Friday, November 26, 2010

Official Notice :)

This is my notice that there will be no new posts on this blog. I am keeping it open since there are people who come visit by searching specific Montessori things and such in Google, but there will be nothing new on this blog! Given the lack of substance in the posts for at least a few months now, I'm sure this won't be too great of a surprise. ;) Just thought I would make it official so those who aren't subscribed but keep visiting will know there will be nothing new to check!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm not keeping up with this at all, am I?

Life is so very busy! And with Christmas holidays nearly here, it means the "work crunch", lol, as well as all the usual Christmasy stuff we do. I think we'll skip the Festival of Trees this year--although that's only being encouraged by the fact we're busy, not the sole reason. Every year, it's been less and less interesting, or they've had fewer and fewer activities. Kind of disappointing. I don't know, we'll see, I guess.

It's been very cold here these past few days, but finally warming up a bit. I do envy those who are in warmer places!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It is cold!

The weather changes far too quickly. It's hard to adjust to the cold like this. Sounds like a good time, though, to think about including seasons, winter, something along those lines into our schooling! :) I just hope it's not too cold for Halloween.

October has been insane. Between birthdays, Thanksgiving, an early Christmas, get-togethers with friends, families, school activities, a visit to Telus World of Science to check out the Lego exhibit (very cool, I highly recommend), and the kids' extra-curricular activities, it has been crazy. Some things have had to be skipped over because they conflicted with something else. So busy that one friend said to me after we had lunch together one day and she'd heard about it all, "I'm honoured you fit me into your October!" lol.

Just a few more days of October. November will still be hectic, but not insane. I hope. ;D

Sunday, October 03, 2010

One month done!

I guess it was an okay start to the year. We need to work on our work habits!

Social studies is actually turning out to be okay, at least for now. The first unit is on globalization and has lead to some interesting conversations.

I haven't been doing German with my two. That's a shame. Have to work on some goals and plans for October.

September was quite busy; October is going to be even busier. Expect even fewer posts from me!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Free Admission Sunday!

Just read about Free Admission Sunday going on tomorrow. The city offers free admission to city-owned attractions, such as the zoo, and some of the rec centres. Maybe we'll try to get in on that!

Could life be any busier?

Not sure what to recap on. Life has just been so busy around here! Meeting up with friends, the weekly French get-together, evening activities, visit to Telus World of Science, a birthday and more. Stuff has gotten done school-wise, but it's been slow going. The weather has not been helping at all--until the past few days, dreary, cloudy, often rainy, cold. And we've all been fighting off something!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The latest

Um... LOL.

Can't skip Social 10. So, Bob has to do all three social studies within the next 2 years. We will do it! Darn province!

Other than that, it feels like the school year is going by far too quickly. This month is already half done. I need to make sure we stay on top of our work, while still making time for fun stuff. :) One thing we want to do this year are visit Telus World of Science a lot. Not sure what else! Too sleepy this morning.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Busy, busy!

Very busy around here with schedules all over the place between some kids in school, then not, and after school and now Bob has decided he's going for a diploma! So, on top of his Math 10 Pure (unofficial, because the province dropped it for Math 10-C, but 10P is a better choice before 20P next semester and his facilitator gave him the go-ahead), his Science 10 and half of the ELA 20-2 this semester, we need to add Phys. Ed. 10 and social of some sort. I'm hoping we can skip Social 10 completely. Maybe we'll work towards finishing ELA 20-2 this semester so we can move up to 20-1 next semester. We're meeting his facilitator within the next week so we'll be able to get everything sorted out.

Other than that, not much to report! Progressively getting into work here. And the weather is crummy. :(

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labour Day, the day we don't work ;)

Funny, isn't it?

I'll just think of it as a day to prepare ourselves to get working. School starts "for real" this week! All the discussing and planning are done, well, almost, and we are ready to get going. I've already decided no outings for the month, other than the essentials (library, meetings with facilitator). Well, maybe impromptu outings if the work is kept on top of. ;)

Friday, September 03, 2010

Had fun yesterday!

We met up with some friends yesterday and had some fun at a playground. It was so nice to chat and the kids had fun playing. :)

We're still not in work mode, but that's okay. Some schools don't start until Tuesday. We've still got some things to buy and some decisions to make. Hard to get started when things aren't all decided!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Donna Young

If you don't already know about this site http://donnayoung.org/index.htm , do check it out! Lots and lots of free printable stuff.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The environment

And no, I don't mean the one we normally talk about! I'm talking about the immediate environment of the children.

I have observed two striking things this week on how the environment affects children. The first was when my nieces and nephew arrived Monday morning to a completely different layout for the living room (our front door opens onto the living room, essentially) and different bookcases. This was a huge change for my 2.5yo niece and she came over to me and needed the security of being in my arms! She normally just gives me a smile and goes about her merry way. But this "new room" wasn't part of her sense of order, of how things *are* when she comes to my place, and it made her feel insecure. I don't recall how long she stayed in my arms, but I didn't make a big deal of it nor try to separate her from me and once her security level was back to high, she played and moved about her day like nothing had changed.

The second striking observation on how important the environment is on the children and how it affects them was today. I was finishing up getting things in order in the family room, but there was this one little table there that dh had brought down from the living room. I had no idea what his plans were for it, so I set it up next to the one rocker-recliner. I didn't think anything more of it, but knew the girls needed some activities they could do independently while I kept trying to get everything in order elsewhere, so I pulled out some different things on the shelves and put them at different spots at the kitchen table. Not only did that work beautifully, but my 5yo niece came downstairs to see what else was in the shelves. (Shows she recognized everything as having been from the shelves.) She picked something, saw the little table there, pulled up a little stool we have in the family room and proceeded to work at this little table. She naturally had to share this delightful experience with me :D--and it truly was delightful for her. This little change in the environment, providing her with a different experience, truly delighted her. Of course, it was a humbling moment as it pointed out to me that I do not regularly provide variety. :S

There is so much to be learned from children!

I *was* reading "Real Boys"...

I had started reading the book "Real Boys" by William Pollack. Although some of the information in the early chapters gave me some "aha!" moments on my son, most of it felt like I was dragging myself through it. And I haven't made it very far in the book. I decided to pick up the reading pace a bit this morning while eating breakfast and got to a part where he takes a definite jab at Michael Gurian (another person involved in raising boys, understanding men, all that). He took some quote of Gurian's (did not even provide a source for the quote) that was completely out of context and to me, was not even saying what Pollack was trying to make it sound like Gurian was saying.

My interest in the book is now killed. However, I may just start looking into Gurian's work. :)

Off to get moving on another busy day!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who has time for homeschooling?!?!

I can't report on any homeschooling progress. Been far too busy the past couple of days to be able to even think of homeschooling. Now my focus is really just to hopefully have the house back in order before school really starts next week!! The busyness for the week isn't done...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hehe, my typing doesn't keep up with my thoughts

If you read yesterday's post, you might have noticed that I indicated the piano was $10 at the music store. I've now corrected my mistake--it's $10 CHEAPER at the music store. ;)

Since I'm in here, let's see what I've accomplished:

*I have a very basic plan for the week written out: math and/or handwriting each day *with* ds (not just have him do it, but do it with him); dd will be asked to do at least 30 minutes of some sort of school stuff (yes, it can be piano, although she's not as interested since she's waiting for the new one and we can't find the damper pedal for the current one); with my 5yo niece, if I only do one thing this week with her, it will be to practise letters in sand, especially a's and other similar letters. A's and d's I think would be particularly good, without any mention of b's. And finally into her whole name--she has a tendency to do some of the letters in capitals, with the rest in print. Yes, I'll be doing it in print, but that's because she always writes her name in print and she'll be heading off to Kindergarten next week and I think showing her how to write the letters in her name a little better is perfect preparation.

*Got the books moved over from the living room bookshelves and even took some books that had been stuffed into the den on the new shelves. There is STILL room for more! Yay! Also moved over all of the CD's that were in the aquarium stand (aquarium was on top; cd's and bookshelf stereo underneath). Dh still has to empty the aquarium, although I did manage to pull two other snails out yesterday.

*I have some thoughts down for Bob's first week, which is really only 3 days. The following week is only 4 days. Nice way to start the year, I think! What are my thoughts? Well, I think we need to start out quite structured and let the structure disappear as needed as the semester moves along. I did that when he and his sister first started and it worked very well. What I did NOT do was restart and insist on the high structure in subsequent years; I think that made things more difficult as everything slips into entropy and it all just seemed to get worse year by year.

Okay, enough thoughts for now. Time to get on with my day!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

So much to do!

We are just a bustle of activity right now, and in the middle of that bustle of activity, I still have to try to figure out school stuff, routines, etc.!

We decided to purchase some new bookcases and a "sofa table" for our living room, which, of course, requires emptying the old ones and whatnot. Dh has given up waiting for the fish to die of old age, so they were given away yesterday, but the tank is still not emptied--dh spent most of yesterday afternoon and into the evening putting together the new furniture. There are still about 10 snails in the tank and I hope to be able to rescue them and add them to the almost 30 rescued yesterday from the decorations, and I'm not sure how many snails the mom who took the fish took. We had a lot of snails. Just little guys, but still.

