which meant they weren't interested in doing anything after that). I also got my Ray's Arithmetic books (woo hoo!). Dd complained a little bit about her back bothering her. They had played outside for a couple of hours in the afternoon--I figure she must have overworked her back muscles or pulled something wrong with the crazy stuff they were doing in the snow.

Thursday morning, I did some of the Ray's orally with the kids (they loved it!) and they played with their new toys. We also went to a local French bookstore. Purchased a novel to read with dd (she chose it--we both thought it was a book about dragons, but once home, realized that the title had the word Daragon, not Dragon; still looks good though--tied with Greek mythology), a workbook for them each, and instead of a book, ds picked an alphabet poster--with a picture for each letter of the alphabet. I asked him if he was absolutely sure, and he was. I put it up when we got home and he looked at it later on. Poor kid was tired and sensitive. He saw a picture with a bunch of ants (fourmis) but could not understand why there was a 'z' in the word below the picture. Dd told him it was for 'quinze' (15), because there were 15 ants. He burst into tears. "I thought it was ants." Me, I thought it was great because it showed that he knew a z didn't have any place in the word 'fourmi'!!

Just before supper, dd was working in her workbook and as she sat up totally straight to leave the table, complained that her back REALLY hurt. Started crying. Nearest I could figure it was a spasm due to the muscle that had been bothering her the day before. Hadn't caused her any problem at all Thurs. except for then--and afterwards. I gave her ibuprofen to help relax the muscle and deal with the pain and had her lay on her back. After supper, I let them watch tv (even though I'd already let them watch a movie that day) and made sure she laid down. She felt much better by the time she went to bed. Unfortunately, the ibuprofen wore off in the middle of the night and she woke up at 2am, just after her dear brother woke up to go to the bathroom, crying. I got her a gel ice pack we have and another ibuprofen and laid with her until she fell asleep, which took quite a while. The muscles around her diaphragm on her chest were spasming--I'm pretty sure in reaction to her tensing up with the back muscle pain which was located directly opposite on her back. Poor kid. :( I got back to bed around 3:30. Fell asleep. Slept hard until 5 when I was awake like a lightning bolt: I HAD to go to the bathroom. Did that, but because it was 5 and I was so tired, I decided to go lay down on the couch downstairs. (What does THAT have to do with anything, you're probably asking? lol) Well, dh's alarm goes off at 6. If I go lay down on the sofa downstairs, I won't be bothered by anything until at least close to 7. More time to sleep. Slept until 6:30. Yay! That counts as major sleeping in for me. lol.

Today we went to a nearby rec centre. Dd wasn't too keen on going, but I knew being in the water would help her feel better. I pulled out our 'noodles' and she got a little more excited to go. Before that, I felt around her back a bit. Was able to identify by touch where her problem is: muscle on the left side is swollen and has even pulled a vertebra a little bit out of whack. I hope it'll calm down. If not, I guess I'll be making my first visit to a chiropractor next week. I massaged gently around it and she said it felt really good. We iced it again, she took an ibuprofen about an hour before leaving and she had a great time in the pool. She was careful about what she did in the park: she wants to make sure she can go to her skating lesson tomorrow! She's complaining it's bothering her a bit now, but not enough to require an ibuprofen. Good. We'll do another ice tonight and give her an ibuprofen just before she goes to bed, then start heat in the morning. If she can go without ibuprofen in the morning, that'd be great, but if it's bothering her at all, I'll give her one an hour before she goes skating. I'm so glad she did not have to go to school through all of this!

As for me, my body's still fighting off the colds going around, with one of those barely congested things (yet still having to blow my nose a lot; very strange), but tired and prone to headaches. Ah well, I guess this is better than having bronchitis for a week or so. My mom and the 12yo both ended up with bronchitis and both have been sick for weeks (and now they're both in Mexico--my mom left this morning; serves them right! ;) ). I guess being barely sick is better than that. Although if it meant getting to go to Mexico...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

How Children Fail

This book has me nodding all the time. Holt was such an observer, bent on much reflection... Maria Montessori would have liked him. :) The thing that has struck me most so far is how he sees that certain kids are producers--they just want to try to produce the right answer (or any answer, just to have it done with)--and others are thinkers--while they ultimately want to get to a correct answer, they think things through first. Or even afterwards.

