Friday, December 18, 2009

Last day before Christmas holidays!

Except, I'm hoping to do some "relaxed" German with my 2 over the holidays and some playful games to work on their math facts and maybe some writing games or something. Oooh, yeah, a Christmas story where we pass the sheet back and forth, but only see a couple of words of what the previous person wrote. Hehehe.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Geronimo Stilton

Ds's latest obsession is Geronimo Stilton. We got one from Scholastic yesterday. He read the entire thing. I found another one for him this morning--he was done by 10:30am.

This from the kid who, about a year ago, was barely reading! Woot woot!

Friday, December 11, 2009


It's been a while. Sorry about that. Things have been very busy. October was my crazy busy month, then the 2nd week of November, the oldest and I got hit by what was most likely H1N1--and we still don't feel like we've shaken it completely (a kind of ache that keeps showing up in our hands and shoulders and whatnot). My 4yo niece had the flu, too, but she was done with it rather quickly. Right now, we've got a week before Christmas and a WHOLE ton of work to get done. Well, the 2 oldest, anyhow. We're usually in relaxation mode by this point, but not this year. They're doing correspondence courses that MUST be done by Jan. 6 (something like 2 days after we get back), but it makes far more sense to finish them now. Well, they have to be almost finished, anyhow. Then the oldest has an exam on the 6th (I think it's the 6th), then a final on the 8th and another final on the 11th. Lovely. Right after Christmas holidays. But I guess everything has to be done in time for her to do diplomas, which start the 14th.

As for the other ones... My 9yo still pretty much does his own thing, except I do require him more and more to do a little something. It's not much right now: tracing over things I've written or having him do some copywork (he's been reading so much Calvin and Hobbes that he can't always remember how to do lower case letters or he simply writes in caps!), and some math questions. If I give him just facts, I have him do about 20. Right now, I'm having him work on subtraction with regrouping, so he only gets about 5 questions. It's a start! I've also resumed reading to him in French at night, which is so nice to do with him. We've been working on the Magic Treehouse series, whose French translation is among the best out there in terms of not changing the difficulty too much. It's even gotten him starting to read them on his own. :) Other than that, he's been having some fun with this flag puzzle that we have and has been gradually learning more and more flags of the world.

My 12yo has been wanting to learn the flags of Europe and has been working on and off on that. I've been gradually working these past two weeks on making flag pins, à la Montessori, to use in a pin map. I still have to find a map I like and print it off. I got an idea from somebody in one of my lists years ago to simply make big maps and stick it to a cork board so that the maps can be changed easily and not take up tons of room, and that's what I'm going to do. Plus, it solves the problem of how to have holes for the pins.

What's a Montessori pin map? It's a map where you can place pins--with a country name label, a capital city name label or a flag label--in indicated spots to help learn the names of countries, capital cities, etc. You can even do it for just a country and the provinces/states. Here is one example , although that's a very tiny version. Along with the map is a control map or card, so that the student can check to see if s/he is right. It's kind of like a memory game.

Other than that, my 12yo has spent lots of time reading, has come up with the idea of a project to make a book of... hm... bad mom, I can't remember at the moment... weird facts? interesting facts? Can't remember. We've also been doing some math and I think more and more that using a workbook with her creates this crazy stress. It's like she feels she MUST "perform". When I did an intro activity with her on the side, with just paper, she was fine. Go to the workbook, and stress sets in. I think I need to simply work on the concepts with her WITHOUT the workbook (even if I'm using the same questions), get her confidence back up and then the workbook won't stress her so much.

Oh, and we've done German maybe a few times. Eeek. I really wanted it to be more than that!

With my 4yo niece, she's initiated some copywork, has started writing "math equations" (no, not really--things like 5 = 1 = + 4...), I've done the red rods with her and not sure what else. She's definitely ready for more, but it'll have to wait until after Christmas holidays.

My 2yo niece... is very 2. ;) Actually, she's more like 2.5, even though she just turned 2. I really ought to learn more about good Montessori toddler activities. Although there are some easy enough things I could do with both her and her sister, like baking or cleaning. Practical life activities are always good!

Enough of my update. Got to get some work done!

Monday, October 05, 2009


Dd's not liking going through the book I chose for her and I can't say I blame her. It's one of those things to digest slowly and perhaps it's just not the right style for her (she agrees with you, Correne!). So, I asked her what she wanted to learn about in science, and covered the basic domains in my question: physics, chemistry, biology or environmental science? After a brief explanation of each, she has chosen biology. So now we need to choose how to go about it. I think I would like to just use a program, even if it's in English, as biology is not my forte. Both Science 4 Kids - Biology and Apologia look really good in terms of what they cover, and they do it in somewhat the same order I would imagine a Montessori program would do it. The Science 4 Kids could be a little too babyish for her and the Apologia Biology could be rather challenging. We will hopefully be able to have a look at both programs at a local store sometime soon so she can see if she has a preference. Apologia is designed for grades 9-12, but a lot of sites are saying grade 8 and above. Even though she's technically grade 7, she is already functioning at a grade 8+ level, but doesn't have the science background, so then I'm back to where I started, wondering it it'll be too challenging. LOL

Saturday, October 03, 2009


I was doing some journalling, trying to figure out what sort of Montessori babystep I could take and realized that I have been STILL pretty much just assigning work to dd instead of giving her lessons and then showing her follow up work she can do. I've been doing it all backwards!!! No wonder I'm getting such resistance! Such lack of interest!

All I have to say right now. It's almost 9:30 and I'm still in my pj's. lol. (I've been up since 5, so...)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Where'd the week go?

This past week seemed to go by so quickly! It's really quite a blur when I try to think back about what we did. I know we went into the school on Tuesday and took care of some stuff there, my kids and I had kung fu Tuesday night, we visited a bookstore and Goodwill on Wed., signed dd up for Pathfinders (Girl Guides) that night, can't really remember Thursday, although I do remember kung fu, and then had my one nephew (9yo) all day yesterday, which led to pretty much only the oldest getting any work done.

Ds, turning 9 next week, is obsessed with Calvin and Hobbes. Dh asked, somewhat negatively, today if that's the only thing he's reading, and if so, he ought to start reading other things. I decided to not get into a discussion with him on all kinds of examples of kids who passionately read only one type of thing for a while and when ready, do move onto other things. I simply said something about he won't read only Calvin and Hobbes forever and that I did have him read some little French books each day and left it at that. I have to admit wishing that I had a copy of Free at Last: The Sudbury Valley School to hand him and say, "Read this." lol. I think dh has forgotten that this is a kid who was not reading a year ago. That he's gone from not reading to being obsessed with Calvin and Hobbes isn't a huge problem. (And now that I think of it, he has started reading the Goosebumps books this week. But he loves Calvin! Who can blame him? ;) )

Back to where the week went... I do know that I'm already letting go of certain routines. This is not good. So part of my plans this weekend is to figure out to rework routines, write them out in big and post them for Monday morning. :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Excitement and joy are building

I've been doing more web browsing, finding some great sites and things to rekindle my spark! I think I'm heading in the direction I want to be heading. Some thoughts so far:

*for dd*
-work with her to create a plan for certain things she wants to improve, like her math tables; the plan should include specific goals (like speed) and the how

-one project idea that came out of the idea of the Montessori farm school: where does our food come from, how are farms run here in Alberta, possible visit to a farm, legalities, ecological issues, organic foods, container gardening, etc.

-her strongest interests right now are art, reading and writing, which led to the thought of going back in history and start presenting artists to her, including any historical documents (journals, biographies, etc.) that may be available; one of the things would be to learn about how they learned to draw/paint/etc. and even attempt at recreating some of their work; she could have a binder/portfolio on a specific artist or time period with a possible eventual goal of putting it all together and binding it (she just saw her uncle's PhD thesis which was bound at Staples, so the idea of having her own bound project/book might very much appeal to her); reading and writing about the artists will automatically be ELA/FLA and we can tackle some grammar and spelling and other things that way, although I would like to do some other side lessons.

-Another part of the above interests is to find more authors who were still school age when they wrote and got published, find out more about how they maybe wrote their first books, etc. So far, she knows of Christopher Paolini and Gordon Korman. Both were high school age when they got published, but her high school years aren't far away. Right now, she feels like when she reads and writes, she's not really "doing school" and not learning anything, so I'd love to come across some outside source that says, "I credit my time reading and writing to being able to get published." Okay, perhaps not expressed quite that way. ;) Right now, her thoughts are on possibly being an author, so I would like to figure out how to support that without her feeling like Mom is pushing. lol.

