Saturday, January 29, 2011

From "Children Who Are Not Yet Paceful"

"I'm deeply dedicated to the truth that passion and joy can and should be the ground of the child's education. In over thirty years of working with children, I have found it to be not only possible but also practical and, yes, even sublimely essential to provide a learning environment for children in which they work passionately and find joy in their pursuits."

Isn't that wonderful? I strive for this. I think I've been going about it in the wrong way, but it is never too late to try something different. Again. :0 I did have this more in our early years. I lost it to a certain degree, but I hope to find it again! Or build it again.

On the same page, she mentions students meeting academic standards. This is the third thing this week that has brought up this idea; the other two specifically mentioned the local curriculum standards. I know I've been working on getting the lists together; I think it's time to really focus on these things in our daily routines.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lack of routine is affecting me!

And all of us! I find I've hit a place where I'm not sure what to do: Do I figure out a way to plough through despite changes, or do I need to figure out a way to work with the changes in a better way?

What kind of changes?

Well, Monday, my nephew ended up spending the day with us instead of going to school.

Yesterday, my 5yo niece was with us.

Friday, they will both be here.

The little guy has not been here all week, but might come today and tomorrow. His presence actually affects us far less than when the number of older children is different.

This, on top of us all being tired and worn out and unmotivated and me suffering from sinus issues again, has meant almost nothing has been done work-wise. Kind of feeling like I need to have "sub plans" (like substitute teacher plans) for the olders who miss school here and there and are with us those days. Some way to incorporate them into our school day rather than having ds go off and play, or feel resentful because he has to do work while his cousins are here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Things are finally calming down!

January is so crazy with a student in high school: deadlines! The deadlines have been met, so time to get restarted with some structure. And some goals. :)

I've had the idea for sometime to have the kids become aware of what the kids in school are supposed to be learning, so they can compare with what they know. Plus, it would give my kids an idea of things they can work on. Well, this idea came to the forefront this past week when the 16yo, very tired and his words going kind of wonky, said something funny and he commented he needed to go back to kindergarten. LOL. I said, well, you know, that's not a bad idea. It'd take you maybe 30 minutes to finish kindergarten (lol) and probably the same for grade 1, but a little longer for grade 2, because addition and subtraction math facts to 18 are supposed to be memorized then. He had a look of, "I did not know that." He does not have these memorized. Of course, for someone labelled LD, it's not surprising. At the same time, he is probably perfectly capable of memorizing them, he just has no will to do so.

What I've done just today is gone through the provincial learning outcomes for math. Well, for grades 1 and 2, anyhow. Typed up the most relevant ones and will share them with the kids this week. We'll discuss why the facts ought to be memorized--what benefits are there to knowing them, the disadvantage to not knowing them. I should probably find out what it means to be "memorized". The 16yo said he knew them, but I said it meant to know them without having to think about them. His facial expression admitted to not knowing them that well. I'm sure I can find online something about how quickly someone should be able to answer oral questions or how many questions someone should be able to go through by writing. I'd need to allow a little leeway for the 16yo since writing is always an issue.

In any case, I will not be forcing them to learn them, but I may include some oral questions, games, pull out the flash cards, maybe find my set of equation cards (the little horizontal ones to use with the blank charts). I doubt any of them will be interesting in using the strip boards, although I will bring them out anyhow. Another thought: print off a list of different ways these facts can be memorized. What are the different ways I can think of?

  • addition and subtraction packets
  • above with strip board
  • Cuisenaire rods
  • bead material (Golden and coloured)
  • snake game
  • flash cards
  • equation cards
  • above with the charts
  • bingo
  • I think the MathAdvantage set we have works on mastering these facts
  • writing them out by hand
  • reciting them
  • worksheet with all 81 questions on it
  • mad minutes
  • using a version of Rocket Math/Mastering Math Facts that I created

I do want to write up the outcomes for the other grade levels, as well as do the same for language arts (French, English and German), science and social studies. For science and social studies, I have no expectation whatsoever that they know what kids in school cover here. I couldn't care less. For the language arts, it will help provide a means for them to be self-aware and for me to offer specific lessons.

Feeling good about the start of this second semester. :)

My little niece is coming back to herself. We had a break from the little one until this past week, and it gave her time to be with us, talk, etc. I want to shower her with all kinds of practical life and sensorial work this week. And maybe find some beginning language things I can easily do with her.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Education vs schooling

One thing I love so much about Montessori is that, when taken from Maria's perspective and not necessarily how some schools "do" Montessori, it is about education, not schooling.