Although his reflections and notes were written in the late 50's, nothing has changed. He could have easily been describing a modern classroom. And so much of what he says has me thinking so much about the 2 oldest, who live under so much stress when it comes to school activities that are required of them and are primarily producers; has me thinking about my dd who bounces back and forth from being a producer and a thinker. About ds, who does move towards being a producer when I require work of him that he doesn't really want to do because he wants to go do something else.

For ds, it's definitely not about stress. But dd gets stressed. The 12yo is under constant stress when it comes to work. Which all brings me back to Marva Collins and her focus of building confidence in the kids before anything else. Not that she doesn't have them do academics, but so much of her focus is on that self-confidence, to help remove the fears and the stress, to have the kids know that they CAN if they are willing. And that mistakes are all a part of the whole process.

Ds doesn't care about mistakes in his work. Not yet anyhow. The other 3, definitely...

Montessori and Art

Jane brought up that I haven't really discussed art. And no, I haven't. Part of this is the kids are so self-directed when it comes to drawing, painting and colouring, I just don't think to mention it. I'm not an artist, so there's little that I would plan to do with them. However, I do have a few books to guide them, we take books out from the library a lot and they just have their own desires. I did use some of The Art of Teaching Art to Children in the past. I just have not initiated much in the past year.

At the elementary level, I'm not sure what Maria Montessori would have expected in the classrooms. I know art materials would have been freely available. Many of the modern Montessori elementary schools, unfortunately, have 'specials'--specific time set aside for kids to go off to things like music class, art class, etc. Maria would not have approved of this, but sometimes that's the only way to make it work. I suppose ideally there would be somebody in the school who has an art specialization, kind of like Sudbury Valley, where they could go ask for a lesson if they wished. Or the head guide in the classroom (Montessori classrooms almost always have a guide ("teacher") and an assistant) would have enough art skills to be able to provide lessons. I recall one book where a girl in the class reminded the guide of a promised lesson on painting landscapes. What they would specifically show, I'm not sure!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Holiday Monday Babble

It's Family Day today! I think it's also President's Day in the US, but not sure.

In any case, let me begin the babble:

Since it's Family Day, I need to make sure I do something fun with my family today. I know the kids wanted to make cookies; perhaps we could play some games, too.

Other than that, I continued reading in How Children Fail last night and had some inspiration which spilled over to this morning and I got some great ideas for tomorrow. One of the things the book helped me realize is that I'm spending way too much time focusing on remedial work with the 12yo and not doing enough to connect him with 'the world'. So I made a list of all kinds of things he's interested in and that we can use for reading and writing. There was a lot. This made its way to this morning as I was jotting down some notes for tomorrow's plans and realized that I've totally neglected bringing the 12yo's life into his learning: he's heading to Mexico on Wed. and we've not done anything. Mind you, he's been sick and we've been busy and I only found out last Monday. I guess that only really gave Wed. to look at Mexico stuff. But today was the first time I'd thought of it.

So, for tomorrow, I'm going to find some things about Mexico, where he's staying, and possibly draw up a simple report form for him to fill in. He and dd can create a list of useful words and phrases and then write them in French and try to find Spanish translations. So, not only will both be doing French, but the 12yo will get more Spanish exposure (he got some last year in Costa Rica) and they'll see how close a lot of the words are to French. I'm still trying to figure out some ways to tie in math. If he can find a rate for where he's staying, I can have him work out how much it would cost someone to stay x amount of time. Oooh... that just had me think I could introduce him to algebra. Let's say it's $85 a night. He can learn that 85n is how we would write an equation that would allow us to calculate any number of nights. I could also tie division in and give him a final amount and have him work out how many nights the person stayed. There's also the conversion of distance from kilometres to miles (or vice versa)... LOTS! Yay. This should be fun. THIS is the kind of homeschooling I've been wanting to do!!!

