Monday, June 27, 2011

When Your Child Balks at School

Even with the most exciting lessons, most children will at some point resist having school.  Some children will resist frequently.  Forcing compliance through punishment will not get the child's willing cooperation, but there are other ways to approach the problem.
Talk to her about what the purpose of school is (preparing your mind and body for adult life and the work God has planned for you to do) and how each thing you do in school works toward that purpose.  (Make sure everything DOES in fact work toward that purpose!  No busywork.)  After that, wait for a day when she is especially uncooperative.  Calmly close up your book, put away the supplies, and get out the cleaning supplies.  Explain that today is going to be a day for a different type of preparation for adulthood--housework.  Adults have to know how to do that too, and since the schoolwork isn't going well you're both going to work on housework instead during the time that is always set aside for preparation for adulthood.
Years ago, one of the Ambleside Advisory members (I think) said that she began each school year by sitting in a chair with a cookie recipe in hand, orally directing each of her children through the cookie-making process.  If they listened and followed instructions, they ended up with cookies to eat.  The idea was to emphasize the importance of following her instructions as she guided them through school.
Another Advisory member mentioned a book she used (I cannot remember the name right off and don't remember where my notes are) that discusses the godly purpose behind each school subject.  She would use tidbits from that at the beginning of each school year, if I remember rightly.
Some children more than others need to know the *why* of what they are doing--they want to do something meaningful.  We can show them the why of it.  But then we must insist on the work as well, even when they don't feel like it.  That too is part of preparation for adulthood.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Scheduling an Independent Student, Part II

Ideally, by about Year 4 an Ambleside student will be taking responsibility for quite a bit of his own work.  In an earlier post, I described the way I set up our paper schedule to facilitate that independence.

Another help to us was blocking out our day into segments.  Each segment fit into a certain part of the day and had its own assigned work.  While planning the year, I listed all the work my Year 4 dd needed to complete each day, assigned each a rough time estimate, and then sat down with dd to decide which work should be done at which point in the day.  We actually assigned times to the work for this exercise, although we knew those times were merely for scheduling purposes and would not actually be used when the schedule was implemented.

For our schedule, we put work for which she needed me in the morning.  This was math and her readings (which need to be narrated) mostly.  Her work that could be done entirely or almost entirely on her own went right after lunch.  This was instrument practice, copywork and dictation, typing, and that sort of thing.  We even saved a couple of subjects for the evening, after supper (and realistically usually after the little ones went to bed).  Because we broke up our day so much, school lasted all day.  But once the work for a particular segment was complete, dd was able to have free time until another segment began.  This allowed her to have breaks during the day when the other children were free.

Dd was busy in the mornings, but busy with the type of work that can travel with us to the park or anywhere I choose to take the younger children.  She often did her work outside in the backyard.  It was not too hard to take a break to listen to a narration even with all the other kids around.  Her work after lunch was done while I was sitting with my other dd, who was in Year 1.  My Year 1 student did almost all her work in one sitting while the younger children were napping.  My pre-K student sometimes did a little work right after lunch, before naptime or just after naptime began.  We scheduled my oldest's after-lunch work to be the sort that needed to be done at home, since almost every day we would be home for naptime and for school for my Year 1 student.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Scheduling an Ambleside Day

To structure your Ambleside Online school day, begin with the weekly schedule for the year you're using.  Look at the list of readings for the week from the Ambleside weekly schedule, plus your list of other work you want to do each week (which is mostly listed on the weekly schedule--nature study, math, phonics/reading, etc.).

What needs to be done on any particular day is 1) all the daily work (math, poetry, etc.), 2) some number of reading assignments (I usually take the number scheduled for the week and divide by the number of days we'll be schooling to figure out how many to read each day; if a reading is particularly long or difficult it counts as two), 3) some number of other assignments that happen at least once a week but not every day (nature study, artist study, etc.).

