Some random thoughts on homeschooling and bilingualism

I need a brain dump. Can’t quite focus because too many strands of ideas in my head.  Blogging is like the penseive from Harry Potter.  It empties my mind enough so I can do things I don’t want to do.  ha!

I’ve been super sick the last week. Finally getting better. Pretty much the kids had free rein this week other than Monday. Amazingly the big one still managed to get this done. If that first year was about them learning the rules and procedures of homeschooling and the classroom, and practical life skills, then I think this year has been about learning how to manage their work plan and work records.

Little things happen in life and makes me feel that most of what I’m most happy teaching and why I like homeschooling is all the non academic stuff. It’s not doing the work that’s important, but the fact that I’m teaching her how to juggle things we need to do in life vs the things she’d like to do.  I like that homeschooling allows me to not constantly tell Thumper what to do, because I know I do that often enough already.  When the kids went to school and I worked, things were so busy it’s really hard not to just say, “Do this, and do that.  Hurry hurry hurry!”

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Everything piling up, especially math!

My first 1/3 of the math album was due tonight.  I didn’t finish.  But we all got an due date extension.  But rather than working on that, I’m starting yet another post (I have 47 draft posts!).  I feel like I have so many balls I’m juggling right now in the air and they’re all in my head.  If I don’t write them down I’m going to stress out.

Math

For our math class, we’ve finished learning about numerations (Least Common Multiples, factors, etc), multiplication of various kinds taking you to 4 digit x 4 digit in abstraction.  We started last week in Division and this week finished it and started on fractions and decimal fractions.  Here’s the scary part.  ALL OF THESE you’re supposed to have covered somehow between first and second grade, mostly first except the advanced stuff.  You’re supposed to at least have given lessons on it.  Thumper is 7.5, technically she is 2.5 years into elementary.  We just started covering this at home.

I told my trainer tonight that I’m getting confused by all the different threads of topics you can seemingly cover all at once because many of the instructions are: “You should cover this at least by age 7.5” or “You start this thread in first grade and study it for 2-3 years”.  She said, just follow the child’s interest.  That made me feel better because I know she’s right.  I already hear in class about children who still need review or study what we’re covering for lower elementary in upper elementary.  So I know you just go at the pace you need to go.  But still it’s freaking me out because there is too much information.  Too much info overwhelms introverts.

That said, I’ve learned a few more thing about the math presentations.  It’s really great I discovered two bloggers who really document what they do and follow the same album I use sometimes.  I can compare their pics with what I’m learning and ask questions.

Anyways, here’s what I learned about multiplication curriculum over the last few weeks.  It’s basically a series of different materials that gradually moves toward abstraction.  My biggest takeaway was that it’s the PROCESS that’s important, not the product.  This is why there are no specified worksheets or specified problems.  Because the goal is for the child to understand the process of multiplication.  They can maybe do 3 problems associated with each presentation.  And they will repeat the process again with another material that is slightly more abstract.  So at the end they would have done quite a few multiplication problems.

This is different from learning the mechanical steps of solving multiplication or even division problems I learned in grade school.  Many other books I’ve read about math education kind of talked about this; that the way we do multiplication or division is just an agreed upon notation to help us when we solve a problem.  It’s not the point.  They talk about how we spend a lot of time teaching children how to write their numbers in a column in lower elementary when many cannot do it because they’re not developmentally there.  Instead we should be doing math problems that teach the concept rather than the mechanical process.

What a relief to know this!  I’m always confused and get anxious when I see children working on equations on blogs because I don’t know where to find them or how many to do.

Chinese

I’m mostly done with researching how to teach Chinese writing.  Apparently many other people have figured it out before me.  Why am I not surprised.  Huayuworld is your friend.  But anyways I know what to do.  I need to find time to do it.  It’s quite complicated.  There is stroke names, stroke order, character components, component placements, component names, radical names.

Learning character components is a new thing.  It’s not really taught completely in school in Taiwan.  It’s taught a bit in China I think.  It’s mentioned in research papers.  People do it kind of automatically but the system for teaching components isn’t agreed upon in Taiwan.  China apparently has made lots of progress on that front.

Home

You would not believe the state my classroom is in.  It is not befitting a Montessori classroom.  Or the state of the house.  Or my sense of loss of routine because I’ve got too many things going on.  On top of that, our water heater is leaking madly!  And now I have to do some research and get a plumber to replace it.

AND everyone got sick the last 2 weeks.

I also have a few posts I want to write but I’ve been postponing because it takes some time.

 

Wow, writing it down makes it seem not as bad.  I’m off to finish my album.

