Friday, April 30, 2010

Still thinking argh

I decided to look up SATs, just as a comparison, since the Alberta Diploma Exams are kind of like the SAT subject exams.

I learned that the SAT results give the student a raw score, but also tell the student where they fall percentile-wise for the time that test was taken. That makes sense to me. And maybe this is the basic premise that the Alberta Government is working off of--the percentile results per question on the diploma examinations.

Here's the problem: SATs don't make up 50% of the students' grade 12 final marks for ELA, Social Studies, Math, and all of the sciences (bio, chem, physics and the general science course) as Alberta diploma exam marks. SATs have nothing whatsoever to do with the students' marks--or getting a diploma. Students in Alberta can not get a high school diploma without doing at least some diploma exams.

Just another point against ever having my children as a part of the AB credit system--unless they choose it!


Not sure what I'm madder about: what the government is doing or some of the people's comments.

Some people are saying, essentially, Suck it up, Buttercup!, defending the government with things like, "They'd better get used to it since that's how it is in university" and "If students have a harder exam one year, it's not fair if equating's not done." (Those are not direct quotes, just essentially what has been said. :) )

Here's my problem with the first argument I've listed above:

Yes, that's how it is in university. Problem is: We're not talking about university. We're talking about high school. Where it is generally accepted that this type of grading does NOT take place. That the mark you get is what you get. Not only that, but we're talking about an exam that is worth half of the final mark. It's a big deal to have your mark dropped.

Why is there such a negative attitude towards people complaining about this? "Well, life is unjust elsewhere, so instead of being unhappy about this unfair practice, get used to it." Well, that's just a little like saying, "Roll over and die," isn't it? I guess it's part of the group mentality of "you just have to accept things and don't make a fuss". We ought to get used to it instead of trying to change it. Is this thinking the result of mass schooling or is it promoted in the media or what? We did not make huge beneficial changes in our society due to people just accepting things and not making a fuss. With this kind of attitude, the suffragettes were in the wrong, Martin Luther King Jr. was in the wrong. If we had let things just happen and got mad at people for not getting used to it instead of getting mad at the injustice, there would still be slavery in the US, and women would not be able to vote or become doctors, those opposing the Nazis were in the wrong because they just wouldn't "get used to it" and so much more. ARGH.

To the second argument, here's the problem:

How do you know if an exam is actually harder or easier one year compared to the previous year?

Hint: YOU CAN'T.

Why not? Because each year of students brings different students, different teaching, different preparation.

Let's say one year, the average is 66%, and nobody has done any exam prep courses. The next year, the exam is technically "harder" because the government wants the average lower (yes, the government does actually seek to control the averages). Students hear about it and 90% of them go through excellent exam prep courses, work hard, etc. The average that year is 70%. Do results actually show whether the exam was harder or easier? Some might say, oh, that wouldn't happen. But you know what? I've seen the differences in groups from one year to the next. Teachers who do pretty much the same thing, make no radical changes to their exams, and one year, the marks are much lower. Has nothing to do with the work or the tests being harder, just the mentality present that year.

Here's another problem: With the Provincial Achievement Tests, which are EXACTLY the same thing as the Diploma Examinations, just for younger grades, the government takes the results and blames teachers if the results aren't high enough. If marks go up, then they decide to make things harder because teachers are teaching better and the students are now capable of more. However, they go through the exact same process for the Diploma Examination and if the results are "too high", then they blame the exam for being too easy.

Anybody else see the inconsistency?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

More links

This is NOT what I would want for my kids' jr. high years:
 For core subject areas, students will work on a computer-based curriculum, which is aligned with the Sunshine State Standards for middle school but allows flexibility and individualized pacing that is consistent with our Montessori philosophy.

Yes, sure, self-paced learning is consistent with Montessori, but the computer-based curriculum is on the other end of the spectrum from her idea of the kids being involved in a farm or other type of community and academics would not be a focus!

Something better:

I do think it's a shame that the Montessori age grouping isn't maintained in a lot of the middle schools, because middles schools in the US tend to run from grades 6-8. Since grade 6 is part of the upper elementary for Montessori, that just leaves grades 7-8 for most Montessori middle schools. They're missing the kids who are 14 turning 15 in a lot of cases.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Some links for Montessori in adolescence

I figured I might as well post my finds instead of just storing them in my bookmarks!