-community service

-lightbulb moment was had: She does NOT have to do her math text in order, although she may very well want to do it in order because she'll be able to keep the pace her Dad's students are keeping (it's the same text), OR she'll be tickled at being ahead, if we get her ahead. (So far, this text is actually going quite well, other than our inability to sit down and do it. Once we get going, she's finding it quite fine and picking up stuff very well, even answering some things before I have figured them out. :) I think it was the perfect confidence-building thing for this year for her. If we can be more consistent, I could see her being done early and choosing to start the grade 8 math before the end of the school year.)

*for ds*
-figure out a 3-year plan for him, and put together a list of things for him to work on this year

-show him the list (or perhaps a partial list for just the first half of the year) and have him choose things to work on, but not just to work on--the goal must be mastery (although, I have to say he's already got at least a bit of a sense for this: he knew he had to do some work yesterday, grabbed his cursive book and did only one page, did some other stuff, then rushed off and played; I asked him to show me what he did in his cursive and before he found the page, he said he had to work on p's more because he can't get them! lol. Turned out that the A Beka 'p' is kind of loopy so I showed him another way to do it and he tried that, was pleased, then went off and played. :D)

-the above means that his math doesn't have to be done in order and that I don't even have to rely necessarily on his text, or on this text; he's got practice stuff all over the place--the list of things to learn would include ways of practising and proving he can do it

-nature study: We used to go for regular walks and sometimes bring notebooks and art pencils; no reason not to do this! My 4yo could even have her own book and try to draw things. One Montessori website I was at (Hershey Montessori School) had the kids sometimes do partnered journalling, where after a while, they exchanged journals and then would draw in things the other person hadn't put in.

-accountability: I think figuring out how to incorporate accountability, to have some way of each one seeing what they are spending their time on would be greatly helpful. But how to do that without spending my entire time watching them and writing things down? Hm...


On another note, it's time I brought up the Choice Theory idea of Quality Work with at least Bob. He was doing some of his science yesterday, the stuff he has to hand in. He was on a multiple choice question and had to write the letter answer. It was D. It was his last question. So he wrote a D, but so sloppily, that my 4yo niece could have done it better. It honestly looked like some 3yo had tried to write a D. He also has been doodling on the pages he'll be handing in and on his math page from yesterday, he drew--IN INK--a Pacman for his greater than symbol > . This is obviously not okay! He's 15! He has an obvious pull towards the FUN need, but doesn't seem to realize how some of his fun choices will affect other things in a negative way.

I love Montessori :)

After my earlier post, I went web reading. I had already spent some time this morning on Charlotte Mason, so I went to the Dalton School and then to Austin Montessori. The Dalton School gives lots of info, but doesn't really explain *how* the teachers work with the kids. Clicked around different things in the Austin Montessori site and ended up at this:

I was reminded of why I love Montessori so much. So much belief in the kids' ability and innate desire to work, so much belief in their right to choose, to a certain degree, what they will work on. I just need to figure out what I want to present to my kids--which could mean pulling out some Montessori R&D albums that I have and/or purchasing new ones--creating a year plan with a desired sequence, and then figuring out different things to try to get our days going better! The hard part is going to be to get out of our current habits. I just have to prepare myself for that and keep plugging away. What is it that "they" say, 21 days to create a new habit? *sigh* That can feel really long. ;)

Thoughts on this Saturday morning

My mind's been ruminating lots.

I have to admit to myself that I have no real idea on how to incorporate Montessori at the junior high level. The "ideal" Montessori experience is an apprenticeship, like living on a farm, away from parents. Hm, yeah, that's not going to happen. ;)

Other than that, there are projects and experiences, but they are all mainly GROUP activities. I have no group to offer my dd, not on a regular basis. The 18yo is busy with her stuff, Bob could potentially do stuff with her but he dawdles so much that it takes him all day to get done what could be done in about an hour. And ds is just not interested.

Looking around websites, there's not a whole lot of information, and some "Montessori" schools seem to have traditional schedules, with set times for math, LA, etc., but the students just work at their own pace through the materials. That's fine, except it doesn't foster the same type of things a Montessori education would foster.

On the flip side, I am finding myself feeling like I want to make sure my kids know some very specific things. I'm getting tired of ds avoiding learning certain things and spending the bulk of his time in play. He's almost 9. Sure, his reading has come along nicely and he's got a good thinking mind that he is learning his grade 4 math without having done all the expected previous skill work, but all kinds of skills are woefully inadequate. I guess I'm trying to figure out how much I have "abandoned" my kids and how much I've been letting them choose.

It would be much simpler if we could all follow the same approach! But I don't want my kids, at their age, doing what the two oldest are doing. I want some more life in our studies. More interest. More excitement.

I know dd just wants to know more and be able to do more. I've been toying with the idea of incorporating some Charlotte Mason and/or Dalton Plan approach. The Charlotte Mason would be more for content than philosophy, though; the Dalton Plan, created by a former Montessori teacher, says to the student, "Here's what you are expected to learn. It's up to you to determine how you are going to learn it." Well, in a nutshell. It's a little more complicated than that. And without my kids having really learned proper research and all that, I would need to find out more before springing something like that on them.

I feel like my thoughts are just going around in continual circles! There are so many great ideas, great resources, great approaches; I just can't seem to figure out what would work, or perhaps am not able to figure out something that I will actually stick to. I realize it can take some time to get something to work properly since there is always an adjustment period, but I need to figure out my eventual goal, my "end vision". The Big Picture. I'm getting lost in all kinds of details, I think.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Another week done

I can't believe how much weather seems to affect us. Today was a very good work day--weather was nice, not too hot, not too windy, focus this morning was quite good. Previous murkier days and changing-weather days seemed to be days of tiredness and lack of focus. Is it really that simple? It doesn't seem right. I think we ought to be able to get past it, no?

I suppose there's more than just the weather: change in routine, change in seasons... Of course, being with different people means potential exposure to different viruses and such, too. You don't have to actually be sick to be affected by something.

I've been trying to focus more on routines than work, but finding that I need to still focus on making sure work is a solid part of the routine. I gave Bob different schedule options to choose from, which seemed to work... today. We're still just not connecting. Perhaps it's because it's not "flow" work. I miss the flow work. I miss the high interest levels. Hm...

Monday, September 07, 2009

Kung Fu!

I completely forgot to do a proper recap of my week last week:

Monday: Met the 18yo at the school to finalize her registration and get resources. That took much longer than I had anticipated. After that, we went to a store for me to check out a popular religious education program around here, decided I really didn't like it, then we got Frosters from Mac's (it was HOT Monday) and just took it easy. I also ate too much sugar and dairy.

Tuesday: Had the 18yo and Bob come in the morning. Unfortunately, I think what I ate Monday got to me and I felt ill all morning. Didn't go through the resources at all like I had planned. We went out in the afternoon to go to the library and pick up food for Wed.

Wednesday: We kind of got to work in the morning and then went to the yearly Not-Back-to-School Picnic. Always lots of fun! It was soooo hot, though. I don't think it's ever been that hot. I met a couple of French-speaking moms while I was there, and ds went off--for the first time in a long time--with a bunch of kids to play. He usually just sticks with our little group and friends. It was good to see him off with others. (Of course, it helped that the multi-age group of boys had sticks and were playing some sort of game with swords. lol)

Thursday: Worked in the morning and then went back to the school in the afternoon to meet some of the teachers. In the evening, my kids tried out a Wing Chun Kung Fu class. :D They loved it. I watched the adult class and have decided to join, too. I've said for years that I'd love to do Wing Chun and managed to find this over the summer; it's also very inexpensive compared to other places and types of martial arts that I've looked at.

Friday: Worked very sluggishly and slowly in the morning--the weather changed and instead of being hot and sunny, it was cold, windy, dreary and rainy. Afternoon, went to West Edmonton Mall to just hang out and find a 60th birthday gift for my mom.

I didn't do anything specifically Montessori with the 4yo at all during the week. :( Gotta get myself off this computer and get some things down around here, like planning!

Happy Labour Day!

So, it is Labour Day. Supposed to be a holiday, but I know I'll be taking care of a bunch of things around here and not really relaxing! I'm slowly trying to simplify some things, even things like cutting back on the emails in my inbox and removing subscriptions from my Blogger thingy. I don't need notifications when people update their things!

Other than that, first week of school is done. It wasn't too bad. I've restarted journalling in the evenings and it helps so much to just take the time to reflect on the day, on what went well and I need to do again, what didn't go as well as I would have liked and what needs to be changed.