 

 

2014 year end review

All the kdorama websites are doing year end reviews, I thought I’d do one too.  But I better hurry it up otherwise this one will be posted at the end of 2015 instead!  Montessori says that there are 3 pillars in a schooling environment, teacher, child, and environment.  I thought I would divide up my thoughts along these three lines.

Me

This year, we spent 3 months travel living in Taiwan. It was such a good gap year/sabbatical trip. The kids “leveled up” on their Chinese quickly. We spent the next 3 months unpacking after 5 years of moving into our house. I’m still not done.

In September we started homeschooling. I love homeschooling a lot. People always say they don’t know how I can spend a whole day with the kids day after day. Many teachers I know are introverts. I am as well.  I don’t have a problem spending time at home all day or not talking to too many adults.  In general, I feel much more sane now that I don’t have to juggle work on top of childcare and the variety of Martha Stuart activities I want I do.

2013 was a year of personal drama and several losses.  I would sum up 2014 as a year of growth and a year of rediscovering who I am, who I want to be, what I want to do, and where I want to go.  I’d been running nonstop since Thumper was born and the months off have given me prospective.  The biggest thing I learned about myself is how much downtime I need for myself and therefore I will never have that perfect homeschool environment or perfect house in my vision. I will never be the super mom that can hold a full time job, still cook for the kids, have an immaculate home, have time to spend with the partner, etc.  The other thing I have decided is to be more forgiving to myself for not having the ideal Montessori environment I envision.    To that end the kids enrolled in a Chinese music class because I don’t have time to do music on top of other prep I need to do. Continue reading

Small freakout

This morning, I was happily browsing FB and came across pics from a Montessori school on the math their kids are doing.  Looking at the kids working on their addition to the millions reminded me that this was something we’re supposed to be covering already.  Plus all those lovely work cards.  I felt behind.

For the last 2-3 weeks, I’ve already been quite anxious because I’m playing catch up with making materials.  Every day it seems like I find a new work that Thumper and Astroboy might need to work on, and the mad dash to making those materials for them.  I usually only have time to kind of think about what I need to make, then another material pops up and I start researching those.  Gradually a long list of materials to make/buy accumulates and it’s growing faster than the rate I can deal with them.

On top of that, the kids have been dragging their feet in school, especially Thumper, due to the sheer amount of work you “NEED” to cover in Elementary.  I’ve been trying to adjust but nothing is quite working.  I also don’t like having school more than 3 hours a day.  It feels like then we might as well just go to school.  Because the one thing I do complain about school is the children not getting enough free play time.  But at the direction we’re going, we’re slowly doing the same thing.

kind of know my vision of how the children ought to be learning, what our days should look like, I’m just having a hard time trying to figure out how to get there.  The problem with having a vision is that I get quite discouraged, mad, annoyed, when the children don’t want to follow my plan.  I know, I know, you’re supposed to follow the child.  Yet another conflict.

I’m freaking out.  Feeling inadequate.  It’s only a small freak out because my logical brain is saying, don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re doing fine.

This got me to thinking about the recent post from Mandarin Mama about coveting what you don’t have.  Namely, thinking that if you ONLY could have this, this, and that, then your vision of how great your life could be, can be, will be, will magically appear.

It’s a problem I’ve always had.  When Thumper was smaller, I think part of the reason I kept buying ever more expensive “educational” toys was because I somehow thought that it would magically make her want to play with them, or shape her into the self-motivated, independent person I want her to be.  She refused to play with all the toys I got, but just wanted to play with us.  I learned from that and did not ask so much of Astroboy.  And yet the desire of thinking “if only I have this, then life with the kids will go much more smoothly” continues.

This need to make materials is for the same reason.  Subconsciously, I probably feel that if I just have the classroom set up, all the materials made, environment/routines perfectly set up, then the kids will magically want to learn and want to do their work, all by themselves without so much prompting and tempting and work from me.   Every day they will wake up, put on their clothes immediately, make their bed, eat breakfast without whining or complaining about the offerings, do some chores without prompting, and cheerfully say, “I want to go to school!  I can’t wait!”  They will put their dishes away right after eating and brush their teeth and thump thump thump down the stairs to knock on the door of their school room happily.  They will be eager and willing to learn rather than dragging their feet for whatever reason.

Okay, I feel much better now.  Writing down the things that make me anxious somehow make it not so bad.  I will continue to march forward.   Once in awhile, my Type-A, competitive side comes out.   But honestly there is no perfection.  There is only the need to recognize, to understand, as Mandarin Mama said, of what it is that’s triggering the reaction in you, in order to do something about it, or to make peace with it.