Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Noam was sick most of last week though on his good days we did do some work. On Wednesday we did an hour long body scan meditation from the mindfulness course I'm taking. We both lay on the ground while listening to a CD which walked us through a meditation. On Thursday we listening to a CBC radio program about placebos and the placebo effect. Afterwards we talked about the nature of sickness and the power of the mind to heal ourselves.

Today Noam wanted to learn cartooning so we spent a lot of the morning drawing. We found a great cartooning website and followed along.

This is Noam with his first drawing. Very proud. He was a little hesitant to do any more but then I convinced him that we should try drawing Archie from one of his Archie comics:

After cartooning for a while we did a 15 minute sit meditation followed by wrestling. After the wrestling, a massage for me (from Noam) then a game of chess (I won!). By then we were almost out of time with only 20 minutes left. We went through a list of things that I have written down that I want to teach/learn about with him and gave him a choice of: political geography (learning where the countries are), more memory work or learning to juggle. He went for juggling as he seemed to be in a very physical mood today. Since I know how to juggle I'm going to try to teach him in the way I was taught, which is to learn to "juggle" one ball at a time. So that's what he spent the rest of the morning on.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Noam started off the day at Sandra's (as he normally would do on a Friday on Sandra's weekend) but then came over here at 10:30 for his chess lesson. Sandra came to meet Sasa and watch Noam play. Sasa and Noam started off the lesson by playing two games. After he went through a game from a magazine where he had Noam try to guess the next moves of the grand master who was playing. Noam amazingly did very well in guessing. Meanwhile I played the amateur opponent so I had to guess the amateur moves. I think I didn't do as well as Noam.

Sasa suggested that we take Noam to play at the Swansea chess club on Saturdays where it is just kids playing. I think Noam would probably really like this if we could convince him to go.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I have to try and remember to do these blog posts immediately after class otherwise I forget what we did! Our days on Thursdays start off a little later because I have to get Maeve to school so I asked Noam to read some more of Harry Stottlemeier's Discovery until I got back. I'm also reading the book and really enjoying it. The book teaches about logic and syllogisms and fallacies but through a very engaging story. When I got back Noam just wanted to continue reading.

We didn't have a lot of time because Sasa, Noam's chess teacher normally arrives at 10:30 so I decided we should try and put into practice some of the memory lessons we had learned on Wednesday instead of continued reading. To begin I thought I would get a baseline for Noam's ability to remember a random list of ten words. After that I was going to teach him how to use yesterdays work to actually memorize them, but first I wanted to show him how it was very difficult to remember anything without tricks. So I gave Noam a list of ten words and he stared at it for a while then gave it back and I asked him the words and he got them all! What he had done is use the system from the day before himself, without being taught--he had made the connection on his own which I was quite impressed by because it was by no means an obvious connection.

Around 10:30 Sasa called to say that he couldn't make it because he had had spilled coffee all over his computer so we rescheduled for Friday. Noam wanted to continue doing the memory lists--he seemed quite excited to have figured it out.

After that we wrestled for most of the rest of the time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

We started the day by going over some of Noam's homework (again chess problems from the Chess 1a problem book mentioned last friday). Today the problems were quite a bit more difficult but he got them all. I think he's got a real skill and, if he keeps with it, he could do well, especially if he wanted to compete, though he has no interest at all in competing. I think he probably feels too intimidated and insecure.

The feedback we got from the CAMH psychological report was that Noam, though doing fine in most areas, is struggling in the area of working memory to the point where it affects his ability to maintain attention on any one subject for too long. I've seen this myself where, even in things that Noam is very interested in, his attention definitely wanders. Of course, what 11 year old boy's attention doesn't wander? But what CAMH seems to be indicating that, well, yes, all boys' attention wanders but Noam is particularly struggling in areas where others aren't to the point that he ranked in the 7th percentile in some metrics. They've suggested that we look at ways of trying to improve his short term memory and told us about one system called Cogmed that has shown promise (although that promise is disputed). Cogmed training is offered here in Toronto through the Jewish Vocational Services. Scattered Minds by Dr. Gabor Maté looks like it is a good book on the subject that takes a non-drug approach.

So, Noam and I decided to learn some memory techniques today (specifically the "major system" as practiced for over a thousand years). This won't help his working memory per se but was a good jumping off point and he has expressed an interest in the memory work I have been doing. We started by listening to 40 minutes of an audiobook about memory called Memory in a Month by Ron White. Part of the audio included exercises we were to do where we needed to visualize various things using our own creative ideas and I was really amazed at Noam's creativity and rich detail when visualizing objects and actions. Using this system we very quickly learned the entire U.S. Bill of Rights. Next time you see Noam, get his to tell you about the first 10 amendments. Of course learning about the Canadian constitution might have been more apropos but this was the example from the audiobook so we stuck with it. It was interesting because Noam and I discussed each of the amendments and talked about what each one meant so it was both an exercise in memory and civics.