So, there's trying to get the books all moved over in a reasonable fashion, figure out what to do with the games we were keeping upstairs (the new shelves don't have any doors, so no toy bins or games can be hidden behind with them) and all that. Dh is actually out at my mom and step-dad's today helping reshingle their roof, so I've got to try to get through what I can today on my own.

Once the upstairs shelves are emptied, dh can move them elsewhere. One of them will go into the family room, where we've been complaining about not having proper room for the dvd's and blu-rays. There, problem solved. The other of the same size and style, I think dh was going to put in the den. That means cleaning up and moving around some stuff in there. I don't know what he was going to do with the shelves the aquarium is now on. It might become the new tv stand for the tv in the basement (the tv is actually on a very small, cheap night table--the whole thing wobbles if you're not careful!).

Add to all of that, part of the rearranging will involve having a new electronic full-size piano--which I don't have yet, would like to buy from a specific store, but they don't know when it'll be in. I don't want to move the old one out until the new one is in, even though the old one is all crackly and undependable for the sound. I may give in and go to Best Buy. I'd so much rather support the music store, though. Besides, it's about $10 cheaper, I think, at the music store. ;)

I have been working on plans for the school year. I need to be a little more specific with Bob's plans because the school wants deadlines and resources and such, at least for his science and ELA. We're doing math on our own (not through homeschool registration; we need to keep him as entirely teacher-directed) because the province decided to drop that math course, but he needs that math course to be able to do the best he can 2nd semester in Math 20 Pure, which the province has not yet dropped. Confusing.

For my kids, I don't have a month-by-month plan yet. So far, I've worked out some things for dd for September:

*German: This is mostly my job, making sure to add new vocabulary each day, use it with her, we'll keep track of words maybe on a large sheet of paper that's out in the open, make some labelling cards, etc. There's no specific goal here other than just get going with it and keep adding on to it!

*Math: Life of Fred. I've told her, and will remind her, that I want her to do a minimum of 5 hours a week in math. That sounds like so much. I might be willing to make it 4. Then she can easily break it down into 4 hour-long sessions and take a day off, or spend 2 days doing 2 hours. I'll talk with her about it. My main goal is to make sure she's working on it. She's only on the first book right now, which is definitely below her "grade level" (not that that matters), and I know she will enjoy the next book, so I want to ensure that she gets through it, completes it, has that satisfaction of having it done and moves along. I will ask her if she wants more tables practice. She's gotten bored of sheets, but seems to like random problem solving questions here and there or collective game style.

*French: September's goal is to get her writing a bit each day in French. It can be just a decent-sized paragraph, but she has to get writing in French. She reads a TON in English and writes a TON in English, even though French is her first language. I would not forgive myself if I let her French slide to the point that she will finish school not feeling capable of reading and writing in French!

*Science: I don't know. She was very interested at one point this past spring to study human biology. I may just have her get going on that, kind of following typical APS or high school outcomes.

*Social Studies: I'm going to encourage study of Aztec and other similar civilizations. I'm not sure how Montessori junior highs cover this kind of thing, or even if they specifically do, but rather than the elementary level's focus on needs, her fascination is on their beliefs. I think studying specifically their religion and government would fit well with her age level.

*Music: She already has this decided upon: piano. I think as part of all of her work, I will give her a tracking calendar so she can track when and how long she is spending playing piano, etc.

*Art: At least once a week. She can go with her own idea or work her way through the art course books we have. I bought the grade 7 and grade 8 texts that our school board uses (I could have rented them, but I but them both for cheaper than the price of renting a single text for the year!), plus we found a really good painting course book. Just have to get her started on it and she'll be good to go.

*Religion: She has decided that she does want to be confirmed this year. I haven't figured out a plan really for September yet. Mass, of course, and I think I might work through the grade 4 book of Faith and Life with her. It's got nice, simple foundational things in it. I need to check the contents for the grade 5-8 books and maybe see about getting some others to use during the year. Due to scheduling conflicts, she might not be able to participate in all of the sessions our parish runs for those seeking Confirmation, so I definitely need to do some things on the side. And I'm not thrilled about the fact our parish's preparation for Confirmation is pretty much a session each week for six weeks in a row--that doesn't feel like much of a preparation to me. So, we'll use the year to cover topics, questions, etc., through other resources than just the preparation sessions. Of course, encouraging daily Bible reading is always good! :)

*Health: September's focus is on healthy eating, specifically, on eating enough fruits and veggies. I've slowed down my raw food exploration, but it's gaining momentum again and I hope to be able to provide some alternative things for her rather than just basic fruits and veggies.

Whew! That's a lot. Time for me to get back to reorganizing things!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Oh, forgot--who needs button dressing frames???

Yesterday, I served as a large-button dressing frame for my 2.5yo niece. I was feeling a little cold and grabbed a cardigan with large buttons, but left it undone. Well, this was just way too much temptation for this little one. We were on the sofa and she did one of them up. I got up and she kind of fussed that she wasn't done. LOL. So, I stood until she had finished doing all 6 or something buttons. I'm thinking it might be a good idea to leave that particular sweater out so that she can keep doing it next week if she wants to.

This reminds me, too, that my 5yo niece has recently learned how to tie shoes. I can't remember if she'd ever done any of the practice stuff in the past, but if so, it wasn't all of the steps. I showed her a couple of times last week, her mom showed her 2 or 3 times and the 5yo said her dad showed her once, too. Well, she's got it. Sure, like all beginners, she doesn't quite get it tight enough, but she does the whole process masterfully. Just goes to show that when they are ready, away they go!

A little blogging this Saturday morning

I thought I'd just babble a bit this morning. Lots of thoughts in my head!

First thought: Next week's gentle start to school time. The kids have honestly been so very good at keeping themselves reasonably busy, I don't feel guilty about not having had things prepared to do with them if they got too crazy. This past week was a sluggish week for us all in general--the weather, the forest fire smoke... I was feeling bad because here, again, I'm not anywhere close to 100%, but then I realized none of the kids really were, either. My 2.5yo niece had 3 days in a row of naps--for a girl who was having one nap every 3 days, that's a lot. My 5yo niece fell asleep on the sofa yesterday afternoon. They've all just been tired and affected by the weather and smoke. It's maybe a good thing that I wasn't prepared because then I would have felt like I had to present something!

But next week... Next week, I've already told my two that I want them to do some work. Now, at first, I was just thinking, for ds, that I'd give him a choice between handwriting or math facts. But I saw something in him last night, kind of helped by my current reading of "Real Boys", that he's been so busy with everybody else, he needs and wants to "reconnect" with me, so to speak. (He wanted to do some rowing last night at 7:45 and invited me to stretch near him. lol. I told him it wasn't a good time to be starting to exercise and we ended up playing Guess Who? instead. He beat me 4-0. Then he, dd and I watched part of X-Men in bed. He just wanted to have some time with me!) So, my thoughts are now turning towards what he needs right now, which is some time with me. I can still bring in work stuff, but I need to change the focus of it so that I make sure I'm with him, maybe doing the same type of work next to him or something we can do together.

Dd has pretty much planned to do piano all week. LOL. I'm thinking I might encourage her to get going again with Life of Fred (her math), but without "Bob" back, she might not be quite ready to move into those kinds of academics.

For the little ones... The littlest one (2.5yo) has found herself by herself a fair amount this week due to the bigger kids playing games in a dark basement--not quite the 2.5yo's thing. She is sooooo used to pretty much having her sister's constant companionship (is that a word?), that she was kind of out of sorts and didn't know what to do with herself (the 5yo is usually the one who decides or initiates things and the 2.5yo just follows). She wanted *me*, therefore, to do all kinds of things with her. Sometimes I would say yes, other times I would say, "Give me a few minutes," because I was busy with something else, and she would usually find something else to do. That said, I think it's time (haven't I written this before?) that I really consider starting her on the Montessori sequence of activities. She has been kept so busy with her sister and has tried to do everything her big sister's been doing, that there wasn't really the room to give her her own presentations. Big sister is going to be starting full-time school in a week and a half (well, kind of--kindergarten, so it'll be a half day or full day here and there, with school time increasing as the month of September progresses). And although I will have the others and need to keep them on track, especially Bob with his high school courses--not so much leeway there--this is a child who is going to want to be doing. Her big sister wasn't really like that, I don't think. She's always been the type to hold back, to watch, to just do something comfortable, although that has been changing the past year (she even allowed a crab on her hand the other day! this is the child who would not feed herself at age 1 because she didn't want to touch the food!). The littlest one, ever since becoming mobile, has been the one to do, do, do. She does love "reading books" and the like, but I also know she'll love doing practical life and sensorial and all of that. With a little 1yo boy being added to our mix in October sometime, it will also give her another focus. :)

Isn't that interesting. All the thoughts about school and planning and all that just seemed to stop. Must be time to go exercise. ;)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Insets--5yo style and 2yo style ;)

My 5yo niece decided to get creative with the insets. This is what she did the other day:



Her 2.5yo sister decided to do her own version of the creative version:



:D

Monday, August 16, 2010

I wonder what Maria would have done...

