Wednesday, August 31, 2011

1st and 2nd days

Yesterday, we managed to have about an hour of school time. We then went out to do some back-to-school shopping (hadn't done that yet! goodness) and some other errands that had to be done. Had a special back-to-school lunch (Tim Horton's sandwiches) and took it easy the rest of the afternoon.

Today... I'm not feeling great. My son didn't wake up until after 8--that's not usually a good sign. Dd wasn't up and ready until 9. I started having aches come in, my stomach is off, my head gets dizzy... So, it's do-what-you-want school today. They've been reading. Ds has complained of feeling like doing nothing but wanting to do something. And of a headache. Well. Quite the way to start the new school year!

Dd has been thinking about attending school at least part-time for high school (starts next year). I asked her today what it was that she liked about this one school we are going to look at, so I have an idea of what it is she's looking for and can look for different programs. Her response ( :'( ): she feels like she doesn't get anything done here. Broke my heart! Part of me was so convinced that mainly unschooling would cause her to just dive into what she wanted to learn, but that is not the case. I have already committed to providing her more this year--I must keep at it!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow...

I'm actually feeling rather nervous about tomorrow. Especially once I sat down to work out a sort of schedule for my two and realizing I don't like having a schedule. lol.

For my nearly 14yo dd, especially, who has never worked on a schedule, and I do like the Montessori approach of controlling their own time more (although, admittedly, if she were in a Montessori school, she'd probably have a schedule; something for me to keep in mind), I just ended up going, "What am I doing?!?!" It felt so off from what would work well. I think a sort of schedule for my son would work to start--he's kind of had a short routine schedule this past year. Now I want to add things in.

But I think I'm changing too many things at once. It just all felt so artificial as I was writing out the specifics of what to do tomorrow morning. I need to regroup and restart my plan.


I do really like the idea of starting off with a Bible verse or some other religion time. I have most of the Faith and Life series and we've only made it 3/4 of the way through book 3. That could definitely part of our morning routine.

Ds is used to having handwriting--although I admit to not doing it as much as I would have liked to have had him do last year. I've been noticing improper letter formation and will be starting off focusing on that. Dd at this time could just move onto her own work, whatever she chooses. I'll tackle that in a minute. In any case, I will have him start off by writing out the alphabet, lower case, and I will take note of which letters are problematic. I know his p's are--he always places them on the line rather than the tail below. I'll also have a look at just how nice the letters are. I think, though, I might like to have him then compare his letters to my letters and to have him tell me what's different. We'll tackle the ones he sees clearly are different first.

Ds is also used to doing math in the morning. I will do a place value lesson with him tomorrow on that.

Now, what to do after that??? The CM schedule had in Drill, which I was skipping, then Repetition Poem. I like the idea, but think that's one of the last things I ought to introduce.

What other subjects are there?

Science: I had meant to have picked some books for him and I haven't. What are some ideas as I sit here? I could look at the provincial program of studies. I could have him use his science kit (I like that idea!). He's had this one kit since his last birthday--and his next one is less than a month away--and not once done anything from it. I think he found the set up confusing. That could be a fantastic project tomorrow. If we actually do something from the kit beyond setting things up, I could have him narrate to me what we did and I will write it down in a science notebook. This, of course, has me wondering if I even have notebooks...

Social Studies: I'm rethinking having him do social studies with his big sister. First of all, I don't know how much government would really interest him, even how I plan to go about it. Second, being stuck waiting for him would not work when dd is ready to move along--she is far too used to her individual pace and I see nothing compelling about having to present something twice. Three years apart is quite a difference, especially since dd is much more academically inclined. My thoughts at the moment are perhaps Canadian history and geography or world geography, with picking some areas to learn more about. I can throw the ideas out there tomorrow and observe the reaction.

Art: I haven't picked an artist to study. I have some pages from a Monet calendar; I could always start with Monet. It could be interesting to do another one though. Of course, he could also spend some time drawing tomorrow. We've got a bunch of fantastic instructional books.

