Sunday, April 29, 2007

To Start Again

The past few weeks or so have been just difficult and crazy!! Let me see if I can start anew this week.

I have to admit to being in a slight panic mode: May begins this week, which means within the next two months, we will be doing our year-end review with our facilitator. Yikes! It's like going to the doctor or dentist: always makes me nervous. Plus it means putting things together to show what we've done. It'd be better if I did that as we went along, kind of kept a running scrapbook or binder of sorts, but, alas, I don't. Kind of like my taxes, which still aren't done...

Anyhow, the 12yo had a great work day last week and was so proud of himself. He says he wants to work like that more often. (Of course, that day was followed by a day of him feeling crummy and not being able to work like that, but hey.) He basically did all his work in less than an hour. Which tells me what? That he's capable of FAR more. So, I'm planning in what I think to be 2 hours per day of work this week. I have to make sure I stay firm--and put reminders up for myself in not-too-obvious places--that he is not to have free time for stuff until he can prove to me his work is done. I also have to remind myself to tackle his idea of what learning is (it clicked recently that he doesn't see all this work as learning, but doing, and that he seems to think he should just know the answer) and to have him decide who/what he's going to let be in control: his difficult feelings when he gets frustrated or doesn't know something (which will only cause him to lose out) or him and his desire of being at grade level and having big options later on (he's always had his sight on something in the sciences).

So, what's my plan for him this week?

LA (about 60 minutes):
-auditory and phonics work
-read aloud from McGuffey reader; then do copywork, then dictation of copywork
-assigned silent reading (about 3-5 pages or so of a book at a more challenging level than what he reads aloud to me)
-write about what he's read: one paragraph
-a grammar or phonics/reading worksheet
-work together on essay creation (he doesn't actually do any writing for this)

[Note: the above would not necessarily happen in that order! I think I'll break it down into 2 or 3 blocks and talk to him about what sort of order he wants to do things in]

MATH (about 30 minutes):
-since he's been doing his math sheets in about 10 minutes when focused, I'm going to give him 2 math sheets per day this week; this means that including any instructional stuff, it should only take him 30 minutes to do math

SCIENCE/SOCIAL (about 20 minutes):
-this will alternate days; for science, it'll be reading through safety stuff about his science kit; for social, mapwork (provinces of Canada)

FRENCH (about 10 minutes):
-he hears a lot of French and uses a decent amount (plus it's easy to fit in little oral things here and there); this French time would be focused on reading and writing--this week: simple syllables (I think I'll see if ds will join us and we can do some sort of games with this)

Yes, as you've noticed, I've scrapped the CM schedule. It never really worked super well. The idea of a general schedule is good, though, except now I want him focused on work rather than on time. His work the one day last week was amazing.

For the rest of the year, I'm really not taking a Montessori approach. I may use Montessori materials here and there, but I've finally worked through where *I'm* at and I just can not be that 'free' with them for the next month and a half or so. I have yet to work out specifically what I'll do with ds and dd, but it will be a little more structured. I need to have this year finish on what I feel is a good note!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Always So Interesting...

It happens so often that I'll pour out--here or in a hand-written journal--my frustrations and the rest of the day is better than all the previous days!

What did I say earlier? The 12yo doesn't want to work? He tells me at 7:50 this morning that he wants to work. He'd also read a few articles in the newspaper this morning and read stuff I was typing on the computer.

Dd and I got started together this morning and she's much happier.

Funny. But nice. (Thanks go to the Man Upstairs. :D)

It's been a while

Too much stuff going on lately: van troubles, kids sick (had only about 4 hours sleep the other night due to ds vomiting in the middle of the night), me sick, kids' resistant or just generally difficult about school work and more. It's one of those homeschooling lows. I know it'll bounce back up, but I wish it would happen soon.

The 12yo doesn't try. And I'm so inconsistent with him, it's hard for him to make decent progress. Why is he here? Is he truly better off with me? The first couple years, sure. But now... He's finishing up gr. 7 and what does he have to show for this year???? Almost nothing. I try this and that and I just can't seem to find something that will really, really work to engage him and get him going. I keep thinking how he's only got 2 years left of jr. high. I could always keep him for a second year of gr. 9. I refuse to do high school with him, but haven't told him that. He NEEDS to have that transition, even if it is forced on him. He seems to live in a little fantasy worl half the time and resists what adults say to him. He needs to have a different part of life open his eyes a bit. But back to my point: he's got two, maybe three, years left of jr. high. I know he can get caught up in that time, at least to an acceptable level (even if it's just 50%-60% average). I've just got to figure out how to do this all.

