Friday, August 31, 2012

It's Friday evening...

...and I'm working on my plans for Tuesday. Exciting life, eh? ;)

It may be the long weekend, but I've got a busy day tomorrow and Sunday:
*shopping for a birthday gift for my mom (her birthday is on Sunday; yes, I know, a little last-minute);
*grocery shopping, including specialty items at Planet Organic;
*house cleaning;
*bake a cake;
*make frosting;
*frost the cake;
*make a regular lasagna (meat and cheese) and make a vegan or possibly gluten-free vegan (raw?) lasagna (I'm allergic to milk and can't have the regular lasagna and am transitioning to veg*nism, but my mom specially requested the regular one for her birthday :P );
*before that, find a recipe for a suitable veg*n lasagna recipe and purchase what is needed; go to my mom's with the supper (garlic bread and salad, as well!; ooh, wonder if I could find a good vegan Caesar salad recipe--I know Mimi Kirk has a raw one that is supposed to be AMAZING);
*finish making her card (I am a Stampin' Up demonstrator and make all the cards)...

So, I have a busy couple of days and I don't want to find myself Monday going, "Omg, what am I doing tomorrow??" I also have French classes to plan for for the following week and it looks like I might be doing some private tutoring for French and possibly my former student who is having to retake some courses because he didn't have the gumption to apply himself much this year! But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

My mind keeps focusing on Tuesday anyhow, so why not just spend some time this evening unloading those thoughts before I sit and relax with a book or movie or something?

My son is usually awake by 7:30, but not necessarily ready to really get up until close to 8. He reads in bed a bit first. I don't think I need for him to have a set time to get up, but rather a strong routine after he does get up! Our first day, I think we'll start of with:

  • self-care: talk about what things should be done, like finding clean clothes and making sure to get fruit in with his breakfast, etc.
  • care of the environment: discuss care of his room and what sort of tasks he could do first thing in the morning (making his bed is an obvious one; he's let it go this summer!) and also discuss things that have to be done around the house on a daily basis and have him pick something that will be his to do in the morning
  • morning "meeting": I guess the above constitutes part of the morning meeting for Tuesday (and perhaps every first day of the week), but on other days, it won't really be part of the meeting, I hope, but just things he will do. What I have in mind for the morning meeting is having a look at what we both want to tackle during the week and that day (I know I'm likely to get attitude from him the first week because he's being asked to move out of his routine/comfort zone, so he likely won't offer anything truly helpful as an idea and I need to be prepared for that and not react negatively!). I haven't really decided how I want to guide him with this. When my daughter was early elementary and there were other kids in the mix, I was using a blank chart with subject areas along the side. Seems to me I would write in their things first about what they planned on working on and then I would add in which lessons I wanted to do with them that day. If there was something they wanted to do that would take up a few hours (like messy art or possibly baking), we would pencil it in for a day that would work better. The chart helped them see the wide variety of subjects they could choose from, but it also helped us see as the week progressed what they had worked on and what they hadn't worked on. It was a nice way to keep things kind of balanced or at least not let certain areas get neglected.

    Part of this first meeting will be talking a bit about the things we will cover this year for science, social studies, math, language arts, get ideas from him for those subjects... I suppose I should have at least a basic idea myself of what we are going to do! Actually, maybe I don't need to really get into all that with him. Hm. Something to figure out. I'm kind of leaning toward not getting into too much detail, but I suppose I could tell him that we'll be looking a bit at the history of North America and specifically Canada, we'll cover different things in science dealing with chemistry and physics and geology (he'll want zoology for sure; I don't have a zoology manual, but I'm sure we could do some research!), that we'll be working on handwriting and writing different kinds of things and cover all kinds of basic things in math and the grade 7 things and even beyond if he wants... I know I'm not covering all the subjects here, but I haven't really thought about too much about the others. He already knows that we will be doing more of Faith and Life this year!

    Some of this meeting will be to talk about the week ahead and what we will do: get going in math, science, social studies... I want to remember those three areas: self-expression (music, art, language); moral education, math and other languages; natural history, history of human achievement and technology and history of mankind. I'd like to know more about how Montessori "seminars" work at the adolescent level, because seminars are mentioned in the document I shared in the previous post.