...if she had but a few children in the classroom and they all showed up tired, crabby and easily weepy?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Not ready for the week! :(

I had hoped to be a little more prepared for the week starting tomorrow, but I've been battling sinus problems this whole past week, and it's been even worse today. Not sure what was going on yesterday (geesh--that's how badly this is affecting me!), but I didn't sit down to plan anything. I ran errands, I know that. Laundry's not done. Bathrooms haven't been done. Vacuuming's not done. Ran some more errands today--got a little bookcase for ds's room (nice improvement over having books lined along the floor)--found myself some shoes, have had two naps today. I'm not kidding. It's 8pm and I'm ready to nap again. Maybe I should.

Talked to the kids about starting school stuff. Dd's ready to get going with piano, but not really ready to commit to anything else, which I can understand as she's just come back from camp. Ds isn't interested in starting at all. lol. My gut is constantly telling me to prepare some science stuff, yet I don't follow through. Why not? I don't know. I should, as per the Nike motto, just do it.

Okay, I'll just do something: clean the kitchen, tidy up a bit, then sit down with the science books I pulled out and pick something. Or maybe nap first. ;)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dd's back from camp

Not sure what to share about the past couple of days. School-wise, I have noticed that I really need to show my 5yo niece how to write a printed 'a' correctly. It almost looks like she's drawing it sigma-style. Other than providing colouring pages, I'm not sure I've done much directed stuff. I read a lot to the 2yo niece, pulled out some puzzles, ran some errands. Nothing very exciting nor Montessori. I've just really not been up to thinking and directing more than that!

I did clean up dd's room and purchased a new bedspread she'd seen in a Bed, Bath and Beyond flyer. It was all ready and set up for when she came home from camp today. Which was an experience, apparently. Dh went by himself to go get her, she got into the car and said she wasn't feeling great, then said she felt like she was going to throw up and within 15 minutes of leaving camp, blaugh. On herself, on the car door, seat, mat, speaker... Dh cleaned up a little bit what he could, but he didn't have a lot of  options on the side of the road. They had a 1.5-hour drive home to go, too. :( She seems fine now, but others at the camp apparently had this stomach bug, too, and others had it worse, so we'll just knock on wood. In any case, she was happy to come home to see her room cleaned up for her (she had complained before leaving that she wanted it clean but just felt like she never got anywhere with it) and the new bedspread in place. With her cat already sleeping on it. ;)

Dd's doing math calculations (with the calculator), calculating how many days we've been alive. I'm glad we count our age in years and not days. ;)

Let's see, what else? I've finally gotten to work on some year plans for dd and ds. Very brief year plans, but it's nice to get them down. I'm never very good at following the plans, but dd and I seem very motivated and focused. A good portion of it is stuff she wants to do: German, music, art and math. She is very eager for us to replace my old keyboard (did I already blog about that?), but we still need to wait because I want to try out the one I think we'll get.

I feel like I'm not making any sense. It's only 8pm but I'm thinking I ought to brush my teeth and put on pj's, curl up with a book and let myself fall asleep.

Back to what I was saying (this is the most disorganized blog post ever, isn't it?), it's nice to have at least something written down for both dd and ds. Kind of started the plan for "Bob", too, but he's only covering 3 subjects for first semester, so it's not too bad. Although I do have to figure out his English and which resources we will use.

The plans are very brief, as in, for example, dd's:

German:
*finish workbook
*check APS outcomes for grades 7 and 8
*use lots orally on a daily basis

Math:
*finish the first two Life of Fred books
*work on mastering tables

Etc.

There's a lot in dd's plans, but I think that's good. We spent so much of last year with her kind of flitting around, her wanting me to give her something to do, me not knowing what to give her. If I can have this basic plan in place, something we can refer to, then it'll be easy to go, "Well, you haven't worked on this and this, so get to it." ;D One thing I would like to figure out is how to meet the Montessori idea of having her involved in the community somehow, involved in how the world around her works. She would LOVE to have a part-time job, but she's 12 and looks 10. It's just not going to happen this year. If she gets more involved in producing art this year, that's always something she could work at--creating her own enterprise. She's a natural artist and loves it, but isn't always consistent. We have some fantastic resources for her this year and a little nudge will help her get going. I'm also hoping our school board will run a session again with the same painting instructor from this past year.

There are some little holes in her plan, like what to specifically study for social studies and science. I've got question marks beside the ideas. She learned a bit about the Aztecs while at camp, so that could be an interesting culture and history to delve into, or others in the same area and same time. Or I could take a CM approach, Ambleside's history recommendations or something else. I guess part of me is trying to find "the right" thing for her to study this coming year when it probably doesn't matter much. She loves *real* history, so right there, I can at least know in which direction to head for her, whereas for ds, right now it's all about maps and where places are in the world, etc. So, for his plan, I've got the focus on world geography for social studies. (Again, such disjointed sentences/paragraphs. I'm frankly too tired to care at the moment.) Ancient North and South American civilizations could actually be a fascinating topic for her, finding biographies, journals, etc. for her to go through.


All right, enough for tonight! My brain's turning to mush!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

So tired today

Feeling very tired today. And horribly congested. I'd love to be able to call in a substitute. ;)

This is the kind of day where one (okay, *I*) would really like to wing it, but I know the best thing I could do is to have some sort of plan. I'll start at least with a list of some easy-to-do activities:

*colouring pages
*paint
*story time
*movie
*tracing pages

I can't think of anything else at the moment. My mind is distracted by a Charlotte Mason site that a message I got linked to. I'm not finding this particular site very helpful, to be honest. Or rather, I'm having a problem with the inconsistency between what Charlotte Mason wrote and what this site suggests. The two don't fit and that always throws me for a loop. My brain just doesn't deal with it well at first.

At the same time, I'm all for people modifying things to suit their needs. I guess, in this case, my mental issue is that it's supposed to be teaching about CM and is not clarifying that there is an alteration of what is actually recommended by Charlotte Mason; at the same time, people are probably reading the books, so they'll know what Charlotte wrote anyhow.Just my quirky brain. And a tired one at that. I think I might actually be able to fall back asleep now, which I will go try and do.

Love

“She [Maria Montessori] taught me that one's love for others is more important than all the education in the world,” he says.

http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/society/article560903.ece

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Yesterday and today

So, yesterday was overplanned, as I expected, but I think that's a good thing, because when I did want to direct the girls, I had my plan there ready and just needed to pick something. Things didn't quite get rolling as I had hoped in the morning because I simply was not ready for the day when they showed up--I had not yet eaten breakfast! They were going to pick some dress up stuff, I said sure, but my 5yo niece changed her mind (which means her 2yo sister followed suit) and I suggested they find something in the shelves so I could go eat breakfast. The 5yo picked Playdough, including the doggie doctor toy that can be used with Playdough. It was an interesting choice, because right away, she started getting into medical care of the dog--her own dog had had some health issues the past week.

They did that for quite sometime, which allowed me to do some stuff around the house. When I saw that they had moved on from it, I asked if they wanted to listen to a story. As I shared earlier, I tried Beatrix Potter and that was a flop. The elephants book was great. After we were done that, the 5yo asked if there was something new for school that I could show her! :D I decided to show her the "prequel" to the teens boards since she is still having issues counting to 20 and reading numbers to 20. (Essentially, this is an activity with ten bars and the coloured bead stair. It went quite well.) After that, she wanted to play Chocolate Chip Math, which also got her brother and my ds involved. It was interesting to note that my bright 10yo nephew, going into grade 5 (just like ds) struggled with fairly simple subtraction (9-3). On the one hand, it made me feel better about not having drilled ds with subtraction, because he can't do 9-3 quickly either; on the other hand, it left me wondering about what they are now teaching in school because this is a boy who does fairly well in math, it seems to me--yet he declared yesterday, "I'm not very good in math." When kids say that, I think what they really mean is, "I'm not as capable as I'd like to be." Kids *want* to know the tables by heart, even if they don't necessarily want to do the practice involved. They *want* to be able to quickly and mentally solve things. Something goes wrong somewhere in that they get the message somehow that they simply ought to "know" it, rather than realizing they need the practice.

Now, my nephew is going off to school and I will only have him a couple of days per week after school during the school year, during which time he will most likely play away with ds. So there's not much I can do with him about his math, unless for some reason his parents do decide to pull him and have him homeschool (which he would LOVE; he has practically begged to be homeschooled this year). It does have me thinking about my own kids, though, and how I can incorporate these kinds of math things that mean a lot to them, but which they want to avoid because facing them means feeling bad. "Fun" is the first word that comes to mind--no better way to work past fear than tying in something fun with it. Games and such, like the Chocolate Chip Math game which the boys both wanted to play yesterday. If we play enough such games, will that be enough? Just some thoughts. I have had the thought with my son that I need to do more oral math with him, rather than written work all the time. I still have Ray's Arithmetic, which I think is a fantastic program, and maybe doing that orally, kind of game-style, while incorporating a Montessori approach to the other stuff, would work well for this coming year. But, I digress.

Back to yesterday. After Chocolate Chip Math, I think I went to take care of some laundry, during which time the girls took up a little piano book and singing the songs in it. Fine activity. I let them be. When they stopped, we set up things to have lunch. After lunch, we had a short quiet time, then ran errands and played at a playground. All-in-all, a very reasonable first day back!

