Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Secret

Jane has asked me about The Secret. The 16yo read it and she felt empowered by it and told me I should read it, then her mother sent me an email about how she (the mom) had been reading parts to the 16yo and her brother during the summer and some of the positive effects it had on their confidence levels, and THEN I just happened upon it at the library last week. It was really nothing new to me, having spent years many years ago learning about those same ideas ("New Thought"--you get what you expect out of life, even if you aren't aware that you expect it; we have the power to change our lives by changing our thoughts, by visualizing how we'd like things to be, etc.), but it was a nice refresher. And I was able to talk about some of the things with the kids, mainly the older two, and the 16yo really appreciated it. She said she felt all raring to go when she'd read it this summer but has found she's slipped away from all of it and is back to old negative thinking in many ways.

I haven't yet watched the movie, but did take it out from the library on Thursday. We'll probably watch it over lunch on Monday. I know it'll be very much like the book, but having those added visual images and sounds can really enhance the message. The 16yo seems to be really craving that sense of "can-do" right now and this should help. Of course, this has all brought me back to Marva Collins and her focus on having the kids read and discuss pieces which focus on how *we* are the ones who determine our lives, our persistence and trustworthiness and effort and all that. I've been doing better at bringing quotes in, but not enough. I keep trying to get the academics going but know I need to get that fire (belief in self) lit before things will really move.

In any case, I enjoyed the book. They were the same principles that got us the house we are in, that prevented us from getting a van we shouldn't have gotten because the van we really wanted showed up in time, that have produced healings in my life and more. I've drifted away from that sort of faith. Which reminds me: it doesn't really matter what sort of religious faith you have in terms of benefiting from the book--while some really small parts may not fit too well with some Christians or other religions, in general, it's age-old wisdom that all can learn from.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Another Friday!

Another week done. Where did it go????

Monday was a great school day. Tuesday, only the oldest did some school work and not as much as I had hoped she'd get done; the rest had the day off due to ds' birthday (the big 7!) and playing with him. Then we spent the afternoon at Let's Play. Wednesday was an off day--the oldest had had some issues at diving the night before and just really needed to talk and take care of her spirit, so our lengthy discussion meant I wasn't directing the others, and she was in no frame of mind to focus on work, so we created Vision Boards (see The Secret for more details; we adapted them slightly with the use of the Treasure Map idea in Shakti Gawain's book Creative Visualization). Just she and I. She was doing much better by the end of the day and what she did could actually count towards CALM, so it's all good. Yesterday just seemed to be a difficult day to get going. Everybody seemed tired and irritable. My two were extremely irritable and ds kept crying at everything. The oldest got a bit done, but not a whole lot. Plus we had errands to run. Today was a day off from school because we have my former student with us for the day--and for a sleepover. :)

So, it's been a slow week school-wise, but busy in other ways. It's been good though. I don't feel guilty. Reading The Secret has kind of brought me back to things I used to do and ways I used to think all the time.

Time to order pizza! Then taking the girls out to see the latest Harry Potter movie. :D

Monday, September 24, 2007

A very satisfactory day

I started the day off kind of weird, not to mention my kids were still sleeping at 7 am (that's just freaky), and was a little worried about how the day would play out--especially with ds's new toys he got from family on the weekend for his birthday -- but, with the helpful reminders of The Secret, I focused on being positive and doing what I could and expecting good things. Some great stuff from today:

  • The 13yo and dd did 3 pages of fractions (from Key to Fractions book 1) and dd attempted a fourth page--this is up 1/2 pages from last week (it was only taking them about 10 minutes to do last week!). This is in addition to their 40 (I think it's 40) math facts practice questions.
  • The 13yo did spelling (although only half-heartedly) with dd, then he and I READ together. I don't think we read together all last week. He had bought himself a new Spiderwick book and was really wanting to enjoy the book but finding it difficult to read on his own for silent reading, so I asked him if he wanted that for our reading time together. He liked that idea. I still need to work on getting daily writing in.
  • I had worked out on the weekend a kind of breakdown for the 16yo so she could get caught up. She was kind of giving up, just feeling very unmotivated and discouraged (I think in part because she knows she's behind) and spent over an hour working on social studies questions. I stepped in after lunch and had her rush through her math and chem. She probably doesn't know the stuff super well, but she needs frequent review anyhow, so it'll work out. The point being: she got everything on the list done today, which means that she's less behind than she was! Yay! :D
  • dd explored the software Scrapbook Plus. I haven't even used it yet and she's trying out all kinds of things in preparation to give to my former student who will spend the day with us on Friday.

