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. ;)