Saturday, June 30, 2007


Plato's quote has me reeling. I was leaning more and more towards scrapping most notions of Montessori/freedom in our homeschooling this coming year and it's like he reached out from almost 2500 years ago to set me straight. lol.

I do think it's too late to be allowing a lot of freedom for the 13yo. I am convinced that at this stage and with everything going on in him and his life, he's a kid who would just play, play, play and hide from life. He'd end up being 18 and only reading at a gr. 2 level. Not because he doesn't want to learn to read, but because he's too afraid to try and has a lack of understanding of how learning occurs. He and his sister seem to have this notion that all learning/remembering is supposed to be effortless. Some, maybe a lot of, learning is effortless; but everybody has stuff they find challenging and need to put more effort into.

But for my kids, it's still in their best interests for me to learn to become a good guide and allow them their freedom. And I think that one word is key: guide. Yes, I may put some requirements on them, but they are minimal. And, like Plato said, there's a lot that can be done through games. :) I'm sure there are ways for me to be more creative and ensure that learning is fun.

So, thank you, Plato, for setting me straight. I will strive this summer to do the inner preparation I need and to practise being a good guide for my children!

Friday, June 29, 2007

It's Friday!

And not even 11am as I start typing this. So far today, I've cleaned the kitchen (twice), baked a cake and decorated it, got some laundry going, replaced the Brita filter, dusted and, naturally, spent a bit of time online. Oh, not to mention somehow managing to have my 2yo niece fall asleep on me about 10 minutes ago while I responded to emails!

It's my last day of work until Aug. 7! I've got my niece and her brother (almost 7) here today, so my kids are all happy and busy playing. We've got a family birthday party to go to tonight, then tomorrow my kids are going over to play at niece and nephew's while dh and I go out for an early birthday supper for him (both birthday celebrations are for him; his actual birthday is next week).

I picked up a TON of paint samples yesterday for repainting our walls in our family room. While we want something cozyish, I still want something that won't push the kids away from wanting to be there, especially since school materials are stored there. While some colours have definitely been eliminated, picking from the others is going to be hard. Especially since dh is almost completely colour blind--he's not much help with the little nuances!

I've decided I have to read stuff by Plato this summer. A mom on one of my lists shared this quote:
Arithmetic, then, and geometry and all the branches of the preliminary education which is to pave the way for Dialectic should be introduced in childhood; but not in the guise of compulsory instruction, because for the free man there should be no element of slavery in learning. Enforced exercise does no harm to the body, but enforced learning will not stay in the mind. So avoid compulsion, and let your children's lesons take the form of play. This will also help you to see what they are naturally fitted for.

So in line with Montessori! I struggle still with wanting to give the kids freedom yet trying to have them meet certain standards. I suppose it's a natural struggle. It'd be nice if what I really wanted were clearer to me. :D

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

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Last Week Before Summer Holidays!

This is my last week of work before a month off. Youpi! We're doing some cleaning tomorrow and having lunch out somewhere, doesn't look like we'll be going to park day since the weather's supposed to be crummy, so maybe we'll rent a movie on our way back from lunch (although, I do have to stop at the bank and at a carpet place to return some samples and maybe quickly look through stuff to see if I can find another sample I like). Tuesday, the 13yo has a dentist appointment in the morning, not sure what the rest of us will do, then we're out on a field trip with our French club to the zoo to speak to the French-"speaking" tiger. :) Wednesday, I don't think I have the two oldest, but I will have my niece. Dd has been DYING to go skating and ds just wants to go to MP, period, so maybe I'll take the 3 kids to MP. Thursday, a park day in the afternoon. Friday, I'll have my nephew and we'll have to figure out something fun to do--maybe go out somewhere.

My school plans this week are to work on planning. :) I want to develop a list of sorts, or a routine of sorts, for July. What do I want on the list? Hm, let me write down some of it now and see if more ideas come as I write:

*cursive workbooks--even just a letter each day would satisfy me! I just want them in the habit of using them. Dd tries to be too perfectionist about it and gets frustrated (her handwriting is better than mine was at age 13 and she's only 9!)

*reading time together--read a book to/with ds, read a book with dd (taking turns reading); this'd be in French

*math--dd wants to master her times tables, so I have to figure out what we can do each day so that she'll have them all mastered by the end of Aug. I'm thinking of only tackling maybe 2 facts at a time, added to what she already knows. I don't know--different ideas just popped into my head in a muddled mess. One idea is to have a sheet of maybe 20 questions, but just the 2 facts, have her do them once through, then the same sheet again but timed. Then the next day, do 2 different facts, the same way. Third day, mix the two together. Although, she'd probably be fine with the traditional way of memorizing one table at a time. Maybe do it orally with a visual support. One table a week (x3 through x9) would be 7 weeks--she'd know them all for sure by Sept. For ds, I just want to find ways to have him practise writing his numbers--playing Yahtzee or some other number game, for example.