The closer my daughter gets to high school age, the more we talk about and think about different options. Our province tends to be rather closed-minded in terms of what is required not just for a high school diploma (we don't have the option of giving a recognized diploma ourselves; has to come from the government), but also for post-secondary admission. At least a few places will not accept students who do not have a high school diploma. Others ask for specific grade 12 subjects rather than a full diploma and there is usually a way around that. Which is good. Because the kinds of grade 12 subjects usually required are diploma exam subjects: students do a government-issued exam worth 50% of their mark, and their raw score on the exam may get altered if the government has decided exam questions were harder or easier than they expected. This is not about assessing education; it is about lumping everybody into a specific bell curve. It sucks.

When I started to understand how this worked here, I started really thinking that maybe I would discourage my children from going that route. Or at the very least, not encourage them. After working my way through educationally questionable courses with the oldest I homeschooled and now her younger brother, I really don't want to go that route. If they want to, then they'll have to do the online or similar themselves and leave me out of it! lol.

Dd does not want to do it. The topic came up, we discussed and thought about it and no, I do not want her to take those diploma exams and certainly don't want her to feel she has to. She has decided she would like to take at least Art for credit--because she would like feedback from an art instructor, which I am not. There are no exams for those courses, just learning techniques and working on art. There might be some others she decides to do. But in the end, I think for a true education, she should either aim to do the SATs and/or take some college classes that will cover the grade 12 subjects and will be allowed by many places instead.

Dh and I talked about this the other night. He, a junior high teacher, complained about the curriculum, the testing and said how it's not education. I agree. I said I would love it if we lived closer to Montessori High School at University Circle, until I saw how much it cost per year (yikes!) and decided it was good to not have that temptation. ;) But it has me thinking, again, on Montessori and high school and how to help my daughter be *educated*, not just go through the motions of learning certain things to get into post-secondary.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Can the brain have a Snow Day?

Places outside the city are declaring a Snow Day. We've had so much snow, and over the weekend, even school buses have a risk of getting stuck in the outlying areas.

I think my brain is having a Snow Day. lol. I was asleep by 10:30 last night, slept solid until about 4:30, then in and out until 5:30, got up, read, exercised, showered, all that, but here it is, just after 8:30am, and I'm ready for a nap!

Both my kids were still asleep after 7:30 this morning. That's surprising. I turned on their desk lamps. Dd woke up within a couple minutes, complaining she didn't feel well. Turned off her light. So much for starting today to get her on an earlier schedule. Ds slept and slept, so I finally turned off his light. He got up just after 8 on his own. That is late for him. 7am is usually his limit.

My 10yo nephew is with us today; he's not feeling great, although, honestly, he looks fine. Yes, a little under, but he could have gone to school. On the flip side, the schools don't want kids there with runny noses, so I guess he's abiding by school rules! Since my brain is snowed under, I have no work ready for my son and with nephew here, the two of them can spend the day chatting, playing, etc. And I can figure out what to prepare for him for later on or tomorrow.

That just leaves the 16yo, who doesn't usually get here until 9am. He's got a lot of work to do. I have printed off a mini-calendar page showing how he has 3 weeks to get all this work done, and I printed out a list of all the things he needs to get done. It will be a way for him to be aware of the time that is passing and how much he's getting done. He tends to avoid this kind of stuff because of the anxiety it creates. He will not reach his potential unless he starts working through the anxiety it creates and just get the stuff done. On the docket for today: math, physics, chem, environment and lots of social studies! Of course, this is assuming his dad is able to get out of their neighbourhood. ;)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Can anybody say...

...sensitive period for writing?

What my 5yo niece did today upon arriving after school.

She's talking to me again!

And talking to me about EVERYTHING. LOL.

Just goes to show how even with something like this, taking the pressure off--even in our minds--is vital to improvement!

So far this week

My 3yo niece had her first day with us yesterday. She is still very much in her phase. I think she said two, very whispered words to me. Other than that, it was all body language: shaking the head, nodding the head, holding things out to me. She talked to my kids just fine, but not me. And not the French class kids who came in the afternoon. One girl commented on how the 3yo wasn't saying ANYTHING. I told her she hadn't said anything to me yet that day. The girl's reply, "Oh, and she's known you for a long time." Yes, I've been babysitting her for over 2 years! lol. It's not shyness, it's something else. I don't know what.

I decided I needed to take a different approach with her. It hit me that trying to get her to respond the way she used to was not respecting where she *is* right now. So I talked to her, asked her questions, picked her up a few times just to pick her up... I'll keep doing this. Unconditional acceptance, as long as there isn't destructive or harmful behaviour.

I got my kids up late yesterday, and by the time my son was ready, the 3yo was here and since I saw he wanted to go off and play with her, I told him he didn't have to do work first thing. So, they played with the toy kitchen. :) And some other stuff. She was kept rather busy most of the day. At one point, she did take the Discovery Toys Mosaic Tiles and spent quite a bit of time with that. Not quite sure if she was just putting pegs in randomly or trying to make something.

