Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Break

It's Spring Break! It's been weird for me because, for some reason, I keep thinking it's a day later than it is.

I had originally planned to have things somewhat scheduled, so that there'd be a routine to the day. Plans, as they so often do, changed. :) I had forgotten about ds's dentist appointment Monday morning, but remembered before the appointment, so there was that. Ran some errands while he was at his appointment, then we went to the museum in the afternoon. That took care of Monday.

Yesterday, we made a visit to the John Janzen Nature Centre, which took up part of our day. The idea was to make a walk in the woods to check out nature, but the path was still so full of icy snow that our focus was instead on making sure we didn't slip and fall! The kids, as usual, had fun inside checking out the tiger salamander and the snake and all the other things they have there. Then my 2 and I had our kung fu in the evening.

So, other than those activities, there hasn't been much going on. I've had some Easter colouring pages printed off and there's been, naturally lots of playing. Dd and I have been doing some crochet--she from a book she got at the library with simple ideas for kids; I've been working on Amigurumis. The patterns I have aren't turning out as small as I would like them to be. They're probably not supposed to be as small as I have in my mind that I want, but I want them smaller! :) I'm on my 2nd and think I'd be able to modify them to get them smaller.

Before leaving last night, my 5yo niece was kind of searching for something to do and I pulled out a box of body matching puzzles--2-piece puzzles where you match up the word with the body part. She wanted to do them, so we worked through them together. I had been looking for this little math workbook that I'd found that I thought she might enjoy doing the simple addition and subtraction, but we found the print practice workbook ( :( lol ) and she wanted to do that. I managed to find the math while she was working on c's and I asked if she wanted to keep working with the letters or switch to the math. She decided to switch to the math. Since we haven't done a whole lot of math work yet, I decided to simply use the bead frame (all of the results were 10 or under) because she likes the bead frame and it would be easy for her to use it to do the simple work. It was kind of like the snake game, but on paper, and not going above 10.

She probably ended up working close to an hour yesterday afternoon and was still going strong when her mom showed up. She kept going and I told her she could keep working on it in the morning, because her mom was waiting for her. lol. Her sister already had her shoes and coat on, and there was the 5yo at the table, still working on math (a different page--one where you have to do some math to figure out what colour a portion of the image needs to be coloured).

Naturally, it left me thinking that I don't do nearly enough with her. She is so ready and willing to do more. Of course, she's doing stuff now she won't do again in school until grade 1 (she's heading into kindergarten in the fall), but I'm thinking that since she'll be coming to me after school next year, I may just do some after-schooling with her to keep this kind of thing going. But I'm getting ahead of myself, as usual. For right now, I need to really figure out a plan for our school weeks so that she gets more from me! When I think of just her, the plan is easy. But it's not so easy given there are 4 or 5 others in the house on any given day. 4 or 5 others at completely different levels and doing completely different things. Maria Montessori never wrote about how to have toddlers all the way through high schoolers in one room. ;)

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Plan C

I forgot to share the Plan C that showed up yesterday: Have your 2yo watch your 5yo use the sandpaper letters, then the 2yo can show the 9yo. Here was what happened:

This week, my 5yo niece made a point of "showing" her 2yo sister how to do some of the sandpaper letters. I'm not sure that the 2yo ever tried to trace them. In any case, their 9yo brother was here yesterday, we were all watching a movie when the 2yo suddenly goes and grabs some of the sandpaper letters. She sits herself down on one of the sofas and I see that she's doing something, then tossing the letter on the ground. I go to pick the tossed ones up and to tell her to put them in a pile next to her when I see that she has her brother's index finger firmly in her hand. Then she is having HIS index finger slide across the sandpaper letters. He didn't say a word, just let her do it. LOL.

Who knew

that cursive would be such a hot topic? :D

I think it's great that so many people are thinking about bringing cursive into their children's lives. I don't understand those who have gotten judgemental and bashing people for using cursive or not. There is nothing written anywhere that says we are "bad people" for doing one or the other!!