Changes for this week:
*Bob needs a set list of work to finish this week; I have to be aware of how much I may be trying to control his actions during the day, too--it's HIS job and his choice, really, if he's going to work consistently, but I also know that there's a place in Choice Theory (and Montessori at this age, for that matter) for deadlines.
*dd needs a list of work ideas and a chart to kind of check off which subject areas she's working in; it can help to see that lots of time is being spent in math or science, for example, but other stuff hasn't been touched; also, a general list of what she needs to do during the week to keep a certain pace in her texts
*I have to figure out a plan for ds and 4yo niece; they're just disappearing and playing each day!

Other things:
*I need to work out my own routines/schedule. And make it big and post it or something. I keep writing out stuff, thinking it sounds good, but then don't follow through, in part because what I wrote out was in a notebook or on a scrap of paper and isn't in my face to remind me. Things I want to make sure to include in my day that I haven't been doing: time for personal reading, read-aloud to the kids, personal study (guitar, piano, German...), writing and exercise. I've been doing some basic yoga routines in the morning for a couple of weeks now, but that doesn't address cardio at all, and not really strength (although I did hurt the first couple of days!).

So, other than trying to establish routines and good habits around here, there's not much else going on! We are getting together with some friends Thursday and I want to figure out a French club get-together, hopefully for the week after that. We spent a lot of time last year just doing things on our own. I'd like to do go out less this year, but try to do more with a variety of people! We used to do things with all kinds of people, other than just park days, and I'm not sure what happened. Used to invite people on field trips we were planning, used to have a party or get-together almost every month...

Of course, if the kids simply decide one day they want to do go somewhere, I need to remember to pull a Montessori card on them and say, "Well, it's during school hours. Figure out how it is tied with what you are learning or want to learn, write it out and let me know." :D

Monday, August 31, 2009

Happy Birthday, Maria Montessori!

Maria is 139 years old today. :D Many people don't really know anything about her, but she brought a huge amount of change into the world. The whole idea of child-sized furniture, and environment scaled down to the size of a preschooler--she started it! The idea of manipulatives, hands-on things for math and language... started with her!

So, happy birthday, Maria Montessori!

Friday, August 28, 2009

I just feel like complaining a bit

There's this article about a 13yo girl who wants to sail around the world by herself (another article says she would make regular stops into port). Now, personally, I don't think I'd be prepared to let my 13yo spend two years by herself sailing the world. But I think it's kind of crazy to have anybody by themselves on a boat that long!

However, that's not my big issue. My issue is that because of her plans, the Dutch court was close to removing her from her parents' custody over this. Right now, the father is sharing custody with the state.

What's their issue?

Caroline Vink, a senior adviser at the Youth Institute in the Netherlands which advises the Dutch government, said the biggest questions was whether a 13yo could understand the consequences of her decision.


"Two years out of school will have an impact on her normal development [I can't help but gagging here]," she said.

EXCUSE ME??? It wasn't that long ago that 13-14yo girls were marrying, taking care of entire households on their own, going off in covered wagons to their new homestead with their husbands, who'd be working out in the fields or forests all day--possibly gone for days at a time--with their babies in tow. And, oh my gosh, heaven forbid she's not in SCHOOL for 2 years. (Homeschooling is not recognized by the Dutch government, just in case you were wondering.) Somebody with the nickname powderhound wrote in the comments section for the article link shared below:

It's pretty pathetic that these "child protection" authorities think that she would suffer more from the maturity, life experience, and wisdom gained from two years of self-sufficiency - as opposed to two years in a peer-pressure cooker of a high school, obsessing about makeup and boys while playing computer games and going to the mall.
I could not agree more!!

Teens are so underestimated. Granted, I wouldn't let my daughter go, but you know what? I didn't spend the first 4 years of her life raising her at sea, like this Dutch girl was. I haven't spent her life teaching her about boats. I didn't train her to be able to do some solo sailing at age 6, as this article indicates . I'm not this Dutch girls' parents, and this girl seems to have been raised to be very mature, very aware, very *real*. Caroline Vink goes on to say:

"It is wonderful to have dreams, but they have to be realistic."

It seems to me this Dutch girl is probably more rooted in reality and in what's possibility than most of us. It's not a dream for her: it's planned out in full and possible.

From a government point of view, I can understand the need to intervene. I mean, can you imagine just allowing anybody to let their 13yo sail off on their own? It'd be insane. But the attitude behind it, that a 13yo can't be capable of "understanding" it all properly, and the whole school aspect... Ugh.

You know what? When I was 14 and living in Yellowknife, I spent 4 days taking care of 3 kids who were 6, 8 and 9. Where were the parents? They had gone down to Edmonton for a wedding. I had been babysitting for them regularly from the time I was 11--started with just the youngest at that point, who was then 3. I could have taken care of those kids for ages. I knew how to cook, take care of the house, keep routines, do laundry... I was a fantastic typer and could have worked as a secretary or done all kinds of jobs. I was responsible and knew how to take care of pretty much everything. It's how I was raised. Just because most kids get caught up in the "teen culture" of today, doesn't mean that teens are inherently irresponsible or incapable of making big decisions for their lives.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Countdown Has Begun

7 days until school starts. Well, for my 2, anyhow. I don't have my year plans figured out. I don't have next week's plans finalized. Still trying to spend time on Choice Theory stuff.

I did get started with dd on her German today (her decision). Poor girl is way too much like I was at that age: she expects to know and understand right away and feels horrible if she doesn't. :( I told her that the books weren't designed for her to do on her own, but, in her tiredness (I woke her up at 7:30 this morning, mean Mom that I am ;) ), she then saw that as an indication of her not being able to learn German this year because I'll "never have the time to do it" with her. She really wants to learn German and really wants to feel like she's learned a lot in general by the end of the school year and, admittedly, there are a lot of other forces (aka kids, and sometimes dh ;) ) around that interrupt time we take together. Making sure she gets time from me during the day, as well as possibly after supper for something like German, where it's far easier with less activity going on around, is going to have to be a focus. She's not the type to demand my attention and I think she's kind of ended up in the shadows the past couple years during our school time.

I also placed an order for Joy Hakim's "The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way", "The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia" (thank you for the recommendation, Lisia! :) ), "Language of Choice Theory" and, for myself, "How It All Vegan" from which a delicious hummus recipe was passed along to me. I've had the book out from the library before and decided that it's high time I bought myself a good vegan cookbook to help me along my want-to-be-vegan path. The order was placed this morning, I think, or maybe last night, and I've already received notice that it's been sent! Gotta love when everything is in stock. :)

I joined a fan page for Maria Montessori in Facebook today. There was a link in there to an article written by John Snyder from Austin Montessori. John is on one of my Montessori lists and of all the people there, except perhaps Lakshmi Kripalani, who studied under Maria Montessori herself, there's no one else on the list who seems to embody Montessori as much as he does. In any case (sorry, I feel very disjointed to night and am sure my writing is, too), that reminded me of his school and I ended up at the website, looking over the early adolescent program they have. It reminded me that the environment at this age (or almost this age--she's not yet 12, so I always wonder, do I consider her in the 9-12 group still? or are her needs those of the 12-15? hm...) is still important. Checking in with the school's website also reminded me that it was Donna Bryant Goertz who got the school going, another amazing Montessorian. I think I'd like to reread her book "Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful". It's such an amazing book, really gives a sense of the Montessori philosophy, even though its focus is on how Montessori can be used with those who are not the "peaceful" Montessori student. A definite recommended read!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Good thing for advanced planning

I got dd's German texts last Thurs. or Fri. and decided to start going through them today to do a bit of planning. Ds's texts are easy enough for me to work with without a teacher's guide. I just discovered that dd's texts will be a little harder. *sigh* I've ordered the teacher's guide, but they don't expect it until the middle of September. That's okay, I guess. We'll do what we can without them.

OooOOh! A great science book list

At some point, I'm going to have to stop finding resources and actually figure out what I'm doing!


I may have found a main resource for our science studies this year: Joy Hakim's Story of Science series. I think it'll give a starting point for science exploration. I need to have experiment and research components, too. I have some TOPS science somewhere that we've never used.

I feel the need for a PLAN, though. Hm, gotta still work on that.

Tired Monday

We were at the lake all weekend with dh's family--parents, both brothers, sil's and all nieces and nephews. We had a fabulous time, but of course it was a late night each and every night and the kids were non-stop go, go, go. Today is recovery day, I guess. I'm more than ready for a nap, ds is not his usual energetic self and for once, adrenaline hasn't kicked in to make up for it, his cousin is tired--and injured himself scootering (although it was the big hole in the cement's fault, of course)--and just sitting around nursing his owie, my 4yo niece is pretty much just laying around with toys and although the 21mo is tired, she's been very manageable. At the moment, the boys are playing their version of Scrabble and the girls are playing with dominoes.