He'll still have to do some phonics work, but my primary focus has to be away from the dull and dreary!!

For ds, I've thought of a math game to play with him. We have this large 100 chart. I'll take some Golden Bead bars and units and we can mark off what the number is on the chart. Then I'll do things like take a 10 away or add 20 or grab a different handful and see if we can make 5 in a row or something.

Dd has the activity mentioned above that she could do, plus she's just got a lot on the go and is wanting to start research on penguins.

The oldest must get her math and science units done tomorrow. Then she's free to explore Spanish or whatever she wants.

Well, it's now 9:22. Time to get off this computer and do stuff!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

How guilty are you of this?

I got a free copy of "P.E.T. in Action" a few years back and never really sat down to read it. I have read T.E.T. (Teacher Effectiveness Training) and loved it, despite having fallen away a bit from what it suggests. I have not yet read P.E.T. but have it on request at the library. I sat down with it this morning and started reading. It was interesting what I hit, because I'd noticed this just yesterday with a mom and her daughter ("Come on! You're as slow as a 3-year old! Would you hurry up?") and thought about all the times I behaved the same way (although I don't recall using name-calling with my kids). Here's the passage from the book:

Most parents firmly believe that if they make a critical remark that puts down an adult, that person will be hurt and the relationship damaged. Do the same to a child, and they believe somehow the child won't be hurt, nor will the put-down do damage to the relationship. In fact, most parents even argue that children need criticism and put-downs and so it is the duty of a good parent to give kids a generous dosage of such messages--"for their own good."

And another part a little further down:

Also, parents are universally bilingual--they use one language for people and another for children. [Hey, Chrystal, are you reading this? Sounds like what you were talking about on Friday!] Should a friend drop and break one of their dishes, most parents would never want the friend to be embarrassed or guilty, so their message would be some variation of, "Oh, don't worry about that dish--accidents will happen." Let their 8-year-old drop that dish and we hear another language--such as "Damn it, my good dish is broken--why do you have to be so clumsy? Can't you ever be careful?"
How many of us have lived this type of scenario, as the children or as the parents?

While I'm not quite so 'offensive' in how I talk to my children, I do catch myself, especially when tired and grumpy, treating them as though they really ought to know better and really rather rudely. They're kids! They're people who do not have the experience we adults have had. Key word: they are people And this same idea leads to Gordon saying that to change parenting patterns, parents "must stop seeing their children as a unique species and being to perceive them as persons."

Because I'm so ready to explore this idea further right now, this is being added to my reading list this week. (I've got two John Holt books out, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this book and yet another book on motivational issues in kids. I'll be busy!)

A week already?

Has it really been a week, essentially, since I last posted? Wow!

Let me see, what did we do this week? As I wrote in the last post, Monday was scrapped. Tuesday... I know the 15yo worked on social studies, math and science. The 12yo was still not well--he's been sick for almost 3 weeks now with a mix of cold, bronchitis and ear infections. He actually came to the table Tuesday morning to do the regular work routine, didn't say a word, but I looked at his face--pale, which is NOT good for a dark olive-skinned Italian boy!--and I told him to go lie down. He did and slept 3 hours!

Can't remember Wednesday much. Thursday, the 15yo did her social studies exam. The hardest part was keeping my 2yo niece occupied. lol. She kept wanting to go sit with the 15yo, a regular part of her routine. In the afternoon, the 15yo was gone for sports training and my niece kept asking where the 15yo was. So cute. She's going to have a hard time this coming week: the two oldest will be gone on a trip Wed. through the following Tues.

What did we do school-wise? Dd found a vampire lapbook I had done up and has decided she's going to make a penguin lapbook this coming week. (Okay, so that's not this past week, but oh well!) I've been doing more reading with ds. I don't know. It was just one of those weird weeks with all kinds of non-routine things going on. This coming week is going to be different, too: 4-day week (holiday for us tomorrow), with the 2 oldest only on Tues. (15yo will finish up her math and science units before leaving for her trip; the others will just do their usual), Wed-Fri I'll only have 3 kids in the house, which means it'll be like last Monday, homeschooling just my two. I'm actually quite excited at the prospect! It's made me do some reflection, though: what is it that excites me? Is it how I will be able to approach the homeschooling? Why don't I do that already? It's been interesting exploring the issue. One thing I would like to do during the week the two oldest are gone is to establish a lunch and after lunch routine. I want to return to our after-lunch silent reading and then have Writers' Workshop time with at least dd (don't know if ds will be remotely interested).