In any case, the most recent questions have been:

  • How do I make the transition?
  • How will my child recognise print?
The transition will depend a bit on the age of your child. If they are under 6, I'd strongly encourage you to make a set of cursive sandpaper letters. If they already know some print sandpaper letters, start with 2 or 3 of them and give them 3-period lessons on matching the print with the cursive. Pick VERY distinguishable, easy, letters to begin with. It would not be fair to start with l and e together! I'd say, as part of the lesson, trace the letter yourself before you match it with the print. And I'd also say do not trace the print anymore. 

If your children are over 6, some sort of hands-on aspect would be very good, although you could probably do with just matching letter cards. The sandpaper isn't necessary. As for learning the letters, just like a typical Montessori presentation, start with just a few. But because the child is over 6, the sensory aspect isn't usually quite as necessary. What is very helpful is to provide light letters to trace over. Let them do it as long as they want! In school, I remember being rather rushed to transition from tracing, to dotted to just doing the letters within the lines. It was too much too fast and my poor natural lefty self, writing with my right hand, had horrible, horrible handwriting. My handwriting improved dramatically years later when a friend, who had beautiful cursive, wrote out the alphabet for me on a sheet of looseleaf and I instinctively traced and traced and traced, tried on my own, and went back and traced when I wasn't satisfied.

I just recently purchased a program called StartWrite. It lets you make worksheets choosing from a bunch of different fonts--including different cursive fonts, change the size, decide if you want lines--including the middle dotted line, etc. My one complaint is most of the cursive fonts don't have all of the letters starting on the line, and the one that does start on the line is an "icky" font. (That just means I don't like it. lol) I actually take a pencil and draw the leading line.

Another program out there is Schoolhouse Fonts, which has a very nice D'Nealian cursive font that DOES start on the line, but I liked the greater number of options with StartWrite and decided to go with that instead. Of course, there are others, too, depending on what you want:  and are a couple of others.


As for "How will my child recognise print?"

First of all, print is EVERYWHERE. They see it all the time. They will therefore absorb it.

Secondly, if you know the cursive letters, it is rather easy to pick out the print letters that correspond. The reverse is NOT true--you can not "see" the cursive letter in the print letter. 

Third, because of the first and second points, children probably don't need any adult interference in learning to read print. From Maria Montessori's "The Montessori Method":
Seeing these surprising results, I had already thought of testing the children with print, and had suggested that the directress print the word under the written word upon a number of slips. But the children forestalled us! There was in the hall a calendar upon which many of the words were printed in clear type, while others were done in Gothic characters. In their mania for reading the children began to look at this calendar, and, to my inexpressible amazement, read not only the print, but the Gothic script.
 So, here she thought she would get them to do something new (up to this point, Maria and the directress had been providing little slips of paper with words in cursive on them for reading practice) and discovered that the children already knew how to read print and Gothic!!! This ease of transition is why you don't ever learn about lessons designed by Maria Montessori herself to teach children how to read print: they've already figured it out once they've mastered the cursive and idea of reading.

If, by some chance, your child is still confused after quite a while, then you simply have to provide specific lessons on letters and maybe words. I think you'll find, though, that you need to give your child much more credit. I think of my son, who reads amazingly well in English, even though he has really only followed along in books I read to him in French. AFTER age 6, I might add. Our children are amazing if we don't spend too much time trying to mould them according to the pre-determined notions that are pervasive in our society.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Another thought on cursive

The one question that comes up so much is, "What's the point? With everybody using computers today, what's the point of writing in cursive?"

You know, it hit me this morning that this is reminiscent of what our provincial government wanted to do some 10-15 years ago: remove music, art and phys. ed. from the schools. Their reasoning: What's the point? Most of the students were not going to be musicians, artists nor athletes, so why have those courses? The truly talented will learn on their own, be part of teams or take private lessons. Yadda yadda yadda.

"What's the point?" is narrow-minded thinking. It seeks to restrict, instead of to enlarge and grow. It tackles an issue as though there's no point in doing something unless there is an overwhelming reason to do so, especially if it is going to be part of our jobs as adults.

The question forgets that self-mastery and exploration and growth can be the point.

It forgets that joy and fun can be the point.

It forgets that artistry and so much more can be the point.

