Sunday, May 30, 2010

Oh, the irony!

I've been reading things on Charlotte Mason and LD kids. I was just reading an article put out by the PNEU in the late 1800s where they recommended as part of the intellectual instruction of "feeble-minded" (which anybody with any kind of problem would have been labelled "feeble minded") students that Seguin's method of learning through the senses be used.

Why is that ironic? Because, from what I've read, Charlotte Mason did not really care for the Montessori Method at all. And yet, the PNEU was recommending Seguin's methods, which are EXACTLY what the Montessori Method is based on. Ha!

That does have me thinking, though, that I maybe need to find ways to do more sensory-type education with the 15yo. The CM approach of reading (or listening) and then narrating is going to be rather dull for things like high school science. Plus, there are all kinds of activities I could pull from The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun which would also provide the sensory stimulation he so often seems to crave. The activities are just plain fun and could be part of fun time in the afternoons.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Thinking About Next Year

Specifically, the approach to take for the 15yo.

This year was a better year than previous years, but he's a happier kid than in previous years. It makes a difference. He's not quite so anxious, so willing to go a step further. I don't know if any of the Choice Theory I had been learning has stayed and helped or not. But I need to go further with him.

My reading list for this summer, well, starting this past week, actually, in terms of preparing for the fall:

*Marva Collins' Way
*Ordinary Children, Extraordinary Teachers (also by Marva Collins)
*Charlotte Mason's Home Education Series
*Various Choice Theory books, and probably Reality Therapy in Action, plus Every Student Can Succeed (by William Glasser)

If I'm going to stick to the Montessori philosophy, I actually have to accept that things need to be more structured, time needs to be more filled up for him. Marva Collins appeals to me because she has used her approach with various ages, and with great success, and it is an approach that is just what I said: time is filled up. Not with busywork, though, with work that matters. That is what Choice Theory asks of schools, too: that the work be meaningful, that it meet students' needs and have a purpose, not just give them work for the sake of working. Marva, too, has a huge focus on telling the kids they are capable, filling them with positive sayings, and she focuses, too, on how they choose to behave. Although she's far more intense than William Glasser probably has in mind--and probably more intense than I can reasonably manage--she's still an excellent model in what to have them work on and how to have them think critically and positively.

Charlotte Mason re-entered my mind yesterday and I've been looking at the method more today. What appeals to me with Charlotte Mason is the focus on basic skills, like Marva, but also the short chunks of time. Now, with an older student, the blocks aren't supposed to be super short, and as I've kind of worked some thoughts out for the fall I've realized that it would be ridiculous to make all of his blocks 15 minutes to start, but there are definite things like copywork, spelling, quick math review before a lesson and things like that that can have a shorter time limit to work on having him focus more and to keep to a time limit. He wants to go to post-secondary in 2 years; he's going to have to gently become more used to time limits. Now, with most kids I'd say, "Oh, kids are adaptable; we don't need to start working on this now," but his history of anxiety and resistance to change he hasn't initiated--or that doesn't "benefit" him in some way, from his point of view--have me thinking I need to take more action in this area.

Another thing I need to do over the summer is to figure out how to approach his school work next year. He is doing APS courses, but he will be registered in such a way that we get to work with the teacher from the school to do something different from the correspondence modules. I'm pretty sure for Math, I want to use SNAP, which means--it hits me now--that I need to order this ASAP because the math program is changing and while he'll be allowed to use SNAP in the fall, most other schools will have a completely different math program, making SNAP Math Pure obsolete! He'll be doing Math 10P for the first half of the year, then Math 20P for the second half. I also plan on building in review, starting from the beginning of math concepts, if need be! He's got such a capable mind when it comes to math, but he doesn't ever do enough practice, so it's like having to start over all the time. I want to make a specific plan this summer with a thorough breakdown of what to review and when. I'm almost tempted to make use of some Saxon lessons for the practice sheets.