I school my new student during nap time so that I can focus my attention on the student. (My older dd doesn't need this focus, so she schools throughout the day with lots of breaks in between because she prefers that.) Year 1 takes about 1-1/2 hours each day, perhaps 2 hours, if you remember to keep each lesson short and move efficiently from one to another. I let my student choose the order of the work (but not how much work is done), although I provide some guidance so that we move from one type of activity to a different type of activity.

The work we do comes straight from the weekly schedule. Daily items happen daily. Items that occur more than once a week but less than daily need to be balanced so we don't end up doing all of them in one day, but I have them on my list and cross them off as we do them so I can easily see how many we have left to do. We do as many of the weekly items as we need to each day to stay on track for the week.

Some subjects we don't cover during this official school time. For instance, composer we listen to during supper. Hymn we listen/sing at breakfast. Folk song is covered at lunch.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Philosopher at Home

Charlotte Mason's Volume 5, Part I, 1

Although we do not know how old Guy is, it seems clear he is at least 5. The age is somewhat important, since what can be expected of a 5 year old is quite different than what one would expect from a 3 year old, and the
treatment will be somewhat different too.  He has been throwing tantrums since he was a baby, so this is a well entrenched habit.

Guy is obviously spirited.  Notice that his temperament was clear in infancy.  Also, this:
<<Guy, very sensitive to the moral atmosphere about him, got, in Nurse's phrase, out of sorts.>>
Spirited children are the "canary in the coal mine".  They react strongly to any emotional upheaval in the home.

The parents in this account do not exactly follow Charlotte Mason's prescription for forming new habits (beginning on p. 175).  Step six on the list does not come into play here until after step nine.  This may be because CM felt it was not necessary to always follow that exact order or because this is in fact a true account and she has not changed it to fit her own recommendations.

When the need for action became clear, the first phase of treatment consisted in careful monitoring of Guy so that he could be distracted *before* he had a chance to erupt.  This was done without his knowledge. If the parents had followed CM's guidelines, they would have spoken with Guy about the issue first.

When an eruption occurred, then the course was to make him feel an estrangement from everyone with a concern for him.  However, keep in mind that this was not meant to be blackmail: "I will not speak to you until you respond in a way that pleases me."  It was more of "I cannot but feel sadness as long as you are unwilling to be sorry for your fault."  Also, his father made this stipulation:
<<"I think so, in his small degree; but he must never doubt our love. He must see and feel that it is always there, though under a cloud of sorrow which he only can break through.">>

Only after this did his father take him aside and speak to him about it.  It is clear, though, that the boy knows his behavior is out of bounds and has known this for a long time.  We may say that it isn't fair to punish the boy without advance notice.  This estrangement, however, was a natural consequence from which the boy had for too long been shielded.

After all of this, the father takes the boy aside and together they agree to a plan for dealing with his tendency to lose his composure.

This chapter, like the others in the first part of Volume 5, is not meant to be a by-the-numbers guide to habit training.  I do not believe you can list off what these parents did and then go and apply it formulaically to your own situation.  But you can see how they applied CM's principles, and perhaps that will give you some ideas for how you can apply them.

Remember that this process must be used for only one habit at a time, and that one must be pursued consistently for weeks until it is well ingrained.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Habit Training

Habit training seems daunting, so simple and yet so elusive in implementation.  I claim no expertise, but I do know a few truths about habit training.

You must choose one problem area--just one!  Focus on it like a laser.
Write it down so you don't get distracted and so you can keep track of what you've already worked on.
Name the complementary good habit you'll be developing.
Pray over it with your spouse.
Read about effective interventions.
Find appropriate scripture to meditate on and perhaps to share with your dc (but carefully).
Find good stories illustrating the contrary good habit in action if you can, but do not overemphasize the moral.  Let the story mostly speak for itself.  Also, avoid twaddly moral stories.  The story should be good in and of itself, not a story designed just to illustrate a moral.
Intervene gently, preferably BEFORE the problem occurs.  This requires vigilance.
Practice the positive behavior that will replace the negative one--make it fun!
When the negative behavior occurs, have a do-over.  Be patient and allow your dc to agree to try again.
Keep everything positive!
Acknowledge baby-steps.
Stick with it for at least six weeks, just working on this one thing.