Thursday, February 7, 2013

Not the best day....

Today was not that great, although it has had some really great moments.  Elijah woke extremely early and started to school around 7:30.  By 8:15, he had completed most of his required work for the day.  He only had to read a book to me and he was finished.  This is great but I really want him to start challenging himself a bit more.  For now he seems to want to finish some things that he has started though and that's a great thing too.  He continued to work on his number roll, reaching 500 today.  This is a Kindergarten Montessori math lesson but when we started using the Math workbook in the middle of the year last year, he didn't finish the math roll.  It has sat in its spot on the math shelf ever since.  He wants to reach 1000 and may decide to continue past that later.  He hasn't decided yet. 

For Reading, he has been reading Bob books since last year but when we started using the Reading curriculum this year, the books started sitting on the shelf unused.  He finished Set 2 today and though he can read much more challenging material now, he wants to finish the Bob sets.  He did not do any work from the Blue Language kit today but instead chose to do another section in his Explode the Code book.  He has to do one or the other each day.  We won't move forward until both are completed. 

Levi woke much earlier today and went right to work on his Bible verse.  Both boys completed this today and are doing really well with it.  They enjoy learning the verses each week and seeing the improvements of their handwriting.  Levi worked in his Getting Ready for the Code book today and is excited that he is almost finished with this one.  We have one more letter left before we move on.  All of this was completed by about 10 and the day just went downhill from there.  The toddler (I can't put his real name since he is a foster child so from here on out I will refer to him as Prince) began destroying our classroom, Elijah began shouting at everyone and Levi just didn't want to do anything.  We continued to try until 11 when we stopped to clean up to go outside.  11:30 came and their fighting continued, it was nearly time for lunch and the classroom didn't get cleaned up.  Needless to say, we didn't get to go outside, which is what they really needed the most but Prince was far too tired and I needed to get lunch done.  I began lunch at noon and by 12:28 the dog's water bowl had been dumped all over the floor and a gallon of milk had also been spilled, at which point I accidently shut Elijah in the refrigerator and then everyone just started crying.  I started to clean up the milk and told them all to go get in the bed, that we needed naps so that we could get up in a better mood.  They go up the stairs and begin driving a remote control car done the stairs over and over again, laughing the whole time.  I let them be while I finished the floor.  By that time the older two were feeling much better so I let them work in the classroom while I put Prince to sleep.  Before I went upstairs, Elijah was using our numbers and counters lesson to make large numbers. 

When I came back downstairs, they were working together building with Lincoln Logs.  They had constructed one building, mostly Elijah but he was showing Levi how to do it, and were working on the second.  Levi decided that he wanted me to show him how to do his math lesson so he stopped to let Elijah finish the village that they were building.  Levi has been doing great with his numbers so I gave him our numbers and counters to do today for Math.  I showed him how to lay the numbers out, how to place the counters in a line to the right and then I let him put the numbers in order and put the correct amount of counters beside each one.  He did a great job!

While Levi was working, I showed Elijah how to build with more support after one of his buildings collapsed.  I then left the room to do a few things.  He called me back in to see his village once he had completed it.  You'll see a church on the right, a home in the middle and a shop to the left. 

The day was not perfect but it did have some really good moments.  Thursday just seem to always be really rough for us.  After lunch I felt that the day was totally bad but taking some pictures this afternoon and now writing about the day, I am able to see that we actually had a pretty good day.  Yeah, there were intense moments and quite a few things just didn't go my way but the boys learned a few good lessons today.  They are working, maybe not on what I would like but they are working.  They each have their own goals and are working to achieve those.  Elijah wants to finish some things that we have started and Levi wants to finish his required work as quick as possible so that he can do artwork.  He's currently making crosses with construction paper to send to his grandma's for Valentine's Day.  He has found a project in a magazine that he wants to make for his friends next week and Elijah has planned his V-day gift for friends.  We will be posting more on those next week!  Well, tomorrow is Prince's visitation day and our errand day so today is our last day of school for the week.  We've had a pretty good week and I look forward to an even better one next week.  Be sure to check back to see our Valentine's Day projects!!!!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Much better day....

Today went much better than yesterday!  Levi still slept in since he hasn't been able to sleep much at night but I am hoping that tonight will be better.  Elijah was up and at 'em this morning, finishing his required work by 8:45.  He started out by reading a Bob book again, choosing to read the one from yesterday again since he had a little trouble with it.  He then did a spelling card from the Blue Language Kit, using the movable alphabet.  This was his first time with the Blue Language Kit and he had a little difficulty with the words but after correcting them with the movable alphabet, he wrote them correctly in his notebook.  He then moved on to his copy work, which is Psalms 68:19 this week.  For now I am writing it on the board and he is copying it.  I hope to move to him copying it from the Bible soon.  After finishing his copy work, he moved on to his Math, choosing to work on his number roll.  I've been looking at Shiller Math and I am hoping to purchase it this month so that we can go back to Montessori style math.  He is doing great with Saxon (working a grade ahead) but it is more drill than teaching.  Shiller has both. 

Levi woke after the morning school session was over so he didn't work this morning.  It was a kind of yucky day and the ground was still wet from a late rain last night so we played on the screen porch for a bit and then had lunch.  I napped with the baby while Elijah and Levi played "store" in the hallway downstairs.  (I did mention that Levi hasn't been sleeping at night, right?  Well, that means I haven't been either.)  After our nap, we spent another hour in the classroom before calling it a day.  Levi did his handwriting (I used our verse to make dotted sheets for him to trace.  He usually traces them and then copies them onto paper.  We will probably move on to doing copy work soon.  I just need his handwriting to improve a bit more so that it is legible) and then we worked on his Explode the Code together; he is still in the Getting Ready books so he can't work independently yet.  He is very interested in print lately so while I was napping, he was actually working on the signs for their store.  He did not get much official school time in today but I feel that playing store with his older brother, who is very good at telling time and counting money, is a great learning experience.  They had signs that told the name of the store, the time that they open/close and the name of the shop keepers.  I need to get them some price stickers because last week they got in trouble for using a permanent marker to mark the price on some items that they had for sale. 