His science is going to be a little more complicated. Math is one thing to do from a text; a hands-on kid interested in science needs more than a textbook! He's going to be doing Science 10 first semester and my thoughts at the moment are to make it research-based, tied with experiments (where applicable), possibly notebooking for the main research areas, with the textbook as a support and as a means of giving quizzes and the like. He is not required to do an exam and I honestly think I will ask for Science 10 that he not do one and that we figure out some other final evaluation that covers the course. Exam practice is good for him, but half the course is practically useless to him and will be difficult at this point to get him engaged in learning for an exam. (I can't remember now if he picked Chem 20 or Physics 20 to do second semester. If we can get his work habits down really well first semester, he could do both second semester.)

Other than that, he'll be doing ELA 20-2 all year. That will give him plenty of time to not only cover the APS requirements, but also for me to work on all those little skills of his that are lagging but could be better. I actually think that one of the things we will cover for ELA is the book "Learning Outside the Lines" which was written by two Ivy League students who are LD and ADHD respectively. Part of their stories are in there and he will be able to relate; the other part is about empowerment and skills, which will be instructive. But I've gone off on something I wasn't planning on getting into. Planning, that's what I was talking about. So, for ELA 20-2, that will be easy enough to plan, but I still have to be specific enough for deadlines for the school. I'm not going to do this theme nonsense he had to do with the correspondence packages. Ok, maybe "nonsense" is too harsh a word. It just feels very disjointed when things are split up all over the place, with poetry done in this module booklet, then 4 booklets later, it's showing up again. He and I are alike in that respect: let's just cover it well, maybe review it to remember, but let's get it done and move on!

That's another thing: I want to cover learning strategies, study skills, etc. with him.

But it's now after 10:30pm and I'm feeling exhausted. At least I have some of my thoughts down so I can come back and read them and think about them later instead of having them mill around in my head all the time. ;)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Not sure there's any progress!!

Yesterday, everybody was super tired, which led certain children to severe crankiness. Man. I'm not sure any school work got done. Today, the 15yo got a bit done and dd immersed herself in friendship bracelets, discovering that we didn't have any embroidery thread, which prompted us to make a visit to Michaels this afternoon.

I slept over 8 hours last night. That is highly unusual for me (with a past average of 6.5-7 hours, even though I used to sleep 8.5 hours before I had kids!), although it's happening more often recently. In the past, when I would wake up early, I'd just stay up because I usually wasn't able to fall back asleep, although I'm not sure how determined I was to fall asleep. ;) The past couple of months, I've been getting myself back to sleep most days, which has been great, but Thursday morning wasn't one of those! I could have used even another 30 minutes!

Other than that, made another green smoothie this morning. Unfortunately, I used bananas that weren't ripe enough and dd asked to try it, despite the creepy colour. Dang, not the best first experience. I ended up having to throw it out because no matter how I adjusted it, I couldn't make it better. :( (I ought to be posting this perhaps on my new blog: Feel free to visit me over there!)

What else? Am in looking-back-at-the-year mode. I'm sure I have the same self-evaluations as I've had in the past. I could probably go to one of my posts a few years back and it'd be roughly what I'd say today. Hm. What does that mean? Am I focusing on the wrong things, or not getting my act together enough? Maybe a little of both. ;) I've also been trying to figure out resources and plans for next year.

Guess that's it for now!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I've fallen of the posting wagon

Hm, what's gone on in the past week or so?

I still have not done the Golden Beads for a second time with the 5yo. :( Other than that, it's been trying to get the 15yo to get all of his work done, we've watched some movies, been to the library... I really don't know.

For the long weekend, dd was gone to Jasper, ds spent holiday Monday at his cousin's, I spent Sunday pretty much sick. Hm. That's about it.

So, let's move into today and forward instead of trying to figure out what happened? lol.

The end of school is almost here. Had the year-end review for the 19yo--she's pretty much officially done! At least on paper. The 15yo will soon be 16, but he'll be working his butt off for the next week and a half to get all of his work done in time. He has until Wed. to get his math done and until next Friday to get his English done. Then he has to do an exam for each of those subjects. THEN he's officially done for the year! Other than the cleaning I'm going to have him do. hehehe. Well, there are different field trips scheduled already for that week, plus we need to talk about his school work for next year, what he thinks he would like to do to meet APS requirements for science, ELA...

