Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Amazed... and sad! :(

My niece is not quite 3. I find her utterly brilliant. I was eating a kind of fruit snack the other day and she actually asked if there were peanuts in it (she can't eat peanuts). I said no. Then she asked if she could have one! She's not even 3! Her speech is just utterly amazing.

This brilliance, however, means she picks up on all kinds of things and she said something yesterday that at first left me kind of shocked, then sad. I was dropping my two off at a science workshop, leaving the newest little one asleep in his car seat, my niece in her car seat, and the 16yo to watch over them. I got back in the van and the 16yo shows me a broken Ken doll--my niece had been doing something with it and snapped the head off. She said, and I'm pretty sure I'm quoting correctly: "I'm not a good kid, huh?" (insert wide-eyed shocked face here)

It just points to a certain reality about our society: we have a way of making feel kids bad about themselves when they make mistakes. We talk to them more harshly about their mistakes than we would to a fellow adult (well, assuming we're not in a bad relationship with them), even though kids are less capable than adults and need more patience and care. We make big deals out of little things, affecting their sense of self. I catch myself especially with my son. How am I affecting him by forgetting that he's just a kid? By treating him as though he ought to be more on the ball than a friend or my husband?

I hope this 2yo's words stick with me forever.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kids are so impressive!

Dd turned 13 yesterday. As part of a combined birthday celebration with other family members, we were at  little one's house yesterday. Her 5yo sister got scared playing in the dark with the big kids. At one point, she decided to try again and dd said to her that she was brave, and that she wasn't brave because she wasn't scared, but because she was scared and still came and played anyhow.

Dd said that the 5yo puffed herself up with confidence and played happily the rest of the time.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Loving the freedom of homeschooling :)

I'm feeling the love today, the love of the freedom that homeschooling brings. And I don't mean it in the sense of the freedom of choice in curriculum, schedule, lifestyle, etc. I mean in the freedom it allows our children to grow according to their inner desires and interests, instead of being shaped by the interests and desires of their same-age peers in most schools today.

I had left out a game I introduced to my niece yesterday: a simple Winnie the Pooh Game designed for 3-5-year olds, I think. Ds saw it on the table this morning and started setting it up to play it, probably for old times' sake. When the Little One arrived, she went downstairs and the two of them played this Winnie the Pooh game together.

He is 10, keep in mind. A 10yo boy who had no qualms, no embarrassment with playing a "little kid"'s game. It would have been a very different scene if he'd pulled that game out at school in a regular grade 5 classroom here. ;)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Work Contracts Babbling

I'm not sure what Maria Montessori would think about the work contracts. She seemed to like so much the idea of flow (without actually having that concept named that during her time), that I'm not sure the idea of the contract fits well. Maybe at the high school level. I'm thinking of bringing them in to help create a work focus around here. Here's some stuff I've found online on this topic. I'd also love to hear people's thoughts on work contracts!

"From age six on, students design contracts with the teacher to guide their required work, to balance their general work, and to teach them to become responsible for their own time management and education."

Of course, I don't know that just because it's common enough to show up here that it means it fits with the Montessori philosophy.

" And every child has a form to help him track his daily progress as he fulfills his work contract, covering subject by subject step by step according to the individualized path that he and his teacher have agreed to."

There's mention on this page of work contracts, but the very fact that they use Saxon math for the upper elementary has me raising an eyebrow. Yes, it's great that the students can go their own pace, but...

I have read other stuff in the past but can't find it. In any case, part of me is feeling that a contract at this point is rather coercive. My goal is to just get more work happening. So, more of an agreement between us, or an understanding, that work is expected to go on. A chart or checklist or something similar could be used to help track work and to provide ideas of things to do. I guess me insisting on a particular subject each week, or getting them to agree to something ;), would fit within the realm of a contract. I don't like that I have to insist on those things, although I suppose if I could manage to focus on the idea of having them see the need for certain items, or simply me taking the time to say, "Hey, come pick a lesson," I can cover with them all the things I'd like for them to cover.

Link of the day

Not that I share a link every day :), but here's one I'm sharing today:

If we lived close, I think I would actually strongly consider sending my dd to the adolescent program rather than homeschooling.

Friday, October 15, 2010

2nd Post Today--wooo


So, the ice cream-making didn't happen because I forgot that my new ice cream maker isn't your typical electric maker and I have to freeze the drum first. That'll take at least overnight. So, my niece and I made brownies. And she actually talked a bit. Well, well. I scooped her up and mostly kept her with me unless she deliberately left to go be with others. I think already it's helping. I remember her sister going through phases where she was demanding in a very different way for attention and me initiating the attention went a long way toward easing the demands.