Music: He has not touched his guitar in ages. Now, guitar's not something I'd really want to be doing with him in the morning, but he could always disappear to his room during the regular school year. There is a kids' instructional book that I bought sometime ago that he has not touched. If I present it to him and do a lesson with him, he might continue with it.

French: I want him reading more in French--which he's sort of started doing (Calvin and Hobbes--it's a start!). The writing will come later once his handwriting's better and he's had more practice with narration. The other thing to tackle is grammar! I could have him learn avoir in present tense tomorrow. It could also serve as copywork. I had something else originally planned, covering terms such as nom commun and nom propre, but I think I'd like to just get into the verbs and take it from there.

I could also add in geometry as a separate subject.

Now, all this written down, what is he likely to actually do in a 3-hour period and in what order should I suggest things (since he's nowhere near just picking the order on his own)?

*social studies
*French grammar

If we actually do all that, it will be amazing. ;) However, it could end up being one of those things where he spends about 15-20 minutes per subject, which means he'll be done in a couple of hours. If so, I'll take it from there and work on presenting more to him. Like Latin, dictation, etc.


Now, what about my dd?

She can start off the day with us and the Bible. After that, she'll have her choice of the following:

*math: I'm not sure if she's ever done exponents with 10's, so I'll do that with her. If that's fine, I'll move her into place value with the "developped form": 32 465 = 3 x 10^4 + 2 x 10^3 + etc.

*social studies: I don't have any French resources yet for this. We do have a Kingfisher Encyclopedia of History (I think that's what it is) as a starting point to look at early civilizations, their lifestyles, what sort of government would have have needed, etc. I want her to either tell me about it and the write down what she's told me, or write something down pretending she's telling it to me. My goal is not note-taking.

*science: First order of business will be to have her decide if she is going to cover one unit at a time or more than one at a time. There are advantages and disadvantages to both! If she does one unit at a time, she'll start with the first unit and have about 24 school days to work through it. If she decides to tackle 2 units, then we'll extend that time! Approach: Read a short section, be able to tell back, write down any vocabulary words, answer any questions that are a part of the text.

*French reading: I found Les misérables but have not even read the first page yet. I need to do that and write down words or phrases that she might have difficulty with. (I expect to have difficulty with it--despite my years of French Immersion schooling and then most of my university in French, I have actually done very little in terms of French literature!) Her assignment, after I go over some things, will be to tackle a small section and then do a written or oral narration. I might also find some historical background to it so that there is some sort of context provided before she gets going!

*French grammar: Verb conjugations in the present tense, starting with ER verbs. A little review! She can come up with a bunch of verbs and then work out their conjugation and maybe a few sentences. (She actually likes coming up with silly sentences to practise verb conjugations.) One thing I ought to check is there are new grammar and spelling rules since I studied them. The old are still acceptable, but I really ought to show her the new. I am quite certain that some of the ER verbs have had their conjugation rules change when it comes to doubling letters for certain verbs; not sure if accents have been affected. (Those of you unfamiliar with French, I'm sorry--you probably have no clue what I'm talking about and I'm sharing a bunch of babble!)

*German: This is her one key course this year. She would like just to be able to converse more than follow necessarily the program of studies. I'm thinking I wouldn't mind getting all her abilities up enough that she could skip a course or two through distance learning or be able to get easily into a private one-day program we have here in town (although she has thus far shown an extreme aversion to any sort of lessons on the weekend and would rather have a job!). If we do enough, she could probably do the grade 12 level correspondence next year (grade 10 year) and be done with the formalities while we continue improving our German together. Well, okay, I need to remember a lot first. ;) So, what to do for tomorrow? I think I should take some objectives from the grade 7 (first year for one track of the German second language options) level and focus on vocabulary that we can use in day-to-day situations. I wish they had a vocabulary and expressions list like they do for French! But alas...