Today: It was humid, everybody was tired, so even though I had a plan, I ended up just reading with the girls for longer than planned (Winnie-the-Pooh beats out Beatrix Potter, but non-fiction is still preferred by the 5yo!), then I did my own thing and let them be. When I saw things were getting kind of silly, I set up some collage-making at the kitchen table. There was a 2nd issue with the 2yo downstairs, so I guided her upstairs and to the table and told her she could glue all kinds of things. Oooh, glue. Always appealing. ;) She did that for a while, then her sister made her way up, saw the collage stuff and put her planned activity aside. Not sure what we did after that, but the 5yo eventually did make her way to the insets, but used them to create characters rather than the traditional Montessori way!

By the time that was all done, it was early lunch, then off to run some errands and head to the playground again, where we stayed for nearly 2 hours.

Issues with a tired 2yo at the moment. Must go.

Beatrix Potter vs a book on elephants

Beatrix Potter lost!

I don't know if it was because it was a translation and the translation was not very engaging (I don't know that I've ever read the English), but my 5yo niece quickly grew bored, asked if we had to finish and then passed me a book on elephants, which we read instead. The 2yo didn't seem to care either way--she just wanted to look at the pictures in the book. :)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Need to rethink my plans

Yesterday was all about getting the juices flowing so I can have at least some reasonable plan for this coming week. I realized a couple of things since:

1) I want time during the day (not in the evening) to work on longer-term school planning. Not only have I not worked out a plan for my kids for the year, but all progress in terms of planning for "Bob" came to a halt. I *need* to have plans in place for him because we have to submit them in September. And we have to have an idea of what to do, too. ;) I also have a French course to plan out! I'm going to be teaching a once-a-week French session.

2) I want to be able to run errands and such. Not that I couldn't with the routines/schedule I proposed for myself yesterday, just skip the afternoon routines when we're out. I guess it's more a mental note for me that the schedule is for when we're home and I shouldn't feel tied to it. At the same time, this has me thinking more long-term and perhaps a week schedule, with specific days for specific types of outings. Although, I'm thinking "Nah" as I write that. :D

So, some rethinking about tomorrow:

*I will not be ready to do the first Great Lesson. I don't think. If I do it, I'm going to make it much shorter. I printed it off yesterday and it's ridiculously long. Instead, I will have a science activity of some sort ready to do with the boys each day. I will hold off on handwriting and such and let ds know that the following week, I will be expecting him to work on some stuff.

*The morning plan I had set up yesterday ought to be fine. I think I want to be more relaxed for the afternoon. Now, it also turns out that the littlest one is in the transitional phase for her naps--naps some days and not others.

*Afternoons: I don't know that I want a schedule at all. I'd like the philosophy to be kind of:

--silent reading right after lunch
--as much outside time as possible
--when inside, art, music, games, more read-alouds, etc. I think it'll just be more of a "be prepared to direct them" kind of thing. That way, I can leave them be for the most part while taking care of things around the house, working on planning and preparing, etc.

Well, now, that was an easy enough change to make. :)

I think I just need to be realistic this week: I have had a crazy July, between travelling and getting ready to travel and a one-week stint with my nieces and nephew and then several days taken up recently due to my mother breaking her wrist and needing to be driven places and such, that after all of this, I am not prepared for a full onslaught of "school" as I had hoped, and (yes, saying this to myself and everybody else ;) ), that's okay. Getting a strong morning routine going, having things ready to do with the boys, these will be great things to do this week while I figure out what to do next week. ;D

So, since everybody's still sleeping here and I don't feel like reading, let me actually kind of plan out tomorrow:

I will probably be awake by 5:30 as that has been my pattern lately. I can do my own morning routine (exercise, emails, all that), but I'll have to make sure I have things ready tonight so that I can get myself ready first thing in the main bathroom--no guarantee that dh will be up before my nieces and nephew arrive tomorrow morning. Ds has been sleeping late ever since we got back from Kelowna, which I think I will just let him do for now. Having him get enough sleep is always difficult.

So, get that all out of the way, have breakfast and everything before the kids show up. Then, maybe more of a checklist/routine rather than a set schedule:

*kids arrive, shoes away properly

*sit with the girls, chat, read them a story--I have to pick which one. I have some little Beatrix Potter books out, so reading one of those could be just perfect. Then I could read them a story from our children's Bible stories book.

*"lessons": I think I ought to start with a practical life activity, then a sensorial activity, and so on. Each girl can have her own turn after shown something, or I can (maybe not tomorrow, but another day), show something much harder to the 5yo, let her do that, then get the 2yo busy with things elsewhere; regardless, I am going to aim for at least 1 hour of lessons. If they want to go longer than 1 hour, great. I suspect the boys, at least this week, will already be engrossed in whatever they have decided to do, but in case they aren't, I do want a science activity of some sort, or maybe building or something, to be ready for them, visible on the table. But I've gotten away on myself. I'm supposed to be specifically planning for tomorrow. I'll have to have a look in Gettman or at Montessori World or something to specifically decide which lessons I want to present tomorrow and pull out our science experiment books. Maybe for tomorrow, since I have limited time today, I will just put the books on display on the table.

*Grace and Courtesy: Maria Montessori had 30 minutes for this. I don't know if I can make it happen for 30 minutes! I think doing some "walking on the line" would be a good choice for tomorrow. It would be nice if I could actually find a line other than the lines our laminate create in the flooring. ;) If it's nice, we could always take the activity outside. A second Grace and Courtesy lesson could be good, too. I'll have to look through a list and see. I know the 5yo is not always very good about saying please and thank you, so that could be a fun little role playing game to play.

If this doesn't take us to lunch, then I will just do more reading aloud, probably from the book on animals we had been reading from when they were here in July.


Lunch: Have at least 2 kids work on preparing the dining room table to eat lunch. Grace. Lunch preparation as required (I'll probably have started before; my nieces and nephew all come with their own lunches, but sometimes things need to be reheated or cooked). I could always do a collective read-aloud at this point since it's probably the only time during the day I'd be guaranteed to have the boys available for a read-aloud. lol. That means picking something to read for just then... Hm, not sure I'm prepared to do that just yet.

For tomorrow afternoon... It's supposed to be rather nice tomorrow. After our silent reading time, I think maybe we'll head to a playground where I can work on some planning and the kids can play. Or maybe we'll go for a walk in one of the nearby ravines and do a bug hunt. :D I'll choose between one of the two tomorrow. Then we can come back, have art or music time, then they will be free to go back outside, play board games, etc.

I'll need to specifically write out what I'm going to do or have available for each step of the day (like, for art or music, what?) so that I'm not trying to figure out things on the spot.

Oh! Signs of life upstairs! I ought to be able to go get myself ready for the day!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Solar System Activity

I remember having done something similar to the rope of the solar system described here: http://www.missbarbara.net/thebeginning.html#keylessons . I used cups or something to mark the places on the road (yes, we went outside to do it). This could be a fantastic activity to do with the kids as a follow-up lesson to the first Great Lesson.

Got to get planning!

I had a vision at the beginning of the summer of how much I was going to get done, the sort of routines I was going to have, and how prepared I was going to be for when my nieces and nephew came for most of August.

Ha.

This summer has had so much busyness, part of me feels like I haven't really gotten done any of the things I wanted to get done. And while I've had some moments here and there to kind of think about things, I am certainly not prepared for this coming Monday, which is when my nephew and nieces will be with us.

What is my vision for August? A baby step at a time, I want to incorporate Montessori lessons into our day. I want to have a more structured day for all of the kids. I want my son to work on his handwriting and math. I want my nephew to get a feel for what it would be like to actually homeschool with us (he's been kind of pestering his parents, but whenever he's with us, ds pretty much gets the day off or he does his work really early, so my nephew has never really seen a homeschool day in action; well, except when he was 4--he's now 10). Basically, I want structure, I want the little ones in particular to be directed, I want activities prepared and in the boys' face that will get them involved in something other than scootering, biking or playing in the yard.

That's all fine and dandy. But how will I make this work? What will I specifically show them? I have a tendency to want everything all planned out ahead of time, every last detail, and I know that's self-defeating. Let me just ramble with some thoughts:

*I would like to present the Great Lessons to them. I haven't presented the Great Lessons in years. I had hoped to present the first one this coming Monday, but I don't know if I'll be ready because we are so very busy this weekend.

*I would like to have science activities ready for them. But what? I need to figure this out. I have a bunch of different books with science activities. As much as I would like it to be all Montessori in nature and everything connected, I think I have to suck it up and just show them things.

*I remember having done with dd and another girl I had been homeschooling some homemade baked playdough models of the core, the mantel and the crust. We also did something on dinosaurs, but I can't remember what--it was 7 years ago. I really ought to have a look in the Montessori science albums I have! See how blogging can bring things back to mind? :)

*I want to have a sort of schedule, at least for the little ones. They are the ones who need the most direction right now. A modification of Maria Montessori's original schedule. Something along the lines of:

(Before school begins: I need to make a specific plan for the day, have activities prepared, lessons practised, etc.)