It was definitely Hump Day yesterday: everybody sluggish, tired, like pulling teeth trying to help the 16yo through his work. French class went well, though. I sometimes feel resistance at having made this commitment, but once the kids are here and we are into it, it's fun and the kids are such great kids.

So far, school-wise, mine have only been doing some basics: math and some French, some map work, then I had dd do something from her art text. On Tuesday, she was moping around about "What can I work on?" So I pulled it out and had her do the first lesson in the grade 8 book. She's quite happy about it and wants to make sure to show our facilitator when she visits tomorrow. Just a smidgeon of direction is all she needs sometime.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fantastic day yesterday!

I only ended up being with my two, we did about an hour of work (well, ds did less), did some cleaning in their rooms and then went out to see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Excellent movie!

Dd and I worked on the US states, then she tested herself on the Canadian provinces and territories. She picked the word problems from Ray's and yes, some of them were a bit challenging. That reminds me: I have to get today's sheet done.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Oh, I love Ray's!

Just preparing some word problem questions for dd since she said she would like more. I thought I'd start off with questions that are easy, but at first glance, you do have to think. A small challenge, but easy to figure out numerically.

I pulled out my copy of Ray's New Intellectual Arithmetic--these are books that were used in many US schools in the late 1800s. Now, the website says "grades 3 and 4", which, numerically, is about right. However, if a student is not used to doing word problems, these can be good for just about any age! Nice little math thinking problems. I've not seen a modern text have such questions so young. I think it shows how good this program was for developing mental math skills. Which, I think many might agree, are sorely lacking today. Maybe I'm just too old--I remember the days of cash registers NOT telling the teller how much to give back in change and the teller actually had to count it out and proved they were giving you the correct change. Now, the till tells them, they count it out and just say this is your x amount of change. Of course, if they goof on how much you've handed over, a good too many of the younger ones kind of stare and have no clue how to figure out how to give you the correct change back. But I digress.

Here are some great word problems that could definitely be used in a Montessori environment. Print them out on cards, put them in their own box, and voilà! Since dd is older and not interested in cards, I'm just making a worksheet for right now. I could see ds potentially liking the idea of cards, though, and just flipping through and picking the ones he wants to do. In any case, here are some of the examples:

The difference between two numbers is 7: if the larger be 12, what will 8 times the smaller be?

If $3 gain $1 in a year, what will $12 gain in double the time?

Bought 6 quarts of berries, at 8 cents a quart; sold 4 quarts at 10 cents a quart, and 2 quarts, at 12 cents a quart: how much did I make?

Of course, they have normal questions, like "Seven times 9 are how many?", but they add in other little things like, "How many are 2 times 3 times 4?" It's a nice variety, and nice thinking tied in! And that's just early in this "grade 3-4" book. I just opened it up randomly near the back. Here is one of the questions: 1/3 of a certain number is 2 more than 1/2 of 12: what is the number?

I love it! :D

Back to the grind!

Rather than trying to figure out what I haven't posted about ;), I'll just jump right in and get going for 2011!

Our first day of school will be tomorrow. I will only have my two plus the little guy (14mo) I babysit. What will I have my two do? I'd like to move in the direction of me showing them things (I've said this so many times before, how come I don't follow through???) more often; at the same time, the 16yo is so far behind in his work, and I feel partly responsible for that, that he will take up a lot of my time. On the flip side of that, he does need to learn to take charge of his education and I will not ignore my own children's education just because he won't get his butt in gear! Oh my--I think I've finally hit the point of going, "If he doesn't get it done or fails, then that's really his problem." It really is, isn't it? I think I've been owning his problem for far too long. For a long while, it was really a matter of if I didn't do at least something, he would have completely given up. I think he's past that point. He does not want to give up anymore. He has a vision of having his high school diploma AND having it done by June 2012. I will not overburden him, but I will not make him my entire focus! (Yay for me! :D)

I'm going to take a little aside here and share an insight I had this morning about him. His sister was over a few days ago--just a little Christmas break visit--and she said something about her parents having been unhappy in their marriage for the last 10 years of it. The 16yo was 10 when they finally broke up. Which means he spent his entire life with parents who were unhappy. It clicked in my mind why he is so focused on fun and why he has spent the bulk of his life kind of ignoring the wider world out there, the big picture. I really wish there were a Montessori High School around here because I think it would be the ideal place for him to connect with *life* on a better level. There isn't one, so I'm going to have to do some serious reflection on this.

Back to the originally scheduled program... My two.

10yo ds:
*MATH: Keep going with the multiplication. He seems to like just having the sheets and working out the answers; doesn't want to use the multiplication bead board anymore. I haven't shown him the charts--I'd rather wait until he has a grasp of multiplication and then is working towards memory with random questions. I also have Ray's Arithmetic and could start giving him some word problems to figure out. So, for this week, I need to prepare some practice sheets with tables he has worked on for review, then add in some tables he hasn't done. Also, prepare some sheets with word problems. He can choose which he will do.