Another site mentioned about Maria Montessori believing adolescence was a time for the child to find a place in society. I'm going to have to read up on this more and see how I can fit it in.

Onto other thoughts: I am going to work on the Great Lessons next week (eek! I haven't prepared myself yet! Guess what I'm doing Monday? lol) as the start to science and social studies, which means I also ought to work on reading the science manuals that I have and thinking about activities to present (or seminars to do? I really have to learn what these seminars are).

I got a phone call that interrupted my train of thought with all this. I'm getting too tired now to continue thinking about what we'll get done Tuesday. I think I'll go pop in a movie and curl up in a blanket. Oh, and drink the tea I made before the phone call and have now forgotten about. Oops.

I am drooling ;)

For whatever reason, I was prompted to look up Montessori adolescent preparation programmes. It led me to this pdf:

I am loving this pdf! Something about it is just pleasing my brain in terms of organization and focus for my kids. Over the years, I somehow missed this distinction:
Montessori divided the “Educational Syllabus” into three parts. First is self-expression, which includes music, language, and art. Moral education, mathematics, and languages are the second part. The third part includes three divisions of history: natural history, the history of human achievement and technology, and the study of the history of mankind.
I never knew this! These three parts form, imho, a wonderful way to organize one's vision, planning, etc. I see a kind of balance being aimed for among the parts. (Sorry, this may be so evident to some, but it's really "clicking" with me right now!)

Anyhow, if you've got kids at the 12-18 level, even this brief document about what a training programme can help give some ideas! :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

More thinking...

Some random thoughts that if I write them down on a piece of paper, I probably won't be able to find them again:

  • I want to resume read-alouds. I was thinking "The Hobbit" for an English selection, especially with the movie coming up in December. (My daughter has seen all of the LOTR movies and read the first book. My son has seen the first LOTR.) I'm not sure if I would like to have a French read-aloud at the same time or perhaps just pick a French one for after we've finished "The Hobbit". (I'm hit here with the feeling that I don't like the idea of waiting. We can do both.) It could even be something just super silly, like a Geronimo Stilton in French.
  • Sewing: My son has a stuffed animal kit we bought months ago that we have not yet done. That would be an excellent activity to throw into our day.
  • Science kits: He has at least 2 science kits he's barely used. Rather than try to see how different experiments will fit with the R&D manuals, I am considering the possibility that we just have an afternoon a week to pick a random activity to do. That reminds me: I would like to run a once-a-month science class for homeschoolers. Well, more workshop-style where you just pay as you go. I'll have to make note of activities in his kits that could be done with a small group.
For my daughter, the thing will be to make sure she manages her time to get all her school required work done and then help/guide her with other things: cooking, sewing, getting business stuff going... She actually just uploaded her first design to CafePress, so there's stuff to learn there about making more designs, the tips for having a good image, consideration of actually running a CafePress shop (make more $ that way), looking at a way to have a website with her MineCraft skins... Basically, make sure the hoop-jumping is done and then help her with the rest of her education. :P

I need to babble a bit--First Week "Jitters"

This morning, I tried to sit down and write out a rough plan for the first week of school. It stank. I feel so stuck! My son has been so unschooled and now I have to transition him out of it. Transition. Good word for me to remember. (See, this is why I blog? Helps me sort out my thoughts.)

Okay, so I'm transitioning him. What are some things that should be part of a daily checklist?