8:30 - 9:15? Arrive. Put away shoes properly (instead of literally throwing them into the closet). "Circle time"--we won't really have a circle since there are only 3 of us at that point. ;) We'll chat a bit, talk about the day before, etc., and have a  story time. Maria Montessori "eschewed" (where did THAT word come from in my brain?) obviously fictional stories (fairy tales, talking animals, etc.) because she found the children weren't very interested in them the way they were interested in them compared to stories about real things. However, I have found my nieces love everything, so I will probably mix it up between real stories and fictional things like "The Wind in the Willows". In Maria Montessori's original schedule, she had "religious exercises" listed as part of the first routine of the morning. I have no idea what that means. I could maybe read them a little Bible story or teach them a prayer, I suppose!

9:15 - 10:15 "Intellectual exercises" Maria Montessori writes. "Objective lessons interrupted by short rest periods. Nomenclature, sense exercises." Essentially, LESSONS from any of the Montessori subject areas, except probably not room care nor grace and courtesy. Because the latter comes next.

10:15 - 10:45 Grace and courtesy lessons and practice. This is almost like a game time for the kids. Walking gracefully, moving chairs without making a noise, practising greeting people, thanking people, etc.

Maria Montessori's schedule would be moving into lunch prep right now. The kids get to my place 30 minutes before MM's schedule starts, plus I've shortened the first routine because there isn't really any room care to do, although perhaps I could add it in. Actually, 10:45 would be a perfect time for us to do a pre-lunch clean up (not just the little ones, but EVERYONE). We have a tendency of having lunch around 11/11:30. So, 10:45 could be the check the rooms, see that everything is in place, maybe dust, prepare the table for lunch, prepare any lunches as needed, then we could all sit down together, say grace and eat lunch. Then do the after-lunch clean up. We could be done lunch by 12.

The afternoons:

12 - 1 Maria Montessori has free games at this point. I think this might have been a time where really little ones may have gone off to sleep, too. In any case, part of me resists this idea as I've tried it and it doesn't seem to work for us. So, instead of free games, it'll start with quiet time: free reading or writing. Assuming my 2yo niece still needs naps, I will put her down for a nap at this point. (Ach--I just had the reminder that I was hoping to work on potty training with her. I have to try not to do too much at a time, though. Maybe have a week with the schedule then add in the potty training.) So, around 12:30 or so, I think I will move on to the activities Montessori had planned for later in the day.

12:30 - 1:30 Manual work, clay, art... I actually have a fantastic book of guiding children through art projects. I could pick a particular medium each week, or maybe have different things each day--one day is painting, another is drawing, another is collage, another is sculpting... I find it so hard to make these kinds of decisions, even though it probably doesn't make much of a difference. I'm thinking at the moment that to have a varied week is probably better, because it shows them more things. Of course, with the little one down for her nap, she will miss this part, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Now the Montessori schedule really breaks down for me. I would love to go outside and have directed outside time. BUT with a little one sleeping inside... I'll need another hour of indoor activities, or give them free time at this point, then when the little one is up, we can go for a nature walk, play games outside, etc. At the moment, I'm thinking from 1:30-2:30 could be me reading aloud for 30 minutes, then free time for the older niece. Although maybe the read-aloud would be better for 12:30-1? Although, that would be right after their own reading time. Does it matter? (Dang, far too much perfectionism in me trying to find the "right" time to do a read aloud!) I'll leave it for 1:30. And free time can be until the littlest one wakes up. That will give me a chance to do some planning, prepping and my own free reading. :D

So, roughly 2:30, weather permitting, outside we will go. Start with a walk or maybe head to a playground or a path or area where we can do some nature observations. We could make it CM style and bring books and pencils to do some sketching. (I'm still very confused about CM's "brush drawings" while out in a natural area--did they really bring paints with them? Were they already mixed and wet? I don't understand!) This could take up to an hour. Of course, some days we could just go into the backyard or into a field and play around with a ball, badminton, stuff like that.

Back home, maybe around 3:30?, good time for music :) Spend maybe 15-30 minutes playing an instrument or showing them how to play something or just letting them explore. Then they can have time to play board games, card games, Lego, go back to artsy activities, etc. while I start supper preparations.

It's a very structured schedule compared to what we have been doing. Of course, I'm going to have to prepare for some "interruptions", such as showing things to the boys, taking the littlest one to the toilet or changing her diaper, etc. But I like the general feel.

Now, this is all fine and good, but that doesn't make me any more ready for the Great Lessons or whatever else I'm going to do with the boys next week. Dd will be away at camp, so I have all next week to figure out things for her. So, off I will head to http://www.moteaco.com now to read up on the first Great Lesson!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Notebooking

Did I ever share this link? http://www.squidoo.com/notebooking  It looks like a great thing to try as a learning tool.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

I'm back!

Sorry to not have been blogging. Last week, my mother broke her wrist and it required me to help her out a bit, plus I had all kinds of things to do for the bank and to prepare for a little vacation out to Kelowna to visit a dear friend and her family. We only got back just last night. I can't really blog much at the moment as there is so much to do! I will say that dd (12) has taken up the Rubik's Cube. Can anybody say sensorial training? :D

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Catholic Charlotte Mason site

Being Catholic, stumbling across this Charlotte Mason site http://materamabilis.org/ma/ was a happy occasion! :) I particularly liked the part in the introduction where they make the distinction between a CM-structured education and a CM-influenced education. Yes, the latter is what I want for my children: influenced. I think there are some fantastic ideas in CM that tie in well with Montessori, while being a little more feasible in application than having a setup at home that resembles a Montessori elementary or Erdkinder classroom.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Labels

I have started labelling the posts I've made. It's slow going, largely because I don't usually want to do the labelling ;), but you will see, a little further down on the right-hand side, the list of labels! Feel free to click around. :D

Babble, babble

Waiting around for some work guys to show up and thought I'd blog rather than clean the den. ;)

So, I may have a plan in the works with a friend for dd's social studies next year. What I've thrown out to her as an idea is that we have the girls (she has a daughter who is just a year younger than mine) work one day a month on a social studies project together. It could be their only formal social studies work, which would be fine. My idea is that they work on a country in-depth, but it doesn't have to be that. However, in-depth country studies give such opportunities for research, creativity and learning! They can look at the history, the needs of people, the government styles, changes in maps, collect items to have a Country Box of some sort or a display board/scrapbook/anything. I hope she likes the idea as much as I do! :) Having somebody to work with would definitely be way more motivating for the two of them rather than just doing something on their own.

--

I finished the first volume of the Charlotte Mason series. It's definitely planted some seeds in me. I am so very well attached to and convinced by the Montessori way of thinking that I don't think I could ever implement the scheduled, forced-lesson structure with my kids--although, I think it could be helpful with Bob--but the idea of including more of CM as part of our work really, really appeals to me! At the same time, I have to admit that I'm tempted to have even just an hour of CM-structured work per day with my 9yo son. Things to think about as the summer moves along. September will be here in no time!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kids love learning!

Kids truly do love learning. Any who appear not to have either had that desire squashed or those around them are not recognizing the learning they are loving to do!


The "trick" with so many, of course, is to provide them with things, but then give them the freedom to decide how in-depth they will go with it at any given time. Sometimes it's a matter of hitting on the right thing at the right time, but even then, if you start imposing yourself... The innate desire can fade quickly.

Take, for example, geography. Now, most non-Montessorians would say that 5yo's are not interested in geography. I would have to beg to differ. There is a huge fascination with the globe and maps. What they don't like is being required to remember certain things. My 5yo niece, while we were reading about some mammals this week, wanted to know where the monkey in question came from. I grabbed out the globe and provided a very brief lesson on where the water was and where the different continents were. I did cover the question of: Is Africa really green? (To my readers who are not familiar with a Montessori continent globe, Africa is usually green.) I decided to bring it up due to just this 5yo's nature--I could see her getting into an argument with someone older because they would insist it's not green and she would because she saw it on the globe. ;) So, I brought it up as kind of a joke, she said, "Noooo," although, she was checking with me to see if she was right. ;) Then I was able to show her where in Africa the monkey came from. Then she wanted to know what the other continents were called and so on. We spent a few minutes with this.

A day later, I decided to bring out my hand-made Continent Puzzle Map. (And man, did I wish I had dished out the $ for the wooden maps years ago! :( ) Immediately, she recognized the colour and shape of Africa. "It's Africa!" There was such delight in seeing "a familiar friend" in another material. From there, we went to match up the other puzzle map pieces with their corresponding place on the globe. She was thrilled, especially every time she saw or handled Africa. :D

A little something she learned this week that she loved learning and that will continue to delight her in the future.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fitting more Montessori in!

I've been wanting to blog each day to not forget anything, but I've already forgotten to blog each day. ;)

Yesterday: Hm, counted through the 100-chain with my 5yo niece; realized I ought to have worked more with the Teens and Tens Boards first with her. Note made to show those to her after our little vacation break. Read to her and her sister from an animal encyclopedia. Shoot, I know I did some other stuff with them yesterday.