*FRENCH:  I'm going to keep insisting on the handwriting. He doesn't seem to want to suggest anything to practise writing, so I just keep coming up with things related to his life. "I love dinosaurs. My favourite is..." Now he has a PSP, so I'll be able to tie in more things. ;) I would also like to resume our nightly reading. We started Journey to the Centre of the Earth (in the original French) and he really likes it. We haven't touched it in at least a couple of weeks. I'm sure there is more that I could be exploring with him, but for right now, I'll just be happy to start having work done again.

*SCIENCE: We have some science experiment books out right now. I think I just need to take the plunge and pick some, rather than waiting around for him to pick some, and do them. I probably ought to have some "lab sheets" ready for him to write down the information, or for me to show him how we write down the information to track what we've done and learned.

*SOCIAL STUDIES: He had started learning the provinces of Canada, and somehow the fell away. I'll bring that back in. I'll provide a list of "Challenges" for him to choose to explore other than just learning where the provinces are and how to spell them, things like the flag of the province, the Premier's name, population, etc. Get him involved in seeking out information.

Everything else is extra! I know he'll be reading various books. Oh, one thing: I will be printing off a chart for him to just check off if he's worked in that subject area that day. We'll have a look at the end of the week to see what is getting done and what isn't.

13yo dd:
*MATH: She was working on multiplication with decimals before Christmas, and here and there on division. She liked some word problems that hubby brought home from school, so I think I'll search in Ray's to find some good problems for her to work on the multiplication and division. Once these are really solid, she will have an easier time with fractions and algebra. Actually, algebra's pretty easy for her, what she's done so far, but the deeper you go, the more it relies on really understanding multiplication and division.

*FRENCH: For right now, I think we'll just stick with her workbooks and I'll give her some verb conjugations to work on. I have to figure out a way to bring regular writing in French into the mix with her actually wanting to do it. Maybe we'll do a fun writing game this week: You write one line then do the first word of the next line; fold the paper so the first line isn't seen. Then the second person continues the story from that single word, ends on the next line with a single word, and so on. It's fun, no pressure, doesn't have to be good...

*SCIENCE: Have absolutely no clue. Actually, I purchased some Montessori science albums; I ought to look in those. Will I be able to have something ready for this week? Probably not.

*SOCIAL STUDIES: US map. She'd been working on it before Christmas. I'll have to make sure I'm working on it, too; it just helps her feel like she's doing something meaningful. :) I think I ought to try to break it down into areas of the US so we can more easily learn (well, for me, relearn) where they all are.

*ART: I am going to pull out her one course book this week and start going through one of the lessons with her. She's been ignoring art, in part because she really wants to be directed. I think I really need to find an actual in-person course for her to take next year.

*PE: Daily Egoscue exercises. Pete Egoscue has all kinds of therapy clinics and books on living pain free. The exercises are designed to help put the body into its proper posture--not just the back, but knees, hips, shoulders, everything. Dd has always had flat, pronated feet, and it's causing her more and more problems. I've been using the Pain Free Exercise DVD only a little and already notice a difference for my knees and general posture. I took out the Pain Free for Women book and there's a section in there for teens. I've told her about these and that I will guide her through them AND how excited I am to see how they will help her since she so often has pain in her feet after walking for even a short time. She commented that she had pain right away, and we hadn't even done anything. So that will be her daily PE routine.

For both of them, for Practical Life, they will be focusing on the care of their rooms for this month. I'm taking a FlyLady approach and will focus on morning and evening routines where they incorporate a little cleaning of the hot spots in their rooms, plus a Weekly Room Blessing (we will work out together what kinds of things to do each week). Once the hot spots are cleared and maintained (could take a few weeks!), we'll add in the decluttering. This will probably take until the end of February. From there, we will branch out to the bathroom. :D

For my dear little niece who is still in her funny little phase (she was here New Year's Eve and still playing shy and babyish; she apparently does NOT do this at home anymore, but there were people here she's not used to having here, and this behaviour seems to be very tied to *us*), I am going to show one new activity per day. That is my goal. I think I will make it PL one day and sensorial the next. She won't be back until Wednesday, so that means I just need to plan for, and practise, three activities. I'll have to have a look in Gettman.

As for the little guy... Um... LOL. I have Montessori From the Start out. I should probably have a look at it. :D

This week is actually a little odd: Little guy plus my two tomorrow, 16yo not here until Tuesday, then 3yo starts on Wed., with her sister coming after school. I'm thinking tomorrow afternoon is our only chance in January to have a field trip, so we'll head out somewhere. Not sure where!