I had hoped to get dd and the 13yo started on a project but realized as I was talking to them that I had left the topics far too wide open (country, historical person or historical event) so I'll come up with a list with a touch of information (like Benjamin Franklin--scientist and President; Ste. Jeanne d'Arc--French girl from the 14oo's who became a soldier in the war against England; Leonardo da Vinci--etc.). I was so busy this weekend I have barely had the time to think and prepare stuff!!

Got to go get supper going!

Friday, September 21, 2007


was a great school day! I felt focused, the kids knew what was expected... It worked out very well. I feel like we're finally back on track. Today didn't get much done, but dh was home sick and that naturally threw off all routines!

I won't be able to do much in terms of preparing Montessori materials this weekend, although could look at lessons I could do with what I already have. Tomorrow is ds's 7th birthday party (with just family here at our house) and what with swimming lessons in the morning and then cleaning and making lasagne in the afternoon, I'm going to be busy!! Then Sunday will be Mass (hopefully!), laundry, trying to catch up on stuff around here and just getting basic plans and stuff together. Oh! The 16yo will be ready for various tests next week--I'll have to work on them on the weekend, too--chem and math for sure; I may have her do a test for her social studies and have that worth her full mark for the theme (she should be half done the 2nd theme by now and hasn't even finished the first theme) rather than have her do an assignment AND a test. Although, having her do an in-depth assignment would be better for her learning than a test. Maybe I'll scrap the test for this unit or give her a short quiz plus the writing assignment. I'll figure that out later. Time to do some room rescuing and then relax a bit!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

So far, so...?

We had a good meeting this morning and the 16yo was very insightful, got me thinking. Here's the conclusion I've come to:

As much as I've been saying one thing, I've been expecting the kids to simply do it all themselves. I have neglected to see that they are, in their own way, asking for some guidance. It's one thing to be in the middle of the year and have things kind of running themselves; at the beginning of the year, especially with the current 'arrangement' of children, I really need to provide a better structure for them. They're feeling lost so I'm feeling lost. But I'm not lost--I've just been waiting for them to come back but they have no clue which way to go!

I've come to the decision that I need to make a point of having one Montessori presentation a day. Whether they (I mean my dd and the 13yo when I speak of 'they') work with it more or not is beside the point. I'll be exposing them to more stuff and perhaps help them find that something that will engage them. I am also going to have a checklist that we'll look at in the morning and talk about what HAS to be done. We had talked this morning about routines and this and that, but they were all a little weird today and I changed things a bit (which the 16yo thrived on) but the 13yo ended up falling asleep (aha! it was adrenaline keeping him going and making him weird this morning!) and didn't get most of his work done. To be honest, he hasn't done any proper reading or writing this week at all and has only written TWICE since the school year started two weeks ago. This is really unacceptable. I know, I know, it sounds so un-Montessori. But he will hide himself away, pretending everything's fine and he doesn't have to do anything and it'll all turn out okay. And I can't let that happen.

What do I want, then? What do I expect? For the 13yo:

-daily phonics review (we've been using Phonics Pathways as he's stopped reading through words again)
-daily spelling/dictation
-daily reading aloud with me
-daily writing (I probably need to direct this more, be more specific about what I expect)
-other possibilities: grammar, copywork, analogy/vocabulary work, etc.

MATH (this HAS been getting done fairly well!)
-daily facts review
-daily math lesson and work

After that, I was content to just let him be, but I see that I really can't. He will disrupt EVERYTHING because he doesn't know what to do with himself so he talks with others, plays, acts up, etc. So... hm... What other subject areas are there?

-Computers: typing (he's already said he doesn't want to do it); HTML programming or use FrontPage to make a website; BASIC programming (I still have my Commodore 64); word processing; Photoshop

-French: oh, yes! I haven't really had any specific work for him; this has to be planned in

-Science: he's got his chemistry kit which we do one afternoon a week, but now we've got the gr. 8 science text; maybe I can take a Charlotte Mason approach with him and read stuff to him (or with him) and have him orally narrate--I'll have to pre-read to pick good things to read instead of ending up with really dry material; I could always invite him to what I want to show dd for science

-Social studies (geography and history): he balks at EVERYTHING for this; hm... Maybe I should just have him pick a country and he can keep a notebook to paste things in that he finds--even whole articles printed off (with website references!) to paste in it. Of course, if I could find a good historical novel that I could read a page or something to him and dd, following up with narration and maybe some sort of project idea, that could work, too. Not something I can get going tomorrow though. Unless I use Little House on the Prairie or probably better for him, Farmer Boy.