*physical activity--I want an exercise time each day. Dd wants to increase her flexibility and strength for skating in the fall, plus it was her lack of strength and endurance this past swimming session which has caused her to have to repeat the level. She also has flat feet (and horrible posture!), but this is tied into muscles that are too tight in the wrong spots (so, tied in with her lack of flexibility). She does have an arch in her foot, but it disappears when she stands! So, different things would be specific exercises to help feet (from one of Pete Egoscue's books), yoga, callisthenics, jump rope, races outside...

*other--I'd like to have on the list just other things we enjoy doing but don't always thing about, like music, playing board games, pulling out pastels/paints, etc. I'd also like to include in this "other" things like science activities we could do.

As for my own personal list, school planning will be a big focus. I believe I mentioned before that the 16yo's school year this year was too focused on the schooling and not enough on her education. So, I need to develop some plans so that she is really getting an education and not just working towards the outcomes. French is one I totally have to design because of where she's at in her oral French, what she's already covered, plus we want her to be able to challenge the French 30 exam next June. But more than that, she wants her French education to be more than just the French 30 outcomes, so I've got to tie that in, too. I need to figure out specifically a plan for CALM so that she has an assignment each week to work on (we already know that covering exam anxiety is definitely going to be a part of her coursework! she gets so stressed before and during exams, it practically makes her sick and she doesn't do nearly as well on exams as she could). Admittedly, there's not much I'm going to be able to plan out for Bio 20 since I know nothing about it. We'll be following the school's course but on our own. For Math 20 Pure, she's got her basic materials (The Learning Equation cd-rom plus we'll be borrowing the MathPower 11) and I'll be adding in extra practice worksheets here and there for her weaknesses. I actually think I may give her a daily quiz in math, just to help her keep her skills up. Some things from the past were never mastered at all and it's really affecting her math work now. The other subject for first semester is Social Studies. I've actually already somewhat worked out what I want her to do, kind of combining what is online with other things I want her to do. Other than that, I'm going to propose to her that she work on at least spelling/phonics/syllabication throughout the school year and perhaps on essay writing, since she has to write essays for Social Studies. (Also, strongly encourage her to be reading books on the side!)

As for second semester, she has French, ELA 20-1, Chem 20 and Physics 20 scheduled (and finishing CALM). So, my French plans from first semester will continue, I've got to work out a little more what I'll have her do for ELA (I don't want to rely completely on the online course, plus there's extra that'd be good for her to do: spelling, grammar, vocabulary/etymology...). Chem and Physics will be dictated by the online coursework, with extra practice as needed here and there. There may be some things I decide she really needs to know for Chem and Physics that aren't covered or aren't stressed much in the coursework.

For the 13yo, my focus is to get him up to an acceptable gr. 8 level. Can it be done in a year? I think so. And if not, he'll still be better off for us trying! He's jumped over a little hurdle for both reading and writing and I think he can really take off. He's even said he wants to be challenged more and I'm going to hold him to it! What I'm thinking right now is to kind of keep up some of the routine we were doing with the phonics and spelling, hold him to silent reading and be able to prove to me he's actually read something (we're reinstating our after lunch silent reading time), for oral reading and for writing expectations (ah, not really, but let me finish my thoughts here), here's my idea:
  • for September, use gr. 3 level reading material for oral reading and give him an idea of what's expected from a typical gr. 3 student for writing and help him get to that point again. He was writing all kinds of stuff in his gr. 3 class in school, but it stressed him out so badly (I think it was mainly copywork of words he'd said rather than his own writing) that he didn't really touch writing for a while. And to be honest, the stuff he's started writing this year has a quality about it that is above a gr. 3 level, but he doesn't write *enough*, and it limits the evaluation. Giving him a target amount to work towards will hopefully help.
  • for October, use gr. 4 level stuff and have him work on gr. 4 writing expectations.
  • for November/December, use gr. 5 level materials and writing expectations.
  • for January/February, gr. 6.
  • for March/April, gr. 7.
  • for May/June (?), gr. 8