On a completely different note, I decided to pull out my copy of Children Who Are Not Yet Peaceful, because I know there are some great insights into the functioning of a Montessori elementary classroom, but also perhaps some insights on how to get the 16yo's education connecting with him more. Some things so far that have stuck out at me:

"Help me to help myself." That's so key. Especially when dealing with a student who has labelled LD issues. My task now, more important than getting him through the provincial program of studies, is to figure out how to help him help himself. Reading and writing are the big problem areas. Part of that is due to what I believe are underlying sensory processing issues. This just brings me back to Maria Montessori's initial work with Séguin's sensory-based work with her students. Then, of course, there are the years of psychological resistance that have built up and the fear of failure. But the less he reads himself, writes or types things up himself, or even just uses his computer software (MacSpeech), the less connected he is with the work, and the less he learns it, not to mention the less he's motivated. What I wouldn't give to have been able to have directed him to a Montessori school back when he was in elementary and jr. high! The group interaction with peers working on exciting, hands-on projects... It's just not the same at my place. (And no, there is no Montessori elementary anywhere near here, so that wasn't even an option I could suggest to his parents.)

"Every child has an inherent drive to learn and learns best when he can rely upon that inner drive rather than outside compulsion to master the lessons of life and the world." p. 2-3 This touches on what I wrote earlier: talking regularly with the 16yo (and even my two would be a good idea) about aspirations and goals, help them connect with what's inside. That's one thing I have to say that the 16yo has never been good at. So much time is spent avoiding what's going on inside, with a focus on having fun (makes us all feel good) and where applicable, doing what will please or avoid conflict with others. (Although, admittedly, his fun seeking often causes problems!) He has confused anxiety that can come up as something bad, but we all can experience a certain level of anxiety when there's an important goal we want to accomplish.

In any case, reading that line really had me realize that as much as I may be able to incorporate some of the Charlotte Mason content into our lives, I won't succeed in incorporating the structure, nor do I want to. I would definitely like more structure to our days--I still fondly reminisce of the "days of old" ;) when things went very smoothly around here. It'll just take rekindling that desire and insisting on it, like I did in the past, and be prepared for the adjustment period.

Some other thoughts that popped up were the Shelton School and the Dalton School's idea of contracts (I think it's them who does that). Shelton's approach would be most applicable to the 16yo; Dalton is something I could consider incorporating into my kids' lives. Some Montessori elementaries or older do use the same principle of a commitment to a learning goal; my mind at the moment is seeing the idea of providing some ideas of areas to work on, then having the child in question commit to working on it. I think the learning contracts at Dalton are actually much more complicated than just that.

All kinds of stuff :D

Various and random things to share about this past while:

1) I have no idea what has happened, but my children have suddenly started turning towards making up their own math questions. I can't think of anything specific I have done, other than pull out the multiplication bead board and the simple division board and beads. Maybe it's the kids connected with math in a different way and so now they want to do more? I have no idea. Ds (10) was trying to figure out how much money he had a couple of days ago, so I wrote down the different amounts he had received recently as part of gift cards and money. We worked out the addition, so he asked for more questions like that. "Do you want to come up with your own questions?" "No." Not only did he not want to come up with his own questions, but he wanted me to make sure there were at least 3 addends in each question and that there should be 10-20 questions. He finally did them today and I think I will show him some addition problems with the bead frame. He's forgotten about carrying over numbers.

I pulled out the division board to demonstrate something to dd, to show her division didn't have to be complicated. Somehow, that led to her tying it into work she did today. We bought a funny die yesterday--it's not a normal shape, but does have 6 sides--and she decided to roll the die a bunch of times and tally which number it landed on each time. Then she decided to manually work out what percentage each of the results was of the total. This meant having to do LONG division, which I only just showed her briefly the other day; she may have seen some examples in the past, but there was also such resistance to long division that I just never really showed her. There were some melt downs today with it, but she persisted--with breaks here and there. Which is something because she's not physically well today, which already means a day of being sensitive and emotional. She discovered at one point that she's pretty sure she did at least one of the divisions wrong (okay, well, she's convinced they are ALL wrong--she did it on a whiteboard and erased her work; it might be a good idea if I suggest she write it on paper if she wants to be able to go back and check her work), and that led to it being pretty much done. I'm still impressed.

2) Social studies, the dreaded subject. Except, it's actually turning out to be the most interesting of the subjects and the only one the 16yo feels like doing. lol. If we could have interactive discussions for math and chem, he would do so much more, but alas, I'm not sure how to go about that. The Socratic method comes to mind for his math; the chem is a ton of learning terms at the moment. I think daily conversations about the work and his goals--even if it's to avoid having to do an extra year of high school--would help have him connect more with a desire to at least get the work done, even if he doesn't really like the work.