-Art: art is always allowed but they haven't really engaged in it. Maybe I need to try my hand at something some morning just before they show up.

-Music: ?.

-Practical Life: haven't thought about this; it'd be something good to include

Good to get the thoughts flowing a bit. I did journal last night (finally remembered!) and will journal again tonight. I should actually get going to do my journalling, read up on the 16yo's social studies (omg, talk about a NON-living textbook!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and get myself ready for tomorrow.

Friday, September 14, 2007

First full week done!

My Thursday went very well--the self-look I did helped make me determined to do something. Not that Thursday was a perfect day by any means, but it was one of the best so far this year. Today was all quirky, though--the 16yo was with her mom last night at the Beyonce concert (so was tired this morning) and her brother was with their dad, but I don't know what he was doing. They did not arrive together this morning. The 16yo sort of got started on chemistry, but fell asleep. When I pulled dd to come work with me, the 13yo curled up on the couch and fell asleep almost immediately. It really threw off the whole morning, but I was okay with it today. I had decided that I need to look more through the library books I have out on underachievement, do lots of journalling and thinking and praying this weekend and really get things in place for Monday.

One thing I mentioned to dd was the possibility of 'scheduling' her and the 13yo to do the same type of work at the same time. She actually thought it wasn't a bad idea. We'll discuss more Monday morning during a 'class meeting'--talk about what's been going well and what we can change to make things even better. I don't want to focus on the negative; you just breed more of what you focus on, right? I need to remember that here and in my journalling. Problems can be brought up, but the focus has to be on solutions and positive things going on.

One success this week was a sudden inspiration to have ds do a page of Phonics Pathways with me. Not sure what prompted it, but I guess my enthusiasm was catchy because he didn't balk at all, did the whole first page, did great and we did that page and a second page again yesterday and it was great. He knows they're not words (syllables), but he's so pleased with how much he can read. I don't know what I'll do once we get to actual words; maybe set up a list of French words (which is a hard thing to do--only so many short phonetic words in French!) to read. I'd like to pull out the sandpaper letters for this coming week and match them up a bit with what's in the book. (He likes the sandpaper letters but for some reason HATES the movable alphabet. Okay. Follow the child!)

I'm not sure what to do about dd's math. She wants to work in her Batman math book, yet she finds so much of it frustrating or the stuff that's too easy boring. *sigh*. If the book had some sort of sensible order to it, it'd be easier, but it doesn't really. I probably need to keep in mind it's designed as an extra practice book. I should maybe suggest to her that we do math lessons on the side for a little bit so that the pages in the book will be practice instead of new stuff so much.

The 13yo has gotten quite a bit of math done so far this year. It's been going very well! He's using the gr. 8 MathPower text, with me, for now, copying examples and questions from his text to his notebook. He gets lost far too easily, so I want to gradually work on strategies to keeping things straight instead of having him go constantly back and forth from text to notebook.

Enough for now!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Inner preparation of the teacher

The idea of the inner preparation of a teacher was one Maria Montessori believed was crucial. I agree--and see my lack of inner preparation was the root of my struggles this year.

Inner preparation has to do with examining oneself, looking at, as one website put it, "seeking out their own faults, such as anger and pride, which may become obstacles in the education of the children." ( What are faults I can identify in myself at this time?
  • lack of consistency
  • lack of enthusiasm
  • lack of focus
  • lack of follow-through
  • lack of order--not just my environment, but in my whole view of how the day will proceed, lack of routines, etc.
  • probably my attitude towards it all
  • admittedly, it's been that time of the month this week, which is probably one of the worst ways to start off a school year! totally throws me off--sleep is affected (which affects all kinds of stuff), usually suffer from headaches...

A different page I found recommended journalling as a help to what should be continual inner preparation work. I remember when I was journalling pretty much daily. It made a great difference in how our homeschool functioned on a day-to-day basis. I'll have to take it up again.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A quote to get me thinking

A turning toward the intellectual and moral sides of life occurs at the age of seven. —Maria Montessori, MD

I saw this at the Michael Olaf site today. It somewhat relieved me as I think I'd gotten so caught up in my son being in gr. 2, that I forgot to really think about him and where he is developmentally. He's not seven yet. It was not uncommon for 7yo's to still be in the Children's Houses back when Maria Montessori got them going (because the kids didn't go to what we call elementary school until they were at least 7). I've been struggling a bit with him and am realizing now that I've got to think more about where he's at and not where dd was at that age or what other kids in gr. 2 are doing, etc. Not that 7 is some magical age necessarily, but just having the reminder that he's still young was somehow helpful to me.