Writing that, I don't think only May/June will be enough time because June is our wind-down time. So, maybe gr. 5 for Nov., gr. 6 for Dec./Jan., gr. 7 for Feb./Mar., and gr. 8 for the rest of the school year. At the same time, I don't want to limit him or get so focused on meeting levels that he's pushed too hard during a time he might need to go slower. My personal focus is to just keep working on improving, improving, improving. He, however, needs more explicit information on where he's at and how he's improving. This general guideline, I think, could be helpful. His math will be a combination of Ray's and the TLE. Social studies... not sure. Probably combined with dd. I might have a look at the APS topics and cover them, but in our own way. Last year I'd wanted to do that because it was on Canada, but the darn textbook turned us both off studying it, so maybe we'll try again this coming year--but WITHOUT a textbook. :D For science, he has his chemistry that he wants to work on, but I also have "Science for Young Catholics 7" which has some actually fairly high level science stuff in it, but not done in too complicated of a way. I think if he hears that it'd be great preparation for high school science, even giving him an edge over other students, he'll be keen to use it. (Which reminds me, I have English for Young Catholics 8 that I want to try on him for English, but maybe in the latter half of the year.) I also need to develop a French plan that I have to make myself stick to! His oral is quite good--there's a LOT he understands and a lot he can say. But I would like him at the gr. 9 9-year level French by the end of his grade 9 year. That means six years of topics to do in 2 years. That's not so bad. I can focus on the elementary level stuff this year, then do the jr. high stuff next year. Okay, that'll work! The challenge will be to get him writing the stuff!!! However, in the end it will mean he'll be able to take the last 3 years of French in high school, if he wants, instead of doing what would be an intense 3-year French course trying to cover 9 years of topics in 3 years. Of course, he might actually decide to do a different language! The school he wants to go to offers Spanish, Chinese and Japanese, as well, I think.

As for my 2, I've already shared my idea of going through the elementary science topics. For social studies, I'll have to think about that a bit more. We didn't finish Story of the World vol. 1 as I'd planned and while part of me would like to do the second volume, I'm wondering if we've hit a point with it where we'd be better off just using a timeline and filling in things as we go. I have another source that kind of has historical stuff in order, so it's not like I'd be flying totally blind. For math, we've got Ray's and Montessori curriculum. I think I'll be keeping the 13yo's math text this coming year as a supplementary resource and some of the stuff fits in with the Montessori upper elementary curriculum, so I could start dd on some stuff. But I also want to make sure to take care of the basics, which I think Ray's does fantastically. I'm going to keep working with dd on her French reading and writing and maybe start some more specific lessons on punctuation and the like. French grammar will definitely be started more intensely with her! There's a lot she'll be able to do with the two oldest. Ds just needs to keep working on those basic reading and writing skills.

Whew, what a long post! That's enough for tonight.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Monday Evening Post

I'm not sure what I'm actually going to post about. There are probably a ton of things I could be doing right now instead of wasting my time on the computer, but, well, you know how these things go. :)

I've been thinking a bit more about my plans for my kids next year. I'd like to present the idea to them of working collaboratively on a science notebook. Since I am not (yet?) educated enough to go through the usual Montessori science topics for elementary, I thought I'd start with introducing different topics from the APS (Alberta Program of Studies). I don't know if I'd go in order, necessarily, although that's definitely a way to start. It could be a scrapbook of sorts, either the two of them working together to create a page or they each have their own pages for the different sections. It's just an idea that's brewing at the moment and the details aren't quite there.

Let me have a look at the science topics for grades 1-6:

A. Creating Colour
B. Seasonal Changes
C. Building Things
D. Senses
E. Needs of Animals and Plants

A. Exploring Liquids
B. Buoyancy and Boats
C. Magnetism
D. Hot and Cold Temperature
E. Small Crawling and Flying Animals

A. Rocks and Minerals
B. Building with a Variety of Materials
C. Testing Materials and Designs
D. Hearing and Sound
E. Animal Life Cycles

A. Waste and Our World
B. Wheels and Levers
C. Building Devices and Vehicles that Move
D. Light and Shadows
E. Plant Growth and Changes

A. Electricity and Magnetism
B. Mechanisms Using Electricity
C. Classroom Chemistry
D. Weather Watch
E. Wetland Ecosystems

A. Air and Aerodynamics
B. Flight
C. Sky Science
D. Evidence and Investigation
E. Trees and Forests

That's 30 topics. I don't think they'd go through all of them in a year. I could see them going through a topic like "Creating Colour" (perhaps combine it with just the idea of "Colour") fairly quickly, perhaps looking through National Geographics to cut out pictures with fabulous colours, putting in samples of art where they've mixed colours... For something more exploratory, it could be instructions to an experiment pasted in and pictures or a log of an experiment. I translated some of the Edmonton Public Schools units into French and still have them--they probably have activities and the like that could be done, too. (And they're already in French--woo hoo!!!)

