Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Wednesday Afternoon Babble

It was weird today with only my niece and my two kids. Even yesterday morning was weird. I'm so used to working with one child or another or keeping a kid or two in line that I wasn't sure what to do with myself and spent WAY too much time on the computer! Today was a bit better because I set a limit for myself and had a small list to follow. I realize that I have to start making a good-sized list or pick some big things to work on otherwise I will turn to the computer to keep me occupied.

We didn't go to MP. I just didn't want to deal with all that. I'd rather go with dh during the summer or just my two, not my two and a 2yo! We would have spent considerable time outside but the wind is just nasty--what little time we were outside, my niece was trying to hide from it and complaining. It actually seems a bit calmer now than it was earlier, and right now it's at 31 km/h gusting to 44 [for my American friends, that's roughly 20 mph gusting to 27, and like I said, it's calmer now than it was earlier].

I found out some amazing news yesterday about M., the girl I homeschooled for 4 years previous to this one: she and her mom and mom's fiancé are moving to Belize! The mom and fiancé have purchased a respectable, busy resort down there and will be moving in Oct. It's so strange to think of them as so far away! It does bring me a bit of sadness: although I hope we'll still keep in touch, I will not see M. as long as they're living down there. She will be back in Canada only for her time with her dad and that's it. I feel like her aunty, so it's kind of sad.

Back to what I was thinking about earlier and my lists: what shall I do tomorrow? We've got a park day to attend in the afternoon (I hope the winds will have calmed down!) but what shall I do tomorrow morning? All kinds of possibilities!
  • work on cleaning up the basement
  • help the kids go through a bag of stuff I picked up in their room weeks ago
  • work on school plans (I tried that today--I don' t know if I was just tired or if my goals aren't clear or what, but I couldn't seem to figure out what to actually work on)
  • read (I've got Eragon I'm going to finish, then I want to read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Self-Reliance and perhaps another essay or two by Emerson, Tolstoy's "Three Questions" (I think this is actually like a little fable), Lord of the Flies (to check for suitability as a read-aloud or as something to have the 13yo work on next year; I read it years ago), Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories", Rip Van Winkle; not to mention I need to learn about diagramming sentences and I have various non-fiction books around here I want to re-read)
  • read with/to the kids
  • play piano
  • declutter the books in the living room
  • declutter the family room and put away as many materials as I can (we'll be ripping up the carpet and repainting within the next two weeks--it's all got to get out of there; but getting it out of there might mean having to declutter and reorganize another area to be able to put things there)
  • laundry
  • home blessing

Now that I've written down about the family room, I realize my top two house priorities at the moment are the basement (where all the furniture from the family room will be going), and figuring out what to do with the school materials that are in the family room. I should be able to give it a good hour before getting too frustrated. ;)

I also should go out tomorrow morning to get some paint samples. I suppose tomorrow is going to be busier than I thought! I'm sure I'll try to fit in some school planning, which brings me back to my earlier troubles: what do I plan exactly? What is there to plan exactly? Well, I've got fairly detailed plans for the 16yo, started some plans for the 13yo, have nothing really written out for dd and ds. Those are probably my starting points. After that, then I can start looking at the actual course development for the 16yo and the 13yo's French, as well as the 16yo's CALM course. I should also order their resources so I can get them in soon and go through them all.

I've been having thoughts about the 16yo today. I realize that I haven't been at all effective this year in helping her understand the power she has to determine her future. A conversation at park day the other day led her to say the she was worried about college, too, and if she'd be able to handle the work load. I know in her mind are doubts about her being able to get into medical school down the road. Somehow next year I've got to figure out a way to help her see more accurately where she stands in terms of school. My thoughts about it today ran a bit like this:

Let's imagine a line. (I could even draw it.) Students fall all over this line. In the middle are the students who get their work done. They don't necessarily have any particular interest, they don't have any real motivation, they just do their work, no resistance, but no joy or interest.

On one end are the students who resist. They moan at what they have to do, they try to do the least amount of work, they tell themselves they don't have time yet they've spent hours and hours in the past week chatting with friends online or on the phone, they see school as kind of a nuisance and really try to get away with doing the least amount they can. They try to defend themselves with all kinds of excuses. Some don't have a particular standard they feel they need to meet, others do, but the attitude towards school and learning and self-improvement are the same: "I've got other things I want to do instead and I'm going to resist the other things as much as I can." And "I know I should do ..., but I don't want to so I won't." These are the types who drop out of college or don't end up doing what they'd really love to do because their attitude is one of "I don't want to work that hard".