3) My almost 3yo niece is going through some sort of phase. She gets here in the morning and just clings to her dad--although you can tell it's half for effect. She used to come in, insist on taking off her shoes and coat herself, then off she went to play or look at a book or something. Her mom has said that at home, she has stopped talking to ask for things and regressed to baby-like behaviour. I've noticed it here. She has also stopped doing the various activities she used to do: practical life things, mosaic pegs, even puzzles. She follows somebody around most of the time or plays with my son, but even then, she's not talkative like she used to be. The morning clinginess started when her dad was away for a week, but the day-long behaviours seem to have regressed more and more. I'm thinking that when I can, I need to just give her more attention, invite her to cuddle with me, things like that. She's also been more tired than usual, which may be part of what's contributing to this behaviour. She's napping right now, but once she's up, I think I'll invite her to help me make some ice cream. :D

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The marvel of Montessori

I've known for sometime that I haven't really been "doing" Montessori with my son. So I decided to make a change.

He was resistant about a multiplication worksheet I gave him the other day. It really hit me that he, of both my kids, really would connect with the hands-on aspect even more. So, although I did have him do a French worksheet with me today and had him practise his cursive, I decided to pull out the multiplication bead board and do some with him that way. I have a homemade board that works reasonably well and although he wasn't ready enough to actually put the marbles on himself (he was too busy collecting a marble for each correct question he got, lol--his idea, not mine!), he actually said, "I like doing math more than practising handwriting." He was happy the entire time we did math. How I love Montessori! If I'm going to insist on work, I really ought to make it something he can connect with if I believe so much in Montessori, oughtn't I?

As an aside, here's my homemade multiplication bead board:

Not beautiful, but it works! I actually had a strong inclination today to look into how much it would cost to buy some nice materials, rather than just the homemade versions. Once I have a look at some prices, that idea may just go away. ;)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Response to comment!

I'm getting grief in trying to post my response to the My Boys' Teacher's comment in the comment box. I'll try here, cross my fingers and hope it works!


My mind is going in all kinds of directions on this one.

First thought: Games are games and sports are sports. You need to know how to play if you want to be able to play it. I would expect showing kids how to hold a bat to be a part of the game. But I'm not sure I've ever heard of a Montessori-style sport. ;) I don't really see it any different from playing board games--you need to know what to do. Holding the bat is a basic. If the child is just wanting to hit balls, then maybe a Montessori-style presentation here and there to show the proper hold would work. When you are looking at a game situation... We're not talking general educational principles. We're talking about being part of a team and competition. It's a whole different... um... ball game. (Excuse the pun.)

Second thought: With kids just learning baseball, a lot of Montessori-style presentations would be good for learning how to hold the bat, put yourself in proper stance, etc. Doing it OUTSIDE of the game time as part of preparation rather than correcting them during the game would probably also be better--and definitely in line with Montessori.

Third thought: The child ought to have the choice to play baseball or not and ought to understand what it means to play baseball. If the child is choosing to play baseball, then he is choosing to learn how to play in a specific way, which involves not only rules of the game, but how to hold the bat. Baseball is not Montessori and I don't think one could run a team truly Montessori-style.

Fourth: Playing around on your piano at home is playing around on your piano at home; wanting to be a concert pianist is entirely different. ;)

I think the main thing is the particular aim of the situation. For example, my daughter has started ballet lessons. Talk about corrections! She's (mostly) fine with them, as she knows they will help her do ballet better and she's there to learn ballet. This was her choice. She knew what she was getting into. Same thing with piano: it's her choice to explore music in this way. If she ever decides she loves it so much she wants to excel at it, then she will seek out those who will be able to refine what she's doing even more.

I do completely agree: There are some things that need to be corrected asap. How she was playing was one of those things. She used to actually have proper curvature, but did not stay long enough at playing piano for it to become a life-long habit, apparently. She was about a week into daily playing this summer when I actually looked at her playing. Eek. My initial dealing of the situation was NOT Montessori-style. When I saw her reaction to my interjection, I realized immediately I had done wrong. I changed how I went about it, stopped correcting her in the middle of what she was doing and instead presented things just before she was about to start or just as she was finishing, etc. Basically, I thought about the best way to meet *her* in all her being. :) What I have done with her may not work with anybody else, I have to admit! lol.

Btw, here's an interesting blog post somewhat on this very topic!

Freedom in learning--even in piano

I have never insisted upon music practice, lessons, etc. for my kids. I've shown them things here and there, provided them with instruments and helpful books and that's it. I know some Montessori elementary schools have a set music time each week (I don't know if the children have the option of going or not) and have structured lessons. I have no clue what sort of expectations there are in terms of what the children do between lessons.

Let me say, though, that the Montessori approach works well even for music learning and a separate set-aside time is not necessary.