  • Religion: We've got the Faith and Life series from grade 3-8 and are still in the grade 3 book after, hm, 2-3 years? lol. A little daily reading and discussing won't be too much, especially since I don't have the teacher books; we just use the student text and don't do the activities in it. A morning prayer has never been a habit, but it could always become one! (But this just throws my mind into a whirl: When do we do it? Do we do it with his sister? She's likely to sleep in until past the time he and I will get started. So do we just say a prayer on our own? But then when will she say a prayer? And forcing her up earlier is not an option: I've seen what it does to kids her age and their thinking capacity and know how lack of sleep affects me and leads to more illness; I'm allowing her natural sleep cycle to rule here.)
  • Natural Vision Improvement: I discovered earlier this year that my son is near-sighted. I don't know that he's so bad that an optometrist would tell him to get glasses, but possibly; if so, they'd be really mild. I had suggested a few things for him to try to do, but, hey, he's 11, he needs consistent guidance. I would like to resume that NVI because it did improve my eyesight in the past and I would love to get back into it and improve my eyesight even more. Ultimately, being glasses-free would be FANTASTIC! This reminds me that there is a book I've been thinking about buying--the name and author escape me at the moment--but I can always get going with the simple exercises prescribed by the one who started it all, Dr. Bates. (More info, if you're interested in how to reverse eyesight problems or prevent them, can be found here.)
  • Yoga or Pain Free exercises. Pain Free is a book by Pete Egoscue. He has other books and they all talk about problems that come about due to dysfunction in our bodies. My 14yo has flat feet and some other little issues, so she wants to do stuff with this and I've noticed my son's posture is not good and it kind of looks like his big toe joints are getting big, which, I mean, honestly, he's 11, they should be fine. So daily yoga or Pain Free (either from that book or one of the others; the book for women has sections aimed at kids, not just women). I guess both this and the NVI constitute "self-care".
  • A time to sit and talk about the day ahead, the week ahead, the previous day (as the case may be) and have a look at what has and hasn't been touched. I did this years ago when I had 4 of them doing school and it worked very well.
  • *frozen moment* I hit the point of thinking, "Work time. What will we actually do? How will it look?" And not only did my mind freeze, but I realized I had paused my breath. Good grief, this isn't that big of a deal, is it? lol. As I let the thoughts come here, one thought is to have the little talk about, have a list of possible presentations I can show him that day, and then let him pick. Where my breath catches is when I think of how much time there is to fill! Eek! I want, at least to start, to focus on the academics being in the morning; the art and music and other phys. ed. stuff will usually be afternoons. But even if I count the NVI and yoga as part of the work cycle (should I?), that still leaves, 2-2.5 hours before lunch. (I just had to see if the 3-hour work cycle is still part of adolescent recommendations. Here they say it is! Actually, they mention about doing "seminars" at that level is causing some ideas to start working.)

    Let me just babble away, okay? What are his academics? Math/geometry. Science. Social studies. French. English. I was thinking about starting up the Writer's Workshop concept again, à la Nancie Atwell, but I don't have the book yet and not sure I could just wing it. A math presentation could be done each day or skip a day to do a geometry presentation or I suppose both could be done in the same day. For science and social studies, I want to go through the Great Lessons first (oh boy, that first lesson seems to take me a while anyhow! lol.). There is Sequential Spelling for English, handwriting for either language, I'd like to introduce the grammar boxes (in French) to him... Maybe there's enough stuff to get going with. Just the Great Lessons alone will take up some time!
  • Afternoons: art, music, phys. ed. out of the house, not sure what else.
Okay, it feels good to get some thoughts out! Now time to make supper. (Oooh, there's another subject to add in: home economics! :P )

Friday, August 24, 2012

Working on the school plans

I've been spending a fair amount of time this past week on brainstorming and working out a rough math plan for my 11yo. (My 14yo is doing online learning and therefore, I don't need to do ANY planning for her academics!)

Here is what I've done:

  1. I went to and copied the contents into a document that is only about my son's math plan.
  2. I had a look at the one text approved for grade 7 math here and tried to decide if it matched up well or not with the RD sequence, but also just to get an idea of the provincial outcomes.
  3. I know what my son has and hasn't covered, so I started with the beginning stuff (numeration and addition) and worked out a rough plan by hand for Sept-Dec, following the R&D manuals with some notes on specific activities or type of work to do.
  4. I went through our provincial learning outcomes and added in things that fit with what I had already laid out. For example, there is a whole unit on statistics and probability which I've tagged onto the end of the other units as a continuation of working with fractions, decimals and percentages. Or the algebra elements, which are considered a separate unit in the text, are being incorporated with his work on the operations. Which, to be honest, I think is much better than the textbook's approach of spending a few weeks on an algebra unit and then it's not touched again until the next year. This way, he'll be working with early algebra stuff when we are working with addition, then again with subtraction, then with multiplication and then with division.
  5. I'm treating geometry as a separate subject, so on the same page (I used columns), I put in the geometry elements which match up with what's going on in math. So, for example, for the month set aside for showing multiplication work, I've got planned to work on area and volume.
  6. On the facing page (I opened up a notebook--left page was for math and geometry month-to-month planning), I wrote down elements that can just be slipped in here and there, to make sure he knows how to work with them and certain vocabulary is covered, like 2D and 3D shapes, types of triangles, mm cm m, how many weeks in a year...
  7. I turned the page and finished up with Jan-April planning, which leaves an entire month free. Hm.