On the other end are the students who work. They want to work. They want to learn. They want to excel. If they know that working with a particular program will improve some specific skill that's problematic but is really useful or important, they'll do it. They read worthy material on their own time. They don't fight the work and the effort. If they have a particular goal in mind, they will work their hardest to get there. They'll think about the things they need to do to get there. And even if they don't reach their goal, they've improved a lot in the process. These are the types who become the doctors or who fulfill their dreams. They don't usually moan at the work that is given to them--each thing is seen as something else to master and help in self-improvement instead of yet another annoyance that needs to be done.

The 16yo is not on this end and I need to share some similar story to help her see that. While she has worked somewhat hard the past few weeks, her viewpoint is one of annoyance with everything she needs to do. Her typing is really bad, but she doesn't want to do anything to improve it ("just by typing a lot I've improved a lot"); her math skills are poor but she absolutely does not want to do anything during the summer. She has a desire within her to finish gr. 12 early, but does NOT want to work on school work through the summer. Basically, she has things she'd like to be able to do, but is not willing to do what she needs to do to get there. I know part of this is a lack of self-confidence, but part of it is just a lack of awareness on her part of what it really takes for most people to excel. She gets downhearted when she can't remember how to do some chemical reaction equation that she hasn't looked at in 2 months, expecting herself to just "remember it" and bemoaning her "horrible memory"; she almost gives up on memorizing things because after taking a week off after only working on it lightly for 2 days, she can barely remember them. She always seems surprised when I say that it takes daily practice for a good while for it to stick.

Maybe her attitude is not the problem; maybe it's her lack of understanding. I see the same thing in her brother: kind of an expectation that he should just "know" how to do things and remember everything and feels horrible about himself when he can't. You try to provide him a strategy for remembering something and he scoffs at it, saying it's "stupid" or "silly" and he seems genuinely embarrassed to be using such a strategy, like it means that *he's* stupid or silly.

After 4 years with me, these beliefs still linger deep within them. Mind you, it's not like I focused on this particular aspect much. But I think I have to. It seems almost more important than the academic work they might do next year. This is perhaps why Marva Collins' approach appeals to me so much: she's constantly reminding the kids that learning is hard work, that mistakes are okay and more along those lines. She instills in them a can-do attitude and helps them see just what they do need to do in order to achieve. It's true, some kids don't need to work as hard as others do and things just come naturally to them; but most people, even the smart ones, have to put in genuine effort. And it's something that these two just don't seem to realize.

Wow, this babble took a long time! My supper's about ready. Time to shut off my brain for the time being. :D


Correne said...

Daisy, that post reminds me of something I read somewhere, possibly in Playful Parenting, not sure. Anyway, kids really do not have any perspective on trying and failing and trying and failing, or how long it takes to improve or what concerted effort feels like. It's like they're not old enough to have seen the pattern enough times.

They see adults doing math in their heads or reading fluently or writing smoothly, and they feel like idiots because they can't.

One idea is to give examples (of yourself, or of athletes, or someone they can relate to) of people who tried and failed, or who took a loooong time to learn something. I know my kids have a VERY hard time trying to believe that I once could not ride a bicycle, or swim, or drive a car, or that I was afraid to try. They LOVE hearing about our screw-ups, like that Daddy failed his driving test the first time, or that I had to repeat high school math.

Personally, I was (am?) a very driven person, and I would force myself to tackle projects that terrified me: math, chemistry, driving, computer programming, just because I hated feeling like an idiot and I needed to prove something. Eventually, I learned that I really CAN do anything, some things are just harder than others.

Maybe talking about theories of learning or stages of learning might help. There is one that goes along the lines of "unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, competence." I don't know if that's exactly it.

Daisy said...

Correne, THANK YOU. I think so much of my educational reading in the past 5 years has been Montessori-based and the focus from the get go is exploration--nothing is seen as failure. The kids just keep going and pushing on. But they also have their freedom to choose what they want to challenge themselves.

But without having grown up in that, and especially having to meet certain outside requirements a lot, I suppose it makes sense that a number of kids will absolutely need to be taught about trying and failing.

With the two oldest having seen most of the other kids do better than them at school (ding!), what you say makes soo much sense. Sure, the adults in their lives may be seen as very capable, but their own peers outshined them and they weren't guided in that environment in how to shine, too.

This is very encouraging! And makes so much sense. This is going to be an even bigger focus this coming year than it was this past year. The 13yo made some progress in this area, but I think if I can spend more time "brainwashing", being consistent at sharing stories, pointing out things, sharing cool quotes about effort, persistence and failure, I'll see even more. I knew he had confidence issues and this year really showed me how the oldest hadn't let go as much as I thought she had with her issues.