Santa Cruz Montessori
Clark Montessori
Hershey Montessori
Canadian Montessori Academy - I think the idea of the student providing their own monthly progress report is kind of neat!
Arbor Montessori

All right, I'm going to have to stop myself. I could keep going and going!

Sometimes more direction is needed

We got started this morning and I asked my son if he could look up online how to take care of these worms properly so they don't die. He eagerly says sure. He loves looking stuff up online.

After about 20 minutes, I ask him what he's found out. He starts telling me stuff about worms themselves, and I get him back to what has he found out about how to take care of them. Nothing. Oh. "What have you been looking at?" This, that and the other, but not how to actually take care of them. Interests run amok. And nothing written down. lol.

For tomorrow, I will print off a sheet that is a little more specific and whoever wants to tackle how to keep these worms alive can look it up and write information down. Ds might decide to do it--especially since it means being on the computer again (lol), but maybe not.

I did find out from Bob that he had a 2nd small container with a couple of worms on purpose. "But it's so small. I'm not sure they'll do okay." His response: It's okay. They're Exhibit A. LOL.

Dd decided to start tackling learning the first 10 elements of the periodic table. She chose to do a table, but wasn't sure what to look up since I don't really have a proper French resource here for chemistry, so I told her to look up "table périodique". She found a good French site with the periodic table, and put in her table the atomic number, symbol and name, but also what type of element it is! Very cool. :) This reminds me that I had looked at Montessori Research and Development's chemistry album listing online and am pretty sure I want it. I should order it ASAP. And maybe guide dd to their materials section where she might get be tempted to do some of the same as part of her work.

This reminds me: I went to Austin Montessori's website the other day to look at their information on their Adolescent Community. There has been a change with dd this year and I really think I need to learn more, immerse my brain as much as possible, in what Montessori schools out there are doing so I can find something, or try different things, to find a good match for her. She definitely wants to learn, wants to progress, and while I've had difficulty figuring out how to meet her desires and needs the past couple of years, there's a greater motivation, a greater confidence that's allowing her to venture into new areas, and I want to at least try to make the most of it.

I've totally gone off track. Back to what I was saying. I went to Austin Montessori's website and had a look at their Adolescent Community information. Something interesting stuck out at me:

We use an integrated project approach in order to engage students in the pursuit of ideas and expertise, encouraging them to become better thinkers, problem-solvers, and responsible and informed citizens.
This is an area, the idea of an integrated project approach, that I would like to explore more. Something else struck me:

One way we cultivate this community is by preparing rituals and routines which allow the adolescents to operate relatively independently in the prepared environment. 

She has been, without my requesting, taking initiative to do more herself, be more independent. I recall my own adolescence where I *loved* days on my own where I could be completely independent and responsible. There is probably a lot I have not shown her over the years that would be super important to show her now, to provide these rituals and routines so she can feel the strength of independence. Not force her to be independent, but work step-by-step at establishing some more routines around here that would allow her to develop the ability to be independent. I feel like I'm repeating myself. Ah well.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Worms, worms, worms!

I was so enamoured with my 2yo niece on Friday, I forgot to share what else we have going on!

Worm farms!

I made some comment about the suicidal worms on the driveway after the rain and that spurred the older kids into rescue mode. This led to asking if we had dirt; yes, I had some potting soil. Did I have containers they could use? Yes, I did. What do they eat? You'll have to look online.

Now we have 4 containers with worms in them. Bob has two, for some reason. I just realized I threw out a bunch of watermelon rinds today that we could have used as worm food. Dang.

They have 3 of the containers covered with brown paper because I had read that they need to be covered or kept in a dark place. We'll see how long they keep these guys alive. I think dd and ds will be responsible this week for learning more about how to keep them alive. Bob has only 6 weeks to finish all of his correspondence work AND study--he's got to get cracking!

You can see the worm along the side! If there's too much light when we pull up the paper, they dart out from wherever they are to a darker spot.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Oh my goodness, what a character!

The last hilarious laugh of the day with the same niece:

She was at the table drawing, trying to use a stencil. (She fails miserably, but always thinks she's done great. It's very cute.) For some reason, she stopped and yelled at it:

What are you doing?
(then louder)
What are you doing? You animal! Enough of this!


More from my 29mo niece

I read a book today for me.

I need my dog.

One day my dad is home. When my dad is home. (turn page) When my dad is home. (Turn page.) When my dad is home with me. (Ad nauseum.)

(Almost shouting:) When my dad is home for me.