Okay, how about a little visual of the draft end product (sorry, I'm not sure how to make it show up in the right direction!):

I have no real idea of how much time it will take to cover certain things. I've given a month for multiplication, including large, which he has barely touched on. One month might not be enough. I've only given December for division, but now that I think of it, with Christmas holidays and division tending to be tough, I'll probably have to extend it. In any case, I now at least have a sequence to follow in things to introduce to him. I will have to break down specific lesson possibilities as I go along, but at least there's a framework within which to work!

And I have to say that while math has been very neglected around here with him, looking at the things from K-6 that he hasn't covered or mastered, well, the things important enough to do so, and adding in the grade 7 stuff, I'm actually feeling rather good about this year for his math. I do think we can not only cover it all, but that he will have a decent mastery.  He does not have difficulty with math; he has simply been difficult to actually sit down and do enough math.Which reminds me of something I would like to do still: Create a chart with all the different outcomes and columns for Introduced, Checked, Mastered. Lots of "Checked" options where I will be able to date and indicate where he is in terms of practice and mastery.

Speaking of mastery... I read of one Montessori school where starting in grade 6, they didn't move on to the next topic until they had reached a 90% mastery. I'm not sure what I think about that. On the one hand, they are older and perhaps it's developmentally okay; on the other, what's so wrong with working on more than one topic at a time? I don't think Maria Montessori really envisioned anything like this type of bookwork for the junior high level, but alas, it's hard in our society to just go, "Meh, let's just do farm and business stuff for 3 years." Maria also never got a chance to try her idea out; she may have not found it practical nor reasonable in the end.

I have also started working out a rough plan for social studies. I will start off doing all of the Great Lessons (my son has only ever seen the first one!) and then spread off from there into the science units I have and then the grade 7 social studies topics (history of Canada). I have plans to go further back than what our provincial social studies program has in mind and I won't be as fact-oriented as the school program, but give a large overview, planting lots of seeds, and let him dip into the areas he wants to grow more. When I think about it, the social studies program is so very limiting. They want to focus on one select group of aboriginal Canadians, for some reason; they focus on the same group in high school social studies, too. And yet, there are so many that the kids are never really told about! I have an idea of finding a map with some sort of indication about where the different groups traditional lived, more or less. I know many were very nomadic, but they still didn't go from BC to Newfoundland and back! My plan is to go even further back than that, to the last Ice Age and have a look at where it is believed the aboriginals came from and their movement through North and South America. I think the big picture is so important! Yet school social studies seems to be so focused on passing on the details.

There was a video I saw of a middle school science project where they had done an enormous diagram of a cell (can't remember if it was an animal or plant cell) and had little explanations of each part. This got me thinking that for social studies, I need to think outside the box. Sure, a research report is a good idea, but it's important to get more creative, or to suggest more creative ideas: Create a model of an aboriginal settlement, for example. Make a small translation dictionary of one of the languages. I am thinking of keeping the elementary focus of the fundamental needs of humans as the overriding "theme" for the work, but I will have to check around and see if that's normal for upper elementary or not. Or to find out what upper elementary students do focus on and tie it in. (You may be asking why I'm looking at elementary if my son is grade 7. Well, he is grade 7 but he's not yet 12, and just how he is, I still think the 9-12 work is very suitable for him.)

All right, it's almost 9pm on a Friday night. I ought to pull myself away from this computer and do a bit of winding down!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Another Way

I have started reading Thinking Parent, Thinking Child today and have been thinking about another way I might have handled the other day's little issue with my nieces. I haven't made it very far in the book, so this is just one minor change I can think of that I could have done--or could do in the future when such problems happen again.

