Saturday, October 11, 2008

Review: Schedule


This has been our daily schedule, followed four days a week:

First activity:

History or Science; twice a week each.

Second activity (the major new presentation of the day):

Language, Maths or Latin lesson; once a week each, which leaves one slot free for a miscellaneous activity.


Literature read aloud; daily.

Next activity:

Latin practice, Critical Thinking, or reading aloud from Bible or climbing book; once a week each.

Independent work:

Touch Typing, Maths practice, Writers Workshop or Programming; once a week each.

Chores; daily.

I think this is 4 - 4.5 hours work but it's hard to be sure because of the problems we've been having.

The order of activities is working well. I would like to insert daily copy work or dictation in before the "Independent Work". Things get problematic when one child finishes an activity before the other is ready to start the next, and during the break. In those free moments, the kids get absorbed in a book or a game or playing on the computer or playing cards or playing outside, which they then don't want to stop. If they decide to have a snack, it turns into a main meal which can drag on for more than half an hour.

I'm not immune to this myself: if the kids are both busy working, I'll take advantage of the time to write an email or do some other chore, which then ends up taking longer than the kids need to finish their work, so they go off and read or play etc. Then when I attempt to call the kids together for the next activity, there are moans and groans and complaints: "I want to finish my chapter," "I'm hungry," "I'm tired," "I don't want to."

Our "four hour" work session ends up taking all day and the complaining tires me out and depresses me.

The solution I would like to try is to restrict activities available during free moments to things that are easy to break off or don't take long. What comes to my mind is several activities that should be part of Josiah and Tessa's climbing training but have been neglected:

  • Cardio exercise, e.g. jog around the block.

  • Yoga / stretching.

  • Exercising antagonistic muscles (i.e. muscles not used climbing - exercising them helps prevent injury): press-ups, dips, shoulder presses, reverse wrist curls.

  • Climbing drills on our home boulder wall.

  • Climbing strength exercises: pull-ups, dead hangs etc.

Alternatively, the kids could do their chores during free moments so they don't have to do them later.

I think if we are more disciplined, i.e. can keep the work session to around four hours, there should be no need for a major meal during the work session. We start almost immediately after the kids finish their breakfast, so a snack in the middle should comfortably see them through till the end. In that case, the "break", instead of being a long meal, could be just ten minutes preparing a small snack and then I could do the literature read aloud while the kids eat. That would eliminate the difficulty I have calling the kids back to work after the break. I can easily grab my snack while the kids are working.

I will also need to restrict the activities I do when find myself free while the kids work: nothing that I am not willing to stop at a moment's notice. I dislike breaking off tasks part way through - so unsatisfying. But there are some things - mending, crochet - that lend themselves well to being picked up for a moment and dropped again.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Review: Language Resources

The kids love books and love reading. To study language, we do the activities in the Montessori Research and Development Language manuals, which we all enjoy. We have recently completed Elementary Language Volume III on word study and are about to start Volume IV on punctuation.

I would like to give the kids more opportunities to practice writing and to improve at it. Once a week, we have "Writers Workshop". Some weeks the kids work at a writing project: a story or a play. Some weeks they do an activity from Wordsmith Apprentice, which is a resource I like very much: the activities are fun and practical. It's good to have Wordsmith Apprentice to fall back on when the kids don't have any writing ideas. I have also been allowing the kids to use Writers Workshop time to write emails and cards and other practical life writing tasks. I have wondered about stopping that practice and having those things get done outside Writers Workshop time but I think it is good to place value on routine writing - to encourage the kids to get in the habit of writing notes to friends and relatives, and lists of things to do, etc. And those activities add variety to our Writers Workshop time. Maybe variety is the key and as long as writing emails isn't all the kids do with Writers Workshop time, it is fine to continue including practical life writing tasks in the work session.

Tessa likes to write. Josiah has done some lovely pieces of writing but he still finds the writing of a sentence a momentous undertaking. I think both would benefit from writing more. In line with Montessori's idea that a good way to develop a skill is to perform activities in which the skill is isolated, I wonder about having the kids do daily copy work or dictation - so that they don't have to think about composing at the same time as writing. We could start with just a sentence a day and build up. It needn't be boring because there are so many interesting books in the house to copy from.