As I think about little ideas for things to do with my kids during this week, I return back to why don't I do this usually? I spend so much time, I think, trying to get the one to do stuff that I ignore everything else, or at least push it off a little too much. He is soooo dependent. I'm just feeding that dependency. Why do I do that? I think that in the moment, I don't see it as dependency as much as I see it as lack of confidence on his part as well as just wanting to do things with other people. But see, if I focused more attention on dd and ds in learning activities, then he wouldn't be goofing off with them. His skills are still so low and ... I just cut myself off there. It doesn't matter if his skills are low. A grade 1 child with grade 1 skills can still be expected to spend a reasonable amount of time working independently. So this 'an excuse' on my part. Or incorrect thinking. Well I have a week and some to think about this more.

I just remembered: I got my antique math book this week. :D From 1897, Ray's Elements of Algebra (or something like that--can't remember the exact title). Even though the 12yo will only be here one day, I think I'd like to look at some of it with him. He really wants to handle this book and hasn't yet--I only got it Thursday night and we were busy with our party on Friday. I see no reason to wait until he gets back.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I'm bored

I didn't really set a list for myself today. No priorities. Nothing specific. I'm also tired and have a bit of a cold, which means I'm not thinking super clearly on my feet. (Ok, admittedly, I'm kind of laying across the couch as I type this. So, I'm not thinking very clearly on my derrière. ;) )

What could I be doing?
  • there's laundry to fold
  • we didn't do our house blessing this weekend
  • I could do the next section in grade 10 science
  • I could plan what I want to have ready for tomorrow
  • I could work on finishing my crocheted blanket--for which I've set myself a deadline of Feb. 28
  • I could start the novel I've been wanting to start for years (and have actually started a few here and there) and said I would definitely get started on once we got the laptop (we've had the laptop since Christmas--I took some notes from a book about writing a novel during a year, but only working on weekends; does that count? )
  • I could play piano
  • I could put on a movie
  • it's only 7:40--I could go do some treadmill
  • I could read--I have Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy out from the library plus I started reading Eragon
  • I could watch tv (but I don't think there's anything on that would interest me at the moment--I'm pretty picky!)
  • I could write about my day
  • I could finish putting things into Homeschool Tracker

Let me write about my day:

The 12yo was away on a sporting competition, as I had mentioned in previous posts. His plane didn't get in until something like 10:30 last night. Which means he didn't get to bed until close to midnight. Oy. He's also got bronchitis and an ear infection. His dad expected him to wake up between 9 and 9:30, so left the kids at home and went to work, thinking he'd be going back to get them and bring them to my place in a short while. The 12yo slept until 11 am. They decided to come anyhow and we went to park day.

But back to the morning... When I finally knew that I'd be waiting a bit for the oldest two to come, I decided to do some school stuff with them. It was so odd trying to get our day started without our usual routine. But it was fun. I sat down and read with ds--we found some rebus French books at the library and he's beginning to read some of the simple words, too, like "la", "le", "de" but surprised me with reading "facile" and "super", too! He was so proud of himself (I had commented on how he was reading more and more words), that he asked to read again with me tonight and read even more words. He ended up reading almost an entire sentence on his own and giggled a little over the fact that there were so many words in a row he could read. (And as I type this, he somehow ended up pulling out a special notebook he hasn't used since November and is tracing over the pencilled letters with a new, special, pen I got him last week.)