As for me, I've got most of our camping stuff put away and read a little. Well, and took care of umpteen messages in my inbox from various lists! I only have 2 weeks until school starts and really need to finalize some plans and figure out my vision for the year. We got dd's German resources in, so in terms of everything I've ordered for this year, that's all taken care of. Except I do need to have a look at it and see what kind of pacing there should be and how I might need to supplement since the resources are really only a resource, and not everything kids in grade 7 beginning German would learn here. Of course, all kinds of stuff has to be planned out and I need to get moving on it. I really need to get my time management skills back into use since I've pretty much just floated through most of this summer. Problem is, at the moment, I'm so tired I don't even remember how to go about managing my time. ;) It's a definite nap time for me when the 21mo falls asleep today!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Moon

So, I finally mustered up the courage to read "New Moon" from the Twilight series. All-in-all, I think it's better written and a better story than the first one and I can't say there was anything really objectionable in it that I'm uncomfortable with my daughter reading. Except...

The flagrant disrespect Bella has for her father in her quest to do dangerous things is really glossed over, and, for me, the way it was written makes it seem totally natural and okay for her to have chosen the things she did. I'm sorry, but no, it's not okay! I'm glad to have read the book first so I could bring up that element with dd, about how they don't really address it. Even at the very end (I found the end of Twilight not bad; I HATED the ending of this book), she's mad at JACOB and says she wants to kill HIM for him having betrayed HER. WHAT ABOUT HER FATHER?????? Had she not betrayed HIM all the times she was danger seeking? Keeping the whole bike a secret? Oh, yes, Jacob is sorry that he told once he finds out what was really going on, but that just makes it seem like the whole thing SHOULD have been kept a secret!

When you get down to it, the whole book makes Bella come across as desperate, crazy and with no true moral sense. Maybe that's what Stephenie Meyer intended. But I doubt very much that 11yo's to even possibly 14yo's, or maybe even older, will "get it". So much emphasis on the "I need you" and "I can't live without you" and "I can't function properly without you". But I suppose that's how romances are. I don't know. I've never read a modern romance before! I did find a review online where somebody was saying that the pain Bella is in was really well written. HOW? Sure, lots of explanation and description of her pain, but she shouldn't be in that much pain!

Another thing that bothered me about the book, other than her continued use of "chuckled" (I mean, really, do people "chuckle" that much?) was that it would go along so smoothly and I'd even be enjoying the story and then there'd be something someone would say that would just ruin it because what was said was so lame or immature, or just feeling out of character. I actually threw the book down and said, "Oh good grief!" loudly when Bella said she was only 18 in response to Edward's proposal. WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! This is the girl who is so obsessed with him and who wants to be with him for eternity, to the point that she's willing to become a vampire, or die if she can't be with him, but she's not ready to marry him???? It makes no sense! The rest of the scene just continues the nonsense. Just one of numerous things that pop up that show Bella's immaturity.

The relationship between Bella and Charlie is totally out of whack, too. She knows she's legal age, she could move out, even throws it in Charlie's face, but afterwards, she stays and gets GROUNDED??? Excuse me? It doesn't make any sense! And all the melodrama at the end when she's preparing to face him. I'm sorry, if she's the same person she was mere pages before, feeling adult-like and ready to move out and live by her own rules, none of it makes sense.

I turned the last page and went, "What? That's it? THAT'S the end?" I was so frustrated. I've read lots and lots and lots of books in my time. Some were not very interesting. Some were kind of stupid. Many were wonderful. I've never read a book whose characters were so out of whack with the age and maturity they are supposed to be nor have I read a book whose plot I found as frustrating as these two books. I don't recall having the same type of frustration with Twilight, just annoyance at the jr. high feel to the book due to how everybody was behaving and Bella's whole obsession. (Mind you, Edward isn't really any better. He's got the same deep-down obsession, we just don't get to be privy to his thoughts.) I just feel like shaking them and saying, "Grow up, will you?"

Okay, enough of my book bashing. I know many people love the series--more power to them! I seem to be an odd-ball for this series, but that's okay. ;)

I've read some previews of Eclipse and although parts sound intriguing, the whole "I love both of them" is just so wrong, wrong, wrong and so soap opera-ish, I don't know if I'll be able to make myself read it. Which means dd will probably have to wait to read it!

What Should a 4-Year Old Know?

A reminder to us all not to be so focused on what our children should know based on their ages:

Sunday, August 09, 2009

3 weeks to go

Only 3 weeks left until school starts up again. Why does that give me such a feeling of panic? Of almost breathlessness? The thought stressed me for some reason. Maybe it's because I don't really have my plans in place. Maybe it's because things are definitely going to be different this year--the 18yo coming part-time, my cousin's wife coming with her kids part-time, "Bob" starting high school and trying to really tackle the issues blocking him, dd starting junior high, ds starting grade 4 and I'm feeling panicky over the fact that I know he's not grade 4 level in anything except his English reading. Well, and maybe his knowledge of bugs. ;)

I think it's also that it means I have 3 weeks left to recover the house completely from renovations, accomplish some progress with my two for their math and with ds, for his handwriting and French reading. I guess I feel like I'm running out of time. I only had about 5 hours of sleep last night, which means it's probably not the best time to be thinking about school plans, as I won't see clearly and will be more panicky. But I need to brainstorm a bit what I do want to get done these next 3 weeks and some more planning for the school year.

*Keep reading Choice Theory and get my plans for the first few days finalized. I found a great site that has recommendations on starting the school year, how to get them thinking about the things they need from others to be able to learn well, and some other Choice Theory stuff.

*Keep reading Montessori. I want a plan in place for my niece, but also want to see what I can use from Montessori for my two.

*Dd: master multiplication tables and improve division skills
*Ds: keep working through his grade 3 math workbook, cursive, and do some French reading

*Get the house in order: there are cd's and books still to put away, stuff to bring to Goodwill, the front entrance closet to get the shelf stuff put back (maybe get some containers to organize things a bit better), clean up the den, figure out what to do with the electronic piano (it's full-size)...

*School plans for dd's grade 7 and ds's grade 4. I have to get out of my mind these "grades", though. It's not helpful at all. My goal with them for language arts and math is to just keep them going. If dd makes it through her grade 7 text, great. If she doesn't, then so be it. Although then she'll feel even worse about her math ability. She has no clue how easy math is for her, it's just that she hasn't really been interested and doing any for a while. If I have to start the grade 4 text late with ds, that's okay, too.

For dd's language arts (both French and English), some general plans at the moment: grammar, writing a variety of sentences, how to do a proper paragraph, beginning essay writing (intro, middle, conclusion), lots of reading. I want us to cover at least one English novel and one French novel together. Actually, she's already shown interested in doing Les trois mousquetaires. It's a very challenging book, and I can't find my copy either. *sigh*. But if we do it together, I think it would be good.

No more thinking for now. Too tired!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A different kind of day

I don't know if it's the weather or what, but today has had a very different feel to it! Okay, admittedly, I've been consciously doing some things differently, but that doesn't explain everything.

The Lego had been pulled out yesterday and one of the bins left in the family room. Before my nieces and nephew arrived today, ds was already into the Lego, focused and calm. Everybody got here, he had to go get dressed, clean his room up and eat breakfast. The boys went out on their skateboards afterward, but they came back in after a while and ds ended up back downstairs with his Lego. His cousin came down and made some small attempts at engaging
him in the usual goofy play, but since ds didn't really get into it, BOTH boys have spent a good 1.5-2 hours just working quietly and in a focused manner on the Lego, with the occasional conversations here and there. The whole feel from them is soooo different after having that time of "flow".

My 20mo niece had a vaccination last night and so was clingy and a bit feverish this morning. She had a very early nap but has been otherwise fine. I decided to make her a smaller version of what she's been playing with yesterday, although now that I think of it, I could have waited. Oh well. In any case, so you can see what I've made, here is a picture:

No, I didn't think about lining up the holes with the print on the lids. ;) Actually, I would like to figure out a way to cover them up so none of the words are seen at all. First task, though, is to figure out what to do to the lids or the containers so that the lids are easier to get off and she can do the activity all by herself.