My questioning part to find out what happened was fine. My ton was one of confusion and trying to get the details. Instead of doing the whole explaining thing, what I've gotten so far from  Thinking Parent, Thinking Child is to stay in with the questions to get the child thinking more about the situation.

"What started it?"

"J started it when..."

"What happened before that?" (Using words like before, after are part of the whole ICPS--I Can Problem Solve--model.)

Her answer.

"How do you think J felt when you did that?" (Another key ingredient: Help the kids connect with their own feelings as well as what others may be feeling.)

She probably wouldn't have an answer at that point. I haven't read enough to see what an adult ought to do--do you suggest feelings they child might have had or just leave it? But I can see how that would have been much more useful angle in the whole process.

Of course, that doesn't help deal with the hurt feelings over the papercut, but can that really be dealt with? lol. Part of me thinks we have to get back to the beginning and instead of focusing on the papercut that was the result of K's actions. The problem is not the papercut; the problem is in the altercation that took place!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Even my son's teeth are different

I've posted in the past, just recently, even, that my son has always had his own particular way of doing things and so often lags and then catches up ridiculously quickly or even goes beyond.

It hit me today that even his losing of teeth has been its own pattern. He lost one molar long before the adult tooth showed up. (This, unfortunately, resulted in orthodontic preventative work.) My 7yo niece was showing me one of her loose teeth today. Um, well, that's one that might nearly 12yo just lost recently. But one of many teeth he lost recently. I think he lost 6-8 teeth in the span of a few months. He has no baby teeth left on top and maybe only 2 left on the bottom.

Crazy kid. ;)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Children and Injustice

I was working on helping my 11yo make an omelette when I hear my 4yo niece say something, in a very agitated tone: "No, K, I don't want to go upstairs!"

I go see what has happened. K, my 7yo niece, is sitting on the sofa in the family room (a few stairs down from the kitchen) and J, the 4yo, is sitting on a sofa chair with a book in her hands. K is looking very "poor me" and J is looking very irritated. "What's going on?" I say.

K is upset because J gave her a papercut and didn't say sorry and something else I didn't catch. Words designed, in any case, for me to feel sorry for her and to show the error of her sister's ways. I, however, was perplexed.

"How did J give you a papercut? People don't give papercuts; paper does."

The first explanation was that J had swiped at her with the book. I still reiterated that J did not give a papercut, people don't just try to give papercuts (well, not usually, but anyhow) and asked, "What, she just attacked you with the book?" The second explanation was that K "just wanted to see something" (something she does VERY often with people, but especially her 4yo sister, where she just expects to have immediate access to something and will get her hands involved, taking something away or flipping a page, etc., and be unhappy if someone doesn't let her and think she's justified in doing something to get her way) and J didn't want to let her see it because she was enjoying her time with he book and jerked the book or something (that detail was not made very clear) and cut K's finger.

Aha. I saw we had a complete difference in perspective of justice! In K's mind, J was at fault for the papercut and should have said sorry because it hurt her (and I should do something about it). I pointed out that J did not try to give her a papercut, but she reacted and K ended up getting a papercut. The book gave the papercut. I then asked, what started it all? K said J with the book. I said no, that it was when K tried to see something without J being okay with it, that J did not have to show K just because K wanted it right then and there, and that this is a frequent problem. I then said that J did not have to apologize because she didn't do anything wrong. And I left it at that. If J had wanted to apologize because she felt badly about K accidentally getting hurt, fine, but she was frankly too understandably frustrated and annoyed with her sister not only having tried to get her way with the book but then telling J she should go upstairs for what she'd done or some such. I could have told K that she was the one who should apologize because she yet again tried to barge her way into having something she wanted, but I didn't. That would have felt even more like lecturing and I realized I was on a fine line between giving information and lecturing. K did suffer from "poor me" for about 5 minutes (while squeezing her papercut to make as much blood come out as possible, I think) and then came upstairs for lunch and all was well.