And so, perhaps the best answer to "What's the point?" is not all of the benefits that I've listed in previous messages, but, "What's your point?" :D

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cursive - Plan B

"Oh no! I started with print! It's all lost."
"My child started using print on his own. Now what do I do?"
"My child is 10 years old. Is it too late?"

I like to say: It's never too late! :D Anybody who thinks "it's all lost because I started Montessori/cursive/whatever too late" is very likely a perfectionist and might consider doing some soul searching. ;)

If your child has started with print for whatever reason, you may not be able to have them switch to cursive for their day-to-day writing, but that doesn't mean they can't benefit from cursive. Let me share some examples from my own life that might encourage you in your own Plan B.

My daughter started writing letters at age 3, before I knew anything about Montessori. It was too late, obviously, to start with cursive. When I first learned about Montessori a year later, I promptly made sandpaper letters with Elizabeth Hainstock's print template. Again, more print. When I started learning about cursive and how Montessori ought to always have cursive and all of the benefits, I decided that cursive was a non-negotiable item. I made cursive sandpaper letters and word cards and not sure what else, and we played games with them. Over the years, I also made worksheets and dd chose a cursive workbook (A Beka--which, btw, offers cursive starting in Pre-K) and so on. Basically, while I made cursive a requirement, I provided different opportunities to choose from for the practice.

My daughter is now 12 and when she writes, unless she has an aesthetic reason for using cursive, she will write in print. But let me say this:

1) Her cursive is better than her printing. Part of it is that she's more attentive to the cursive since it's not completely second nature. The other part of it is attentiveness because she does want it to look nice when she uses it. She complains that it takes longer than printing, but when brought to the fact it looks nicer, she's satisfied. But has no desire to switch to using it all the time. ;)

2) She can write and read in cursive. Which is good, because I pretty much only write in cursive. She has to be able to read it! (Her grandparents also write in cursive in her birthday cards--another reason to be able to read it!)

3) She may never switch completely to cursive, and that's okay. Yes, my heart would love for her to use cursive as her modus operandi, but she can write in beautiful cursive, can read cursive, does use cursive for certain purposes, so I have nothing I can justifyingly (sure, it's a word) complain about.

How did I do this?

She was under 6 still when I learned about cursive first. It is still a very, very good age to learn cursive. It was quite easy and making games out of learning the letters went a long way. What kinds of games? Matching games with the print sandpaper letters, "hiding" letters in various places and playing I Spy, practising a couple of letters and then writing on my back and seeing if I could figure out what she did (and vice versa--I'd write on her back), things like that. I did not insist that she write what she wanted to in cursive, the way we were forced to in school, so she stayed with what was easier for her.

My son is another example. He's 9 and not much of a writer at all yet. Technically, he's "too old" for cursive to become a permanent switch (up to age 8 seems to work; after that, much harder), but since he has spent very little time printing--his printing looks like someone much younger--I just don't know.  Also, while he hasn't used cursive much, he was presented it when much younger and still had some practice with it now and then, so the roots are there, just not enough practice. Actually, I've only ever presented cursive to him; he's done the print on his own. And yes, his cursive is better than his printing! Now that things are settling around here at home, I have already begun doing what I did with my 12yo (and am doing again with my 12yo): providing different means of practising cursive, but making working on it a non-negotiable. Yes, Maria Montessori might be unhappy with me. I'm okay with that. I have, I will add, also printed off things for my own practice and have been just using blank sheets to work on cursive, telling the kids my handwriting has gone downhill (which it has) and I want to improve it. My son seems to think it's neat that I'm doing that and that we can work on cursive together side-by-side. I think it also gives the message that cursive isn't just work for kids!

How about an older example? Bob started with me when he was 9. Had horrible printing. Had never been shown cursive. I think around the time he turned 10, he actually asked about cursive and I started him on it, knowing full well that the chances were that he would never, ever switch. Know what? He learned it fairly well and his printing improved in the short time he was interested in working on it. Hmm... So yes, cursive has benefits for the older child, too! His handwriting has gone downhill a bit and he has decided he definitely wants to work on improving his printing. I told him the best way was to go back to trying cursive again, because his brain would treat it as something "new" and would be more attentive, and the habits learned from the cursive would switch over to his printing. So, today, he started on cursive. :) Would he ever switch to just cursive? Probably not. He's 15 now and only looking now to possibly actually master cursive. But that's not the point. He will be doing something very valuable, requiring attentiveness, attention to detail, which will transfer to his printing, and in the process, he will be learning to read cursive, which is also an important skill.