Today: I was tired. Didn't feel like really committing to anything. As it turned out, everything kind of fell into place for the kids to play in the basement happily, so all was well. Took dd to a half-day day camp she's participating in this week, then headed to a playground afterward, as has been our routine all week. Found a fantastic playground by accident on my way to a different playground--such a great invention! Ample opportunity to run, to challenge those large muscles. Just fascinating to watch today.

Speaking of fascinating to watch... Observation. A key Montessori tool for whichever age group(s) you are working with. Today, I found myself intently observing my 2yo niece. She wanted water while we were at the park, I pulled out her little Rubbermaid bottle with a built-in straw, and she tried to get what little water was there, but it wouldn't come. I opened the top up for her so she could drink right from the opening. After she had a drink, she got this happy little, yet somehow sly, smile on her face and gently took the top from me. She put it on, twisted it a bit (that was fascinating to watch--she was so focused!), looked at me and said she wanted another drink, then took off the top and had another drink. I found myself in such awe over this tiny little creature! It reminded me of times where I have really made a point to observe, to find that awe in the kids--it is such a way to connect with them. Maybe not have them connect with you, but my experience is that really observing your kids and letting yourself be fascinated by them can be very powerful at helping you connect with them. I highly recommend it. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

The beauty of the built-in control of error

I just witnessed the wonderful beauty of the built-in control of error!

I decided to present the Number Cards and Counters to my 5yo niece today. Presentation went very well, she decided to try it on her own, I distanced myself with other things so she wouldn't keep checking me to see if she was doing it correctly. She got to the last number and had an extra counter in her hand. She knew there were enough counters for it to finish without any extra and you could see she was puzzled, looking over the other numbers and counters. She finally saw that she had only counted seven for the eight, placed the "extra" counter where it needed to go and was very pleased with herself. :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Misc.

So, we've just been taking it easy and recovering from all of the busyness the past while. It's been good to just relax! Well, okay, not ONLY relax, but do lots of it.

We went to the Street Performers Festival on Wednesday with a friend and her kids. Saw a very kiddie pirate show,  ate, the kids all spent some time in the City Hall fountain (it's okay, they're allowed ;); it's like a mini-pool with water spraying all over), saw part of a comedy/balloon show (very, very funny) and a hip hop group called Rhythm Speaks. Oh, and a not-quite-family-oriented hula-hooping act. :0 She was funny and amazing with her hula hoops, but some of her comments... Eek. One of the roaming individual acts got in on the Rhythm Speaks show before they began--someone dressed up as an old granny, who did some hiphopping herself! lol. I took more videos than pictures and can't figure out how to take stills from the videos to post here, so can't show you much. In any case, see how this little boy is dressed in balloons?

Well, the guy running the act managed to pick a tall guy as his next volunteer and put that orange-white-black balloon combination on the tall guy, but of course, it could only fit like a diaper. lol.

It was cloudy and the predictions were that it was going to be cloudy all afternoon and we'd have a late-afternoon thunderstorm. Well, we ended up in the sun, no sunscreen, and we all got burnt. :( Lesson learned: Always bring sunscreen! I normally do, but was trying to pack light.



What else have we done? Dd is back to working on whatever it is she's writing. She doesn't usually let me see what she's working on, although I catch glimpses here and there. Always stories inspired by whatever she's reading, sometimes her own versions of the stories or continuations. It's kind of funny that so many programs will require that students do this kind of work (retellings, their own version, continuations), yet I suspect plenty of kids are like my dd and would simply start doing it on their own! Of course, she's reading like crazy, too. She filled out a form at the library a week ago, asking for some book suggestions. The form is really good--goes through what they do and don't like, favourite books, most hated book ever read, etc. She got a list in the mail the other day, sent from the library. I think the suggestions she got from the librarian were really good. Of course, she'd already read one or two of them. ;)

Ds has started reading the How to Train Your Dragon series. He's now on the 2nd book. It's nice to see him branch off into something other than Geronimo Stilton, Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes. ;) I shake my head at myself when I see him sitting around reading, because I had worried for so long about if I was doing the right thing in letting reading go with him. I can't say it's harmed him in any way! In addition to the How to Train Your Dragon books, he's pulled out a book on animal facts and has been going through it, which has led him to using Google Earth to find out where some of these places are.

There is soooo much learning and growing going on! It's great! :)

Next week, I'll have my two nieces and nephew, just for the week. It'll change the calm around here ;) and, unfortunately, it'll change ds's reading habits. Although, I may just insist that after lunch is quiet time with a book, while I get my younger niece down for her nap. My nephew (10yo) has started having a bit of interest in reading, so it may work out really well. I do need to really plan the week, though. Although I know the boys will likely spend a good deal of time outside on bikes and scooters, if it's too hot or if it's rainy (which the weather forecast is predicting), they'll be inside, probably going, "What can we do?" lol. I talked to ds last night, and he said he'd like to do some fun science stuff. "Like what?" "I don't know. Something I'd like." lol. Chemistry or building things are always good. I actually had the thought of maybe presenting the first Great Lesson. Ds probably hasn't seen it since he was 5 and may not even remember it! I also have some science albums from Montessori R&D, which I could have a look at and see if there's anything I could get started this coming week.

I have sat down and started working out some routines I could use with the girls. (Well, the two little girls. :) ) Basically, it's just a reworking of Maria Montessori's original schedule, starting with a bit of taking care of the environment, having story/discussion time, I'll include that some word or sound games (like I Spy), then move onto some lessons (will have to plan those and practise the presentations), etc. I haven't worked it all out yet, but given it's Friday, I should maybe get on that so I can practise at least Monday's presentations before Monday hits!


On to another previously posted-about topic: Charlotte Mason. I'm going much more slowly through the first book than I thought I would. I had to stop taking notes because there's just so much! So far, I have to say that a lot of her thinking matches up so much with Montessori: hands-on math as much as possible, connect with real things, little ones under 6 should be taught how to clean and dress themselves and so on... Even all the focus on habits isn't really any different from Montessori when you think about how the children are shown how to do so many different things in very specific ways--when they do them over and over, that is really just the development of a habit. The courtesy lessons are all about developing certain habits... A light bulb moment went off in my head while I was reading what Charlotte Mason had to say on the subject. (I'm still in the habits section in the first book.)

The further I get into the book, the further I understand Charlotte's true love and respect and admiration for children! I had never read enough previously to get that; CM had always felt like kind of a stiff approach, for some reason. Getting a feel for who she was has changed how I see her approach.

I have to say that the real difference, for what I've read so far, is that Charlotte Mason would have the teacher decide what the child is to learn and when, whereas Maria Montessori would have the teacher show the children all the things they can learn, and let the child follow his inner guidance to choose what he will learn at any given time. Of course, this encompasses other differences, like CM training a child not to dawdle over things that don't interest them, but still having to do those things, and Montessori saying that if a child isn't interested in something, let him find something else to develop focus and attention.

My heart and mind still believe very much in Montessori! I like the "what"of CM and think I will be able to incorporate a lot of the "what" into our schooling--science ideas, history ideas, certain books that I can read aloud to them, etc. Because so much of Montessori for older kids depends on having lots of kids around for the "what", it's one area where CM can be very helpful. CM also reminds me that direction is not a bad thing--and Montessori would say that the child who needs more direction ought to have it. Getting the CM structure in mind I think will be very helpful for working with Bob this coming year. In some ways, CM ought to have been a more natural approach anyhow for Bob for high school: the work he is doing this coming year is prescribed by the government. He must cover certain work in order to get the credits. He can't do the Montessori thing and take his time to go in-depth on a subject that interests him--he has to cover the work.

Of course, if I want to have the CM series completely read by the end of August, I'm going to have to get really going with the reading!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fantastic Quote

"Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you." - H. Jackson Brown Jr., author of "A Father's Book of Wisdom" and "Life's Little Instruction Book"

Self-evaluation time: How many of you parents can say you lived fully fair and with complete integrity today? :)

Pictures!

Pictures are now posted in the previous message. For some reason, Blogger is using Edit HTML as the default rather than Compose, which is why I didn't have all of my buttons. So, those of you blogging with Blogger and suddenly find you are missing buttons, click on the Compose tab. :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Education Everywhere!

The past few days, my kids, hubby and I accompanied my mom and step-dad to a place called Slave Lake. While my mom and step-dad stayed in a hotel, my kids, hubby and I decided to camp there with our dog--first real camping trip for her! She's a rather excitable sort of dog (part Pointer, Lab and Australian Shepherd, among other things), so it kept us on our toes for using Cesar Millan techniques to try to keep her excited level as low as we could--especially when squirrels would make their appearance. ;)

The campground we stayed at, in addition to having some spiders that required a looking up in Bugs of Alberta, happened to be having one evening a little show on weasels. Well, ds has a thing for wolverines and having picked up Mammals of Alberta not long ago--which he immediately went through animal-by-animal, reading in-depth the ones he wanted to know more about--he really wanted to go see the show because wolverines are in the weasel family. He and I went and while it was a little babyish, there were some interesting things shared about different kinds of weasels found in the area and we both learned some things. Afterwards, naturally, he had to sit down with Mammals of Alberta again (thank goodness I brought the books along!) and he saw some of the weasels mentioned in the show that he hadn't really paid attention to before. Those "planting of seeds" we so often are encouraged to do at the elementary level in Montessori were in full force!