Dd fusses at everything. Has meltdowns for everything. Says she can't do this, can't do that, complains that she needs help (which she doesn't) and that I can never work with her because I'm working with someone else. We go through this regularly. I tell her I can almost always work with one child at a time. She fusses at reading in French, at writing in French, at most math... I have been wondering for a bit if home is really the best place academically. But I so hate the thought of what will happen socially in a classroom. Not to mention that she is so much of a follower and doesn't question others' ideas (especially if it's someone she wants to keep as a friend and somehow feels inferior to--age or size) and she's never been good at retelling what's happened during the day. (I still remember her brief stint at preschool, an attempt to make French-speaking friends since we knew we'd be homeschooling: every day, she'd be bullied by this one boy in her class, to the point of him having punched her in the stomach, but every day, it was the girl in my dayhome--in the same class--who would have to tell me about it.)

Ds... complains every morning that it's a school morning. Why? Because he wants to play XBox. lol. But school-wise, I feel I neglect him. :(

Things are actually going great with the 16yo. Maybe I'll keep her and send the others off to school. lol.

I know my real issue at the moment is my sleep issues. And there are just so many little stressors right now that I'm just feeling overwhelmed. I've stopped even trying to be Montessori-like. I'm too sleep-deprived to be creative and enthusiastic enough for that. But even trying to work with the kids with our meetings has fallen a bit flat. I have found they so often mirror my energy and other levels that it's probably that. *sigh*

Well, time for me to go get ready for the day.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

My children are possessed!

I stopped regularly playing piano and dd ended up following suit. We talked a bit about it a couple of weeks ago--after I'd pulled out a recorder and was playing songs for my niece--and she said she's just not interested in piano right now. Somehow it came out that she'd like to learn recorder. I told her we'd get her her own recorder so that I can model with mine and she can do the same with hers. She's had a bit of recorder experience, but not much.

We finally went and got the recorder yesterday--and ds, naturally, wanted one, too. They were so excited about them. Dd got the same type of recorder I have--a Dolmetsch--and it looks almost identical, but hers isn't so used that the bottom piece falls off ;). Ds picked this see-through yellow recorder. They started trying things in the car.

We get home and they're BEGGING for lessons. So we start off simply and ds did fantastically. He's a kid who leans more towards auditory things and I think this must be part of it. He did better than most gr. 4 kids I've seen who are just beginning recorder. He got frustrated, naturally, and as all beginning musicians do, blamed the recorder for some squeaks, but once he got it and wasn't too tired, he did really well.

I ended up ending the lesson and they continued playing. This morning, the first thing they do is ask for another lesson as soon as their papa is up. lol.

I suppose there are worse things to be possessed by...

Friday, April 13, 2007

What's Up?

It's been a crazy past week. Kids were super tired again last week, weather was crummy, school was a struggle. Four-day long weekend which really threw off my sense of what day it is this week. Tuesday and Wednesday were okay for school; yesterday was great! It was spring-like outside and the oldest had slept well the night before and everybody was full of energy.

I don't have that energy today. I've had a cold all week which hasn't really bothered me much, except that I woke up with a hacking fit at 2am. Was still awake at 3. :( Then I had the most bizarre dreams before waking up this morning. And several of them. When I dream like that, I just feel so tired when I get up. Let's just say my brain is not fully functioning yet this morning and I wish I liked coffee!

In any case, it's Friday. The oldest has a ton of work to do. The 12yo's schedule isn't quite working out as I had planned: it's just impossible to stick to 20-minute blocks in this house. What it's gradually moved into on its own, however, is he gets started on something, finishes that, then asks what's next. This works much better than having him have the rest of the 20 minutes (if there are any) to go off and do whatever--getting him back can be a struggle! He had a really good work day yesterday, assigning himself more copywork than I had assigned him, even! Just need to work more!! But I'm too tired right now to have a look at what we've been doing and what needs to be added.

Back to the schedule... I think I'm still going to keep it but not have it so time-based. Although he did like the very general schedule we had before of 8:30 LA, 9:00 math and so on, it didn't cover enough stuff. I'll have to tweak things on the weekend.

I'm really feeling like I could go have a mini-nap. It's 6:52 in the morning and I'm ready for a nap! omg.

Friday, April 06, 2007

"I'm so proud of you"

Those of you on FlyLady are probably aware of her frequent "I'm so proud of you!"

Well, I don't like it.

I didn't like it as a child and adolescent and as an adult, I found others who felt the same way. I could never verbalize quite what it was until I read Alfie Kohn. I don't recall his exact words on it, but he helped me realize that this type of praise is actually detrimental: it takes a part of the accomplishment away and places it on the person giving the praise. Adults who accept this form of praise are seeking to have others tell them they're doing a good job instead of being able to see it for themselves, feeling the pride on their own. Children are the same way, except that children who seek this type of praise are also typically just seeking adult approval. They live to be approved of.

Isn't that sad? That the sense of worth is coming from somebody else's approval?