What kind of time are we talking? Maybe a couple of weeks per topic? I suppose it'll really depend on their interest. Once the interest for one topic has waned, I could introduce the next. Or if they come up with one of their own, there we go. It's not the topic, per se, that's important to me, but the engagement in an interesting learning activity.

Of course, if they go through all that in a year, I'm going to have to figure out new topics to introduce if they haven't come up with their own!

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Time and time again in Montessori material and in Charlotte Mason material there is the encouragement to spend considerable time outside, to the point of some things recommending to have a specific area set up outside where you can work and eat.

These people have obviously never been to Alberta...

What makes Montessori homeschooling different from unschooling?

I've been asking myself that question since reading this the other day:

Michael attended a Montessori school from age 2.5-5, and one semester at a Montessori elementary class. From then on, at his choice, he was homeschooled. His educational materials consisted, for the most part, products from the family Michael Olaf Montessori company which he reviewed for the catalogue, weekly visits to the library to research the interest of the moment, daily music practice, and exploration in nature. There was no TV in the home.

He was allowed unlimited time whenever possible—days, nights, weekends—to explore and chose his own path. Many experiences and study directions were offered by his parents, and periodically by other mentors and teachers, but his choices and his passions were always respected.

The parents both worked full time (mother in her home office) and spent very little time "educating" Michael. During the elementary years, they helped him make weekly work/study plans which included roughly grade level math and English suggestions, but was otherwise made up of his own choices in many areas such as music, literature, mythology, history, astronomy and the arts. There was no TV, and no video or computer games in the home as distractions and time wasters. He loved exploring and learning, and having his own interests respected.

And it goes on. On the same page is this:

AGE 6-18:
Q. What Montessori ideas can I use for school age children?
A. Here are a few of many:

(1) The child is learning all of the time, from the environment and from the adults in the environment. It is better to put energy into enriching the environment and becoming good models than in teaching the child.

(2) Children learn what they love. Anything forced will probably be detested, or forgotten.

(3) A child must know why he has to learn a required subject.

(4) State educational requirements can be reduced to one page per year and the child needs help in learning to schedule time, develop enjoyable methods, and become responsible for meeting deadlines. This work usually takes no more than two or three hours a day.

(5) Follow the child. Aside from requirements, if the child's choice are respected and facilitated she will learn at a level that can amaze parents.

The Michael Olaf catalogue for ages 6-12 has been an enjoyable read, too.

I've been needing a reminder on what Montessori is, and what it can be, in the home. When it was all clear to me, things ran fairly smoothly. But it hasn't been clear to me as I've delved more and more into requirements. *sigh* But then from requirements, I bounced to no guidance and that didn't work either. I need to refocus this summer so we start off on the right foot this September!

I know the 13yo can not be given the freedom that is usually a part of Montessori, but it's because of where he's at. To be honest, at this point, with only 2 years left with me before going to high school (or even doing high school with me, makes no difference), he's got to be pushed. There's too much emotional baggage blocking him being self-motivated. Re-reading Marva Collins this past week has reminded me of that. How I'm going to balance the Montessori of my two, the 13yo's high school prep and the 16yo's high school courses somewhat remains to be seen! lol.

When we used the above idea of work plans, things definitely went more smoothly. But I don't think I can have the 13yo on a work plan, except maybe an afternoon work plan, or a plan for when he's not doing his required work (LA, math and French primarily). Doing the work plans means resuming our morning meetings. Those fell by the wayside sometime during the first year with the two oldest because people had just gotten into a groove and were getting to work right away on things without us needing to discuss stuff.

I've totally lost my train of thought. It just went whoosh and left.

Back to my subject, then: how is Montessori different from unschooling? As I read through the first thing I posted above, it just seemed like unschooling to me. But those work plans and working together to plan out things and making suggestions are all part of Montessori. If that family managed to make Montessori work with just one child in the house (mind you, he'd had 3-4 years of Montessori school before being homeschooled!) WHILE working full-time, then surely I can figure out a way to homeschool my kids the way I want to and do my work (which means homeschooling the other kids in the way they need to). I was trying to have everyone the same as much as possible and it wasn't working. Of course, there's also the aspect that I bet the parents were involved in showing the kids things and I know I definitely do not do enough of that!

