May 8, 2020
Homeschool wk may 4-may 8

This week the big news is that I think I finally managed to get a fixed schedule. Amelia won't be in the same group every week but we care far more about the timeslot! Otherwise classes seem to be going well for both Amelia and Matthew.


I had a very long conversation with Elizabeth's teacher who was very perturbed that I dared ask her how long a particular assignment was expected to take this week. She's very defensive and I have a terrible time getting any information out of her. She called because she felt my question was "attacking" her teaching but given that Elizabeth's school had said the target was 5 hours of schoolwork and Elizabeth took 5 hours to do half of the reading assignment alone I was wondering if the assignment was longer than expected or if there was a problem that needed addressing. I wanted some idea of how long to allocate for the current assignment. Actually, we are a little concerned about Elizabeth's reading comprehension skills - in both English and French. Elizabeth's teacher kept referring to her as a "francophone" and told me that since Elizabeth seems to be average in her schoolwork she wasn't worried. I may have finally convinced her that Elizabeth is in fact anglophone. Not sure if this was actually in Elizabeth's best interests or not. Long (very annoying) story short, the teacher clarified that she just wants the kids to put in the allocated time and then stop. The allocated time is up to each student though. The teacher also told me she'd taken some extra training on Google classrooms and had a new way of receiving assignments. This doesn't completely solve the fundamental problem that she isn't using the available tools to subdivide her assignments and so it's pretty hard to follow, but it IS easier than the previous strategy and Elizabeth thinks she can manage now. Given how touchy she seems about anything that she interprets as criticism I've decided not to push the issue.


In chatting with a few other parents I've discovered that she is definitely assigning far more than 5 hours a week and her approach is very different than how other teachers in the same grade level is approaching virtual learning. Many more group projects (forcing the kids to interact in french) and she seems to be available all the time to respond to chat questions and even individual video instruction. She's using Google classroom to try and replicate walking around the class and seeing over the kids' shoulders, so expects everything possible to be done on the computer.  I asked Elizabeth to make sure to check with her teacher about any questions and the teacher responded immediately every time. I have to grudgingly admit that while she has a terrible "bedside manner", I'm starting to change my mind about whether or not she's objectively a good teacher. She's certainly putting in incredible amounts of time and effort. The consensus seems to be that the students in her class are getting a lot out of what she's teaching. We'll see how the rest of the year goes, but I might be warming up to her.


Matthew had a very productive week. His great desire was to make slime which we finally managed to do. We're running out of glue but the recipe only called for 1 tablespoon. I was not terribly impressed with said recipe - it did make slime but also a lot of extra goop which was more liquid than slime. Very messy! He's working on collections at school for math. His teacher said she counted all her buttons so of course he wanted to count all of ours. We settled for just counting the red ones because I'm pretty sure I have a couple of thousand in my collection. I love buttons and inherited most of my paternal and maternal grandmother's collection. The kids enjoyed looking through for all of the "cool" buttons. Elizabeth thinks I should sort them into sub collections so it would be easier to find one when we actually want a button but I pointed out that I wouldn't be so keen to let them play with them in that case. Matthew did lots of Prodigy math as well. I've discovered how to set up assignments so I've made it quiz him on skip counting by 2, 5 and 10s to support the stuff he's supposed to be learning. He is also enjoying emailing his teacher. He'd probably send several emails a day if he didn't want help with spelling things out.


Mother's day is coming up and a number of assignments this week were related. I was not allowed to inspect these secret activities, although I did help Amelia make a flower during her class time.


The weather was a bit chilly this week but it was sunny and warm enough to go for a bike ride. Amelia and Michael took scooter and plasma car on a trip around the block with Daddy while I took the older two down through Commissioner's Park to inspect the tulips for ourselves and stretch our legs a bit. Matthew wondered about doing an extra long bike ride but we're going to work up to it.


It was also nice enough on Wednesday for Elizabeth to have an outdoor karate class. She's recently made herself a traditional bo and is keen to practice but waving long sticks around is really an outdoor activity. We were wondering how the wifi would reach and whether sound would be an issue. It seemed fine. We missed a few classes this week - mostly karate - due to some time management issues. Elizabeth wants to know why time goes by so quickly when she's doing assignments. She skipped her Friday ballet class because the teacher suddenly decided to move it live for this Friday only which meant it was going ahead at the scheduled time. Unfortunately the scheduled time now conflicts with tournament team. I tried to talk her into doing the ballet but there was no contest.


Lots of art this week: much of which was "secret". Since everyone likes to draw we are going through reams of paper. I've decided some sketchbooks are in order. This at least cuts back on the random pieces of paper floating everywhere throughout the house! Elizabeth had how to draw books in English, and make a box in science which felt like art to her. It was much more popular than her math assignment. To be fair, the math was very much in the realm of busywork since she is familiar with the material already.


Amelia and Michael attended a couple of Grandir ensemble zooms and the library french storytime. They seem engaged and interested, as long as we don't do it somewhere too distracting. Giving them snacks in front of the zoom in the kitchen seems to work so well that I can even help Matthew and Elizabeth with other school related stuff rather than needing to sit with the littles to keep them focused. Amelia wanted to do some cooking, so we made biscuits together.


We finished our family read-aloud book "Green Knowe" by Lucy M Boston and started reading Little Women for when everyone's there and the Wishing Chair for when Elizabeth's doing a class. Elizabeth says she's read the Wishing Chair too many times so she's fine with missing it.


The other big obsession this week was all about fire. Matthew has been collecting sticks for a little while and he and Elizabeth constructed a fireplace in the backyard. Then they decided they wanted to light it. Of course we live in the city so campfires are not allowed, but we decided it was okay for them to try. The rules: they may use rocks, sticks and string. Sticks must not come from living bushes and must be already in our backyard. If the wood shows signs of getting warm from their efforts, they need a bucket of water for dousing. So far they've demanded to watch many, many videos on how to start fires without matches and are slowly refining their technique based on some of the suggestions. Many branches have been stripped of their bark. Blisters have been acquired. They have learned that in Japan blacksmiths used to start their forges by hammering steel on the anvil. They have also learned that paperclips, a hammer and a rock results only in flat paperclips. They have learned about the difference between galvanized steel and regular steel. In short, it's been surprisingly educational. Related: please don't send Matthew steel wool.

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