I've just looked things up. Things we could work on are just basic house vocabulary and question words like wer, wo, wie, wann, was... Ich möchte is a great expression to know and easily use. (I would like...) I will have to take some time and make up a vocabulary list. Mind you, we have the one workbook that covers both grades 7 and 8, so I could maybe just focus on that, plus household daily things. That would work. For tomorrow... Shoot, I think my brain just shut off. lol. ... Oh woot!!! I just did some searching and found a vocabulary and expressions list! Yay!

Other than that, there is art and music. For art, she has a painting book and I will simply ask her to do one of the lessons from it. We have all the necessary materials for it. For music, I will ask her what she wants to do: keep going with piano? try the flute? both? something else?

That's enough for now. I must go rest my brain a while! Too much stress today with various things. :/

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Oh, promising site!

Supposedly to learn languages FREE online--and in French! Lots there!

School is almost here!

Next week is back-to-school week. Hubby has to be at school (he's a teacher) on August 30th, although the students aren't back until Sept. 1st. My niece and nephew are with a different school system and they actually head back to school on the 30th. The 17yo, I believe, is expecting to start on the 1st.

I have had in my mind that I would like to have 30th and 31st to homeschool just my two--well, with my youngest niece and the little guy here. Every time I sit down to write out a plan, I get stuck. I have butterflies in my stomach. I feel like I have no clue what I'm doing!

I'm trying to change things this year and really go about things in a way that I can make it all happen. Books that I have been reading have been helping me flesh out goals and my determination to follow through on them, and one of my 4 key goals right now is my children's education. I've got the drive, I've got the will--I just don't know what I'm doing.

What better way to flesh things out than by writing? :D

That's why I'm here right now, writing.

I pulled out a printout of a CM school schedule from way back when. It reminded me that I don't have to plan the whole day--just his 3-4 hours in the morning. I am NOT doing a CM-style schedule, having him change lessons every 20 minutes or so. But I am looking at covering the various subject areas, as I think having a lot to provide him with and for him to choose from will be highly beneficial. I'm not going to cover every subject every day, so I find myself kind of stuck. I have to balance things with having other kids to provide lessons to, to help, to change diapers and potty train... I guess I'm feeling stuck on how I'm going to make this work. (Writing that, I have come into my head, from The Secret, that the "how" is the domain of the universe and my job is to figure out that "what". lol) All right, I need to forget the "how" and just focus on the "what" I want to cover.

What does the CM schedule that I found on the AmblesideOnline site have? (Remembering that they did school over 6 days instead of just our 5.)

The particular sample schedule, which I have to admit I don't know if they changed the schedule each week or what, although I think they must have because there's no mention of Shakespeare in any of the schedules, has as the Monday plan:
*Old Testament
*Drill/10 minutes of play
*Repetition of a poem

I won't be doing drill, but this breakdown isn't bad. Looking at the week as a whole, arithmetic is done 5 out of 6 days; easy enough for me to be prepared to give him math work each day, alternating between concepts (arithmetic one day, geometry the next, back to arithmetic). Of course, because I'm not doing drill and the song stuff they do, I could always add in geometry as a separate subject. (I went through the provincial curriculum not so long ago and I really felt that geometry could be treated as a separate subject, but complementing whatever arithmetic he was covering--multiplication lends itself to looking at area, for example.)

One of the CM books I read talked about giving lessons, not just having subject time, giving the child the work and have them go at it. I need to make sure the lessons are super short, but this has how it's often been with him anyhow and following Montessori, so that's not a problem. With the Old Testament, I think that's a great place to start and I could preview the first chapter of Genesis, see if there's anything to bring up, then have him read it and do some sort of follow-up work: a picture or oral narration. My 13yo could read it, too, and could do a written narration and/or some sort of art (she's very artsy!). While I have not done CM with them and have not done narration formally with her, she is a natural narrator, giving full details of movies, books, dreams, situations that occurred with brother, cousins... Very detailed. lol. Always has been. It's really remarkable. But I digress. Her oral narration is fantastic, so I am not hesitating at all in having her go straight to written narration. (Her age group timetable also start with Old Testament, so combining the two kids' work on this is perhaps rather easy, although I expect I will be able to have her at some point read more than one chapter.)