I have now decided to work concertedly on my 5yo niece with this. Although I only ever really showed her the cursive sandpaper letters, she writes in print. Not sure if that's what she does at home with her parents or what. She can trace most of the letters well and knows almost all of them by sound and name, but can't seem to make the connection yet between following the same movements on paper or on a chalkboard. So, I'm going to start playing some games, like air writing--you trace the letter without actually touching it, then you try to trace it in the air without the letter right there. You start with easy letters, like l and e and n. She has begun reading every so slightly and so, for a pack of alphabet cards I have (image on one side, French word on the back--in print, of course), I wrote up a few cursive cards to match yesterday. Today, she asked if we could do like yesterday, where I wrote the cursive on a card and she could put it on the card. :) We did quite a bit today, 3 cards at a time, and now there are fewer cursive cards to make. lol. (I just used blank business cards, if you're wondering what kind of card I used.)

She will be in the regular school system in the fall, where I'm not sure if they really spend any time on cursive, (and they certainly don't in Kindergarten). Haven't seen any evidence of it in my nephew, who is in grade 4. So, it might fall away for her. But she'll at least have had what little I could give her and I've told her she'll probably be the only one who will already know what cursive letters are and she is so lucky.

Although, since she'll be coming here after school, maybe it won't fall away too much--I'll be the only place offering her the "pretty" letters. ;)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cursive, part 2

So, to continue my thoughts on cursive.

John Holt was a big proponent of print only. Part of his reasoning was due to having done a "test" with some boys, where they compared the speed and legibility of printing vs. cursive. He was convinced cursive would win. It didn't pan out. As much as I dearly love so much of what John Holt aimed to teach people, this was one thing I had an issue with from the very beginning: all of those children had learned to print first, as had he. They were far more experienced with it and it being the first way they were taught how to write, it's hard to say how long it would take for cursive to be more natural and swift.

Think about it: If you incorrectly learn how to read notes on sheet music and spend 4 years playing everything incorrectly, then you start learning the correct way, how easily are you going to correctly play the songs you already know by heart? How long will it take you to learn to play it a different way?

Some more evidence for cursive first or only:

More and more of those involved with special education are calling for the use of cursive--and not just with special education students. There are no letter confusions in cursive like with print. 'b' and 'd' are very distinct, as are 'p' and 'q'. Many children without learning difficulties struggle with b and d in particular. They learn it's a stick and a ball, but then can't remember which side of the stick the ball goes on.

Many children with learning disabilities having visual processing and sequencing issues, so print is found to be harder for them. As it should be. Traditional cursive all starts on the bottom and moves on from there, ending so the next letter can be written. Print letters start all over the place, which requires an ability to correctly judge open space and control hand movements to keep the letter the necessary size. And because the letters all start from a different place, there are more sequences to remember. Really, this doesn't just apply to those with LD since a young child learning to write has the same issues! Add to the letter spacing: word spacing. Kids starting writing or who have LD already have an issue with spacing, and word spacing is even more complicated. With cursive, the entire word is linked and the spacing is obvious from one word to the next--you lift the pencil, leave a space and start your new word. Even if the spacing and sizing within a word are inconsistent, the words are obvious. In contrast, with print words, sure, you lift your pencil and leave a space, just like for cursive, but you have to do that with every letter within the word and it's not always so obvious! And many kids don't like the "finger trick" where they put a finger from the other hand down in between writing words.

Why else should our kids be learning cursive early?

Recent research has shown that it activates the brain better, which is interesting since the research shows fewer hand muscles involved and print is clearly less demanding in some ways than cursive. Because it's not so "linear" in style as print, cursive tends to activate both the left and right side of the brain better than print.