After that, I tried seeing if dd would do the French Professor Noggins cards with me. She gets so worked up over not knowing the answers and doesn't get that learning means that you figure out the answers, don't just know them (she's always been that way! Even as a baby!). So I asked her if she could just read the cards to me and we'd see if I could figure them out. She was keen to do that. It was good oral French reading practice for her, plus, since I'd picked the Canadian Geography set, some exposure to geography info. I also vocalized my problem solving when I didn't automatically know an answer, which is probably good for her to see.

After that, ds and I tried to do a science experiment: mix lemon juice with a bit of water, try to 'write' on paper with it, then heat the paper after the invisible ink has dried. It didn't work very well, but I may have had too much water for the amount of lemon juice, or maybe we're supposed to use a fresh lemon instead of the concentrate stuff I have. But it was fun.

After that, I helped dd resume work on her Around the World project--she's only on day 10 of 80!

After THAT, we did a little oral problem solving in math. Things like, "If you have 5 dollars and I give you another 3, how much do you have?" for ds and "If you have 9 cookies to share among 3 people, how many cookies will each person get? How did you figure that out?" for dd. She hasn't spent a lot of time on her multiplication tables--although she completely understands how to figure them out--so it was interesting to get an answer for the question, "If you get 4 dollars a day for 6 days, how much money will you have?" She figured out it was 24. I asked her how she'd figured it out. "Because 6 times 2 is 12 and 12 times 2 is 24." This is something she's done for sometime--she just 'sees' the simple factors in certain numbers. She knows that 6 x 2 x 2 is the same thing as 6 x 4. She also knows that she doesn't have her x4's mastered, but does know her x2's and figured out how to get an accurate answer. This is something she actually started doing with addition when she was in grade 1. And yet I've been in grade 5/6 classes, and even worked with older students, who didn't quite 'get' that 6x4 could be broken down into 6x2x2. Hm... I wonder if I should show her factor trees...

That reminds me. Before I started with ds and reading, I spent a little time on the computer with dd. I discovered this virtual math site yesterday and we ended up doing a coordinate grid 'maze' game together. She picked up on the idea very quickly. She decided to continue when I went upstairs to be with ds and my niece and ended up doing stuff with all 4 quadrants (so, dealing with negative numbers). Oh, and during this time, she ended up typing a few messages to the 15yo, who was at home and checking her email, logged into MSN Messenger.

What else did we do? Oh, the 15yo had an idea last week to make Valentine's Day Rice Krispie Squares for our party, making them with our leftover Christmas Rice Krispies, but then realized there were green in them. She suggested we pull the greens out. I was game, so ds and I started that. He and my niece ate all the greens that got pulled out. So far, we have about 1 3/4 cups of cereal ready--we need 6 cups. lol. Then we watched "You Are What You Eat" during lunch, which I count as Health class.

So, it was quite a productive morning! The two oldest will be gone for a week, starting next Wednesday. It'll be very different and will really give me a chance to do more things. But I think it will also help me focus more on providing interesting things to do rather than 'trying to get the kids to work'. I don't need to try when they've got something interesting.

This afternoon was supposed to be a kind of Winter Carnival at our park day. Unfortunately, it was so cold, they couldn't do the quinzee building (the snow would not have stuck together at all), the picnic barbecue thingies were blocked off for a snow sculpting thing and that meant they couldn't be used to heat up maple syrup to then create candy on snow and most of the skating 'team' rounded up last week to practise was not present this week, so most of the people who volunteered to take their place had no clue what to do. The kids had fun anyhow--they went sliding and ds played on this little hill with some other kids (kids he'd never played with before--yeah, those homeschoolers have no social skills! don't know how to interact with other people! yeah, yeah).

Now that's not all. (Are you even still reading??) I had printed off some sheets this morning for le Carnaval de Québec--a little late since it finished yesterday, but what the heck--and dd and ds worked on those after supper. I also continued to read to them from Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke.

So now I've managed to use up a fair amount of time. And I fixed my boredom problem. lol. And I've realized how many things I haven't put into HST! Best do that before I forget.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Amazing Concentration

I had a Montessori observation moment today. I was at the kitchen table and happened to look through the window of the wall to the downstairs family room. Ds was there with a broken plastic hockey stick that had been taped up, removing the massive amount of tape. I started watching him, wondering what was going through his mind, what was his purpose in all of it. He was so intent upon what he was doing, he was oblivious to everything else around him. Dh went down and passed by and ds didn't even look up. He seemed to be wrapping as much as he could around his hand. And I wished that I could truly put myself into his mind to understand, to see it all the way he saw it!