Arithmetic: Well, I have things written up on my other computer, a plan of the topics to aim to cover each month. Seems to me that the starting topic for arithmetic is place value. For the first day of school, I could do a review lesson with him, see where he's at in identifying place value, and adding in 3 more bits of information, then having him create his own questions and identifying the place value. Actually, a perhaps better start is to see where he is in terms of breaking down numbers (as in, 18 567 = 10 000 + 8 000 + 500 + 60 + 7)--I think seeing what the numbers are made up of lends itself better to learning the name of the positions.

Dictation: Uh... He's still barely writing properly. I think I need to scrap dictation for the first while and instead have this as his repetition time (which is also done in Montessori, so I love that!). That means I'll have to find a book or a collection of poems that he could try to memorize. I have a great book of Poems for the Young that I could use, or maybe print off some of A Child's Garden of Verses. There is a free version (or possibly more than one free version) available online. Can't remember if it's at Project Gutenberg or not. Ideally I will find some good French poetry by Tuesday!

Geography is next on the schedule: Hm. I haven't figured out what I'm doing with him on this. His sister, for social studies, will be spending the year on government--I've modified the provincial curriculum and will be starting the year off looking at how people governed themselves in ancient times. I'd like to have the two sort of working on the same thing, just to make things easier. I suppose Geography time is a good time for him to read a bit about an ancient country and tying it in with a map. I will have to figure out what I'm doing for this!!! I had not gotten that far in his sister's plans to know what she's going to start with exactly and which resources we will use.

After Geography is Writing--this will be his copywork time. We are starting off the year with me giving explicit instruction in forming letters, both cursive and print. He uses capitals where he's not supposed to for letters like P--it looks the same in both upper and lower case and he just doesn't seem to get yet that a lower case lies on the line. So, we are starting from the beginning. I think I will tie in Writing Road to Reading with this since we're doing this somewhat remedially and the approach for learning letters--past the sandpaper letter phase--is really good. I will tie in the idea of narration, having him explain to me how to make a letter so that it looks good and sits on the line properly.

The final subject for the day is supposed to be French. That's excellent. Except that I'm not sure what to do since French is our home language. lol. I suppose I need to decide if I will have him read and narrate during that time or if we'll cover grammar.

Now, I said the final subject is supposed to be French because the above, if he takes the rough amount of time from the Parents' Union School schedule, is missing the 20 minutes of drill and play and the Dictation time, which is supposed to be about 30 minutes. That's nearly an hour missing. What should I tack on as another subject or two? He loves science, so I think that would be a great way to end the formal day for him. What to cover? I hadn't really decided what I would do this year for science with him, I don't think. Part of me is interested in maybe quickly covering the provincial elementary curriculum--all kinds of things he hasn't done that he would really like. I could skip the somewhat superfluous things. I'll have to decide quickly. And figure out another subject to add in. Or maybe not skip dictation, just keep it simple to start with. Hm...

Looking ahead to Tuesday's subjects, I see Latin. I think Latin would be very cool to introduce to him. He's already been grasping certain things from all of his own reading on animals and I just think it could be very interesting for him, a new challenge related to what he loves, to start learning a bit. The thing is: I really, really don't want to use an English-based program and I have not yet found anything for kids in French. I'll keep looking or I'll maybe buy and English program, translate the lesson and then present it to him. (Oooh, just found this be fantastic as a starting point for me to create lessons if I can't find a suitable French resource. Great thing about French being a Latin-based language is that it will be even clearer what the Latin words mean!)

I don't know if he's going to want to continue with German studies this year. If he does, that could replace the "French" classes. (But then, what to do with the German class in the schedule? lol)

Well, this is a good start for a fixed plan for the first day. I'll have to go through a plan for my dd, but tomorrow. I'm getting rather tired and don't want to think anymore. ;) And then I'll have to finalize resources and the actual lessons, won't I? And then figure a plan for my 3yo niece!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Only 2 weeks left?!?!

Summer is going by so quickly, as it always does!