As an added bonus both Noam and I learned the formula for the volume of a sphere using a memory trick.

I can't remember how it came up but we talked about the brain's limbic system versus its prefrontal cortex. Noam seemed to get it right away. I read an interesting thing in Raising Happiness that kids' prefrontal cortexes don't fully develop until around age 19 and that that is a big part of parenting: being an external prefrontal cortex for your kids.

Noam then wanted "gym class" which pretty much consists of him beating me up (under the guise of wrestling). After he beat me up, he gave me a massage and then I gave him a massage. Then he wanted "love class" which consisted of us hugging and kissing and squeezing for five minutes.

I never imagined how much I would enjoy home schooling too.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monday & Tuesday

I'm putting these two days together because on Monday Maeve was home sick, and Noam slept for most of the morning because of his late trip home from Ottawa on Sunday night. So, the morning was lost school-wise.

Tuesday morning we started off as we usually do with Noam reading while I took Maeve to school. I had to make a soup for the Stone Soup lunch at Maeve's school, and thought that it would be useful for Noam to have more experience cooking. I explained that her school, The Grove Community School, has Stone Soup on Tuesdays because social justice is one of their core values. They have Stone Soup because they want to help provide healthy food for all children at the Grove. Soups are made by parent volunteers, and are free of charge to any child who can't pay, or $2 for those who can. Payment can be made anonymously so there is no stigma to not paying when you get your soup. I wouldn't have thought that at a school such as the Grove, with such strong parent involvement, that some children wouldn't have access to healthy food, but I was surprised to learn while I was on the snack committee that some of the children come to school with nothing but a chocolate bar to eat for snack, and without an adequate lunch. So, Noam and I talked about that, as well as the fact that there are many children in Toronto who rely on school food programs. We read over the fable of
Stone Soup, which can be found in many cultures, including French, Hungarian, Russian, Portuguese, and others. The lesson of the fable being that if we all chip in, everyone can eat. I taught Noam the basics of building a soup, starting with oil, garlic and onions, adding vegetables and grains or pasta, plus some herbs and salt for taste. Noam was surprisingly good at chopping carrots and potaotes, and asked to chop more. He sometimes has difficulty with fine motor skills, losing interest quickly, but he didn't this time, and chopped them up perfectly. We then ate some soup, and I took the rest in for the school lunch.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Noam and I started by going over some of the chess homework he had from yesterday by doing chess problems in the Chess School 1a book. Sasha, Noam's chess teacher, who is Russian, said that this book is like the ABC's in Russia, every kid carries one around and knows it by heart. Although the problems were pretty straight forward, Noam still seems to get them quite quickly and he displays a level of confidence that I don't see him having in other areas.

Before starting lessons for the day I had him transcribe his notes from the other day into his notebook because he hadn't had it with him that day. I also asked to him to pay special attention to doing it well and to take his time. I was quite surprised that he was able to transcribe so well when he puts his mind to it because normally his handwriting is quite atrocious.

After that Noam chose to do science experiments from his some of the books we took out from the library. One thing we looked at was friction. We tried sliding around on the wood floor with our socks on and then with our rubber soled running shoes. Then we read the description of why the two different materials produced differing amounts of friction but I'm not really sure that Noam understood or was all that interested by this point.

We then moved on to looking at money and all the different ways in which one can tell counterfeit bills from real bills. Noam told me that he had been given two counterfeit 5 dollar bills once as change but that he didn't know until he tried spending it at the next store. It would have been interesting to still have one of those bills so we could have compared it to a real 5 dollar bill to see the differences but he didn't have them any longer.

Noam reminded me that to remain in good emotional contact with those close to you it was important to hug, kiss, squeeze and otherwise touch them for at least 5 minutes a day. I thought that it was so sweet that you actually requested this! So we did just that, after which he again gave me a massage. We also went for a run to the library (and picked up some strawberries after) and raced back. When we got back he wanted to wrestle so we did that too. And by that time it was time to head off to his CAMH psychological assessment feedback appointment.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Today I had to take Maeve to the dentist so I left Noam with instructions to play chess on until Sasha got here at 10:30. I also suggested that he watch some videos on where there are videos on openings, famous games, strategies and tactics and so forth. I managed to get back on time for the start of his lesson with Sasha. They went over some of the games he played on line last night and today, looking at the games move by move. Noam seemed a little hesitant to answer questions and fully engage, much like he was at first with Colin and guitar or with his many other endeavours. But he seems to like Sasha and I thought Sasha did a really good job of not putting him on the spot. Melissa has suggested that maybe I shouldn't attend the lessons with Noam because he might feel overwhelmed having two adults peering over him and asking questions. So I might try backing off a bit. Unfortunately I had to leave early to head off to another appointment so didn't get to see how the lesson ended. So today was chess, chess, chess. I forgot to assign homework for Noam but will give him some to do over the weekend. Tomorrow I think we'll head back into science and experiments which Noam seemed to really like.