There are many historical documents, even things written by hand not less than 20 years ago, written in cursive that a child who can't read cursive will grow up not knowing how to read. Not to mention, despite the common belief that nobody uses cursive nowadays, plenty of people DO use cursive and will be at a severe disadvantage if they find themselves working for someone who writes messages in cursive or has a college prof who writes notes on the board in cursive. "Yes, but that's reading." True, but if they start with cursive, they will already know how to read both cursive and print. Which leads us to necessary questions:

*If learning to write in cursive (first or only) means your child can:
--read print and cursive
--won't have to switch handwriting later on
--means you'll be able to read everyone's writing (well, as long as it's legible ;) )
--prevents certain problems
--benefits the brain
--and is lovely ;) (okay, I just had to add that)

--it's more natural to start with cursive
--your child will still be able to print forms later on (they will have seen so much print and have better developed fine motor skills, so writing in print won't be a big deal)

then why wouldn't you start with cursive? :D

I could go on and on, but I won't. Instead, I will leave you with some links so you can check it out more yourself, if you wish: (I think this might be part of one of the other links.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Yes, Cursive First or Only Cursive--Part 1

The question of whether to make certain Montessori language materials in print or cursive comes up rather often on the lists I'm on. I may have brought it up here in the past, but it's worthy of being brought up again!

Montessori traditionally formally only presented cursive to the children, starting with the cursive sandpaper letters, then the cursive movable alphabet, and there are photos showing other handmade materials, such as the grammar boxes, being done in cursive. This was a deliberate act on Maria Montessori's part. And with all the modern research backing her up, it ought, imo, be a deliberate act on the part of others!

"But why? We don't need cursive anymore."

To be honest, we didn't need to know how to print in the first place. People wrote only in cursive for a long time. Print was introduced because somebody thought that print would be easier to learn first since it wasn't all curly, and it would make it easier to learn to read.

They were wrong.

Maria Montessori discovered in her early years working with children, before what would be termed the beginning of the Montessori Method, that children naturally write in curls and loops. Anybody who has had toddlers and preschoolers around them has undoubtedly seen the loopy drawings and "writing". It's much easier for the hand to do loops. I have even read that it requires less muscle involvement to do loops than to force your hand to make straight vertical and horizontal lines! Cursive is therefore much more natural for the hand, especially a young child's.

So, with this observation made, she decided in her first actual classroom that the children ought to have a material with which to learn cursive. Unable to have manufactured what she wanted (a grooved wooden piece), she and an assistant decided to use sandpaper, and the first sandpaper letters were made, by hand, and presented to the children. After a while, she and her helper cut out large cursive paper letters so the children could build words with them. They learned to write in beautiful cursive, read in cursive and she discovered that once the reading idea clicked, they could also read the same words in other writing styles, including print. There was *no* issue in learning to read non-cursive.

With this being the case, why oh why are we having children spend K-2 or even K-3 struggling to make nice straight lines in their writing, only to introduce at that point (if introduced at all) to cursive, which would, after 4 years of print, feel unnatural? Why would we have them only deal with print for 4 years, both in reading and writing, and then have to train them to read cursive when they could have started with it and done just fine right from the beginning? Does it make any sense at all?

We complain so much of people's handwriting these days, but what if people had started with cursive, did cursive for 4 years, and then kept using cursive for writing? Wouldn't 7 years of cursive before entering jr. high be more likely to produce nicer writing than 4 years of print and then mix in some cursive for a few years?

I have more to say, but it will have to wait until the next post.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Continuation of previous post

Someone left the following in the comments, but she had her email address in it and I wanted to avoid it being stolen by spam programs! So, here's her comment:

I'm having such a hard time with this "child freedom to choose his own work and rhythm". I began using the Montessori method with my 8 yo this semester. I love it, he loves it but I feel that he needs to do everything quickly enough so he could catch up. We began with the 6-9 curriculum. He's a very smart kid but extremely lazy. If I don't pressure him he would play all day long. We usually plan goals for the week that include almost every subject. I "let" him choose but end up convincing him to do a little from every subject. As days go by I start getting anxious by all the work he needs to complete. And, of course, I end up telling him what he need to do to met the goal. I know I'm doing it all wrong but don't know how to change this. I would love to hear from you soon.