I'm feeling the need to read more Montessori right now. Our schooling is starting off kind of shaky this year, again. Things worked really well when I had the one other girl with us but somehow... I don't know if it's the fact she's not here or what that's different. But I think if I had more inspiration, I'd bring that inspiration to our schooling.

As I think about this, I know that problems go back yet again to the 13yo. This is a recurring theme, isn't it? Very recurring. He is either distracting people from 'good' activities or I'm after him trying to get him to work. I've got to find that happy balance with him between requirements and freedom. I had the thought of doing more work through games today. Yet, that means I'm spending more time one-on-one with him instead of having him work independently. ARGH. Maybe I need to focus on a balance among the kids--have a lesson for ds, have a lesson for dd, have a lesson for him. What's he going to do during the other lessons, though? Argh, argh, argh. I don't think I can maintain a highly structured approach with him while doing a more Montessori approach with the others. What is happening, too, is that my structure with him is filtering over to structuring ds and dd. And the more I do that, the more things seem to fall apart.

So... I've got to refresh myself Montessorially. (Sure, that's a word! ;) ) I need to come back to what I loved so much, what brought joy and no pressure to the kids and all that. Just call me the prodigal Montessorian. haha.

Where shall I start? Some ideas:

  • look at albums I have for lesson/material ideas (I realize now that much of what I had used so well in the past was from my Gettman book--everything for the lessons laid out so well--and I'm perhaps feeling lost without enough guidance)
  • look at perhaps purchasing more albums from R&D
  • clearing a set of shelves in the school area and adding one material at a time as it's presented
  • making a list of presentations I can do for the kids
  • read Montessori books

The 13yo may still balk at stuff and may not want to use the materials on his own, but much of the stuff that would be useful to him is stuff that dd would be using, too (multiplication checkerboard, for example; grammar work, etc.). Maybe there's a way to get his social interaction need met with more with dd. I need to pray more about this to have a clear idea of which way will benefit him most. He will NOT simply do a bunch of structured work that I assign him--and his reading confidence is so low that he wouldn't trust himself to read instructions on his own properly--and I can't have an approach that is so different from the others because not only can I apparently not maintain it, but he will not find it fair in the least.

Enough thinking for now. Have other stuff to do.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

First week almost done

And only one day of work to show for it so far.

What happened? I had a weird sleep, awake for part of the night due to a bad dream that left me with my heart racing, but then it was one noise after another keeping me awake: the dog, who sleeps in our room, was dreaming and kind of half-barking in her sleep but also bumping against the bed; one cat getting into one thing after another or hopping down from places... I finally went downstairs to sleep, too not too long to sleep, but it was a weird sleep, then woke up at 6:40. That's got to be some sort of record. It's a full hour after I'm usually awake. And I didn't really feel ready to be awake, but I knew I had to get up.

That meant I started off the day all kind of out of it. The two oldest arrived and the 13yo wasn't very energized--he'd had a bad sleep because his dad is in hospital right now due to blood clots, possibly connected with a fall he had a week and a half ago that had him break a vertebra in his back AND his pelvis. His sister was achey and tired and cold. An hour later, I still didn't feel like I could really function. So, I let them play. Then I ended up reading aloud to the 16yo the eBay entry mentioned in my previous post, then I started looking at that mom's blog a bit and reading more aloud. That kept us occupied a bit. Then a break, then the 16yo decided she did want to get at least some of her chem done--which she did. We also decided to go on a field trip this afternoon to Rutherford House. I'm not sure why it came up, but it came up in conversation and that's when we decided to go. So we went, had a very short visit (we've been there too much!) and then decided to check out the lottery showhomes (they were okay).

I feel tired again and my sinuses are bugging me (this darn crazy weather doesn't help any!) so I think I'll go to bed early and make sure I'm really awake tomorrow morning!

Too funny!

Have you heard about the lady with 6 kids who was selling Pokemon cards on eBay? I read her description and it was just hilarious. She's become more and more famous each day--is writing a book, has done all kinds of interviews and more. Not just because of her eBay listing, but her blog. I was reading some of her entries aloud today and I laughed so hard once I got to this one, I ended up crying!