Ah, it makes me think of a book I just requested on interlibrary loan earlier this morning:
I haven't read it in years but did way back when my daughter was about 6, I think, and used various things with her and her brother, even with some older kids. It's been sometime so I thought I would take it out again and if I feel like I need it, I will buy it. Given I will have the girls after school and days off, I'm suspecting I will end up buying it. I have the one for preteens (Raising a Thinking Preteen: The "I Can Problem Solve" Program for 8- to 12- Year-Olds), but I have to admit to not having read it. I really ought to, especially since my younger child is nearly 12. :P In any case, if you have not read this book and often have little tiffs between kids, it is a very good book. It uses a variety of games to get children to use certain language and help them distinguish between things, like I might want something different than the person next to me sometimes, but might want the same thing other times. Very, very good program. I can't remember if it gets into the idea of "fair vs unfair", but it tackles so much, it really helps kids with their over-heightened sense of injustice! And it helps us know how to help them. :)

Inspiration Can Come From Anywhere

Have you seen this video?

My daughter and nephew were playing it a few weeks ago. I have to admit, I laughed quite a bit.

Well, it seems this video has become inspirational. As we spent some time driving last week, the two of them started up with singing in a similar fashion with the things they could see around them, and then my son got in on it. I was cracking up! Anything they saw or commented on could be a part of it and it has become a regular activity since. Yesterday, we were stopped next to a vehicle and my son sang that the lady is driving a nice car. My nephew sang back, "No, she isn't." (LOL. Oh, man, the times you wish you had a voice recorder constantly on...)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sometimes All It Takes Is a Little Nudge

This summer has been the summer of LOTS of video game time. My past restrictions got overruled, habits got put in place and there has been a lot of indoor time. And I meant a lot.

Compare this to last year, when the boys, at the very least, spent half to all of their days outside... I was starting to think I need to just make them get outside when hubby voiced his comment about how they don't go on their bikes or scooters any more. So, that was it, that afternoon, when the last child had finished his allotted computer game time, I kicked them all outside. (Well, I joined them, too...)

That's all it took! Since then, they boys have spent hours outside on their bikes and the (little) girls take turns with the one scooter or just play. All it took was a little nudge.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Gifted Children

I'm not sure how I ended up there, but I started following a gifted homeschooling forum on Facebook. I hadn't delved into the whole "gifted education" thing for quite some time, being too busy with all kinds of other stuff. I only have a few more years with my daughter's schooling and I want to make sure to make the most of it. I do feel like I haven't given all that I should have to her, but that doesn't mean I can't make up for it!

At the same time, I have thoughts of, "Does it really matter to think of her as 'gifted'? Does it help? Does it hinder? Wouldn't it be good to just remember her strengths and weaknesses and target them? What about her brother? He's not the same kind of learner, but that doesn't mean he's not gifted. Hard to tell. But, again, does the label matter? Or does remembering the label remind me that my kids do fit with some of the typical gifted traits and to work with them?"

My dd has always shown herself to be gifted. Never formally tested, but I was, and labelled, and know my own history and see it all in her. Struggling at 4 months to do things most kids don't start really attempting until later. (Oh, I have a memory of taking her in for her vaccination and she was fascinated by the bell the nurse used to distract her. While the nurse and I were talking, this little baby reached out very determinedly, slowly and picked up that bell with its thin stem. When she did it and deliberately shook the bell, she surprised the heck out of the nurse.) She struggled at various stages to do more advanced things; we could see the thought processes going on but she couldn't make her body always do what she wanted it to do! Oh, the meltdowns! (Oh, yes, high sensitivity, from the get-go!) She knew things should work in a certain way and they didn't. First words at 8 months. (Nope, not "mama" or "dada", but "chat" (French: cat). And yes, her cat is very much her beloved.) Extensive vocabulary by 18 months. (We had been keeping track and it just got to be too much! Over 200 words for sure.) Started reading at age 3 by just observing me tutor a grade 1 child, using Reading Reflex. (She learned it all much, much faster than the grade 1 student, too!) Perfectionist. So much more. Hubby asked somewhat early on if I thought she was gifted and I said yes without hesitation.