This week, my 13yo is away at camp and my 10yo, his 11yo cousin and 6yo cousin will be doing swimming lessons together. My 10yo is not looking forward to it; I'm not sure why not. I think he's afraid or something--his last experience with swimming lessons 3 years ago was difficult and he didn't pass his level. As much as I believe in giving children choice, the only choice I could offer him this time was to be in the same group as his cousins or to have him go a level higher in a difference class at pretty much the same time. He chose to be with his cousins. I think it'll be a good refresher for him and hopefully have him feel more confident in the water. Why am I insisting on these lessons? Because we go out to his grandparents lake lot each summer and he's started doing things in the water--without being able to even swim to shore or necessarily float properly if something were to happen. Swimming is not optional.

So far, I haven't stuck to the idea of a schedule--I do want my summer down time. But I have been pulling out more things and the kids have been pretty occupied and not too crazy. Reading "Little House in the Big Woods" is great for when the girls get bored and crazy.

It has hit me, however, that there are only 2 weeks left until my niece and nephew head off to school. While they 16yo might not start until Sept. 1st, I think I want to start on the 30th with my two, the same day my niece and nephew head back to school. That means I have two weeks left to finish planning at least the first week. *slight panic* I've got some basic year plans in place for math for both of them, French for my son, but that's it. I have to figure out what we're starting with in all subjects, figure out resources to use or create things... Oh my.

For right now, must get going to that swimming lesson!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Charlotte Mason schools today

I had always just sort of assumed that there weren't any Charlotte Mason/PNEU schools today. I was wrong!

There are others, but I don't want to find the links right now. lol.

I have to say that one link I visited, I was somewhat disappointed to see them not stick with certain CM principles: the children were given HOMEWORK, which is a big no-no in CM. 30 minutes of reading starting in the early grades, with the possibility of an extra 30 minutes of other things (math, narration, other); in the upper grades, an hour of homework on top of the reading. This just seems so contrary.

Both Maria Montessori and Charlotte Mason were in agreement when it came to homework: none. School time ought to cover everything. Why is this one school not following it, despite supposedly being a CM school? They run from 8am to 3:25pm.

I guess I'm a nitpicky person. ;) When a school presents itself as a CM or Montessori school, I expect it to stick with obvious principles. A school inspired by or based on these methods would permit me to accept certain changes, but this school isn't supposed to just be inspired... Hm. They also have a far more academic kindergarten program than Charlotte Mason ever hinted at. It just feels like a very American school, using the CM approach for its classes, but ignoring certain principles. I've seen Montessori schools justify certain clearly non-Montessori changes, trying to claim that in these modern time, such and such thing (like homework) is necessary and it's been proven (sic)--to the point that at least one intimated that if Maria Montessori were alive today, she would likely have made that change.

(Ach, I just looked at another link and they've including some other approach in with CM! I don't get it! lol. I have to stop looking at these links! lol)

I can't find my sandpaper letters! :(

I have been wanting to get my littler niece going on the sandpaper letters and to continue working on the cursive with my 6yo niece (her print is just beautiful--I'd like to take credit for having worked with her a bit before she went to kindergarten, but I don't know if I have anything to do with it!). I can not find them. They're not in the shelves and as far as I can tell, they're not in the storage unit nor in my den closet. I can not for the life of me think where I would have put them. :(((((

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Dolly Varden is apparently very funny

I read some more of Little House in the Big Woods today to my nieces. I wasn't sure how much my one niece was paying attention until she said, "Dolly Varden?!" She thought it hilarious that the Aunt and Uncle's baby was named Dolly Varden. She laughed and repeated it several times, even. lol.

I think the kids have all taken crazy pills

I have no idea what's got into them: the 3yo and 6yo are loud and loudly laughing, the 3 oldest are loud and goofy. The only quiet one around here is the 21mo!