We have a foster child living with us right now that will be 2 next month.  He comes into the school room with us each day and usually explores the shelves and works standing at a shelf.  When I see something grab and hold his attention, I take that lesson, put out a work rug and let him sit on it to do his work.  I know you aren't supposed to sit on your work rug but he seems to work much better this way.  Well, this afternoon I was finishing up with Levi and he brought me the bucket of link-its that I added to our math shelf this week.  These were a lost treasure from a math methods class from my college days; I found them when cleaning out a closet over the weekend.  I opened the lid for him, he walked across the room and set them down.  I then watched as he took a work rug and spread it out the best that he could.  He sat down and then dumped the bucket of link-its to do his work.  Right now he is unable to link them, but he can take them apart.  There's a long chain in the bucket that he enjoys working with and taking apart.  Levi enjoys putting it back together so the two of them working separately is actually supporting the other one's work. 

I have found myself with a rare break of silence this afternoon since Gabe has taken them all for a haircut.  When they left they were negotiating spiky hair with Dad, who prefers a more gentleman-like look.  I'd love to write more but I do want to enjoy the quiet a bit and maybe watch something that I want to watch until they get back. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I am NOT the Suzie Homemaker type, though I do enjoy the occasional large meal or homemade dessert.  These muffins are special.  Not because I ground the flour myself, not because I used fresh blueberries or goats milk that I got this morning.  Nope, these muffins are special because I made them at all.  In all actuality, Martha White made them but I added milk and stuck them in the oven.  So what prompted these special muffins? 


Yep, we started our first official day of school since we decided to make a change.  It turned out to be a GREAT change and today has been a wonderful day.  After dealing with a very sick dog last week, my house needed a good hard cleaning.  The dog was admitted at the Veterinary Clinic on Saturday so I had until yesterday to get the house back in order.  My Hoover FloorMate (I have the old model but this is the greatest cleaning tool ever) needs a new filter so I had to mop my floors the old fashioned way with a real mop.  I finished all of this last night so when we got up this morning, we were able to eat breakfast and go straight to school work.  Levi has been sick the past few days as well so he slept in but Elijah worked really hard and finished all of his work in just an hour and a half.

I did away with a work plan when making our changes and decided to instead require him to write his Bible verse once, read one book (or chapter if reading a chapter book), work in his Explode the Code book or do work from our Montessori Language kits, and do one Math lesson each day.  The rest of his lessons are completely up to him.  Now I know that this sounds a little counterproductive but Maria Montessori insists that children actually do WANT to learn.  Murielle Lefebvre, author of Success with Montessori at Home, says that "It's about allowing the child the opportunity to enjoy what he lives, since he is the active party.  In any case, the child needs food to survive and grow.  He will not be idle for long.  We have taken the test with our youngest, aged 11.  It took 2 days!  Around the third day, he was so bored with not working that he came back and asked to study Spanish" (Pages 52-53, Lefebvre).  So Elijah worked great this morning, finishing all of his required subjects in a great amount of time.  I was pleased with his reading choice, the next book in the Bob Books series rather than an easy one he had already mastered, but not so pleased with his math choice.  He choose a lesson that was his favorite at age 3, one that requires you to put pegs into the foam number cards.  As I watched him, I decided that I would introduce a few multiplication problems using that lesson.  He was interested for a few minutes and then completed the basic lesson and moved onto Legos on the screen porch.

I was a bit disappointed at first because I have prepared some great reading materials and activities for bird watching as well as studying the knights of the Middle Ages.  I really wanted him to choose to dig into those subjects once he completed his work, he's the one that picked those subjects to begin with.  Well, 10:30 came and Levi ventured downstairs just in time to help clean up and get ready to go out to play.  We came in, had lunch and I laid down with the baby to get him to sleep.  When I went back down to do school with Levi, he just wasn't into it today.  He did write his Bible verse but he didn't complete his math lesson and never attempted any other lessons.  He was instead more interested in the Legos that Elijah was playing with.  As Elijah and I were finishing the last of Robinson Crusoe, Levi kept trying to interrupt us. 

I finally decided that rather than fight for him to do his work, I would back off and put Murielle Lefebvre's experiment into place for my boys.  Remembering that Montessori is about following the child, I left them to the Legos on the screen porch and I walked into the kitchen in search of a granola bar, only to find that they were all gone.  With no other snacks in the house, I walked into the pantry to decide what to bake.  I have this whole shelf full of things to bake that I have gotten either free or nearly free with coupons.  The muffins were the easiest and quickest so they won!  I made the muffins as I listened to a podcast I had been wanting to hear and when I pulled them from the oven, I went onto the porch and declared that school was over and that it was now cleanup time.  The boys quickly cleaned up and then came to the table where I served them a special snack of homemade muffins (they don't know that a mix isn't considered homemade, I did make them in my home at least) and 2% milk, not even organic! 

You're right, it wasn't the greatest school day ever.  They didn't accomplish great things in education.  Nothing new was learned today.  We just settled back into doing school the way we are most comfortable.  There was no stress.  There were no tears.  I'm going to give it a few days and I'm sure they will finally decide to actually learn about something rather than just play.  We've all got to learn this way all over again.  We've got to learn to structure ourselves in an environment that seems to have no structure.  We've got to learn to learn on our own because we want to and not just because a textbook tells us to.  Today was a good day, we got a good start in this learning process and for that we all deserved the muffins!