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