Another seed planting at the show was the discussion of bears being carnivores. We had all believed that carnivores ONLY ate meat; turns out this isn't true. Goes to show that I have not made it very far in animal classification with the kids, doesn't it? ;) Another seed planted that I could take advantage of to go a little deeper with this topic.

Just to bring up the books mentioned above, I don't know if such books are available for other regions, but I imagine so, and I highly recommend them as materials in your prepared environment. We have 4 such books: Birds of Alberta, Alberta Wayside Flowers and the two mentioned above. I will be checking out the publisher to see what other books they may have; I'd especially like one on trees or plants rather than just flowers. One thing I have to say, though, is that the things we see that we can't find in the books would make a wonderful project: keep your own bird/mammal/bug/etc. reference book. Of course, this is kind of like Charlotte Mason's nature notebook idea, but a little more focused so there is an additional reference available.



Dd found the longest, fattest earthworm we have ever seen.

He wasn't as outstretched as he could have been in the first photo and you can see in the second how he's bunched himself all up.

We also checked out some fancy cars and remote control cars and planes (there was some sort of car show going on), went on a very short walk in an area where there are bear warnings (NOBODY else was around, we had the dog with us and the deeper we got into the wilderness, the more ill-at-ease we were; it was an opportunity for the kids to learn that you ought to make noise when going through woods so that you don't surprise a bear--and to listen to your gut!), and found a little toy dinosaur we still have to identify.


A very busy trip! And very tiring. The poor dog is so tired out, she didn't even care about "supervising" us while we brought things in once we got back. She plopped herself on the ground at one point, then moved to a folded up blanket waiting to be put away and finally to her bed upstairs.


I'm guessing we won't see much of her tomorrow as she'll still need to sleep!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Responses to comments

Supposedly, all the comments (including the originally missing one) are posted, but when I actually visit the blog, they are not there! I don't know what's going on with Blogspot at the moment. I may copy and paste the comments in myself later on. Here, however, is my response! I hope it makes sense! It took me at least a couple of hours, many distractions, etc.


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What great feedback! It will help me in honing in better to explain things for those less familiar with this aspect of Montessori. It’s so easy to just come from a place of understanding that I don’t consciously think about and just kind of assume everyone’s at the same place I am!


I’m going to tackle evenspor’s comment first:



First, I’d like to make a distinction between imaginary play and fantasy play. Pretending a baby doll is a real baby is imaginary; pretending about fairies is fantasy. It’s impossible. They don’t exist and they certainly don’t have castles. I don’t know if Maria Montessori actually wrote about this distinction, but things I’ve gathered from things written by others make a big distinction between the two. Just to explain my use of fantasy in my previous posts.



My son (around 3 at the time) engaged in pretend play after we saw the car across the street on fire. He spent a week playing with a little fire truck and some cars and how the fire truck came to put out the fire on the cars. It was his way of processing the event and it was very good for him. That said: I would be appalled if a Montessori primary classroom I had him enrolled in had him spending his time pretending or encouraging him to pretend. I would not be spending the money for a Montessori education for him to be spending his time playing like that!



But, I will reiterate what I recall Maria Montessori actually writing on the topic: pretend/fantasy/imaginative (take your pick ;) ) play is normal, children do it, but for a child under 6, she felt, and I agree with her, that a school’s job is not to provide a means for imaginary play but to help the child better connect with the real world around them. That is not to say that imaginary play doesn’t have therapeutic purposes in certain situations, but we aren’t talking therapy here: we are talking an educational approach to teaching children ages 3-6.



I wonder if part of the problem is that Montessori is being seen as a “preschool”, which in many cases today is very much like an educational daycare (if you’re lucky!). Montessori is not a daycare; it is a school. Its aim is to educate. And so, again, I have to say that pretend play has no place to be encouraged, and must be absolutely discouraged when it happens with the materials, in a Montessori school. In a Montessori home, I would expect pretend play because a home is about raising the child 24 hours a day, not just 15-30 hours a week. (Just again a reminder that we are talking 3-6yo’s here; it’s an entirely different ball of wax for those above 6. And the original question was about using Montessori materials for fantasy play.)



Now as for fantasy play not accomplishing something real, I don’t think I actually said that. I think I said that it takes the child away from what is real and what is right now. Some imaginary play may connect the child with what is real, like my son at age 3, and some imaginary play is to substitute for something real the children would like to do that they can’t, like play kitchens and baby dolls, and other pretend play that is all about fun. But this has nothing to do with the instructional focus of what is Montessori education. I do not need to educate my son in how to play with fire trucks. :) (Of course, then there is fantasy/pretend play that goes too far where the child can not seem to disconnect from the play, either out of habit or escapism, but that might be a whole other topic).

The more I write this time, the more I feel I am focused on: Montessori is an educational approach, with an aim to be teaching the children something. The Montessori classroom for the 3-6’s is a school, not a preschool (which actually means “before school”). Montessori does not say pretend play is not allowed, simply not (usually) in the Montessori classroom where the focus is on developing a wide range of skills, developing concentration—reaching everything that it means to be “normalized”. How do you educationally address a young child’s fantasy play, especially when it was found over and over that if you connect them with a variety of here-and-now activities, they become focused and content and work very happily? And not only that, but do away with the pretend play on their own during that school time?

What am I talking about? Paula Polk Lillard describes in “Montessori in the Classroom” how she allowed a small box of toys in the classroom. At the end of each session in the beginning days, the children had time where they could choose one toy and play in a fashion that did not disturb others. It took very little time before the children kept themselves so busy with the activities available in the classroom that they did not even care about the toys. Maria Montessori had found the same thing years earlier. She had put toys in the classroom at first. They ended up untouched. I think that is very telling.

As for the “whole child” lauding, I find it hard to not take the term literally and don’t think any approach actually does it. ;) I don’t know if it’s a term Maria Montessori ever used to describe her philosophy or if others used it because of their understanding of what it means.


As for the second comment, about imagination-poor households: I don’t believe that’s the norm (although I do agree it’s an increasing phenomenon), especially for the likely well-to-do families sending their children to a Montessori school. Plus, the better schools ask parents to not have their young children watch TV, etc. But, I could just be naïve, I admit. I have heard of some Montessori primary classrooms allowing at the end of the day a brief period of imaginary play. I don’t know how they make it work or how it affects the child’s work or development during the other part of the day, especially since we are talking 3-6-year olds. But it might be a workable solution. In proper Montessori fashion, the directress would experiment and observe what happens over time with and without the playtime. I do not see how actually encouraging or allowing imaginary play with the materials (which was the original question) during the actual education time could be helpful to the classroom. Maybe the idea of the toy box shared above is one that could be kept, with the faith that what happened in the past in Montessori classrooms can happen again, as long as the activity levels are consistent with the Montessori approach (kids shouldn’t be running around screaming, etc.).

As for outdoor time, it really ought to be a part of a Montessori education, although I know it doesn’t always happen. That’s the particular problem of that Montessori school; I don’t think it would provide a reason for allowing pretend play.

As for imagination, the imagination of a 3-6yo is vastly different from the imagination of older children and adults. Calling the Pink Tower a fairy castle isn’t really what I would consider using the imagination to create something. This is a harder topic to cover and one I can’t really touch on at the moment; especially since this response is getting VERY long!


There is something about the objections that leave me with a feeling that there is a push for Montessori to be the perfect approach that will encompass every potential psychological, emotional, physical, social, etc. need, including those brought on by the disordered society in which we now find ourselves living. Part of that disorder is that we live in a society where so many schools and businesses and organizations try to be all things to all people. We can’t do it. The Montessori Method is an educational approach, not a method of therapy. It should not be a school, a therapy centre, a child-rescue centre, etc. and everything that it can possibly be to help children. It is a school. If a child’s home life is so disordered that a Montessori classroom has to change its ways in order to benefit him, it simply may not be the right place for that child. And yet, I can’t help thinking that a 3-6yo child deprived of imaginative time at home would still reach that point of normalization in a traditional Montessori classroom where he could be part of reality rather than in front of a tv screen or video games all day.

I can’t comment on Montessori’s assertion that “the imagination should be separated from the development of the child” because I don’t know where she ever said that. Her basic premise was that children already imagine and do a fine job at it (let’s leave the exceptions out of it!) and our job is to help the 3-6yo child connect with the world around them.

Those wishing to really understand where Maria Montessori came from on this topic really ought to rely on what she and even her son wrote and not how I am trying to explain it. :)

(Was this long enough? LOL!)

Just to add to the fantasy talk

I recall reading in one of Maria Montessori's books something about the whole issue of fantasy play being likened to playing cards for adults: It is a wonderful diversion, but it would be a problem if it was so much a part of our lives, it took us away from other things.

Maria Montessori was not against fantasy play. She did seem concerned about children who pretty much only fantasy played (it's a real disconnect with reality!), but on the whole, she thought that fantasy play could provide clues to what the child would really like to do, that children would engage in it for fun, but the point of schooling for the Montessori Method is not to help the children engage in fantasy play. :)
 

More on fantasy

I received a notification about a comment needing to be moderated, went to the Blogger dashboard, clicked on the link to get to the awaiting comment, and it was gone! I don't know if this is a Blogger issue or if the person who submitted the comment decided to remove it. If the person who submitted it did intended for it to be published, let me know and I will copy and paste it from my email!