I know Maria Montessori wrote about lavishing the children with praise, but the type of praise she seemed to give was one that was focused on what the child had accomplished and not how pleased she was with whatever the child had done. And that's exactly where the child's focus should be: on what he has accomplished, not how others feel about it.

Writing that last sentence has me thinking about the other end of things: the parents who do give the "I'm so proud of you" praise, but then counteract it with disapproval of not reaching certain standards. Again, the focus for the child becomes parental approval and not self-approval. How is a child to decide if he's proud of his work, if he's truly done what he's capable of doing if really he's more concerned with what others will say? It'll paralyze some children, make them afraid of trying because if they don't try, at least they won't have any criticism placed on their work because there's nothing to criticize, right?

Just some thoughts on this Good Friday afternoon.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Tuesday update

So far, two days of trying out the new schedule. How are we doing? Depends on how you look at it. lol. He was very tired yesterday and actually ended up napping--twice. So he got some auditory work and phonics done first thing, then curled up, then did some history reading later on and that's probably it. For today, I wasn't ready at 8 so that threw the schedule off a bit, but I still put in the auditory work and he got some math done, a sentence from a science book and composed a "list poem". Oh, and learned where Nova Scotia and Halifax are as part of the history book he chose (historical fiction on the Halifax explosion). So, improvement, but not nearly where it ought to be. But I was so unprepared today--hadn't picked out stuff ahead of time and my mind was just generally scattered. I wish I could regularly sleep the almost 8 hours I had Saturday night--everything was so clear on Sunday!

The 16yo hasn't been well and has been very tired. She got food poisoning on Friday I believe plus spent 3 days in a row sitting outside in the cold. Her body was weakened and is trying to fight off the flus and colds going around here. She reluctantly worked after a nap--I asked her what she wanted to do and she smiled and said nothing. I said something else and she kept saying she didn't want to do anything even though she knew she should. So then I said, "So, you want a high school diploma?" That was enough to get her started. But it was reluctant. It's hard to feel motivated when your body is shutting down, but I told her it was good practice for when she was in university working her last year of her science degree in preparation for getting into med school. lol.

Dd wasn't well at all this morning. Woke up with a fever causing a headache (she just laid there and cried until I heard her and came :( )and has been complaining of a sore throat on and off. She's also a little congested, as is ds, who's been the Crabby King the past two days.

So, let's say that this week isn't working out as I had perhaps envisioned it, but I'm okay with it. I don't know if it's been my recent prayer focus which has been to be a little more trusting or what, but I'm okay with it. It's nice to feel that way instead of guilty and stressed!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

More thoughts for today

Just have some more thoughts in my head before I get to work here on my plans for the day.

About the 12yo's schedule: I organized it the way it is for a few reasons:

*CM recommends short lessons. For the really early grades, 10 minutes, even. Well, the 12yo is capable of more than that, but usually not sustained attention for more than 15-20 minutes right now. This is actually something that has improved the past year, now that I think of it, even if he hasn't work a whole lot. Hm. Anyhow, I scheduled the slots for 20 minutes each--easy to track plus gives him 20 minutes of time to finish work. There are times where the work he needs to do will only be 15 minutes long. That'll give him 5 minutes to leave the table, roll on the ground, be upside down in the stairs (okay, I probably should get him to STOP doing that), whatever he wants.

*CM also recommends alternating subjects. I can't remember the specific words she used, but it was basically alternate between work that requires thinking and work that requires less thinking. So, the kind of daily drill/practice stuff would be the latter. I started each day off with the phonics (that's already one of our habits--figured I might as well keep going with it!) and then put something a little more thinking after it. Except Thursday, I now realize--the CALM. In any case, she also had a recommendation of having something the child will find interesting after something mundane or that required a lot of thought.

*CM also recommends that the schedule not be identical every day. I've seen a number of people make identical CM schedules for the whole week--or almost identical--including a company selling daily CM lesson plans! CM felt it should not be identical as it would lead to 'dullness'.

I tried to organize the schedule along those lines. I have to admit to being a little nervous about something so structured, but I'm determined to give it a fair shot. The 12yo did well when we had a schedule according to times, but it was still fairly loose: 8am Language Arts, 9am math... I think it gave too much open time for him. When you've got a looming deadline, it can often be easier to get your butt in gear.

Which reminds me that I had thought about that this weekend and am wondering if the 16yo shouldn't set up her schedule on half-hour blocks. It might get her moving more! It just seems as though when she sets up an hour-long block, she's slow to get started in part because she knows she has an hour. I'll have to suggest it to her tomorrow. The thing with it, though, is that it'd mean doing the same subjects twice in a day. Not sure how that'll work or how motivating THAT will be. I don't think I'd want to do it that way. However, when I think about it, maybe it would work. She hasn't been getting started until 9am lately and we break for lunch at 11. So:

9:00 science
9:30 LA
10:00 math
10:30 French

Then in the afternoon she could schedule according to what she didn't get done in the morning. Okay, I will suggest it to her tomorrow.