Indeed I love my dad. (Turn page.) I love my mom. (Turn page.) I love my mom.

One day I left... (voice trailed off and she turned the page)

One day my mommy... And my mommy... And my mommy

Can't say that story. (And walked off! lol)


It's a shame her big sister isn't having such a positive creative day. It's been a day of grumpiness toward the older kids, accusations of people hitting her tent (when nobody was near the tent--yes, I did witness the event and it was that one thing that one person moved caused a foamy chair to move against the end of the tent), and just general attitude of thinking the worst of the older kids. Not sure what might have triggered that, or maybe nothing really did, other than a general grumpiness and irritability present in the house (seems to go along with the weather).


Now the 29mo is using a wooden hammering toy and chanting:

Bubble gum. Bubble gum. (Shoot, she said something else, but I didn't get it down.)

Sunny like a gummy bear. (while hammering)
Sunny like a gummy bear.

Yesterday, she was singing a little song about her soup eating her animal crackers. LOL

Story Telling

My 29mo niece has spent the past 30-45 minutes "reading" aloud. She takes whatever book she finds and makes up a story as she goes through. She is frankly amazing. I don't think I've known any of the other kids to tell stories of the level of sophistication I'm hearing at the same age!

Here are some of the things I've managed to write down:

"And then the baby spider said..."

"A coccinelle is going in the driveway. The ladybug says, 'Oh, there's a spider in the driveway.'"

"I need the master!"

"There's lots of place there in the potty."

"One day, the girl said, 'My blanket!'"

"Oh Papa..."

Something about a Mommy saying, "And she's BEAUTIFUL my bug!"

There's too much other noise and distraction around here and I can't write things down fast enough. She's, unfortunately, upstairs and the computer is downstairs. I'd love to type up what she says. lol

Dd's first oil painting

Not bad, eh? Especially since the wind flung it up and it whacked her in the face while trying to get into the van. She had blue and green paint on her face, poor kid, but it didn't do too much damage to the painting itself.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Just some Thursday night babbling

Been thinking about how to make the most of the time we have left before summer. Bob has got his correspondence work to get done and exams to study for--exams have to be done 1st, maybe 2nd, week of June. After that, I hate to think things will just fall apart into "I don't have to work now that my school work is done."

Since dd has been feeling like she hasn't really been working, I'm thinking of how I might work with her to plan out her time or plan lessons or something. I've been thinking I need to re-read Donna Bryant Goertz's book and maybe the section on the elementary class observations from Montessori Today. Dd would probably be more likely the 12-15 level, but there is just so little information out there. I feel stuck on how to progress with her. If I can at least flesh out some potential goals, that might at least get the ball moving.

All right, so what are some potential goals, or work areas?

-grammar: verb conjugations, adjectives (and their "accords"), plurals... Actually, I've got a workbook for this that she's started using. I'd like to do more *with* her. She enjoys it more, I know.

-reading: this hasn't been bad, actually, since she's been reading to her cousins a bit in French, plus she reads the science magazine we get; if I could find a website with articles or something, that might be better than trying to find a reasonable book, although if we could actually have some sort of a novel study, that would be fantastic

-writing: been thinking about having her start keeping a journal on what she's done over the course of the day, or maybe have her do it at lunch, so she'd just write what she's done for the morning; I'd also like to show her how to do articles or mini-essays; just getting her to write is the ideal way to then tackle grammar and spelling and all that

-this has been woefully neglected, but both she and her brother LOVE it when I just start using German with them; how to make sure it happens? Not sure. And at the moment, I feel my energy and ability to think fading rapidly. Maybe just a REMINDERS sheet for me so that I plan something every day, even if it's just one new word or phrase.

-actually, this is taken care of, just have to make sure to do it; again, a reminder sheet would come in handy

-um, hm... basically 2 months left. Maybe if I just start researching countries or history or a culture or something, that will get some things moving. I don't think Maria Montessori ever envisioned a student her age actually doing formal social studies--they would have learned about geography through working on the farm and business interactions, economics through the same... She's actually thought about how she might be able to start making some money of her own. Maybe it's something to encourage a little more, get her researching ideas.

-She said today that it's ironic that her Dad is a math teacher but it's the one subject she doesn't like. And that she wondered why she didn't like it. I told her it was because we were so inconsistent and she wasn't confident because the basic skills weren't there. Thinking about it now, I also think I don't present enough of a lesson for her--I jump into work too quickly when she just needs a little time to process first. So, I'd be very satisfied to just work on times tables and division tables (division, and therefore fractions, seems to worry her the most) for the next couple of months. It'd be good to add in some geometry or something.

