Saturday, November 10, 2012

This Week's H/School Journal.

In our homeschool this week...
...we enjoyed a rather quiet week.

...there's no doubt that Seth regressed a little this week when it came to learning...I'm discouraged.  He had three mornings this week where it seemed like his brain was just a sieve with information.  He couldn't remember any of the letters he'd been excelling at learning.  It was more than a little frustrating given how far he's come since mid July.  On Wednesday, for the first time ever, Seth asked if we could skip school for that day and I probably should have listened to him.  What I said was that I hoped that Daddy was taking a day off next week and that I would rather do school today so that we could take that day with Daddy totally off from school.  I wish I'd listened to him and just 'let him off of the hook' for school that day - somehow I'm thinking he knew that it was going to be a tough go for him because Wednesday was Seth's hardest day since mid July from the perspective of being able to remember things.  

...a couple of weeks ago I learned of a new h/school chess club that another mom had initiated and, given that Matthew has been learning to play chess, I asked him if he'd like to go.  Somewhat to my surprise, he was very much so that I wondered briefly about his quotient of nerdiness, until I realized that many brilliant people play chess and that undoubtedly said wonderful things about him.  Given that I am not of the brilliant sort and generally do not like to play chess, I thought it would be a good thing for Matthew to have some chess partners to play with.  The chess club was organized in our large downtown library in one of their games rooms (who knew the library had games rooms!).  Over the course of almost two hours, Matthew got in two full chess games and got to play with a six-year-old and an eleven-year-old.  In both cases, I missed the final few moments of the game and I found it interesting that I found out from other parents, rather than from Matthew, that he had won both games.  He is truly not a very competitive child (somewhat unlike his mother, who is a reformed competitor) and he was just thrilled to get to play a couple of games.  The younger kids and I hung around for about half of the two hours, and also ventured out to find some new audio books for Seth and a bunch of books to support our upcoming Canadian wildlife unit study. All in all it was a terrific way to spend an afternoon, and we're already looking forward to another such time a few weeks from now.

...just for fun, I found (online) a bunch of kids' level Sudoku puzzles and let the boys go to it one afternoon early in the week.  To my surprise, Seth readily handled both levels that I gave him (using shapes rather than numbers/letters) and completed both quite quickly; he wasn't ready for the numbers-based puzzles yet, but I don't think he's far off.   Matthew really seemed to take to Sudoku and rapidly completed the first shape ones that I gave him, and then asked me to find more.  I did - in fact, I found a link here where daily kids' Sudoku games are published along with the solutions.  Matthew completed a few of these on another day, and when he complained that he was tired of always erasing numbers, I quickly prepared, printed, laminated and cut-to-size a bunch of numbers that he could simply move about like game worked really well and I felt quite clever about that simple solution!

...Lizzie has been working hard on pattern recognition for the past couple of weeks and has finally begun to nail it!  It's been fun to watch her brain learn to think in a new way...sometimes I felt like I could almost see those wheels a'turning.  When I saw how much she was picking up on them, I found (online, of course) eight pages of patterns for primary students (about ten pattern questions on each page) and she loved plowing through those - I thought it was hilarious that every time she finished one she looked as delighted and surprised as the first time she'd successfully completed a pattern question a few weeks back.

...Monday marked the eleventh consecutive school day that Matthew melted down over some thing or another related to school.  Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were blessedly free or such notable events, but on Friday we regressed back into meltdown city.  I'm not sure what's going on with Matthew, particularly given that in so many other areas he seems to be (finally) adapting and coping pretty well with his life these days and showing some marked signs of maturing.  But yesterday, after the latest meltdown at the prospect of doing school, I set Seth and Lizzie up with something to occupy them and pulled Matthew into the library for a chat.

"Matthew," I started.  "There's a man that I used to work with who likes to say something about times like these."

"What?" he asked, still hiccuping after his lengthy wailing jag, but sitting in a heap on my lap with his arms around me.