Okay, enough for now. :)

Working on next year's plans

It's been at least a couple of weeks now that I've been working on next year's plans. So far only on the two oldest--they're the most complicated. The 16yo and I were talking the other day and somehow it lead to me saying how this year felt like we were just meeting the requirements and kind of neglected her education. She completely understood what I meant and totally agreed. She would like to work more on her education next year. This year was such a learning curve!
In any case, for English, she wants to learning phonics/spelling rules, plus I want her to do some specific work on grammar and writing.

I was looking at the school website and what the teacher for gr. 11 English was having the students do and I realized that things haven't really changed that much since I was in high school however many years ago (15?): there's really no writing instruction. Truly. They're expected to write on things and they are given explanations of what an essay is but no detailed work on how to actually write an essay. I remember my first-year university English class and my first essay assignment. I didn't do so hot. I was shocked. I'd always done well on writing assignments in high school. I wasn't the only one who hadn't done well and our prof then explicitly told us how an essay should be done. A thesis statement? Wow! I'd never been told that before. How to write an essay and use connecting words and all that was part of the instruction of the course, but he was often amazed at how many of us had really not even touched on that kind of stuff before.

The current outcomes for English do have things like "the student will use connecting words" (or whatever they say), yet there is often no work given to specifically practise such things. Sure, there's an approved support textbook, but a lot of schools can't afford to have support materials. They have just the basic materials. Some of the stuff at elementary and jr. high levels covers writing instruction, but after that, it's like the assumption is the kids don't need any more specific instruction. I don't get it. Although, even a lot of the supposed instructional stuff doesn't actually work towards having them practise; it's more of "Here's a list of transitional words you can use." Yeah, well, that's just great. That's kind of like handing them a sheet of math formulas and saying, "Here's a list of formulas you can use." To do what? How? When?

What I've therefore decided to do is actually spend more time this coming year teaching the oldest how to write. I still have my text from university--The Practical Stylist--and will have her work through some of the things in there. I'm also going to bring in some vocabulary work--haven't decided if I'm going to use this old college text I got from my mom on Latin and Greek roots or if I'm going to purchase Vocabulary for the College-Bound which Marva Collins absolutely raved about in her book. I haven't been able to actually look at this last book, so I don't know if it's worth buying or not. Then there's the whole issue of these books being American and using American spelling...

Yet another thing I'm going to try to squeeze in somehow is work from this gr. 8 book called "English for Young Catholics". I think that's the title. It goes through sentence diagramming and grammar. It might actually be too advanced for the 13yo, who is going into gr. 8 but the book is part of a series and it builds upon stuff done in the gr. 7 book, which we don't have. But I want to see if he can do it, too.

How am I going to fit this all in? I haven't entirely figured that out yet. I do want her to plan on 4-day work weeks. The reason for this is there are many weeks with a holiday Monday, and there are field trips and get-togethers and appointments and more. If she plans for a 4-day work week, then whatever fifth days she has can be focused on things like the vocabulary and specific writing instruction and all that. Although it might just be better to work it through each day a little. I still want her to plan on 4-day weeks, though. This will give the fifth day, where available, as quiz/review/test/extras day.

What else have I got planned? Well, things have been sort of worked out for her social studies, math is straight-forward, so is science. I've got to create a course for her French. Things didn't happen with this one school for the FLA so she's going to go for French 30 next June, but keep working on French her gr. 12 year so that it's still up-to-snuff when she applies to university. She's thinking more and more about this bilingual nursing program that's offered. She's been hearing more stories about how med. students don't really have a life (lol) and it's not appealing to her that much. :)

As for her brother, I'm trying to design a language arts program for him that will get him up to grade level by the end of the year, even if it's just grade level and no further. He will also have math, of course, and I'll have to figure out things for science and social studies. I know he wants to use this chemistry kit he got, so that'll be part of his program. I haven't decided a thing about social studies yet. I also need to design a French program for him and perhaps look at purchasing some resources. I don't know if it'll be possible to have him at the gr. 9 FSL level for reading and writing by the end of his gr. 9 year, but it's worth a shot! If he's not and decides to take French, he'll take French 10 (the 3-year program) and will find it fairly easy.

For my own kids... I haven't thought about it too much yet! Ds (6) is still at the stage of needing to learn reading and writing and basic math. Everything else is kind of extra, although I would like a plan of some sort to rely on when interests aren't obivous. Dd (9) needs more work on reading and writing in French, plus there are some gr. 4 math topics we didn't do which we'll need to do before she gets into some of the gr. 5 math. I'm also thinking of introducing algebra to her next year. She'd be able to do the addition and subtraction basic algebra for sure. The biggest thing for her is that she doesn't like workbooks so much anymore so I'll need to figure out how to make sure she is introduced to everything and has a means of working on it. I guess this means designing a math program for her! An alternative would be to just work with Ray's and have her go as far as she can in that. We'll see. Lots of time until September!