My response:

There is a difference between pressuring and putting limits or providing a structure. Saying, "Mornings are work-time" is a limit. Yes, someone could claim it's coercion, but we're not talking about unschooling here! Think of it more as "freedom within limits".

*You are free to choose any math work you want.
*You are free to ask me to show you something.
*You are free to help me with my own projects or to ask help for your projects.

*You are NOT free to go play with Lego.
*You are NOT free to go play outside.
*You are NOT free, etc.

If you have a look in "The Montessori Method" (the book), somewhere near the end, there is a schedule of the opening days of the Montessori preschools. They were very structured and routine. As days progressed and students became more self-directed, the schedule kind of disappeared a bit (although some basics would stay, like lunch, of course!) because it was no longer needed. But the non-self-directed child DOES need some structure, some routine, and so the beginning of a year usually starts very structured.

I have found in my home that I periodically need to "start over". It's not just that the schedule has fallen apart, the work has fallen apart, too. And to be honest, I still have not been able to get my 9yo son to work consistently; part of that is my own lack of consistency, part of it is who he is--while my daughter could work three-hour mornings at that age, I think he might go crazy LOL. We're working on building it up. Back to my point, when things start falling apart, I either rewrite an old schedule/routine or I make up a completely new one and we start over. In a classroom, the rhythm of the sheer number of students helps pull back "into line" those who may be waning. At home, there's a bit more of a concerted effort.

At 8, your son is probably very capable of sitting down with you, discussing the issue with you ("It's important to work on improving skills and so we must have a work time. I'll be working, too. What kinds of things would you like to do during work time? Here are some of my ideas. Etc."). Know that you will probably have to do a lot of presentations/showing him things at first, inviting him to come do something with you, or giving him a choice between, say, a science lesson or a language lesson. Provide limits!

Some people like to have more limits than Montessori would insist on and have their children/students have a certain requirement each week: 5 language works need to be done, 3 science works, 4 math works, etc. One thing that can be helpful is using a chart or a journal for tracking what's being done. With a chart, you or he can just write in a little something about what was done or even just put a checkmark. The next morning, you can have a look at how much got done or what got done. If a child doesn't have any particular passion at the moment, then they can be guided into, "I notice you haven't done any math at all this week. Do you want to work on something you've already done or would you like me to give you a lesson on something new?" Some schools use a journal system, where the child writes down the time he starts working on something, a very brief description of the work, then when he's done, he writes the time he finished.

The best thing you could do for yourself is to let go. :) Goals do NOT have to be met. I had a goal of improving my German to a point to spend a year in Germany after university. I then started seeing my husband and we got married right out of university. I didn't fail at my goal; my goals changed. There's nothing wrong with that.

Try to hold your tongue on the convincing; try to kick out any thought of "he's behind." He's not behind. God has not written something somewhere saying that this Montessori work or that knowledge needs to be known by Friday! It's our own fears that cause us to try to convince our kids that more has to be done, that it has to be done more quickly, etc. Maria Montessori knew this and one of the things she insisted on was that teachers constantly work on inner preparation, to be aware of the things *inside themselves* that would get in the way of the child's development.

If you want to think of it in another way, if you want your son to learn to be self-directed, he needs you to learn to let go more. The more you decide, the less he does.

Create some reminders for yourself. Start your day seeing yourself respond exactly as you would like to respond to him. Remind yourself that it's not the end of the world if he doesn't get as much math done this week, or even this year, as you would like. Remind yourself that Montessori elementaries were originally 6-12, not 6-9, and so there is lots of time to cover everything. Remind yourself that not everything needs to be covered. The goal is to have children who love learning, know how to learn and can do it independently, right? The Montessori curriculum is the means of doing that, not the end in itself.



Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Freedom to Choose

I just had an a-ha moment while responding to a post in a Montessori homeschooling group.

A child's freedom to choose his activity can be thwarted by our own desires.

But I don't just mean by us actually stopping a child from doing this or that, saying things like, "You can't do that," or "You need to do this now."

Even our very unspoken desires can affect the child's freedom. How? 

Children can so very often sense what we are feeling, what we want. If we are really trying to convince a child, encourage a child in a specific direction, really hoping that they'll do xyz, this is, at its heart, a form of coercion. We are wanting to control the child's benign activities.