While the boys were busy downstairs with their Lego, my 4yo niece started behaving in a way the boys found annoying. I think reading Choice Theory things recently helped me to switch my thinking to "Why is she doing this?". The answer: her need for belonging. Getting attention with her behaviour connected her with the boys, even if it was in a bad way. So, I had her come upstairs with me and she was all sad but came anyhow. I then showed her a brownie mix box I had bought yesterday and asked her if she wanted to make the brownies with me. Well oh my gosh, her mood changed in a flash and she has been delightful ever since. So, remember: if your kids/students are behaving in ways that are annoying you, figure out what their motivation is!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I planted a seed!

My plan to introduce some countries that would be represented at a festival here in town didn't really get followed through on very much, although I did present to ds the African countries I had chosen. For some reason, Zimbabwe caught him and he even coloured the flag and posted it on his bedroom door. When we did manage to make it to the festival, one of the first things he asked was, "Where's Zimbabwe [the tent]? I want to go to Zimbabwe." The kids are always allowed to choose one small thing that I buy for them. Well, when we got to the Zimbabwe tent, he was very happy and loved these wire animals they had and chose himself a lizard. You just never know what planted seed will grow in a child! :)

Other than that, I've been busy with other things and just not getting my mind organized and focused enough to do more. My 11yo is always away at summer camp for the first time, this last weekend was a long weekend... So much going on. I did decide yesterday that I had to find some more things for my 20mo niece as she is just go-go-go and getting into everything, following the cats or dog constantly, disappearing upstairs or downstairs (the baby gates haven't been up since we started the renos)... Always so busy making messes or potentially getting into trouble!

I remembered an activity that her big sister loved at that age: a large plastic yogourt container with a big enough hole cut in it to put some round game pieces (I took them from a game called Bottle Tops). I prepared one for her today with a margarine container. I forgot that she is more dextrous than her sister was at the same age--the hole could have been made smaller so it was more difficult for her to get the pieces through the hole. But she loved it and did it over and over. Of course, the 4yo saw something "new" and wanted to do it, too and was impatient about waiting. I thought it a perfect time to show her something else new and showed her the last of the cylinder blocks I have--the cylinders are all the same diameter, but they are different heights. She only did that once, but then used them like the knobless cylinders and did some building and discovery.

The two girls exchanged at one point (I know, I know, not Montessori--materials should go back and you only take from the shelf) but the toddler grew tired of the cylinder block rather quickly. I put her on the floor with a bucket of soft geometric solids (geometric softs? ;) ), which, of course, the 4yo saw and came over and tried to "play with her sister". Um, yeah, not really--it's more like the 4yo takes what she wants and plays next to her sister. ;) In any case, I nipped that in the bud and said that this was her activity and when she was done, the 4yo could play with it then. She hung around and touched the materials again, so I took her hand and led her elsewhere for something else. There have been other activities on the go: alphabet cards, Lego table for big Lego (preschool Lego), a bus tent pulled out with a pillow and blanket, little counting bears, a recorder, chalk, a mouse got into the garage... And the toddler keeps pulling out movies asking to watch them. lol. All this, and they've only been here 1.5 hours! Despite all that the 4yo STILL complained a few minutes ago that she had "nothing to do". lol

The boys are now playing with K'Nex and starting to focus and calm down, but it's tough to change "modes". They have been mostly out on bikes and scooters and skateboards all summer, and when inside, it tends to be boisterous imaginary play, which is not only getting on my nerves, but it seems to me that energy could be used in pursuits that will build them up in other ways. When my nephew isn't here, ds spends a lot of time doing Lego, KNex, drawing, reading... He does none of that with his cousin here as my nephew seems to be the source of most of the loudness and crazy play. It's constant motion and play and my Montessori inner voice is saying that I need to help them find some other pursuits that will bring some real-life focus!

KNex didn't seem to be satisfying enough; they've switched to Lego. Hopefully they'll come back down to Earth. ;)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Well, a little bit is better than nothing!

I haven't managed to do much from my list for this week. Yesterday just seemed to be one thing after another and this morning, I was so loopy, I totally forgot.

However, Monday, I did play I-Spy with my niece. She really enjoyed it, although her attention didn't last long: she wanted to play with the objects I had chosen. lol. I think she's ready for me to play a small area of a room (like a single shelf or a window or on the table, etc.). I tried presenting the button frame, but she had no interest. She did end up playing with a Discovery Toys thing--a mosaic-making thing. Today, my dd must have played different board games with her for over an hour. She (niece) loved the interaction and the attention, but didn't like losing one of the games. ;)

I sat down with ds yesterday and really showed him the Africa things I had put together. He was very interested. He then asked if he could colour the flags I'd printed off--of course! I haven't put another set together, but think I ought to try to do some more for other countries.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Almost August!

August is almost here. That means the summer is almost half done. It's been a crazy July here: start of renovations (just painting to start with, but not all completed), out-of-town visitors for a few days (ah, but what fun!), then back to renos. Two weeks of reno chaos that are finally done and the house is starting to take shape again. If it needs to be that summer is half done for the chaos to be done, I'm all for summer being half done!

With things more in order around here, I'm going to resume tomorrow my morning mini-school time with ds and dd, but I also want to work with my 4yo niece a bit on some Montessori activities and try to have a general routine for the week or at least a different activity each day that sows some seeds of interest. :)

I've created a list of things I can do with my niece this week, but don't actually plan on doing ALL of them. If we do, wow, great! I just wanted to select what would be good to show her, trying to show her at least 2 things a day. Here's my list:

Practical Life
  • button frame (I have a cheap, wood embroidery hoop with material I sewed so a child can practise buttoning)
  • pouring water from a jug (I should maybe try to buy a smaller jug today)
  • dusting (Montessori kids typically learn to dust by sweeping from left to right, from the top to the bottom of an area, like the way we would write)
  • cleaning glass (I have a bottle with a mix of vinegar and water)
  • sensitize the fingers (this is just dipping the fingers in warm water for a bit and then drying; it helps the fingers feel the sandpaper on the touch boards and sandpaper letters better)
  • touch boards (have to find them! these are different grades of sandpaper that the child learns to distinguish)
  • geometric solids (I'll just show her how to feel the different sides and then name them this week, assuming I do this activity)
  • Mystery Bag (this is a small bag with different known items to the child; the child is blindfolded and figures out what the objects are just by touch)
  • I-Spy with beginning sounds
  • (The way this version of I-Spy works is that you start, with a young child anyhow, by having a single object in your hand, like a pencil, and say, "I spy with my little eye, something that starts with /p/." You only say the beginning sound, not the letter. Once they get the idea, then you use two objects, then maybe three, then branch out to a small area in a room, and so on.)
  • cursive sandpaper letters (she's already been introduced to these but we haven't had a chance to work on them consistently)
  • insets (see here for more info on that. The inset design they show, though, is by a rather skilled person, not one done by a child just starting out.)
  • land and water presentations (globe and landforms)
  • maybe, just maybe show her the continent map

For the older kids, since the Heritage Festival is coming up next weekend, I thought about making a theme week with different countries/cultures. However, I haven't gotten further than that at the moment in my thinking. So, let me think now. What could I make available or invite them to do?
  • pick a different country each day, or a couple of countries each day, and have their maps and flags available to colour/label
  • find recipes from the countries and pick a couple to make
  • make paper dolls with traditional clothing for the culture ( has stuff for this, I think)
  • find some books at the library
  • for my kids, draw out a family tree and label somehow the cultural heritage of our various ancestors
  • set up things so they could make a lapbook
All I can think of at the moment. My stomach is starting to grumble!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

So I've finished Twilight

I have to admit I did like some of the suspense that finally came in, but there's just something that I find so hokey about so much of it. The last part of the book is definitely better than the beginning, but I'm still not ready to begin New Moon. ;) At the same time, I recognize that Twilight was the author's first book (if I've read correctly), and so maybe with experience under her belt, New Moon will be better. Except I didn't like the later Harry Potter books because I found she tried too hard to make it complicated. Okay, I have to admit, I didn't even read the last 2. I still have no plans to. When I first started reading Twilight, I was thinking I'd want to read the last 2 HP's before moving onto New Moon. But she kind of made up for it as the story went along and I think I would rather read New Moon before the other 2 HP's. lol.

I think I have 8 other books out from the library that I want to read, though, so they're going to get priority. ;) Not to mention a book dh gave me for Mother's Day that I still haven't finished reading and 3 other books loaned to me for reading... Apparently at the moment, however, a certain little someone has "left a present" in her diaper, so I must go attend to that!