It's only 9am. I think I'm going to have to get them out of the house today. lol

Sunday, August 7, 2011

One week with all the kids done

The first week with 6 kids in the house went off well. As the week wore on, I could tell the needing to be directed was setting in. With the girls, I would try a different activity, or I would simply sit myself down between them and tell them I was going to read (they LOVE to be read to). I've been reading Little House in the Big Woods. I find the 3yo fascinating--not sure how much she understands the story, but she does something she's done since she was a baby: watch my lips while I share the story. She's always done that: watch people's lips while they're talking, while singing, etc. She's such a sound-oriented girl! Very musical, too. I've never seen a 3yo dance with such musicality!

The 6yo is loving the story. I decided to ignore the Charlotte Mason suggestion of reading only a little bit and read a whole bunch to her on Friday. She would have had me continue, but I told her we needed to stop. I already have the French copy of the next one out from the library and hope we'll be able to work through that before August is through and she's back in school.

My plan, therefore, with the girls is to continue with this. I think it would be good to work on some practical life, sensorial, language and all that, but it's hard to change modes while on what is essentially summer vacation. We'll see. If I can just find my sandpaper letters and pull them out, that might be enough to get language going. (Oh, that reminds me, I did do a brief I Spy with her!)

The boys... Well, the boys have spent far too much time playing PS3 or watching someone play PS3 this past week. That will be cut back this week. They've found themselves kind of bored, so I've already talked to ds about doing some of his chemistry kit with his cousin this week; he liked the idea. 

We do have plans to be out tomorrow afternoon and part of Tuesday afternoon, so that will help.

The 21mo has been very cute: mostly following the girls wherever they are, sometimes playing with the same things they are playing with, sometimes playing with something nearby. He loves being with them!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You know you've done at least some Montessori correctly when...

...your 13yo notices her 6yo cousin struggling with how to open a little toy door, asks her if she wants help with it, the 6yo says yes, so the 13yo says, "I will show you how to do it, then you can practise it yourself."



I forgot to add in my last post that it has "come to my attention" that I ought to present Latin to my son. He is so very much into dinosaurs, bugs, animals, knows their names, has even brought up about part of a Latin name and how two creatures shared part of the same name... I would ideally like to have a French resource that teaches Latin, but I guess we'll see. I know nothing about Latin!

So much for plans!

Yet again, my plans have been foiled!

I don't know if I make unrealistic plans or if I'm just not able to force myself through a plan when other things come up that get in the way or what it is. I'll have to think about this.

So far this week, it's been a little rough. I thought we would be back from camping on Sunday, allowing me to take care of household stuff on Monday and attend a local festival. Instead, we didn't get home until 1:30, and my daughter and I absolutely wanted to go to the festival, so we left for that and hubby went on a motorcycle ride. Dd and I didn't get home until close to 6:30pm! We ate supper and were simply exhausted from the previous 3 days of not enough sleep followed by the afternoon walking around in the sun.

I ended up going to bed late Monday night and was awake at about 5:30. That gave me a little less than 6 hours of sleep. Already running on fumes (I had only had about 6 hours the night before, too), this did not leave me in good shape for all the kids yesterday. There was also still a bunch of camping stuff to take care of and put away, a kitchen to clean, some laundry to get going... I was in no frame of mind to focus on my plans! (It didn't help that I didn't even have the chance to sit down and have a look at what I had planned!)

Yesterday still went well enough. The girls played very well together all day and we ended up going to the library. My nephew wasn't with us yesterday, so that changed things, too.

I went to bed early last night, but had trouble falling asleep--I was beyond tired, but adrenaline seemed to be kicking in. Fell asleep shortly before 10...and woke up at 3am. I thought I would just fall right back asleep, but dd went to the bathroom twice in a short period, then I was too hot and uncomfortable and the traffic was intermittently starting on the road behind our house... I finally went downstairs, tried to sleep there and gave up at 4am, clearly not at a point of falling asleep. Watched Sense and Sensibility until I fell asleep around 5, slept in and out between than and 7, which left me with pretty much no time to do anything!

So, today has been a do-what-you-want day again. I guess I'm okay with it for now--everything is working well. I want to have activities planned out that I can simply start doing if things get out of hand. The girls did help me fold sheets and pillow cases, so that's at least some Practical Life for today! lol