(No, this has nothing to do with homeschooling nor Montessori, but it's too funny to not share!)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

School has begun

We went to the Not-Back-to-School picnic yesterday. While a lot of people were there, there weren't as many as I thought would show up. It was still a lot of fun and the kids had a great time. Other than that, the 13yo decided to do MathPower and not the computer-based TLE, as did his sister, his sister and I talked about various subjects and expectations and I read her the "Smart Student Credo" from What Smart Students Know (I've already managed to bring in the first point--You are your best teacher--into our daily conversations!) and that was about it.

This morning, we got going a little slowly, but the 13yo did a very brief phonics review with spelling of one word (mistaken), read a chapter of Fantastic Mr. Fox with me (taking turns), wrote one sentence about it, spent about 15-20 minutes on math, listened to me share safety instructions for his science stuff and that was it. It's actually not bad for a first day of work for him! I want him to do at least that much tomorrow, ideally having him write a little more than just a sentence, have him start a grammar sheet, do his science write-up before we do the first 2 activities from his kit and get him started on geography. I want to make it a fun activity to start with: teach him how to use basic map coordinates and find out which continent it's in. He also sort of reading during silent reading time. One problem that has come up, though, is that he has declared that he already read the book he's reading and isn't interested in reading it anymore. I suspect that he hasn't read it all the way through as I knew more about what goes on in the book (the latest Harry Potter) than he did. But what do I do? I can't prove he hasn't read it and I don't want to set him up to lie. *sigh*

Dd spent a considerable amount of time reading (not unusual!) although spent considerable time before that copying into cursive a song from one of the Dragonslayer Academy books. Her cursive is absolutely wonderful! It's just not habit and natural so she still writes in print for other things. I guess I don't have a problem with that. I just think it's super important that she be able to write in cursive as well as be able to read it. Other than that, she did a geometry page in her math workbook, finished up a multiplication tables page and did about 30 minutes of typing.

Ds did a little bit of work with me first thing: we did a little review with the vowels (I even played a silly game where I asked him to tell me to point to the right letter and I would try to do it--with my eyes closed), he wrote the vowels and he did a few questions in his math book. He then spent a lot of time looking through National Geographics trying to find fish pictures for a notebook he's starting on animals. He didn't find any fish pictures with the NG's I gave him, but he found lots of other fascinating things.

The oldest got her first CALM assignment out of the way, read the safety instructions for her chem and sort of started reading the preparation unit, decided she'd read it for homework tonight as she was sleepy and not processing stuff, had a break and ate a snack, started her math, then we had lunch, she fell asleep during our silent reading time, slept for a good while, then resumed math and finished her first lesson. She ended up skipping French today, but I'm not too worried about her review for French. Just can't let it be a regular occurrence. I don't know if she had social studies planned today or not, but she didn't do it.

All-in-all, a fairly productive day!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

What am I doing exactly?

Other than the obvious in changing my blog colours all the time? (I don't like what I currently have, either!)

I'm working out the stuff I need to have ready for this week. Trying to think about social studies, however, left me realizing that for September, it's not very clear in my head what I want dd and the 13yo to do. So what is it that I want them to be learning exactly??

  • continent names and locations
  • ocean names and locations
  • latitude and longitude, plus using that information to find places or writing that information based on a given place
  • tie in weather stuff, like the current hurricane
  • I had put explorers, but that seems more fitting in the individual continent studies

I'm at a loss as to what I want them to do exactly. How will they learn the continent/ocean names and locations??? I don't want to tell them to simply learn them. Let me brainstorm a bit:

  • labelling and colouring world maps (oooooh, I just had an idea: tie it in with different map views and projections! They could have a bunch of different maps to work with--a typical map, one with the Pacific Ocean in the middle, one with the southern hemisphere on top, the different projections whose names I can't think of at the moment.)
  • puzzle map for the continents
  • continent cards (I have some, somewhere...)
  • play games? I think I have a world map somewhere; I could playfully quiz them. We also have a world geography game but I don't think the map on that is according to continents, but it could be used to locate continents.
  • I should probably also go over the compass rose with them.

Ah, this helps! I know I need specifics or I won't follow through because I won't know what to do. But now I've got to get ready to go for a birthday supper. Tomorrow, I need to track down some printable maps! :D


I can't figure out how to change things in my blog. When I looked at the preview for the pink template, the post box was large and there was barely any bright pink. I just came and had a look--uh, wow, very pink! That's not what I wanted but I can't seem to figure it out. *sigh*