"Well," I continued, "This guy that I've worked with has this expression that I've always thought rather interesting.  He likes to say, when working with people who need to make a change in their lives, that they need a 'come to Jesus' moment."

"What does that mean?" Matthew queried.

"Well, like I said, I've always thought it was an interesting kind of expression.  But basically what it means, Matthew, is that there are times in our lives when we simply have to reconcile ourselves to something that we haven't wanted to face and to make a change in our lives.  It's about times when we simply have to stop fighting and accept some truth that leads to a life change.  It's about taking the blinders off of our eyes so that we can see the reality staring us in the face."

"OK," Matthew said.  "What does that have to do with me?"

"What it has to do with you Matthew, is school.  You need a 'come to Jesus' moment about school.  Matthew, school and learning are going to be a part of your life for a very long time.  Hopefully for ever.  You are in a fortunate position of having to do very little school relative to other kids your age, but you are, quite simply, required to do school.  Whether it's at home or in a public school building, you must go to school.  You can continue to choose to make this a very hard thing in your life, or you could simply accept the reality in your present and future that school and learning are a part of your every. day.  That, my dear, is your 'come to Jesus' moment, should you choose to accept it."

Somehow that seemed to make sense to Matthew.  He asked a couple more questions and then said that he was going to reconcile himself to the reality of school in his life.  He asked if I could remind him of this before the next day of school.  I agreed.  Shortly thereafter, we headed down to school and he completed the tasks I'd set out for him.

So...thanks Dave D., for the inspirational quote that I borrowed for yesterday's little chit chat!

Places we went and people we saw...
...other than the regularly weekly activities (gym class, art class, music and piano classes, etc etc) and the new chess club experience, we had a low-key week.  No play dates, no big run of errands, no field trips.  That felt A-OK.

My favourite thing this week was...
...Tuesday.  That was the day that Matthew seemed to turn a little corner in his ability to do school without melting into a puddle on the floor.  That, in itself, was worth celebrating.  As a result, all three kids were finished with school (including a piano practice by Matthew) before noon.  The kids had been begging to watch a movie, so after lunch I told them that this was the day, given that all of the school and home work had been completed.  So they watched the movie Beethoven, while I thoroughly enjoyed doing some daytime online work, researching the Sudoku and pattern exercises as well as a whole bunch of practice sheets for phonics (Seth & Lizzie) and multiplication/division (Matt).   All four of us enjoyed those couple of hours.

What's working for us...
...schooling Matthew first, and then Seth and Lizzie.  It's a challenge at times to keep occupied the kid(s) not currently doing school, but it's so much easier for me to focus on one 'group' at a time.

...having the kids all in Awana on Wed nights.  Geoff and I have sooo been enjoying our 90 minutes of date nights.  When Matthew, earlier in the week, mentioned that he might want the week off from attending Awana, I instantly said "well, that's great and all,'re going anyway!"  I was not going to let a temporary feeling on his part unravel our date night plans!  So Geoff and I dropped the kids off (a few minutes early even) and went to grab a lovely dinner at a nearby pizza bistro.  We shared three plates:  some bruschetta crisps; a warm, dynamite caesar salad; and a small pizza with a made-fresh salsa crudo baked into the crust and housemade spicy sausage and fresh boccocini (sp?) cheese on top.  Yum!

What's not working for us...
...after that dinner out, how could anything not be working for us!!!?

...actually, one thing that I'm struggling with is organizing the kids' school work.  The younger kids, in particular, produce quite a volume of paper work, given that much of their letter work is craft- or scissor-and-glue oriented.  Do I keep this stuff?  Where?  How?  It's going to be too much to put neatly into a file folder.  I could put the work into binders that I already have, but I'll certainly fill more than one for each of them before the year's over, and what would I do with the stuff at the end of the year?  Or should I just be tossing the stuff at the end of the week and save anything remarkable that they've done?  Anyone other h/schoolers or teachers have any suggestions?