Last week!

This is essentially our last week of school. The oldest has 2 exams to do--for Math 10 Pure and English 10-1--and her brother has some math to finish up. I'll also have dd do some math. I had hoped to have the kids working last week, but it somehow didn't happen. With the focus on math this week, I think it'll work. At least for a couple of days. lol.

The actual plan for this week:

Monday--probably not going to park day (again! *sigh*) so that we can focus on studying; plus I bought a Spider-Man slip 'n slide yesterday. It's supposed to be reasonably nice tomorrow and I know they'd rather do that than go to the park. One little snag, though: dh has these quick attachment things on the hoses (for quick attachment of things like sprinklers, etc.) and I need just a plain hose to attach the slip 'n slide.

Tuesday--field trip to Ft. Edmonton (squeezing in an hour of studying before we leave); plus I have to remember to drop off library books

Wednesday--studying in the a.m.; English exam in the p.m. (3 hours!!)

Thursday--either math studying in the a.m. with exam in the p.m. OR exam in the a.m. and we go out somewhere in the p.m.

Friday--clean up! The two oldest have a LOT of stuff here. It's also time to just sort through papers and all that and chuck what we no longer need and they don't want. Clear everything up for fall. Also, the two oldest have a lunch date for their dad's birthday.

The week after that, I don't know how many days the two oldest will be with me. We're supposed to go to the zoo, and I told my kids we'd go to Millennium Place--probably on the Wednesday. If the St. Albert spray park ever opens up, we'd like to go there, too. But there's also the Monday park day AND the Thursday park day. Those who are against homeschooling because they think the kids are locked up in the house all day long haven't a clue what they're talking about!!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

So Many Good Books!

I've decided to put a list in my Homeschool Trackers for next school year's read-aloud books. There were a few I already had on my list, books we didn't get to this year, but I decided to go through the Alberta book lists and am finding a lot of books that sound just wonderful! I doubt I'm going to be able to read them all!!

Which books? Here's my list at the moment:

Lord of the Flies
Still Me
The Hobbit
I Am David
Hana's Suitcase
Number the Stars
Owls in the Family
Polar: The Titanic Bear
The Secret Garden
The Sheep-Pig
The Whipping Boy
Last book in Shadow Children's series
another book by the same author as the Shadow Children, on a girl who was cloned
A Tale of Two Cities

And I'm not done looking at the lists and I know there are books missing from that list that I'd thought of this year!

Friday, June 08, 2007


I'd heard of notebooking before but it somehow didn't click until one mom on a list I'm on described in more detail how she'd used them (thanks, Mary!). It's so simple, it's crazy. I couldn't wrap my head around it before, but it feels like it could be the "answer" to my science, and even social studies, "dilemmas".

Here it is: The student has a notebook on a particular topic or theme. In this notebook, they write down facts they find, paste in pictures, draw pictures, write stories/poems, etc. Isn't that easy? The primary differences, for me, although I suppose a person could go about it differently, between this and a regular school notebook, are the idea is to be creative and it's up to the student what they want in it. I guess, in a way, it's kind of like a lapbook/scrapbook, but in notebook form.

I could see using just the cheap little notebooks to start with--the small ones. It would give a great sense of completion to get through the pages and have a final product to share with people.

Just one of my hopeful activities for next year! Here's a link, with even more links on the page, if you're interested in learning more:

One more week of work left!

Not that my kids and the 12yo (woops! 13yo! he hasn't been 13 a week yet, so I forget ;) )have done much in terms of work this week, but hey...

The 16yo has still been working on studying. I haven't figured out yet if it's a matter of her not having learned how to study or a lack of motivation on her part or what. There is a ridiculous amount of information to know for Science 10 and together, we've not even gone back over half of it. She's hoping to do her exams next week, but unless she spends considerable time on the weekend studying, I don't see how she'll be ready enough to pass. And we've barely touched on math. She doesn't seem to have any particular aim in mind other than "study science right now". I think I need to have her narrow her focus a bit on Monday. Tell her to take 30 minutes to focus on one area--and she has to be very specific about the area she's going to focus on--then switch to math for 30 minutes--with a specific goal in mind of what she wants to go over--then a short break, followed by another 30 minutes of focused studying. In a way, those registered as teacher-directed have it a bit better because they were required to submit all kinds of assignments and do regular quizzes and tests. We didn't do that. I think she has to do that next year. It'd help so much. I had wanted to do it, but she got so behind it seemed more important to just get through the material as quickly as possible then go back and do some of the assignments as part of her review.