Summer is 1/4 done

I had the realization that today is the 15th, which means that July is half done, which means that summer is 1/4 done. WHAT?! I'm not ready for that! What can I do to make the most of the remaining weeks? :)

Right now, the house is in chaos: carpet ripped up in the living room, lino in the process of being removed in the kitchen, walls on that level almost all repainted, stuff stored everywhere else... And 5 kids to watch and do things with each day. Typically, there's somebody in the kitchen and a couple of people in the living room, then a couple downstairs. Now we have to stuff ourselves into a crowded downstairs family room (because, of course, some things from the living room have gotten moved there) or try to split ourselves up between bedrooms and the family room. The family room is so stuffed, though, there's hardly room to do anything. *sigh*

We did have some wonderful company stay with us last week, though, so that was a highlight of our summer so far. (Yes, before the carpet was ripped up. ;) ) Having our visitors meant I stopped doing our morning mini-schooling. With things everywhere, I have no desire to really begin again just yet. Or not this week anyhow. After late nights last week and then we went to the waterpark on Sunday, I feel like I'm still recovering. I'm babbling, aren't I? Anyhow, my thoughts just switched to I *would* like to resume some schooling tomorrow morning. Just a bit of math with each of them. Dd really needs to master her math facts and learn division/fractions this summer to start her grade 7 program in the fall. Ds was just neglected mathematically this year. So, there we go.

Of course, it would help my mornings more if I didn't sit at the computer in my pj's until 8am, like today, and then have to rush to get myself ready before nieces and nephew arrive...

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Since my 11yo dd has friends who have read Twilight and seen the movie, she's had some interest in reading the book, too. Given the many things I've heard from parents who have NOT allowed their children to read the book, I told her I had to read it first and give my approval. Putting it off for sometime as I'm not usually into romances nor vampire books, I finally gave into my parental duty and picked up both Twilight and New Moon while at the library today.

Let me say this: nothing in the book comes even close to being as complex as the sentences above. Heck, the book is even less sophisticated in style and language than the first Harry Potter. Yes, you got that right: Harry Potter requires a higher reading level ability than Twilight. As I was reading, I was thinking, "Good grief, my 8yo son would be able to read this." I even looked it up online: an estimated gr. 4 reading level book.

I could try and say, "Well, a lower level reading is good because older kids who are struggling will have success with this book." But I can't. I despise this book. It's corny and sappy and, imho, horribly written. Bella comes across as a typical *junior* high school girl (even though her mom apparently thinks she is "mature for her age", more like 35 than 17), complete with "love at first sight" syndrome, lack of self-confidence and obedient. Edward's a moody jerk who tells her what to do all the time. And he can't bloody stop smirking or "chuckling". Other characters also come off as jr. high-ish and totally unbelievable. And just the whole flow and their stupid conversations... Good grief! The whole thing is frustrating me! I don't get what people are liking so much.

I'm about halfway through and can't say that I've found anything, so far, inappropriate for my dd to read, but let me tell you, it's getting painful! I don't think there's any way I could force myself to read New Moon to check if it's okay. After my tirades on the ridiculousness of the book, perhaps my dd won't even want to read the series. One can always hope! ;)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Insets and letters and placement

It just goes to show how making sure that there are things in the environment to connect with, and helping the child see those things, can help inspire the child!

I was cleaning up the materials shelves the other day--they've been woefully neglected for sometime. The cleaning made the sandpaper letters very noticeable, especially since I was standing right there. My 4yo niece saw them and just *had* to go practise some right away. :)

A few days later, I was cleaning out a box I had just thrown a bunch of stuff into and there were the insets. I put them on the table and the same niece just *had* to do some. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to sneakily re-present them to her. She's an independent sort and if she's already been shown something, doesn't really like to have someone show it to her again. Sort of an attitude of, "You've already shown me this, you know!" So I started one inset while she worked on tracing others and asked her if she remembered how I'd done all the tiny lines before. Instead of doing all the lines close together, I told her how dd and ds used to do them, and did one with the lines all very far apart. I said it was okay if they started out like that and that they would get closer and closer together with practice. Ah, my indirectness paid off: she made her first real attempt at doing an inset with the lines in the middle. :)

My next step is to figure out what I would actually like to show her and try to help her connect with the materials more often and make sure the shelves have things well placed. I also still haven't figured out any sort of plan for with the older kids. However, I guess it's only been the first week, we've been ridiculously busy, and next week isn't any better. *sigh* I guess the week after!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

First order is in!

I guess technically first *2* orders. :)

I was talking to dh and he was telling me how great the new math program is. I had already been planning on using it for dd, but he gave me even more info. He'll be teaching gr. 7 math next year and will have all kinds of teacher resources available that I can use. Plus, he said I should get the workbook. I didn't even know there was a workbook because Learning Resources Centre doesn't have it. Went to Chenelière and found the workbook; also added in a gr. 4 workbook of the same program for ds AND found grammar workbooks for each of them. My orders for both places have gone in. Woo hoo! I'm so excited already to start the next school year. lol

I still need to decide what to do about science and social studies. I may head over to Montessori Research and Development for at least a starting idea. The same topics can be presented to ds and dd, but just have dd go further. I've looked at some middle school Montessori sites but nothing has really clicked for me.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Almost done!

The school year is almost officially done! It's nice, yet at the same time, kind of funny, since I'm restarting working with my 2 on Monday and am planning on doing more Montessori with my nieces and having educational/fun activities (maybe science-based) at least a few times a week for my nephew and ds! I have decided to do some inner preparation and have taken out 2 Montessori books I saw at the library tonight: Montessori in the Classroom and Montessori in the Home: the Preschool Years. Of course, I have something like 10-15 other books out to read, not including recipe books...


Bob's schooling for next year is somewhat falling into place. He seems at peace with what he's decided and the plan for him to take 4 or 5 years to finish what is normally 3 years of high school. He's also kind of "getting it" that he chose not to work to his ability this year and his report card will show that. So, for next year, correspondence through a homeschool school (yes, that's right; Albertans most likely know what I mean ;) ), with him taking 26 credits instead of the typical mandatory 40 credits for in-school students. Frankly, *I* find it a relief that he will only be doing part-time essentially. He's doing math (one course each semester), science (one course each semester), ELA (will probably take all year with me supplementing for his basic skills work and to prep him to be able to move up to a higher ELA level) and a course that deals with photography and other types of media (all year course, although only 1 credit, so very light!). I am confident that a rule can be easily instituted and followed, without him feeling overwhelmed, that he do his science, math and English every morning and can have the afternoons free for us to do more project-type stuff (like his media course), more "homeschooling" stuff rather than just coursework. The correspondence is just part of his education; he needs more than that!


Dd has chosen to NOT do the APS science 7. She thought she *had* to for some reason. I said no. So now I have to figure out what to do with her for science. I have picked out her German resources for next year and have an order form ready for that and her math. Still need to make a more specific plan for ELA, French, and social, and now science.


Ds is a little reading machine. I can't believe this is the same kid who, in September, really wasn't reading at all. He read aloud more than half a book on spiders to me tonight. Almost no errors, great fluency. One of the pages he read to me (p. 16 from "Spiders" by Nic Bishop):
A spider does not have a nose or ears, at least not like you do. Even so, it has extraordinary senses all over its body. Take a close look. You will see this spider is covered with hairs. Many of these sense touch, vibrations, and sounds. Hairs on a spider's legs can sense the sound of a flying insect. Other organs on the feet can smell and taste things just by walking on them. A spider can even recognize the taste of its own silk by touching it.
What I want to know is this: HOW THE HECK DOES HE KNOW ALL THOSE WORDS??? Like extraordinary and recognize? I had spent the previous months only reading to him in French, so it's not like he was seeing words like that as I read them. Which begs the question: how does he know ANY of those English words? The only two words out of all the pages that he asked me how to read were enough and chitin (which even I didn't know--it's pronounced ki-tin (kind of like kite-in)).


With summer approaching and me being woefully bad about recording stuff that the kids did this past year, I decided I would use Homeschool Tracker and train myself over the summer to use it, at least for my 2. I discovered, however, that it's not compatible with a Mac unless you install some program that allows you to access Windows (which you install separately). Seems like kind of a pain. I might just try to get used to using the laptop for it all. Although, I think I need a journal that I keep out and write in, and then plug everything into the computer in the evening. At some point, start switching over the responsibility of recording to them--like in many Montessori schools and like the 3 oldest used to do!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Next year thinking

Don't I do this every year? Start planning out next year before this year is even done? :) I actually started a few weeks back. Decided to take it up again this evening and am looking specifically at dd's gr. 7 year. (OMG! Did I just write that?? GRADE **7**!)