I have to say that since having broken down the 16yo's work into what would need to be done each day to be done by June 1st (in preparation for her exams), it's been going better. Less focus on what she sees as me telling her to do and more of a realization on her part of what she is or isn't doing. She's realizing more and more about her own choices and living with the consequences of them. Of course, that means she's now more than a week behind in science and a day or two behind in math, but it's a good learning experience for her. High school homeschooling definitely requires the student to develop some good motivation and time management skills!

Other plans:

I'm going to set up my own calendar-schedule with specifics of things I want to present/do with my kids. Remember the globe work I had done and said I needed to make sure I followed-up on it? Never followed up on it. While I started beating myself up about it, I realized that it's just a matter of realizing that what I was doing wasn't helping me accomplish what I wanted to accomplish and needing to make a specific plan on how to get it done. After having created the work breakdown for the 16yo (it's on calendar pages), I realized that it's the kind of thing that would be helpful for me, too. I want to plot in two days of Teens Board with ds and two days geography with dd and ds (globe work again; tied in with maps). A nice gentle start.

Well, I really ought to get moving! It's almost 10 and I haven't started my work yet!


I read some stuff about CM and it seems that people (who have read more than I have, I will add) are saying that CM did not think you shouldn't read to your children but that it should not be part of lessons for a child who can read. Ah! That makes sense.

It's Sunday. I had the previous two Sundays free from household chores (other than the required daily stuff) and school planning. Unfortunately, we were out of town yesterday and I couldn't get all my stuff done yesterday, which means I'll need to work today. Although, since I barely did anything yesterday, I guess that counts as my day off!

What are my plans for this week? The 12yo's CM schedule is coming along nicely. At the moment, it looks like this (I wish I could figure out how to make a table work here, but it's not accepting my html coding :( ):

8:00 Auditory/phonics/spelling (probably The Writing Road to Reading)
8:20 Math
8:40 Science (this is reading and narration, not experiments)
9:00 Literature (books not part of other subjects; narration)
9:20 break
9:40 Copywork/dictation
10:00 Geometry
10:20 History (for this week, historical fiction or Anne Frank's diary; narration)
10:40 French
11:00 lunch
12:00 SQUIRT (Sustained QUIet Reading Time--I might actually change this and have it be right after eating)
12:20 park day OR outside time, art, music, science experiment, handwork, etc.
2:00 (if we're home) read-aloud

8:00 auditory/phonics/spelling (prob. Phonics Pathways/Pyramid)
8:20 Literature
8:40 Geography (this will be tied to his history reading)
9:00 Math
9:20 break
9:40 Copywork/dictation
10:00 Science
10:20 haven't filled this in yet--composition? It'd only be once a week for right now.
11:00 French
12:00 SQUIRT
12:20 outside time, art, music, science experiment, handwork, etc.
2:00 library (probably not every week; read-aloud when not at the library)

8:00 auditory/phonics/spelling (TWTR)
8:20 Math
8:40 History
9:00 Literature
9:20 break
9:40 Copywork/dictation
10:00 Geometry
10:20 French
10:40 Typing
11:00 lunch
12:00 usual afternoon stuff

8:00 auditory/phonics/spelling (probably Rosner's word recognition program)
8:20 "CALM"/health (careers for April)
8:40 Science
9:00 Math
9:20 break
9:40 Copywork/dictation
10:00 Geography
10:20 History
10:40 French
11:00 Lunch
afternoon: usually driving 16yo to diving and then errands, then home for free time

8:00 auditory/phonics/spelling (TRWR or CM-style word reading)
8:20 Math
8:40 Science
9:00 Literature
9:20 break
9:40 Copywork/dictation
10:00 Geometry
10:20 French
10:40 Typing
11:00 lunch and rest of afternoon off

This is just a tentative schedule right now. I've put a lot of science reading in because science interests him, but I think he needs another geometry slot since I'm essentially doubling up on his math work so he can finish the gr. 7 text this year. A good chunk is geometry and doesn't depend on the arithmetic part of the book. I'm also thinking it's just a temporary schedule for April. There are certain things I want to add in, like grammar, religion and more composition time. I know CM usually has them doing composition AFTER they've had a lot of copywork and narration, but I would be doing him a disservice waiting any longer. So what to do? (Babbling about to begin!) Okay, if I leave it at one composition time per week, that'll give him only 4 times by the end of the month. I could say one this week and two next week and three the week after that, but that means trying to figure out the schedule each week. I don't want that. Maybe I need to rearrange things to have 2 composition times per week, then he'll have had 8 by the end of the month and there's no monkeying around with the schedule until then.

Okay, enough for now.