My daughter is nearly 13. Years ago, she was working through various kids' piano books, but let it go and as time went on, kind of felt like, "I've forgotten everything," and "I'm never going to be any good at it." She, for some reason, got hit by the piano bug again this past summer and started playing things at our old electronic keyboard (I've had it since I was 10 or 11!) I purchased a few new books and she made her way rapidly through the book for older beginners, feeling great as she went along. Every now and then, I did present little lessons that I hoped wouldn't come across as absolute corrections, even though they kind of were--like holding her hands and fingers properly. I didn't make a huge deal, just answered her questions as to why and took off the pressure by saying, "Don't really focus on it while you're trying to learn a song. If you try to do some little practice things with your hands curved, it'll go better." Taking the pressure off is always so important! Especially with this child! :)

In any case, her hand curvature is better and better and she is playing daily. Not because she has to, but because she wants to. Her progress since we purchased a new keyboard last month--which meant actually playing again because she had grown frustrated in August with the old crackly, inconsistent sound of the old keyboard--has been phenomenal. I offered to find piano lessons for her, but she replied with: "I don't want to have to practise and work on things that I don't really want to do. I just want to play and have fun with it." Piano lessons from outside source = pressure. She doesn't want the pressure. She places enough pressure on herself!

Will she ever be some virtuoso? I have no clue. Maybe one day she'll hit a point where she would like to improve beyond what she's been able to do on her own and then seek out someone to guide her further. But until then, the freedom to progress at her pace with the pieces she wants to learn... Well, I can't think of anything more Montessori than that, can you? :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pretty Good Monday!

I had things so planned out and I was so determined, that while maybe not quite as much work was done by Joe as might have been "ideal", my determination must have been felt by him because there was no resistance and he had one of his best work days yet! It does help, in a sense, that he knows he's leaving on a trip, which means he'll be missing a lot of work. But he has been very cooperative, despite being tired. And I have been very determined, despite having the flu!

The two who have yet to finish their work are my two. And I'm going to insist that they do the minimum I laid out for them. We'll be getting to that in just a few moments.

There was something I wanted to share about toddlers... Oh yes, the simple joys. To be like children would give us so many more daily joys, wouldn't it? :) Today, the simple joy for her was that I gave her *2* dog biscuits to give to the dog instead of just one. It was a simple joy that put a certain smile on her face.

All right, dd is ready to work. Off I go!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

October is here

September is done, October is here.

I thought I'd take a minute to go over the good and the bad of the past month. Reflecting on what's happened can be very, very useful in figuring out what steps to take next.

The good:
*had some focused days here and there
*dd has learned a song on the piano
*ds has developed a passion for dinosaurs and has been spending countless hours focused on them
*Joe has been showing more maturity

The bad:
*lots of interrupting others
*lots of letting random thoughts that pop in be our focus; lack of focus in general
*lack of commitment to work, schedules, routines
*Joe is VERY behind in his work
*lack of planning on my part
*lack of previewing work dd does on her own
*for Joe: too much time spent on his computer
*tiredness and illness
*have done nothing new for 2yo niece

What to do with this knowledge? Well, I've already gotten myself going with this. I have worked out a work chart for dd, with days of the week on top and subject areas down the side (French grammar, French composition, math, science, social studies, music/art, German, English, religion, PE/health, other (cooking, sewing, typing, etc.)). I will create a list of things I want her to do for the week and each day, we'll talk about what I'd like for her to do and she will pick some additional things to do. I do have to make sure and look at her math and French work FIRST so that I can give her a little preview lesson or "cheat sheet" as needed.

I have also started working on her Confirmation preparation and have her lesson for the week done up as part of her religion time.

Just had a thought that perhaps having a work folder with the chart, worksheets, checklists and the like can go into and she can just refer to that for the week.

I have also looked a bit at how much time I have with Joe this week and how much we can aim to accomplish. He is leaving at lunch time on Wed. with his Dad; they'll be gone until next Monday or Tuesday. So, he has all day Monday (which really only works out to about 4 hours), all day Tuesday (4 hours) and then 2 hours Wednesday morning. Trying to decide if it would work better to do CM-style quick lessons or just go all out for a large block and get through a lot of stuff at once, especially since he's behind. Some of his work involves conversation--hard to get through the readings and conversations in 20-minute blocks! My instinct is telling me to go for the large blocks this week--with a set list of things to cover during the large blocks and his goal is to get through that list in the time given. That's what I'll do then.

I still have to work out some plans for ds. I think I need to sit down and work out goals, first. He has done a tiny bit of handwriting, French work and math, but tiny. I mean a couple of days' worth. I want this stuff to be daily. I know that's not very Montessori, but hey, I don't have a Montessori classroom where he's seeing everybody writing and doing math and can do it with them! I can, at least, give him the option of when he will do the different work, plus have subject areas for him to work in, but he decides what he'll do. Exactly as I'm doing for his sister.

For almost 3yo: I have been neglecting her educationally, I admit it. Goal for this week: One new Practical Life activity and one new Sensorial activity. I'll figure that out later. AND I should have story time with her every day.

More thoughts to come later!