I prepared some math sheets and some funnish language arts sheets today for dd and the 132yo. Dd actually asked me to photocopy a sheet from this gr. 3 phonics workbook I have--she picked something on compound words. It was easy for her, but I think that's what she wanted. ;) The 13yo did nothing. The oldest had brought report cards for her coaching job and had to work on those, so I read to them while she did that. The 13yo curled up on the couch while I read; dd did some worksheets. We're almost done The Thief Lord. It's been quite good. Some great parts to make us laugh. lol. Another 30 pages to go out of 345. We'll finish next week.

So, my plans for next week:

  • provide more worksheets and activities for dd and the 13yo to choose from (or require, as the case may be; the 13yo hasn't finished his math yet for this year and wants to use The Learning Equation (TLE) which is a CD-ROM set--he's going to have some troubles if he hasn't covered everything first!)
  • have the 16yo set up a schedule and use a timer to keep her focused and motivated
  • get assignments from the 16yo that she's got on her computer so I can mark them and have her assessments sent off to our facilitator
  • can't remember what else. Maybe there is nothing else.

I've already begun planning a lot of next year's stuff. Since I'm guessing we'll be doing the FSL instead of the FLA, I've begun some initial planning on that. I don't want to do too much until we hear back from this one school; the 16yo said that if they say they are willing, she might go for the FLA after all. I'm almost tempted to purposefully sway her to do the FSL--less work, less stress. She's got more than a full course load already for next year, since she's got 2 semesters of French to do, with a semester each of math, physics, bio, chem, social studies and language arts. That's a full course load right there. But she's also going to be working on CALM (career and life management) throughout the year. Not to mention she could probably go for Phys. Ed. 20, if she so chose, given all her diving (although she is supposed to be having knee surgery sometime--no idea when yet). I've started fleshing out things for the 13yo, too. And trying to get myself back into the habit of using Homeschool Tracker. I was doing well for a while and stopped. I want to get into the habit of using it daily this summer, even if there's only the tiniest thing to put in, so that I'm all set for fall.

I feel I'm beginning to babble incoherently. I think I'll do something else! lol

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Some changes

Some little things hit me last night about the oldest's French and everything and we talked about it today, some of the possibilities. Then I suggested to her the possibility of just getting French 30, which she could be done with by next June, and she'd have two open blocks her gr. 12 year, one less diploma exam, and less work and stress. She wanted to make sure she'd still be able to take courses at the French campus, which she definitely still could. Through some discussion and thinking, she's pretty much decided to switch to the FSL French. This'll work just fine, she'll still get 15 credits... That might change if this one school gets back to us and says they can do the evaluation for FLA, but we'll see. I'm not sure how likely that is!

Oh, the kids are already in the van. Time to go!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Blogger is all weird. I can't even get to my page and my Create Post page is totally wrong! Oh well. I'm trying to do something to keep myself awake since I still have two kids here (well, 4, if you count mine). My mind's too tired to do any school work. And I'm not sure what else to do. I suppose I could clean, but I find myself trying to figure out too much what it is that I'm supposed to be doing. lol.

So I'm blogging. What shall I blog about? Montessori. Okay. Um. Hm. I wish Maria Montessori could come visit my house and provide suggestions. ;D She had such a sense of kids, such a sense of observation. When was the last time I really observed the kids? So much time is spent just rushing from one thing to the next. I'm hoping that'll be a bit different next year. The 16yo and I have already talked about how she should be a little more independent in her math learning next year. She'll use TLE with MathPower as a support. Her brother's going to use TLE, too. We actually talked, he and I, yesterday morning and I said to him that next year, I'm going to push him a lot more. Not so that he's totally stressed, but I'm going to expect more work out of him. He replied that he wants to be pushed. He's been thinking more and more about going to school; I think if he were ready by the end of gr. 8, he might even want to go for gr. 9. I think he's ready to be pushed. But I need to be clear and consistent about what I want and how I'm doing it. The end of the year is not really the time to work on that.

I don't know what else I was going to say. I could really use a nap!! Maybe I'll get up, have a glass of water and clean up the kitchen a bit. Get the blood flowing to my brain a little more.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What a day!