But that level of concentration was remarkable. He tends to be so busy and noisy, but this was intense and calm. The very thing Maria Montessori described of children who had found work that met some inner need. I'm not sure what he needed, but it was apparently being met pretty well. lol

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Complaints, complaints

This has got nothing to do with homeschooling, but things that I got in my inbox today.

First complaint: These darn people trying to pretend that they are financial institutions and hoping to get your banking information. I looked at the source code for this message I got today--it's part of some woman's website/blog!!! I was stunned, as I've had these messages before and it's always been some obscure thing you couldn't link up to anybody. This woman's got pictures of herself and all kinds of personal information on her blog. Of course, with people being much more technologically capable than I today, it is always possible that somebody's using her site to store this particular page on (the imitation banking page), but is that really likely? Not sure. I just hate that there are so many people out there who care so little for their fellow man that they would want to rip them off this way. I have been getting these fraudulent messages more and more and it makes me mad as much as it saddens me. PhoneBusters is going to start recognizing my email address if I keep reporting people at the rate it's going!

Second complaint: I'm complaining about myself. Why? Because I told myself to just read the reminders for FlyLady and I didn't and I read this testimonial about how that bribe-based cleaning program isn't just for kids. Reading the message, to me, it's so blaringly obvious the children are doing it out of fear of this fictional character who's been created--and rightfully so since she is supposed to be Santa's sister and they check the naughty and nice lists together. A 3yo is described worrying about having things just right! The mom was raving about how well the program works and how it even worked including her dh into it all--he got a note about how he needed to do better to get his treat. She ended it with something about how great it is to 'get results'--does she not really mean how great it is to control others to do what we want them to do???? FlyLady goes on about how perfectionism defeats us--isn't manipulating and pushing others around to reach the household state we want a sign of perfectionism?

I'm so sickened yet I can't seem to remember not to read these posts. I'm going to have to create some filters so that I don't get any of the testimonials with this program's name in them.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Homeschooler or home educator?

An interesting post in a local homeschooling support group about using the terms 'homeschooler,' 'home educator,' 'teacher' and so on. It got me thinking and I decided to pour out my thoughts here.

I have different views on the subject:

1) Are we getting too nitpicky and philosophical if we go to such extremes as to say, "I'm not a homeschooler because I'm not running a school!"? According to the law here, we ARE schools. We fall under home education laws, but our places of education are considered schools. Why can't we still be schools and be different from all the other schools? Do we have to find a new label? I think of Sudbury Valley School. It is a school, yet it's so vastly different from most schools out there. I think it's great that the idea of school is being broadened!

2) Are most homeschoolers actually teachers? Many are. And I don't mean by their certification. I mean that they do what teachers in a public school would do: they present information, they have a child do work in a book, they evaluate... A synonym for teacher is educator. Does it make a difference if somebody considers themselves a teacher or an educator? Maybe in certain nuances, but if you see yourself as a teacher the way you would see yourself as an educator, then there is no difference.

Many people don't set out to formally teach their kids things; that's fine. Then they don't need to consider themselves teachers. Some are more like the Montessori guides, helping kids, but not really insisting that they learn any specific thing. But we certainly shouldn't adopt the term "home guide". lol.

3) And yet, on the flip side, so many non-homeschoolers (or home educators, take your pick!) do NOT get homeschooling so perhaps it WOULD be a good idea to have different terms other than teacher and homeschooler and things like that. Because kids in school spend their whole days at school then go home, so many people hear the word "homeschooler" and think the kids are at home all day long. They question the parents' ability to teach children because they're not certified teachers.

Lots of thoughts.

Different things

My plans for the week didn't pan out! The 12yo was still sick and blah (turns out he has bronchitis!) so he only got a bit of work done. It's just been one of those weeks, let's say that.