My ds has always been "different". I'm not sure if the schools would have him labelled LD or not, but I recognize the possibility. (I do recognize, too, that there is Asperger's in my family and while neither one of us would be diagnosable, let's say I can see clearly how we've retained certain clear traits, lean toward that end of things, more so than dd.) He's got his own developmental pattern that is, well, uniquely him. :P He would skip milestones, for example, or would be "late" in hitting one, but when he'd hit it, he would hit the more advanced ones for his age, too. I'm thinking here of his speaking, walking and even drawing and reading. The darn kid was so occupied as a 9-10mo exploring how he could move his legs in various positions while on all fours, that it took him until 10 months to start crawling. (Oh, man, I wish I could demonstrate! It was very interesting to watch. But, it's a clue: this interest in "unusual" things, being focused on a particular area like that.) He was 15 months old before he started walking. Not because he couldn't; he was just too busy doing everything else. Same with talking. It took his slightly older cousin, 18mo and starting to come to our place each day, to spur ds to start walking and talking. Within a week or two, he was pretty much running. As for talking, the darn kid would add 4-5 words PER DAY for the next month! Yeah, the whole milestone thing of  "50-100 words by the time they are 2"... Ha! Oh, and it just hit me, his "different" way of doing things: first word around 9-10 months, then another word, but then when the third word was added, he dropped one of the first words. He only kept two active words in his vocabulary until he was 15 months, but had said 5-10 words by the time he was 1... He's a very different kid.

Ah, the drawing. I still have to locate his Buzz Lightyear drawing. He was not yet 3. He had moved from the typical scribbles to the typical round shapes, but with dots in them ("potatoes" he said they were). Went straight from that to a full out person: head with hair, eyes, mouth, not sure if there was a nose, but there was a body, arms with fingers (too many) at the end, legs and feet with toes. Yeah, he skipped a few milestones there. Oh, hey, and reading! Didn't seem to click, didn't seem to click, then he started reading and that was the end of it. I can't get him to stop. I can't say his reading level is very high, but he has a passion for comics... Lately, Baby Blues. (Is it normal for an 11yo to like Baby Blues so much?)

As I go through all of this, I realize how much I have not regarded his innate abilities as highly as I should. But what am I babbling about? I've been interrupted and lost my train of thought.

I guess I'm just reflecting on my kids, their abilities, the signs of their abilities. Is it important for me to tie it in with gifted education? Before writing this all, I looked up characteristics of gifted kids. One of the common ones was a need for novelty. Oh boy. That's both of them. I thought they were just being difficult, lacking in imagination. No, I think now they need more input, more variety.

I guess being aware of common traits and needs could be helpful, without my getting stuck on "gifted education" or whether my kids are or not. If certain traits are present and there are suggestions on how to meet those traits, surely that's a good thing?

What do you think? Do you have a child you suspect is gifted? Do you keep this aspect in mind when deciding what to do with them?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Behaviour Management

I wasn't planning on writing about this, but I saw an image in Pinterest with a little description that just completely broke my heart. :( I don't know that I will share it, because it feels like I'd be attacking the person who uses it in her classroom and I don't want to do that. I do, however, want to address the whole idea of behaviour management.

The picture in particular was part of a system where early elementary children were earning sort of points for their good behaviour and then they could trade in their accumulated points for a special activity at the end of the week. The ones with the most points get to pick first from the available activities, which means the ones who likely consistently have the fewest may never get to pick what they really want. And, of course, if they misbehave, they lose points. This is nothing new, I know. But I have been so long in the Montessori world/my own little world, that it breaks my heart to see people so happily talking about such systems and how "well" they work.

Do they work that well? I suppose it depends on your goal: do you just want good behaviour from the kids without changing what's causing the behaviour, fine, it works. But this is all just about controlling the child, giving carrots and sticks for them to behave how we want them to behave.

"What's wrong with that?"

Control is control. And if kids are learning from us, what are they then learning? These reward systems don't teach the children how to behave; they simply expect the child to behave and they'll get a reward if they do. The assumption is that the child already knows how to behave exactly right. So, what are they learning if they aren't learning to behave? That they can use punishments and rewards to control others, too. It is very easy to see in kids what they have learned about "behaviour management": those who get punished or otherwise controlled for not behaving the way adults want them to are the ones punishing or trying to control friends for not behaving the way the kids want them to. They also use the same sort of language on younger siblings that the parents do. We have to remember that when we are guiding them to behave in a certain way, they are also learning how we are guiding them. The child who is yelled at is more likely to yell; the child who earns treats is more likely to bribe a friend with a treat. (Yes, I have seen it!!! "I'll give you some of my ... if you...")