Last night, about 9:20, my faciliator from the school board called and asked if she could possibly visit us for our year-end review today. She'd had a cancellation and wanted to fill that time with someone else if possible. I said okay, but then panicked afterwards. lol. It was too late for me to get started--I knew I'd be up way too late if I got going on putting things together--so I just watched part of Batman Begins with dh and fell asleep around 10.

However, my mind was working and I was awake at 4:30. I knew there was no chance of me falling asleep, so I got up, took care of email and stuff, then got going on little summary sheets and the like. We did no work this morning; I spent it finishing up, finding things to show, etc.

Just before our facilitator shows up, ds and my niece started playing with water in the bathroom sink. Yes, it's always messy, but no big deal. After my facilitator arrives and sits down, the 13yo tells me there's water leaking through to the downstairs. What???

I go upstairs and the floor was flooded. Ds said it was dn who was putting water on the floor. I still don't understand how they did it since they didn't have cups or anything, just Lego and little dolls. Dn was totally soaked through; I asked dd to take care of her and get her changed. The 13yo took care of what he could--without my asking--downstairs. There's damage in one of the ceiling tiles, I believe. *sigh* All this stress so far and we hadn't even begun the year-end review!

The review itself went just fine. I was a little worried about the 16yo's work since we didn't really have a lot of things to show, but it was no problem. I had written up a breakdown of her marks for Phys. Ed. and Social Studies and she really liked that and didn't even ask to see the actual work. (Having been a teacher makes these things a little smoother, I think!) It's nice to have it done, although I still have to finish up marks for the 16yo and send them in. We've always been done school when our year-end review took place; not necessarily intentionally, but that's how it worked out. The 13yo actually asked if it meant that we were done our work for the year and I had to make it clear we weren't; he's still got a couple of units of math to cram in and I absolutely want them to keep working on stuff, even if it's all word bingo or something. At least some reading (he's got this new book he wants help with).

The poor 16yo is sick with a cold or something; I think it's a cold mixed with allergies. She couldn't do a thing today. And her exams are in a week. eek. Hopefully things'll be better tomorrow so she can get moving!

Now that things are pretty much done, my mind is REALLY on next year's plans! lol. Gotta still keep working on finding a school that'll evaluate the 16yo's FLA... argh.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Misc. thoughts on this Friday morning

It's June! omg

I really hate having to sign in to blogger each time I want to post to my blog. But despite clicking on the "remember me" box on both desktop and laptop, it never, ever works.

I've been thinking about next year's school style. I miss our Montessori approach, but I also realize the kids are getting older and I'm just not equipped/knowledgeable enough to really "do" Montessori at that age. However, ds could still benefit from a lot. Dd actually works okay most of the time, but she can be so easily distracted by the 12yo as he avoids work. Here are my thoughts:

  • Treat next year and the year after like "prep school" years for the 12yo. As much as I want him 'in control' of his learning, I waffle too much in deciding what they'll do or allowing them to make decisions. 99% of the time, allowing the 12yo to make decisions doesn't work so well. My problem is that once I've allowed that option, I don't feel comfortable in insisting on something if he's chosen to just do nothing. I think it's that I'm bouncing from giving him options to trying to "make him" do something. And I know I can't make him do anything but am stuck on how to help him choose to do something. If I go into the year with a prep school-mentality, it means that my vision will be on not really giving him options. It's my inconsistency that does me in with him. I think he desperately wants the structure, but he wants it to be consistent structure. I've got to provide him that.
  • A set curriculum of what I'm going to show the kids when. (Well, with some flexibility.) I spend too much time thinking, "Well, what should I show them?" If I had it all laid out, in a sequence (see, I need structure, too!), things would go so much more smoothly. It reminds me of something I was reading just the other day: something about how proper planning allows for more spontaneity. I seem to start the planning then get lost in the spontaneity and can't get back on track. If it were all laid out for me, I think it'd work well.
  • The 12yo is going to have a CD math program--The Learning Equation. This will enable him to do lessons on his own, but can turn to me for help. This program is also available for his sister. Next year, I'm not going to present lessons to her in math. She will have to decide if she's going to do the TLE lessons or the MathPower lessons. This is part of my need to have them more independent. Not just my need, but it's important for them. The TLE is good in particular because a student can't just sit in front of a book and not process what they're reading. It reads everything to you and gets you involved in selecting things in the lesson. Then there's follow-up work. For my own dd, I'm thinking I'll put together my own little "workbooks" for her on the different topics. Or see what she thinks of selecting problem cards (index cards with questions on them) instead. Not too much prepared ahead of time so that it can really be tailored to her.

All I can write for right now--have to go shower!