Dd is still enjoying Life of Fred. She's pretty tired this morning; I'm not sure what I'll get out of her for work. Ds got a Bionicles book from Scholastic (for free--a consolation gift for not yet having something else we'd ordered) and he's been reading that and playing outside. I'm kind of tempted to just leave him for now, although I'd like him to finish his math unit on reading time.

Well, everybody's going to be here in a few minutes. I need to finish up my first ever Green Smoothie (I have to admit it, I was scared, but I can't even tell the spinach is in it!) and get moving with this day!

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's feeling like summer!

29.6C on my outdoor thermometer--in the shade! That's normally July weather around here. How funny that we had snow a couple of weeks ago, and now scorching heat.

Everybody's falling into summer mode, though. It's tough to get the kids working when it's suddenly hot like this. They'd rather be outside playing, or eating freezies or something.

Bob asked about park day today. I reminded him of all of the work he has to get done in the next 2 weeks. He said 3 weeks. I said, no, *2* weeks. Oh. My nieces were also to be picked up as of 3pm, which had already added to the no of going. He went outside for a very short while right before eating lunch, came back in, said it was super hot outside (and that was around 23-25 degrees outside), I brought up that I didn't want the girls to go outside much, and Bob said something about it being maybe a bad idea for the littlest one to be at park day with this kind of heat. Yup. I know there are people who live in much hotter climates who are probably thinking we're big wimps ;), but we're not used to this kind of heat!

Then Bob said we've been anti-social hermits this year, which has been kind of true. It wasn't intentional. They didn't want to go to park day in September and October, for November there was H1N1, December was catching up time, January was finishing and exam time, February we got sick AGAIN (hey, better than last year when I had shingles in February!), March was some catching up again and the weather wasn't always great for April... We haven't held the get-togethers we used to and more. Maybe next year. It's been kind of nice to have a year where we're not constantly out doing things during the day. Especially since my kids have been busier in the evenings and on weekends.

Not sure if it's the heat or what, but the girls were much calmer today. I did pull out the Golden Bead Tray, but the 5yo never asked about it. Other than that, we got some of Bob's English done in the morning, the 3 oldest worked on cursive a bit, and we watched "Cool Runnings" as part of Bob's English--for the film study he needs to do. That took us until almost 2pm, so that was pretty much it for the day.

I ought to be doing some cleaning, but I'd rather not. LOL. But I have a goal of getting the level cleaned up nicely where the Montessori shelves are, and of removing some things from those shelves since a lot of things aren't being used, so I really need to get myself moving. The shelves will be more aimed towards my nieces instead of having lots of things for the older kids. My mind keeps going, "But it's pretty much summer, they won't be here," but then I have to remind myself: there is actually about a month and a half left before they are done with me before summer AND they'll be back in August! The heat is fooling me! ;)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I remember!

The other day, when I had shown the Movable Alphabet to my niece and I was trying to remember what else we had done, I now remember that I *did* show her something else: the Golden Beads. I have to make a point of working with her on them again tomorrow.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Just procrastinating

Well, kind of taking a break from cleaning and just thought I'd post about other school stuff.

12yo dd is loving Life of Fred! She's made it to the first "bridge" in the book (a little test section--very neatly done because the kids do the first try, if they don't get 9 or 10 out of 10, they correct their mistakes and do the 2nd try; same thing and so it goes for 5 tries, I think, at which point they have to restart with the 1st try if they still haven't gotten it) and was very pleased with herself. I think that means she's done 5 lessons. Now Bob is saying that if he had something fun to do like that, he'd work willingly, too. lol. I'm glad dd is finding it FUN. There are a few things here and there I do have to help her with because she's not done much simple division and never done long division, but other than that, she's enjoying it, feeling capable and I'm seeing her love of math come back. She doesn't remember ever having a love of math, but I remember the little 3-, 4- and 5yo she was who loved counting and adding and subtracting, who could tell me rather quickly at the age of 5 that 9+9 was 18. "How'd you figure it out so quickly?" A self-discovered strategy that she explained something like this: "10 + 10 is 20, and there's one less of each, so it's 18." We've already been discussing plans for next school year and she's already decided she wants to continue with Life of Fred. If she keeps going the rate she's going, I may have to get the 3rd book for fall!