In any case, the blog post about the behaviour management system in question talked about inherent problems with such systems:

*some kids try to cheat (and I would guess these are typically the children who need the most guidance in social skills and perhaps have problems at home or some underlying issues, the ones who never earn enough for the special activities... they are doomed from the beginning of the week, know it, and since the focus is on the points...)

*other kids get excited about trying to see just how many points they can get during the week--the focus becomes the reward and not the behaviour

Do we not live in a society where so many complaints are made about the youth (14-25-year old's, maybe older) of today who have an attitude of "What's in it for me?"? Could it not be possible that the reward systems that have been prevalent in recent decades are part of what has created such an attitude? If the reason to behave is to get something out of it--rather than behaving because it helps those around you, keeps your relationships better, etc.--then are the youth with such attitudes really doing something other than how they have been trained?

Alfie Kohn (I love his books!!) writes about the problems with reward systems in Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes. (Yes, I am an Amazon affiliate. This link will take you to the US site; I think I have more US readers than Canadian readers. I will at some point have Canadian and American shops set up with the books I recommend, all nice and organized so you don't have to find the individual posts with them.) I think it is a must-read for every adult who interacts with children. He talks about the very problems the teacher shares (oh, should I recommend the book to her? :D): cheating, focus on reward (the teacher in question didn't see that as a problem though! :( )... How many of the kids who are struggling will simply give up because they can't get the reward that they want? I think my heart goes out to them most of all. These kids need guidance, not simply, "Behave and you'll get your points." They need to be treated like people. He wrote it sometime ago and I don't know that he addresses the prevalent attitude among youth, but perhaps an updated version of it should! There is so much great stuff in the book; you will never see rewards the same again.

"What then, are we supposed to do to get our kids to behave?" How about talking with them? Working with them? Helping them think about how others feel? Here are a couple of books I would highly recommend:

I did not follow the program all the way through, but have had in mind lately to return to it and to the one for older kids:
What I remember most from the first book (it's been a few years since I touched it) was the language and scenario playing that they give you. It worked fantastically! Just little things like helping children distinguish between their wants and another's wants and how they can be different and it's okay... Very helpful. So many behaviour problems can be fixed by kids simply learning more about themselves and other people. Giving points and rewards for "good behaviour" doesn't address the misunderstandings and lack of knowledge that they have!

Another fantastic book, I love this book so much:


A must-have book, one to read and re-read and reference throughout the years.

As adults, we certainly don't have other adults rewarding us for individual good "parenting behaviours"  (good grief, could you imagine????). What do we do if we're struggling? We learn different ways of doing things. That's what kids need. And they need to learn them for the sake of learning them, for harmony with others, not because they get to have a cool activity at the end of the week. (Barbara Coloroso takes the same approach and even applies it to money: don't give kids an allowance because they've done chores. What happens if they've decided they don't want the money anymore? They'll stop doing the chores!)

Maria Montessori would add to all of this: normalize them. Yes, you need to step in when their behaviour is destructive or problematic, but then put them to work. Get them involved in meaningful (to the kids) activity, activity that requires their focus. There's a lot of talk about how to help kids' self-esteem and when I think of the Montessori Method and the focus on work that engages the kids and builds them, there is the building of self-esteem right there. Self-esteem is not just about words: it is about ability and knowing you are able. The more kids are focused on what they are doing and the stuff they are learning, how can they not think of themselves as other than able? With the Montessori Method always about meeting the child at their level and pushing them a tad further, it goes a long ways to helping build them. And the activity somehow calms them, levels them, and just that reduces so many behaviour problems.

There is so much else that can be done than punishment and reward system to guide children in their behaviour! It's not necessarily easy to change what we grew up with, and even after we have changed, we might resort to the good old tactics we know so well, but in my opinion, whatever we can bring into it to treat our children like people and not little creatures to control, the better.