She wants her papa to be somewhat in charge of her math and French, which will basically just mean that he says, "Do this," and then she shows him. Because he no longer teaches grade 7, he might not be able to set up quizzes and tests for her (yes, she WANTS to do that!), but I can always put things together and he assigns them to her. ;) Although I think we do have a test bank for the science program from when he was teaching gr. 7 science. We're hoping he'll be able to borrow some textbooks from the school, but if not, it turns out these 2 texts aren't too expensive. She will be doing the new grade 7 math program using the French text and the French science text used in schools here.

I've looked at authorized resources for our public schools here and think I've picked on a program that actually looks good and that isn't too difficult for me! ;) She wants some structure and doing more stuff and this particular program comes with a text, a workbook and 2 audio cd's--which means she won't have to rely on my pronunciation. My pronunciation isn't bad, but it's certainly not the "real thing".

She's doing so well in terms of the amount she reads and her writing... I don't know that I would want to encourage her to do much more other than perhaps spelling and grammar. And show her how to do an essay. I could also give her the link to the recommended jr. high/sr. high books for schools here and she could find some books to read.

Now that's a toughy. I want to do more formal spelling and grammar with her but not sure what approach to take yet. 

For reading, I thought about finding out what texts they use in schools here, but that was hard to determine and I decided probably not worth it. My idea is that we can find 2 copies of French books from the library and choose a title to study together. We can do it as kind of a reading group format. We could also keep a vocabulary journal for the words we don't know. I'm discovering that children's French literature has a whole ton of words I don't know, especially the translated-from-English books. It's truly atrocious how difficult the translators seem to want to make the books. A gr. 2/3 English book can end up being a gr. 5 French book after translation! 

For writing, I'm thinking of reinstating Writing Workshop with her and including ds and my niece into it. I think it would be a good collective, relaxed approach, with no pressure, which is what both my kids need right now in terms of making progress in writing in French.

Social studies
I haven't a clue. I keep saying I want her to learn world geography, but never follow through. I should maybe find some sort of program/curriculum, even if it's just for ME to be able to say to her, "Go do a project on this." I'd like her to have a sound knowledge of world geography. I'd like her to know a good deal about Canadian history. Other than that, a general knowledge of history, big events and people... I think I need to find some sort of a sequence somewhere I can follow instead of trying to think up in my head who knows what.

Other than that, I guess there's art (she might take art classes; we also have some good art instruction books; could also do art appreciation; I've got various resources on seasonal and holiday crafts), music (she doesn't want to be told to do anything in this area; however, I could still plan a sort of music appreciation and I know she always plays more instruments when *I* start playing again), phys. ed. (she might do gymnastics again, but she wants to try karate or other martial art), health (do I really need to do anything? actually, I've got an A Beka health book I could encourage her to look through)... 

What else does someone do in jr. high? Home ec.; she already does sewing on her own and has been doing more cooking with me. I'd really like to encourage her to do typing, but I think that will only happen if she sees me doing a typing program, too. There's also other computer learning, but she already usesFor the Montessori aspect of it, I'd really like to find a way to have her volunteer or otherwise be involved in the community. I'll need to look at some Erdkinder ideas. I actually had some great ideas a month or so back when I was reading something and now the ideas are totally gone. *sigh*

Monday, June 01, 2009



At a time when only seven in 10 American students are leaving high school with a diploma, President Barack Obama is demanding that the nation lift its educational sights by asking all Americans to commit to at least one year of education after high school. 

My initial reaction is: So what?! 

Followed by: Why is there such a focus on a diploma instead of on an education?

Frankly, I've reached a point where I couldn't care less if my kids get a high school diploma. That may come across as shocking, but a diploma, at least here, means covering some very specific things that the government has decided upon. It's not so much a high school diploma as a provincial diploma for high schoolers.

There is a mistaken notion that a diploma *means* something more than it actually does; that by having a diploma, you are somehow better educated than someone who doesn't have a diploma.


Thomas Edison never had a diploma. He was probably better educated by the age of 12 than any of our students today graduating with diplomas.

Having a high school diploma provides an indication of having done certain coursework required in your area. It speaks nothing of the actual level of your education.

Not to mention the fact that you can barely pass the courses (which is 50% here) and still get your credits and your diploma. How does that mean you are educated? And what about the fact that so much of the school work is cram, cram, cram for the exam, and forgotten about shortly after? Somebody did a very small study here a few years back taking students who had done very well on their diploma exams. I think it was 4 months (it wasn't more than 6 months) after they did the exams, they were asked to redo the same exams they had done. They had no prior notification and were therefore not able to study. Needless to say, they did not do as well. Most of the exams were barely passed or were failed. What had those students actually learned? Their transcripts said they'd learned the stuff well; the follow-up exams disagreed.

And then, the actual content of the courses can be somewhat pitiful. It's so focused on cramming as many diverse topics as possible within a course that often it doesn't go into deeper detail to provide true understanding. I can't count the number of times the 18yo has asked me some deeper question about her biology. She's got to try to remember a ton of different things, yet would she not actually be better educated if she had the opportunity to really go in-depth on fewer things?

It feels somewhat like the diplomas of today are reflective of our materialistic culture: more, more, more.  It doesn't matter these days if things are true quality (remember how TVs and toasters and toys were QUALITY and lasted for years and years and years?); the focus is that a ton of stuff be covered so that surface-wise, it can appear that our students know oh-so-much, what the government of Alberta calls on their website "high quality curriculum".

Yeah, whatever. Especially since to be grammatically correct, it should be "high-quality curriculum".

Friday, April 17, 2009

Not much to say!

Things have been slow going. I did pull out the sandpaper letters for my niece and she wants to do them ALL. I showed her some--and then ds went and showed her others that she wanted to do. :) Since she had already started writing in print, I have been showing her the print, while still offering the cursive. Sometimes she asks for the cursive after seeing it in print. If she asks for the cursive, she will then attempt to write letters in cursive on paper afterwards. Fun stuff!

With a 4-day Easter weekend and then "Bob" gone these past 2 days for a dive trip, it just hasn't felt like we've been able to get into any routine. I've realized, though, that I haven't exactly worked out specifics for a routine to follow. So I've started writing out some stuff and will treat Monday like a new beginning. Bob, I think, is really craving structure and dependable routines right now. He appears to be going through some stuff right now and being more specific and explicit and structured with him feels like the right way to go. It's always hard figuring out that balance: when does direction become too much?

Other than that, we've been to the museum today, checking out (yet again!) the penguin exhibit. The 18yo hadn't seen it yet. It's great! Gotta love those year passes that allow you to go as often as you wish. ;)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

He's done it again!

My only-recently-decided-to-read 8yo son has done it yet again!

Out of the blue this morning, during a time when he's usually playing, he said to me he wanted a "big" book that he could read. Now, understand that he's not really read ANY books, just little things here and there. I asked him how big. I offered him a couple of gr. 2-3 French books and even offered the first Harry Potter in English. I went about trying to find some other books in our shelves during which time he settled upon Harry Potter.

Well, the darn kid sat down on the sofa for probably the next 45 minutes or so and READ. I asked him at one point how it was going and at what part he was at. He told me what was going on. He's not reading super quickly, but he's definitely reading it. I told him he amazes me. He asked why. I said, "Well, has anybody ever sat and taught you to read in English?" He smiled. "No." "Well, that's why you amaze me. Everything is just clicking on its own."

Gotta love being able to let him dictate his pace!!!!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Spring break is done

Our spring break is officially done. I have today to get everything ready. But I have to be careful: I've been catching myself this week at trying to add too much in for next week. Let me think "out loud" here a bit:

*It's Holy Week--must have some Easter things prepared. (Like what? my brain is asking me.) Well, um... Crafts for sure. Maybe the Stations of the Cross or daily Bible readings. Or both. lol.
*The 18yo--she needs to know what to get done this week, and I need to have things ready for that (math and bio, plus I need to read in Pride and Prejudice so we can discuss and I'm prepared for questions that she asks).
*"Bob" needs to have a list of what work to do this week.
*I managed to show my niece one Montessori thing this past week. That seems like a reasonable goal at the moment! lol. So, this week, I will show her some sandpaper letters. :)
*I feel like I need a checklist for myself, a checklist of all the things I should at the very least think about doing on a given day for school stuff.

Other things I wanted to add in: Choice Theory info, read to them from Success Principles for Teens, daily or almost-daily spelling, math facts and pre-algebra "quizzing" together, daily meetings to deal with routines and issues... I think I need to decide what feels most important and just do one of these this week.