-She participated in an oil painting workshop the other day and the instructor was so fantastic, those kids (almost all grades 7-12) came out pleased as punch with their work. She now wants to do more. This, of course, opens up all kinds of possibilities for study since she can read up on things, try things, etc. I need to know if there's something OTHER than just canvas she can use because that is going to get EXPENSIVE! She could also study some famous oil paintings and painters, maybe try to imitate, etc.

-She has been wanting to do guitar. Her brother has been wanting to do guitar. How come we haven't been doing it? I don't know.

All right, my brain is fading away. Enough babbling for tonight. I do need to put that checklist together of things to work on so I see it in the morning and can at least try to plan some sort of lessons or activities!

I'm a very harried mother?


I'm #45. :D

Interesting to see how others interpret what I write. I don't feel harried. Have had moments of stress and definitely busy, but not harried. Even decided to look up the word. Synonyms: Disturbed, distressed, agitated, tormented, pestered...

Is that really how I come across??? lol

The Weather

This beautiful weather is making it harder to actually do some schooling around here! It feels too much like the beginning of June, when we start doing crafts and spending lots of time outside. The 15yo still has work he has to get done, and exams to prepare for, my 12yo complained yesterday of feeling like she hasn't really done any work since Christmas (which isn't true, but it still feels like it to her).

I'm somehow going to have to battle against nice weather, unfortunately, to keep things together around here!

What has been going on instead? Well, the 15yo is getting work done, but that's mainly because he's doing a novel study right now and for that, I'm reading the book aloud so we can all enjoy it--and to make sure it gets done. ;) It's actually a very good book: Dare, by Marilyn Halvorson. We're nearly done--but it was supposed to have been finished 2 weeks ago. Eek. Gotta get crackin' a bit. My 12yo has been doing a lot of crafty stuff--most recent has been a latch hook kit. She got it last weekend and is already done. lol. Before that, it was some other craft. My 9yo has been outside, playing and reading. Although I am managing to get him to do some math sometimes and some handwriting sometimes.

It's tough to start up some good work routines when I--and the kids--would rather just be in summer mode! If some rain could come, that'd help. ;)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Another week just about done!

It's kind of funny: Last week was a "short" week due to Easter Monday, but it felt like 2 weeks long. This week has gone by so quickly, it's just one big blur in my mind!

My 5yo niece seems to have started a late-afternoon "school time". I found a few things for her that I put in a magazine holder (some old math workbooks my kids barely used, one of those little notebooks with the dotted middle line for beginning writers, etc.) and she has at least a couple of times this week pulled things out and done things. Yesterday, she did a few subtraction questions, then moved onto her little notebook. Wrote all kinds of things, then came up to me to show her cursive u!

Things are going a bit better with the 2yo, although she's at that emotional stage where the slightest thing creates heartbreak. :( The kids are learning to not yank things back from her, which seemed to have kind of thrown her off at first, but it's getting better and better. I'm being consistent at removing her from certain situations and she seems to be learning that she won't get to stay where she wants to be if she keeps hassling others.

The 15yo is slowly getting back into work. We're focusing on just his math and LA right now. He's started a novel study that I'm reading aloud to all of them, a book called Dare by an Albertan whose name I can't remember at the moment. (Marilyn something? Maybe?) We are really enjoying that and it's a nice change of pace because they can all do something crafty or whatever they're doing while I read and we discuss. I haven't done a read-aloud in so long, it reminds me that it's an element that's missing from our day.

Dd has been doing mostly Hanjie puzzles all week. Here's an example:  We have a little book and only have one copy of it, so they've been photocopying so others can do the same. Dd even got dh in on them! lol. Then it spread to ds and eventually to the 15yo, who did his first one yesterday. They are fantastic for working on analytical and logical skills!

I guess school-wise, it's been rather relaxed in a way but that's not necessarily a bad thing. ;) Maybe school hasn't been relaxed as much as I've felt relaxed. ;D

Other than that, working on decluttering and organizing the house! It's actually been a focus for a couple of months now, but I've been doing even better this week. It's nice to see garbage and recycling bags fill up and get some order to certain perpetually disordered areas. Like ds's room. :D

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Puzzles were the focus this past week. It started with dd being eager to finish a puzzle she'd started sometime ago, plus bringing out some easy puzzles for my nieces and bam, it became puzzle week with everyone involved!