Other than that... Ds played a neat little tune this morning on his guitar. I asked him if Bob had taught him it. No. "You just made it up?" "Yes," with an embarrassed little smile. Very cool.

That reminds me: dd has said she really wants to learn guitar next school year. I'm thinking it would be a great summertime learning activity! Ds has his own guitar and I have a concert-size guitar dd would be able to play. I've had it for a few years now (my mom got it in the early 70s, hasn't played it since the 70s, so got it fixed up a bit and gave it to me as a present as I love musical instruments) and have been wanting to learn, too, so guitar is one of the plans for this June, July and August. She also really wants to make more progress on German, which is another thing I can easily incorporate into our days this summer--if I make a point of it!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Montessori Happenings

I meant to write yesterday while everything was fresh on my mind. I think I'm going to forget some of it all!

While my younger niece was down for her nap yesterday, I brought upstairs the cursive Sandpaper Letters, and maybe something else, can't remember. In any case, the 5yo was eager to do the letters. So I picked a couple, she has forgotten how to do "a" :(, but she kept saying words that went with the sounds of the letters, so I went straight to some simple syllables. She decided to go for words. :D

We did "man", first, then something else, then she went straight for "cheval" (horse), because that's her absolute passion. She remembered that 'ch' is /sh/ in French (and I am now thinking I really need at least some large cursive green cards with some of the basic French combination sounds, even if I can't get them made out of sandpaper right away) and did the rest on her own.

Then she wanted to make "achale" (bug, as in, to bug somebody lol), and I told her I only had one 'a', but I might be able to find some other letters for her to make "achale". I managed to find my large cursive movable alphabet letters, all mixed together because I'd never managed to figure out how to make a container for them. I laid them out on the floor, rearranging them as we went along to a layout that was potentially more helpful, and she made a bunch of words that you will see in the pictures. (Pictures now below! I thought she'd done more words than that, but I guess it was just that she picked words that were so complicated for this as a beginning, that it seemed like she had done more!)

Ah, yes, cobra was her second word. I had just read to her a book on snakes and one of
the snakes was a cobra. Interesting how she went for the 'k' for the /k/ rather than
the 'c'! 'Achale' is missing an e, but it's not clearly said, so I can understand
why she built it the way she did.

This is her version of "plafond" ("ceiling"). We don't pronounce the
'd', so of course it's not there! She did have to ask
how to make the 'on' sound.

"Plateforme" was her next word (with her phonetic spelling, which turns out to be 
the English spelling), which she built off of "plafon". She was figuring out 
the sounds and saw that she could just take the pla from her "plafon", 
then as she worked through the word, she ended up using all of the 
letters from her "plafon" except the n, which is why it's still there. lol.

For now, I've got the letters stored in some larger envelopes than just normal envelopes, grouped according to size (short, tall, with "tail") and the letters written on the upper right-hand corner of each envelope. 'F' was not given an envelope--it doesn't fit with the other categories, so I left it out. They are all in a basket.

In any case, there was more that happened after that. Seems to me she did some math, not sure what else. I had the thought that if I could have more Montessori time with her like that, maybe she would turn to the activities more while her sister was awake. And then, just to shoot my tendency to expect immediate change down, the littlest one woke up, came downstairs, and the two were back to their crazy play.

Which brings me to a realization I had today: These two have hit a point where they are not able to interact with each other unless it's through some sort of play. It's kind of sad. They used to do things together or side-by-side, but not anymore. They're either making each other laugh or are just being plain goofy and loud. I actually put a halt to some of it this afternoon, told them they could read or draw or paint together. They continued with the goofiness. I was clearer and said that it had to stop, and they could read, draw or paint together. Eventually, the message became clear and they each found different things to do, but they never did come together again. They are perfectly fine and calm doing the same activities with other people, but together, they get crazy. And it can be either girl instigating it! Definitely something I need to work on. But not now: Ghost Whisperer is starting! ;D

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Facilitator meeting done!

To homeschool in Alberta (for all of my non-Albertan readers), a family has to meet a couple of times per year with a teacher from a supervising school board. Nothing fancy, just write down a few things the kids have done, maybe look at some work samples.