I wrote a letter to FlyLady today. She's the one promoting this program I despise so much. But it went a step further today: somebody from the FlyLady crew was responding to a mom who didn't want to use rewards and spent her whole time trying to convince this mother to use rewards. That was it. I had to step in!

So I wrote a kind of testimonial, about how the FlyLady system on its own works wonders with kids, sharing my observations of the program, sharing my dismay about the push to use this program, especially for someone who does not want to use rewards. I didn't go about trying to convince anybody to use rewards or not--that's something people have to find within themselves--but I did make it clear that you can have your kids clean their rooms, and have them be happy about it--without using rewards. What I didn't say was that FlyLady has been saying for years and has been sharing testimonials for years about how well her program works with kids, about all these kids who have gotten with the program and are happy and following routines. Now, all of a sudden, she's undermining her own system by encouraging some other person's reward system (which you have to purchase!). Why the change? Does she not trust her program for kids anymore? Is she getting some sort of commission? What has happened???

Oh, and I also shared brief info on Alfie Kohn and Faber and Mazlish, saying that those moms who want to do something different can and there is help out there.

I wonder if she'll publish it...


As for today, it's Thursday. My nephew is coming today. That means I absolutely need to do some school stuff with my two before he shows up because they will go off and play with him and my niece. That actually works just fine because that means, with the 12yo still on his competition trip, that I can focus on the 15yo, help her get two last assignments done for social studies, hopefully get her doing a section in math, and then help her study for her big exam. Which is supposed to be tomorrow, but it might not be because there was some issue with getting the exam. Our poor facilitator was going on what she knew (which is what I had seen with other subjects online), but this social studies teacher is saying something different, so now we have no clue whether we're going to have an exam tomorrow or not. We're pretending she is and making sure she's ready.

Other stuff: I've started looking at the 15yo's science which she will be starting next Monday (assuming she's got the exam done tomorrow!) and I've got to work on getting next week's stuff together--it's more complicated than other subjects!

Oh, kids are up, time to get going.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Plans for the Week

Okay, just to get my juices flowing a bit and have things written where I can't lose them (lol):

12yo's schedule:


9:00--reading with me


10:00--science and social (I'm basically reading to him and he'll write down a couple of sentences)



12:00--Research/Writing (I have a sheet with some research questions on anorexia. He keeps making all kinds of goofy comments in terms of anorexia so I figure it's time for him to actually learn about it. It also reminds me of Marva Collins's approach where the kids have to write about gum or other things related to something they weren't supposed to be doing.)

12:30--typing, art, science experiment, music, outside time...

No park day for us today. This schedule is for Monday and Tuesday. He is gone on a competition for the rest of the week.

The 15yo:
a.m.: social studies work, math
p.m.: exam anxiety work, studying

That's her schedule for M-Th. Friday's the big day--the exam!!

-read and write in French together daily (she came up with a great idea after one day of me fooling around: she'll practise cursive AND French writing at the same time by us writing messages to each other)
-do a little oral German daily
-her social studies project (Around the World)
-for science, I'd like to start going through this book we have in French; I think it's the Usborne Encyclopedia of the Body
-math: whatever she wants! Probably math facts practice. I'll have to print off a sheet for her.

-read to him in French each day
-have him work on some letters each day, maybe see if he would want to copy some words or sentences
-math: I'd REALLY like to do the Teens Board. Still haven't done it with him. I might consider doing some Golden Bead work with him as he's begun trying to read numbers past 100. He's sort of lost interest in workbooks and worksheets, which is fine by me--I'd like to work on operations with materials instead of written stuff. He's started taking the approach that just having the answer and working quickly is the point! It's not! So, maybe some addition, subtraction or multiplication work with bead bars.
-science: maybe the body book with dd
-social: still haven't done the continents on a map or the globe!!
-religion: I'd like to do some stuff from the French program we have with both him and dd.