The Montessori philosophy allows the child to choose *whatever is good*. So, disturbing others is not an acceptable choice; doing any type of available work is.

If a child is choosing only math for an entire week, and we start worrying and trying to "get him" to do something else, he may either do so to please us, or he may reject our attempts and keep doing what he's doing, not necessarily because he wants to keep doing math, but because he wants to resist being controlled. Either way, he is not acting out of freedom.

Freedom is not attached to someone else's emotions. Freedom is never expressed through rebellion. Freedom is unfettered.

I admit it, I am wholly guilty of trying to get my children to work on certain things or of trying to encourage them to do other things. In the end, time and time again, I have seen that having no expectations on my part and simply offering different activities (and, of course, doing things myself), giving them the freedom to engage in them or not without any pleasure or displeasure on my part regardless of what they choose, is the most pleasing and satisfying way. For EVERYBODY. They are happy because they know they won't make me unhappy and they are choosing something they find satisfying. I am happy because my happiness isn't tied to what they choose and they are happy.

When will I finally learn and stop regressing to trying to coerce my children into doing certain things? Maybe never. ;) But, as FlyLady says, "Progress, not perfection." As long as I keep working towards truly allowing my kids to choose their work, to be a guide instead of a coercer, I will make progress. And so will they.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Two posts in a week!

It's practically a miracle! ;)

So, my prediction about my son doing the typing didn't pan out, but we have had a couple of weird days. Or rather, just days focused more on helping Bob get some of his work done and submitted. Then we were out all afternoon yesterday, had kung fu in the evening--where dd somehow got knocked, she slipped backwards and ending up hitting her head on the hard floor. Of course, my mind thinking of Natasha Richardson and how what seemed to be a nothing thing ended up in her death, I got home and looked up all kinds of things about concussions and what to do. Kept her awake for a couple of hours and other than a very mild headache, she was fine. Phew.

Today, hm, well, I'm tired and can't remember. I have decided that I need to get back into journalling. My "Montessori progress" was so much better when I took the time at the end of each day to reflect on the day, the good points, the bad points, thoughts, feelings, what I'd like to do differently, etc. I haven't been doing any homeschool-inspiring reading (Montessori or other) and would like to take that up again. Things are going reasonably well, but I'd like them to be even better! I especially want to be more consistent with my 5yo niece--she's so capable and loves learning. Might as well take advantage of it while I've got her with me! (She's heading off to full-time kindergarten in the fall. *sniff sniff*)

I remember something from today: My 2yo niece, in Planet Organic. She was tired and wanted to cling only to me, but it wasn't practical as I had things in my hands and she was okay for a while about holding someone else's hand, but then, bam. She just stood there and did a sort of faux whiny thing towards me. I knew part of her was concerned about the strangers around; at the same time, she'd turn her back on any of the kids who went to offer their hands. I left her there, going up and down aisles with somebody always watching her. She didn't cry, nothing. Just stood there. For at least 5-10 minutes. I thought for sure she'd come, but she didn't! I ended up going behind her to nudge her forward, and I thought she'd seen me, but she must have been so hyper focused on the spot in front of her, I ended up scaring her a bit and that's when she ended up crying. *sigh* Poor thing! The whole time, I was trying to figure out what the best thing to do with her would be. And yes, the thought of, "What would Maria Montessori recommend?" I had interpreted her initial actions as a stubborn 2yo wanting things her way, but I'm not so sure anymore. Ah well. She just stared at me during the ride home--until she fell asleep, that is. After her nap, all seemed to have been forgiven. Good thing toddlers bounce back quickly. ;)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The No-Pressure Approach

I've shared before how important it can be for Mom to make sure she is a student, too, doing things that the kids would do (or that she'd like them to do), without any pressure on the kids to do so, and having her own "studies". Yes, it can be hard to fit it in, but there is such a payoff when you can do even the littlest something!