I've always had my meetings rather late in the year--end of May or beginning of June. We had ours today, though, and I am REALLY liking how early it is. Why? Well, if it takes place at the end of May or later, then the kids flip into, "We're done!" mode. But, it's only mid-May. We are NOT done. (evil grin)

But that has me thinking about what to do for the next while. I may veer slightly towards a bit more structure and requirements, just to get my 2 working a bit more. Bob has to finish up his course work and study; he'll be done his exams 2nd week of June. That's when we'll be done, I think. After that, it's field trips and outings and baking and cleaning up and stuff like that. So, I still have a few more weeks to keep the others busy with things.

For ds, I think I'm going to go a little more Charlotte Mason for the next while: daily copywork, daily math, daily French spelling/grammar book, daily German; other than that, he can choose from science, geography, art, music, reading... I'll give him a daily form so he can write down what he's done, including whatever reading he does.

I'll take the same idea for dd, but without the daily copywork, and with an additional requirement to write a paragraph (or more) in French each day. For math, I think I'll give her the option to do the math stuff in Life of Fred (she's already read both books, just not actually done any of the math) or to do a worksheet that I'd prepare for her. I've also purchased the Montessori R&D chem and physics manuals, and since she's been working on chemistry, I could start showing some of that to her. So far, she's looked at the first 10 elements of the periodic table--which I should actually be finding ways for her to memorize as she wants to memorize them but needs to use them in some way--and we've talked a bit about what the atomic numbers mean. I know there will be plenty of activities in the manual and she may even come up with some of her own ideas once she gets going.

For my 5yo niece... I realized today I don't think I've ever presented the Golden Beads to her. If I did, it was very long ago and I never followed through. That's something I could work on with her. Her understanding of numerals from 0-12 is very good; I could also introduce her to the Teens Board. And, she has never had the opportunity to make a world map placemat using the puzzle map, so I could also present the Continent Puzzle Map and get her to the point of being able to make a placement.

For 2.5yo niece... I think I really need to start introducing everything I can from Gettman's first period and seeing it where it takes us. Both girls seem to have fallen into ridiculous play and have little attraction to former activities. I haven't really shown them anything new for sometime. I'll have to go through some lists of typical activities, start practising them and get myself ready to show them!


Naturally, now that this year is almost done, my mind is already moving ahead to next year. I want to sit down and plan out everybody's year, even though I so often don't follow my plans. *sigh* Maybe it means I need to plan differently.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Life of Fred

Oh my goodness, if you have an upper elementary or older child who has done significant work with basic addition and multiplication facts (ideally, has them mastered, or is close to mastery), I have to recommend Life of Fred. (The first book says addition and multiplication; the website says long division as well. Hm...) We picked up the first two books of the series today after having had the title show up repeatedly recently: I had 2 different people tell me about them, had read about them not too long earlier, and then after I asked a friend if she sold them, more people asked about them (without them knowing I had asked her)! My life is just like that. lol. Although, now I have to wonder if that means I need a lot of hints before I get moving on something. ;)

In any case, Life of Fred is the story of a 5.5yo boy who has different issues over the course of his day and how he incorporates math to help him solve his problems. There are some opportunities to practise what is being taught in the lesson, as well as a recap every so often. You might be thinking, "So what?" Well, they are HILARIOUS! Dd has already read half of the first book and plans on going back later to actually do the math.

This is Fred (my apologies to Stan Schmidt if this is not acceptable, but consider it free advertising! :D):

You can find out more about Fred here:

And some sample pages here:

Tired Toddlers

Lately, I've been finding the two youngest girls (5yo and 2.5yo nieces) are just kind of crazy. lol. Whereas for a good long while, they would contentedly read books or draw or colour or play with Playdough or even play with Barbies, or the older would do some math or practise the sandpaper letters or something, they have moved into laugh-noise-laugh-noise-laugh-noise mode. It's like they have a contest to see how long and how loudly they can do silly things and laugh.