In any case, it brought up a good point: Why is fantasy the no-no? Since kids all around the world do it naturally, just like they naturally walk on beams or lines, why the problem with it in the classroom? Why isn't it considered educational?

Maria Montessori writes about fantasy in The Absorbent Mind, I think, and possibly elsewhere. True fantasy takes the child AWAY from the present moment, AWAY from reality. Children under 6 already have such a shaky grasp on what is real and what's not. I still recall my nephew being absolutely serious when, at age 5, he told people he was going to be a Jedi when he grew up!


So my earlier response did not go as far as it really should have. Part of the answer as to why not fairy castles with the Pink Tower is because such activity takes the child away from reality at a time when they most need to connect with what's real. At the 3-6 level, Montessori is very focused on helping the children connect with the real world around them. It's why they are given child-sized brooms and sponges--so they can do these real life things on their own. And why they are allowed to engage in food preparation--so they can do these real life things on their own. The sensorial activities help them connect with the world around them through their senses. And so on. Making fairy castles with the Pink Tower does not help them do a real life thing!

Think of yourself if you are daydreaming or off in lala land while doing something else. You are not really connected with what you are doing, are you? If you were studying for a test of some sort and kept pretending something else, you wouldn't get very far with your learning, would you? This is no different for the child using the Montessori materials. Those materials ARE their "study materials". But not just any study materials: study materials to help them grow in the here and now.

I'm not saying that fantasy needs to be abolished from our homes. There is a time and place for fantasy play and with the Montessori Method, it is NOT with the materials that are designed to help the child develop in the here and now. Let them have some other blocks to make their fairy castle after your school time is over with. But let the Pink Tower be for what it was intended. :)

Monday, July 05, 2010

"Why shouldn't the children use the pink tower blocks to build a fairy castle?"

The post title came from a question posted to a Montessori list. I came up with an answer and a couple of people liked my explanation, so I thought I'd share it here (I was responding to different things, hence the "First..."). I'd welcome any comments to make the explanation even better! And yes, it's specifically about ages 3-6.



First, to answer the question: Why can't they use the pink tower for building fairy castles?
Answer: Because that is not what the material was designed to do. We should not use our personal cars as battering rams ;), towels as clothes, forks as weapons, etc. It's part of setting limits on materials. Kids do not come preprogrammed to know how different things are supposed to be used and will use things in ways they really shouldn't. These are educational materials, not toys. But this is just part of it.

Another part of it is that it's being used for *fantasy play*, which Maria felt the children did well enough on their own, outside of school time, with materials they found (sticks, clothes, etc.). Her method's aim is to *educate* the children and they do not need any education in fantasy play, especially since so many children are prone to engage in fantasy play excessively. As stated above, the materials are educational materials; they are designed for the children's education. They are not educating themselves while lost in fantasy with the material. They are not getting the intended benefit of the material. Just as she cautions against presenting a material too early--because if it's done too early, they won't connect and they may see the material as nothing to connect with ever--using the material to make fairy castles will not help the child connect with the material properly, so the desired educational benefit is gone.

What are the pink blocks for? The direct aim is sensorial: to develop visual analysis skills in the area of dimension. The indirect aim with all the primary materials is to develop concentration; for this particular material, it is also a preparation for math. Is a child really concentrating on the blocks while she makes fairy castles? No.

The first goal for a child starting Montessori is to develop attention/concentration. That's part of the aim of the sensorial and practical life materials. I've read it recommended that a child not be presented with language, math or culture materials until they have developed concentration. (I don't know if it was Maria Montessori who recommended this or someone else.) If the child feels the desire to build a fairy castle with a material that's supposed to be helping her to focus, then she ought to be directed to an activity that will help her focus on the here and now, not an imaginary world.

Camping and other thoughts

We've been sort of camping the past few days--sleeping in a tent at night out at my in-laws' lake house, but having full access to the house. lol. My husband's whole immediate family was there, which makes for 8 grandkids and 8 adults--it's hard to fit that many people in the house, so we tent!

Influenced already by Charlotte Mason, I wished I had nature journals already for the kids. I remember we had started some years ago, but didn't use them long. I think it's a shame. In any case, my Charlotte Mason readings are definitely having an effect! I don't have all the Montessori botany and animal cards and all that; CM provides an alternative to connect with the world around us.

These camping days have also really left me wanting to get started now on some routines. One problem in the way of that is that we've got a couple more trips coming up, which will really get in the way. I guess I have to make do with what I have.

Being with all the kids, seeing some of what my 5yo niece was choosing to do, talking with her mom about my almost 10yo nephew (yes, 5yo's older brother) and his very serious desire to homeschool with us starting this fall (his parents aren't ready to make that leap yet, although it's been in discussion for years), led me to see that to serve them best, I really need to set up our time together this summer during at least August (they have one week with me in July, then off 2 weeks, then with me for the rest of August) to have some sort of "school" routine. Have lots of activities planned. I know I've said this in the past; I hope this is not just another passing fancy. I feel more emotionally connected to this idea this time.

One of the things that my nephew and nieces' mom said is that my nephew seems to have the idea that if he's at my place, he can just spend all his days on his bike or scooter--because when he comes, the kids tend to have a day off and don't do school work, so he doesn't see that side of it. So, my thinking is that if I'm already into a schooly routine with my kids, I need to keep going, incorporating some things specifically for nephew and nieces, and he will get a good feel for what it would be like, plus it'd keep my kids in routine AND provide some educational "benefits" (for lack of a better word) to them all. :)

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Moving ahead to the fall, with the reading I've been doing in "Home Education" and Levison's "More Charlotte Mason Education", things are starting to sort themselves out in my head as to how to structure things. I'm not sure yet how much time to start the 16yo off with in his studies, but I did have the thought, "There is NO way he will get all of his science done if he only does 20 minutes a day!" Then I had the thought: "Don't think of it as a single course: it is 4 subjects in one course. He can do 20 minutes of bio, 20 minutes of physics, 20 minutes of chem and 20 minutes of environmental studies each day." Aha! That's already almost an hour and a half of work. Of course, his ELA will need to be broken up into handwriting, spelling/dictation, reading instruction then his actual ELA credit work. Which I have to still figure out. Same thing for his math--he can cover two topic areas in math per day. Math is actually a strong subject for him--he picks it up quickly when he allows himself to. A couple of the math units don't require that other units be done before, so I think it could work, especially if the units are different enough.

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Back to this summer... (Sorry, I'm just typing as it comes. Tenting has meant not sleeping as well because of the darn birds waking me up ridiculously early in the morning and I'm very tired!) Ds was "helping" his Dad play cards last night. His Dad asked him to pick up two cards. He was playfully counting them, "Un.... deux..." So I playfully challenged to say it in German. He's forgotten how to count in German! Well, that got dd going, though, and I said a few things here and there and their grandparents asked a couple of things, so now dd has had her desire to learn German rekindled, so that's good. I do need to figure out a routine. I have an idea written out, but not specific enough yet. And I'm going to have to plan some specifics. That's one thing reading Levison's book reminded me of: When things were going wonderfully smoothly around here, I knew exactly the minimum work I wanted them to get done. Very specifically.

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Okay, enough for now!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Fantastic Primary Website

I've been to this site numerous times but noticed I didn't have it in my links. For those of you starting out at the primary (Casa; 3-6 yo's) level, this site is great! Even those of you starting with early elementary will find some useful activities. It goes through just about all of the lessons one could present at the primary level:

http://www.infomontessori.com/

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

And sometimes science just falls into your hands... er... yard

With the insane thunderstorm systems going through last night, our front tree must have been shaken a lot. Dh woke up this morning to find a bird's nest fallen from the tree! I'm pretty sure it's a new nest, which makes it sad to see; all that work ended in a flash. (No pun intended!)

However, that does make for a science opportunity for us! Dh picked it up and put it on the back porch (the mud used in it is very moist right now).


You can't see the piece of plastic ribbon the bird used!

It's very cool to look at, though, and will provide an opportunity to learn more about how birds make nests. And maybe even figure out what kind of bird made this nest.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Corrections

On one of the Montessori lists, the topic came up about Montessori does not have correction. Self-correction or built-in correction, but the teacher does not go around correcting students' work. Even at the elementary level.

Just now reading from "More Charlotte Mason Education", Levison had a part about narration and how it wasn't a time for the listener (the teacher/adult) to interject their own thoughts, but to listen. I realized: Charlotte Mason, too, did not believe in correcting students' narrations. It was about seeing what they remembered, what made an impression on them, not about seeing what they didn't remember. Levison continued with what to do if the child isn't doing a great job with narrations: modify the next narrations. Again, just like Montessori!

My feel at the moment is that there are going to be some parts that are definitely at odds with each other, yet CM could provide different ways of doing certain work, plus provide the what. It gets complicated providing the what at the elementary and above levels in Montessori. So much of it is tied with group work or materials or hands-on activity (like running a school shop at the jr. high level). It's just not practical in the home.