Okay, gotta get to work!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


My 4yo niece was in search of something to do so I pulled out the insets and showed her how to trace around the inside shape and then fill in the shape. Of course, that means the 3 oldest are also now doing insets...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

4 days left!

We are sooooo already into Spring Break mode. I was going to try to get, or rather encourage, Bob to do a lot this week to catch up more, but we are all so very ready for a break and the weather is finally improving and we're seeing sun and some melting... He must, must, must get a math test done this week. How to tie Choice Theory into it so that he motivates himself to study? Gotta think about that one. Maybe I'll just brainstorm here:
*So, you have this math test to do this week. How well would you like to do on it? What do you think a student would have to do to make sure that they get that mark?

I need to put together a sampler of the types of questions he will have to do on the test. Maybe see, too, if there are some online games or activities that he can do. He hates writing, doesn't pay super attention when I'm showing him or explaining to him (because he doesn't really want to be doing it...), so it'd be helpful to find some other venue.

The 18yo is probably in Poland right now. I think she is heading to Auschwitz tomorrow. What an experience! To get back to schooling, I do need to start working on her plan for the end of the year--she's got a lot of work to cover given our Feb. and March were so slow and she's been gone. I also want to look at Choice Theory and how I can incorporate it to help her motivate herself. I think she is a "house divided": she does want to go into nursing, but she wants to wait a year; on the flip side, she doesn't want to disappoint her parents or cause further problems so she feels she "has to" go to university next year. I think the struggle between the two is creating some motivation issues. Not doing well enough to get into the nursing program may hurt, but it also means that she would not be able to go to university next year... I don't think she's consciously choosing it, just that there's this internal struggle.

I've also been seeing a lot of control issues with all of the kids the past while. I was aware of it before reading about Choice Theory and really seeing it now. I need to present Choice Theory to them if I'm to see some significant changes around here. I just don't know how! (Charlotte, help! lol) I also think that perhaps the two oldests' perceived control by their parents is affecting them in their school work. The 18yo said to me at one point this semester that she wants it all laid out, what she has to do each day, etc. She doesn't want to be the one to lay it out--I think she's so used to having things decided for her, she's maybe not as ready as she once used to be to take charge. Of course, I also need to do some self-examination and see how much I may be using controlling language myself.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

One week until spring break

I have one week of school left with my dd, ds, "Bob" and my 2 nieces. Bob's got a math test to do this week and some catching up. Dd and ds... I haven't really thought about their week yet. Dd is at a sleepover at a friend's (the 3rd night! I'm missing her!) and I won't be getting her until tomorrow afternoon so I don't really need to think about work for her for in the morning. Ds tends to work after supper. The (now!) 18yo is in the Czech Republic at the moment, although I do want to get moving on intense coursework for when she comes back.

In any case, that leaves me a week until spring break. I don't have the two oldest during spring break (not unless the 18yo really wants to do some work that week and needs help), but I do have both my nieces as well as their 8yo brother. I don't want it to just be a free-for-all--I know what can happen. Besides, there are so many great things I could invite them to do! But I'm having trouble of thinking of them. ;)

So, I invite people to share some interesting educational/explorational things I could do with the kids during spring break. At the moment, I do know that I want one day to be a Cupcake Day--I have a fantastic book called "Hello, Cupcake!" and we can try out some fancy cupcakes. We may also have one of dd's friends over one day and another one over another day. Hm... I might have more kids around here than I had realized. :) It's all good! I seem to have a need for lots of kids. lol.

Back to what I was saying: Share some ideas!! What would you do with an 11yo, 2 8yo's, a 4yo, a 16mo and possibly a 10yo or a 12yo during spring break?

Friday, March 20, 2009

There IS more to say!

Okay, I completely forgot to share about my son's reading progress.

Something clicked in me that his way of doing things is to observe, then do. So, instead of having him read to me each day, we've been trying to do more of me reading to him and I'll keep my finger under the words. Somehow, everything is clicking more, even for English even though I've only been reading to him in French. He's reading all kinds of crazy English words and doing very well in French. He's now started trying to write more things. Of course, he HAD to be "backwards" in terms of Montessori and prefer to do the reading before the writing... He's actually initiated copywork. How can I complain about that? :D

What to say?

It's been a while. Crazy. Since my last posting, I've had shingles, we've had uncooperative weather, illness, tiredness and not a whole lot of work getting done.

I'm still reading about Choice Theory and loving it. It's still not all really clicking just yet, but it's getting there.

I really want to figure out how to set up my day differently so that I can start doing lessons with my 4yo niece. She has been super keen on writing letters and even decided, on her own, to copy "Harry Potter" off of my dd's book. She did an amazing job. It's time to get serious about letter knowledge with her!

Friday, January 30, 2009


While I have  Montessori from the Start out from the library, I have not yet been able to sit down and read through it to get some ideas for my 14mo niece. Today, she was into EVERYTHING--pulling down CDs and books and trying to get at the laptop and snooping through the 17yo's bag and stealing her metal water bottle. She (my niece) took the bottle over to the kitchen sink, held up the bottle and made some noises for our attention. She wanted to drink water! It was so wonderful to see--the kids were so impressed that such a little creature with so few words can still clearly let us know what she wants.

This idea of a bottle clicked in my head and I grabbed clean Gatorade bottle and the top off the counter and gave it to her. She must have spent the next 30 minutes putting the top on, twisting slightly, taking it off, "drinking" from it, putting the top back on... At one point, she took her own bottle--one of those little Rubbermaid containers with straws--and put it at the top as though she were pouring water from her bottle into the Gatorade bottle. She'd then "drink" again from the Gatorade bottle and continued putting the top on and off. At one point, she got the top on too well and couldn't get it back off, which caused a bit of fussing on her part. It was so much fun to watch!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Montessori from the Start

I've had to put a request in to the library for Montessori from the Start: my younger niece has become TROUBLE! She's 14 months, doing her own form of scooting, but pulling herself up anywhere and everywhere and touching all kinds of things she shouldn't, like the laptop. Yes, yes, I know Montessori is all about the environment, but the environment is our home and school and there are certain things that can't be moved (like the electric piano covered with a homemade wood top) and are a horrible inconvenience if moved (like the laptop). If I can provide more suitable activities to attract her attention, perhaps I can have her avoid things like grabbing onto the piano lid that can come crashing down on her...

Montessori Today

I have Montessori Today: A Comprehensive Approach to Education from Birth to Adulthood out from the library. I've actually had it out for a couple of weeks. In any case, I sat down last night and started reading it. It feels so good. :) I had been reading a Sudbury book and while part of me is very pulled towards that model, at the same time, I see clearly how that model works best when you have a LARGE multi-aged group of kids. I also really feel that adults can definitely be more involved in guiding kids than simply waiting for them to ask. I didn't learn to skate because I asked my mom; she simply said one day, "Let's go skating!" (Admittedly, I fussed and moaned and said I couldn't do it while she was present on the ice. She took off to the bathroom, during which point I learned to skate. :) ) I think Montessori provides that balance of, "Hey, here's something I'd like to show you," but then you back off and let the child decide how far to go with it.

My Montessori plans for today? To read more. It's Friday, I may very well have my nephew again today (he's been not feeling super great the past couple of days), and that throws off the general routine of the house. We were supposed to be out this afternoon for snowboarding lessons, but with a high of -26 predicted, we are NOT going. Let's see, I can be more creative than that. Okay, I'll invite my niece and ds to plant cleaning (you use a little bowl of water, a Q-tip and a small square of paper towel). Ds (8yo) already knows how to clean plants, but he loves it and would enjoy showing dn (dear niece :) ). She's also got into cutting, so if I could find those pages that one mom/Montessori teacher sent me, I could put those out for her, too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Um, well, it's been a while, hasn't it?

I did start doing some Montessori with my niece, but I have to admit to it not lasting long. We ended up having sick kids in the house and just lots of busy-ness. For a long time!

The oldest's exams are almost entirely done for this semester and we are now on a bit of a downtime. It's a perfect time for me to really figure out some things in terms of Montessori and homeschooling.

I have NOT been reading Montessori as I had been and know that if I want to implement it more, I need to read more. The reading helps create the vision in my head of how things can be and I need that vision to be able to really do something.

The multi-aged group I have, with the different (non-Montessori) programs, makes Montessori difficult. At the same time, if I spent more time reading Montessori, perhaps a vision of how to fit it all together would work!

So, there we go, my plan for this next week is to read, read, read in search of a vision to how things can be smoother around here.