I'd been a bit under the weather last week and not able to realize that I have to start directing them a bit since they are no longer on automatic pilot. ;)

This morning, they showed up, and it started right away. The 2.5yo was the primary instigator. My thoughts were, "What am I going to do about this?????" I did a very un-Montessori thing. After she had decided to make even more noise after the two were asked to be quieter with the Barbies, I was going to put the Barbies away. I came down, saw that while the older was laughing, she was actually doing something with the Barbies and simply laughing at her sister. The 2.5yo was putting a Barbie tree base (or something) in her mouth and making noise. I told her she was all done, picked her up and walked with her upstairs while I figured out what to do. Then she yawned. It was about 9am and she was yawning--it hit me that her chaotic behaviour was the result of her being tired and adrenaline kicking in.

I ended up--here comes the un-Montessori part--getting out the high chair and placing her in it. To make up for that, I then picked three different activities for her to choose from--pouring beans, a Discovery Toys mosaic pegs activity and a cylinder block. She went through each one, and I then offered her paper and crayons. She drew some very cute things she wants to give to her mom. She said she was done--and by this time, her older sister had found some productive, quiet things to do--so I brought her Playdough. She made some things, only lasted about 5 minutes with the Playdough, then put it all back in the container and said she was done and she wanted out. The 5yo was so sufficiently absorbed in what she was doing, I knew it wouldn't cause any problems to let her roam free. Ha! Silly me!

She tried to get her older sister's attention, but it didn't pan out. I could see how tired she was, but unconvinced that she would fall asleep so early in the morning. She eventually decided to go play Barbies again, but it was just too much for her tired self to handle and she started crying when she saw her sister had put them all back in the bin (because, remember, I had pulled her away while she had been playing with them--they "ought to" have still been there). I went to her and asked her what she wanted, she stopped crying but didn't say anything. I said that her sister had put everything back in the bin, but it was okay, she (2yo) could take out what she wanted. I left her contemplating that, but it was a no go. Next thing I know, she's yelling her fussing. I finally look down--she's complaining about her sock, half in tears. I told her it was okay and she left it alone. Next thing I know, she's having a fit in the stairs because people are walking down it while she's trying to go up. It was only 10am by this point, but I saw that something had to be done about her tiredness! So, off to bed I brought her. It took her longer than usual to fall asleep, but she did fall asleep and is still sleeping now (an hour later). I expect she'll sleep at least another 30 minutes, possibly even another hour.

What's my point with all of this? Just that sometimes the annoying behaviours that come out of our kids, especially the loud, obnoxious, or teary behaviour of our toddlers, come not from boredom or lack of discipline or lack of guidance, but out of sheer adrenaline trying to keep them going. Which is why it's always important to, as much as possible, ask yourself why a child is behaving the way s/he is: the cause completely affects what to actually do about the behaviour.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Never too young to start algebra!

Especially when you have materials! :)

I have these simple algebra tiles. Don't know what the company is who made them. In any case, I had pulled them out to show something to "Bob". They were still on the table while eating lunch, and just to see, I pulled out a bar representing x and told my 5yo niece that it was x, even though it doesn't look like x, we call it x. Then I took out one of the little red squares and told her it was plus 1. I put it next to the x and told her that we now have x + 1. I took a bite to eat and she asked to do more!

I grabbed another red square and told her now we had x + 2. Then I added another one, and she knew it was x + 3. We did more squares, added more x's and even started taking away x's and squares. She LOVES it!

I'm going to miss her when she goes off to public school full-day kindergarten in the fall. She'll be coming to me after school, so maybe we'll be able to still do these kinds of things. She's so capable and it's such a joy to see her delight in doing these kinds of things.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

More Montessori for early adolescents

Still in search mode! Here are some more links. I should probably find a way to collect them all together somewhere:

Great River School: and

Ottawa Montessori School:

Milwaukee Montessori School Junior High Blog--this one's particularly nice because you get to see pictures of what the kids are doing and I think all or most of the entries are by the students themselves:  **There are other blogs for other levels; just check out the links on the right of the jr. high blog!

Milwaukee Montessori School page:

Tall Pines School--the Montessori Guiding Principles and Adolescence starting in the middle of the page are particularly interesting:

Roots and Wings:

Something from

Some links focusing specifically on the idea of the Erdkinder: (If you understand German. :) )