I've listed as an option for sometime for my 9yo son that he can do typing as part of his school work. Complete disinterest or resistance--there's a fine line between the two. While working with him at decluttering and organizing his room last night, I came across the SpongeBob Typing program I bought years ago. (I hate SpongeBob, but it was only $5 or something and I thought it could be fun.) I decide to check it out, with him in the room. (Yes, he has a computer in his room, our old PC.) I talked about how I'd never really looked at it and I got into it and started asking him questions because I didn't have a clue what to do and he'd previously used the program. When I was done, lo and behold, he went and did typing for about 20 minutes. :) I wouldn't be surprised to have him ask me if it's okay if he does typing today.

Another thing that has gotten started again: German. While working on his room the other night (yes, it's a disaster and is taking multiple days!), I started saying little things in German. We hadn't done German in ages. As I asked him questions (either in French or in German) about what he wants to do with things I'm finding , he started asking me what things were in German so he could respond in German. That led to me pulling out a type of picture dictionary we have (because I couldn't remember some words genders), which led to him wanting to learn to read some of the words there and then to do some work in his German workbook, which we also found during the room cleaning. We spent an HOUR doing German that night!

So, remember, if you're wanting your child to start working in a specific area, make sure YOU start working in that area first. :)

Friday, March 05, 2010

I'm such an inconsistent blogger!

What can I say since my last post?

Ds has stopped writing. However, with the transition between first semester and second, things were kind of topsy-turvy around here. Then we all got sick with a nasty cold. It's been 2 weeks. I think I'm finally getting over it. My 2yo niece is nearing the end of her third week. My kids are still coughing, Bob's still somewhat congested and his sister, on top of finally starting the cold after the rest of us, added strep throat to it. It's been an interesting Feb./beginning of March!

Now that I'm feeling a bit back to myself, I've got a desire to move ahead! Bob's work is coming along fairly well, despite being sick. My kids are slowly getting back into work. Been doing more math with dd this week and it's getting better and better as she does things she sees she can do, and can do easily. I couldn't help but laugh yesterday when she approached me with a question.  Her workbook asked her to do 3 parallelograms, each with a height of 2 units and a base of 3 and then calculate the area of each. "Why do I have to do 3? They're all going to be the same." Ha! Gotta love it. I told her it was for kids who hadn't yet grasped the idea and needed more practice and that she didn't have to calculate each one. She seemed satisfied with that. The drawback to this kind of thing is that when she encounters something she doesn't "get" so easily, she gets down on herself. I need to remember these moments so I can remind her, "Remember when...? That came easily. Some things don't come as easily."

I'm also looking at high school prep with dd. We talked over science a bit yesterday and high school options. She's only grade 7, and high school officially starts in grade 10 here, but we have leeway in when to actually start and how. I also keep thinking of how high school starts in the US in grade 9. Most of our discussion yesterday was on the high school diploma. Although the message that comes across here from schools and the government is that you need a high school diploma, you don't, especially if you are going to do some post-secondary. You only need certain grade 12 subjects, or SAT scores, for university, and some colleges allow you admission based on portfolios. Dd kept asking what the point of the diploma was. We basically came to a consensus that it was if you weren't going to be doing any post-secondary, it was a good piece of paper to have to say that you had at least done high school. Of course, thinking of it now, we could have quickly looked up people who don't have high school diplomas nor post-secondary and the work they're doing. (Just a note to my non-Canadian readers, high school diplomas are awarded through the government here; parent-issued diplomas, as is often done by homeschooling families in the US, are not seen as valid!)

So, we're toying with starting chemistry already and focusing on getting her math mastered, especially some of the things we didn't cover in elementary and should have, and some more focus on French--spelling, grammar, writing, etc. That's one of my big issues--how to get her French recognized. She may need to do an online French Language Arts course at some point to get that recognition. I'll have to see what other sort of tests and the like exist out there. Right now, it looks as though she'll at least go for the grade 12 credits for university entrance. But, they don't offer French, so everything will be in English (even if we do the work in French) and, at the moment, the only way to actually get credit for French as a homeschooled student is to do an online course.

Of course, I suppose I should take care of her jr. high French before worrying too much on the high school French. ;) And above all, keep in mind that I don't just want transmission of knowledge!

“If education is always to be conceived along the same antiquated lines of a mere transmission of knowledge, there is little to be hoped from it in the bettering of man's future.”