My 2yo niece has been quite impressive: With minimal guiding, she was able to put together a 12-piece Caillou puzzle we have, where Caillou and his Mom are baking in the kitchen. (I need to remember to take pictures more often!) Friday, she put together--by herself--a 15-piece Max & Ruby puzzle. It was interesting to watch as she found pieces to put together, made mistakes (and my good little Montessorians didn't interfere, just watched), figured out she'd made a mistake and pulled off pieces to try again. Fascinating stuff to watch! She is VERY MUCH in the "me do" phase, but I didn't expect her to be so determined to do a puzzle herself!

I wonder if the puzzle focus will continue next week, or if next week will bring something new!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Terrible 2s Have Hit

Wow. Man oh man. My 2yo niece has hit the terrible 2s full force. We're talking several meltdowns/tantrums PLUS hitting PLUS taking things from others--and that was just in the morning!

I tried to mentally step back from it all today and figure out what she needs from these experiences and how we can lessen her frustration. For one, I realized that when she steals something from others, they rip it back out of her hands. So, I addressed that with my son and 5yo niece, explaining that she doesn't understand, she just sees that they are taking things from her, so she's going to keep doing the same. We talked about how it was important to ask for it back and ask for my help if they weren't getting anywhere. Reasoning doesn't always work with a 2yo. (I had the sudden thought that I wonder if this is like Cesar Millan with his dog whispering: he is so patient, that for some problems, he's still waiting many minutes later. We can be so impatient and want our things back NOW, but it might be better for her if we could learn to patiently wait it out, with it clear that we aren't backing down, but aren't forcing her by ripping things out of her hands, either.) I'm sure this is going to have to be addressed frequently.

Other than that, I'm sure I'm not doing things the Montessori way, but one thing seems to already be helping: counter sitting. :D What is this? Well, if things are going poorly and she won't be redirected to something else--or I can feel I'm losing patience and don't want to take the potentially long time to get her redirected--I pick her up, bring her with me to the kitchen, plop her on the counter and work on cleaning. There's always something to clean in the kitchen. lol. I know Maria Montessori, with slightly older children, would kind of isolate them, and then treat them like they were sick, but this toddler's an interesting little character. I could see her acting up just so she could be treated like she was sick. lol. In any case, she ended up on the counter 3 times today, and the 3rd time, she calmed down quickly and said quietly, "Veux descendre, tante D." (Want down, Auntie D.) She proceeded downstairs, informed her sister she was not going to touch her things, she was just going to look, and things went very smoothly after that.

One more incident where she was trying to take things, or see things (couldn't figure it out), but the way my 5yo niece was behaving with the items, she was just making things worse--and not even playing with the items, just being possessive of them. I told her they were too problematic and she'd have to give them to me; she gave them, I took them and walked away. My 2yo niece piped down right away and there were no further problems.

Another trick that's working a bit: instead of plopping her somewhere with some things to do that she'd like or treating her like she's sick, I just pick her up and carry her around and talk with her. It might not fill whatever need or desire she had that was causing a problem, but it fills another need and helps her forget the first problematic one. ;)

So, the terrible 2s have hit, but remembering to step back and see what's what is definitely helping!

Monday, April 05, 2010

School's Back In Tomorrow!

It's been a weird Spring Break with the Easter weekend tacked onto the end. Everything has felt kind of rushed somehow, although my 4 days of just minding the kids has been good.

For tomorrow, I'm working on structuring things more. Already have some possible schedules worked out for "Bob"; need to get some stuff into place for my 2 and make a Would-Like-to-Present list for 5yo niece. I'm thinking this week of giving my 2 the blank work charts, as I've done in the past, or the "list charts" (for each subject, instead of a blank space to write things in, there is a list of ideas to circle or highlight as they're done) and just really focus on having them think of morning as work time, not play/chat/goof-around time. To get back to a really good flow, I need to include them all into some routines, like clean up and after-lunch silent reading--starting with 15 minutes. I should maybe make a chart and print it off so I don't have to remember this in the morning.

I've been doing fairly well with my journalling and it's really helping me get my thoughts together, as I knew it would. Some things I need to journal about: what will I present, how to fit in artsy and music stuff, how to make sure to give 5yo niece enough presentations.

Oh, supper beckons!