Things I'm working on... prep for this coming week's unit study on Canadian wildlife is coming along, but slowly.  It feels like I need about three solid hours of highly focused time to finish putting it together, but I'm scrambling to find that time.  Originally my plan was to take this coming week off from our regular school work and focus exclusively on Canadian wildlife but I've changed my mind a little on this front.  Instead, we'll still do a little regular school in the mornings and then shift our attention to our unit study during the afternoons. This will be an enjoyable unit study for the kids and so I may as well try to maximize our morning study time while giving them something to look forward to in the afternoons.  I feel a little behind in our regular schedule, so this combined approach might work well for me, too.

...I realized this week that Christmas is approaching very quickly and that I've done little in anticipation of this as yet.  Given that the three kids are with me pretty much all of the time, prep takes me infinitely longer than is used to.  So I've begun working on my Christmas gift list and the to-do list of things that need to happen in the next four or five weeks.  This coming week I'll complete those lists and hopefully begin working on the implementation of them.

I'm grateful for... 24-hour silent retreat coming up later today through 'til tomorrow afternoon.  I'm hoping to be able to finish the upcoming unit study prep and complete a bunch of other tasks on my school-related to-do list, while still relaxing and enjoying the silence!


  1. Hi Ruth,

    Hope your retreat is restful and peaceful.

    About all the piles of work... I would say "let it go"... recycle it. Keep only what is beautiful and precious. Remember it is all just practice... like practicing piano, or a sport, or yoga, or sudoku, or chess... we can't keep or store any of those things and we wouldn't want to. So why do we cling to all the papers just because they have 'material' presence? I think that's a complicated question. It feels good to just let them flow into the background as part of the practice of learning and then they are behind us and we are practicing/mastering the next step. When I was a classroom teacher, at first it bugged me when I would see children throw their work in the garbage like it didn't matter or it wasn't important to them. But then I realized that they were right and that they understood it was 'just practice'. It mattered in the moment and then it was over. At that point I also stopped sending very much "clutter" home with them either because I knew their moms would feel guilty if they didn't know what to do with it and wanted to throw it away... It was probably better in the "olden days" when children did this work on a slate and then just erased it! that's my thoughts of the day! I'm trying to learn to get rid of more things myself. It's hard work! We cling to all that somehow.

  2. You know, Jackie, your comment is extremely helpful. It IS just clutter and, though I've never thought of it as this before, I think you're also dead on that it's all just "practice." It's interesting, too, that it used to bother you when you'd see a kid throwing something he'd just done into the garbage. Seth is like that, too, with school work - he'd be happy to toss it on his way out the's been ME who has stopped him and collected it all carefully together.

    But for what purpose, really??

    I think what I'll do is this: keep the stuff until we've finished going through the alphabet once (we're not quite half way done), which should happen shortly after Christmas. Then, before we start going through the whole alphabet again, I'll pull out 2 or 3 things are they did particularly well or that showed their progress, then I'll take a picture of the papers spread all over the floor, and then we'll fill up a chunk of that recycling bin.

    I do believe I now have a plan. Thanks for crystalling that for me...I was feeling so uncertain and even GUILTY at the thought of throwing out their work!! You have freed me up. Perfect.



  3. As a former teacher I agree that you should just pitch all those work papers. As has been said they are part of the learning process not a completed masterpiece. When kids gave me things that were "gifts" they were never a page of "Aa" or addition facts. They were always things they had created from their own imaginations. That is what they thought was special and should be hung up or kept in a special place. No guilt, woman let those papers fly!

  4. Thank you so much Ramona. Wow, between the two of you, you've helped me see how guilt was weighing down that decision. It seems so clear now.

    Thank you thank you.


  5. You know I know nothing about this stuff but...! If you WANT to keep some kind of record, some people take a digital pic before recycling and then keep all that stuff in a file so you get to keep it, and but it does t take up any space!