Our week this week is fairly straight forward: work from 8-11, work from 12-2, Mon-Thurs. Friday, 15yo does exam while I keep the other 3 busy so as not to disturb her.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

THAT Cleaning Program

I keep getting messages from this one list I'm on about that cleaning program for kids I was complaining about. This one mom wrote how her 9yo dd wanted to work with Santa and the fictional character created for this program when she grows up. Other messages also give the impression that they think this character is REAL. I had never considered the possibility that these kids were being given a new fantasy character to believe in! Don't we lie to them enough? lol.

I've got a cleaning program for you: routines, work with your kids, love and patience. (Ok, love IS patient, but patience should be said. :) ) My kids have no problem cleaning up things when they are not overwhelmed (so, if it's huge and I help, it's okay), when we decide things together and especially when it's just a habit. No need for believing in fictional characters or getting prizes each time!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Miscellaneous Stuff

Sh... It's Saturday morning and ds has not asked to play x-box yet (they get to play Sat. and Sun. morning). He saw all the cars he'd left out yesterday and is playing with those instead. Don't tell him it's Saturday!

It's been an okay week. The 12yo had a fairly bad cold, but was still rather cooperative and got a bit of work done. The oldest has been so tired and just doing what she can with her school work--at times getting very frustrated, though, because she just can't think any more deeply and is getting easily confused. I'm tired--been fighting off that darn cold all week, not succumbing but not being totally well, either. And I would get suddenly hit with tiredness or a headache and everything for schooling would crumble after that.

We did watch a few episodes of You Are What You Eat. That's health class. ;) Actually, it's really good at showing what can happen, how important it is to get your fruits and veggies and I think in some way it shows what you can do if you commit yourself to something. Yesterday's show had a guy who lost 56 pounds, I think they say, in 8 weeks. THAT was the most dramatic weight loss we've seen to date. They usually lose up to 2 stones (roughly 28 pounds). He looked so much healthier. But his belly in the beginning looked so swollen, not just fat. So many of the people they have on the show have diets that are almost uniform in colour: basically some shade of brown for everything. Fries, fried chicken, hamburgers, pizza, pop, chocolate, tea, coffee, pastries, other baked goods (not healthy ones). The kids see all the colourful foods she offers the people and it really does make it look more appealing! I have noticed dd turning more towards fruit as a snack this week. hehe.

I finally made a decision about the Ray's math books: I purchased the first 4 books from and ordered an original algebra text (the 5th book--not yet re-published like the first four are) from the series off of ebay *for only $10.50US, including shipping!). Now, WHY would a Montessorian purchase this program, you might be asking? Well, there are reasons:

1) The kids don't see a lot of other kids working with materials for math and so aren't particularly inspired to just go off an use them. And I'm horrible for presenting stuff or even knowing what I'd what to present to them.

2) Workbooks and worksheets only go so far in terms of guidance. (And dd has hit a total frustration point with the workbook she had chosen and I find the setup too hard to work with to provide lessons.) And the kids ask for worksheets, but there's only so much out there that's readily available and I really don't have creating a bunch of worksheets or question cards as a priority at the moment.

3) The early books focus on oral mastery of operations with constant review questions--this fits with the 12yo's style soooooooo well and will really help him, I think, but will also be appealing to dd and ds. The actual style, from what I've seen, is mostly solving problems. "One bird is sitting on a tree and three more come. How many birds are in the tree?" "Bobby goes to the store and buys 3 items for a nickel each. How much has he spent?" (The kids love this kind of thing and see it as a game when it's done orally.) It really works the mental arithmetic, which people in the past could do quite well. It actually surprised me to see the content of the algebra books since some of it is now done with calculators, yet they would have done it all mentally back then. I might sometime break down and get the CD that has the geometry and other high school level books, just to see how it could all be done without a calculator!

4) This program has appeal to the kids because it was what they used "way back when".

5) Since I don't really plan on using it very strictly, it's another inspirational item to be part of our environment. I really could see dd in particular just sitting down with one of the books and going through various pages, doing it on her own (yet another Montessori element--independent learning!).

(Oh, ds just asked for x-box. lol.)

Anyhow, I now eagerly await the books' arrival!