Saturday, January 7, 2017

Christmas, Flute, CGS and Other On-Goings

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

새해 복 많이 받으세요 or sae hae bok mani badeuseyo! (Happy New Year in Korean.)

  Almost 9 years old! (Can you tell we live in the south? We wear tank-tops in December?)

  About 5 1/2 years old.

About 9 1/2 years old. Where does the time go? (If everyone looks like they were punched in both eyes it is because the kids got up at 2am Christmas morning, and these photos were taken around 10am.)

 I don't even remember when this photo was taken. Did I take this?

This is S's rendition of her flute teacher's little squishy toy, Draco the Dragon. Those are bell pepper slices in her mouth. I think that this little guy helps students remember to do something with their air. (Her teacher has a ton of little figures that help students with a myriad of technique issues.) This is the real dragon toy. You can get it here.


We stitched this little guy up today. Squiggles keeps S's right index finger from resting on the bar and gives her hand a nice arch. That white thing underneath her flute is a thumb port. S is double jointed and this little thing keeps her fingers in alignment. Before resorting to a home-made Squiggles, we tried to find a Beanie Baby, or a Tsum, Tsum that would be the right girth, but nothing fit her small hand. So we just made this little guy out of soft fabric and some googley eyes. He works quite well.

The kids also wrote some Christmas cards to their teachers. We curled them up inside water bottles as "healthier" holiday gifts. The kids took that "healthier" theme pretty seriously.

 And CGS materials. Oh, CGS materials. I thought I was out of the woods when it came to making Montessori inspired materials, but oh, no. This thing is the beginnings of the City of Jerusalem. CGS-USA has a level I materials manual on-line for those who are association members and have completed level I training. This was my adaptation for our level I atrium.
 I inherited the base on an IKEA tray that someone else had started and had to "fit" everything on there so that it would "fit" in our atrium space. The walls are 1x2, and 2x2 sections of wood-glued together. The Holy Temple, House of Caiaphas, the Cenacle, Herod's palace, the individual houses and the pools are made of little tiny bits of 1/4" birch plywood.

Each child helped out with many of the various tasks. I am usually an extreme perfectionist, but I really appreciated their "kid-artistic" flare for this piece.

 The hills and valleys are layered styrofoam wood-glued together and covered with joint compound. These shots don't tell you that the walls, and the grey buildings are removable. It was quite a process to get the outer-walls to "sink-into" the joint compound enough to make an impression that would then dry. This "imprint" makes it easier for the child to figure out which wall goes where. Each wall section is unique and will fit in only one location. In this photo, the material is nearly complete. You can see that there is this weird spot of joint compound in the middle of the city that needs to dry and be painted before I can varnish everything. The varnish will hopefully keep the surface from chipping too much when the children bang the wall pieces against the plaster surface. Because you need to glue and wait, and plaster and wait, this piece took me about 3 weeks while doing all the Christmas-y things in between. Whew. Now onto creating the Empty Tomb. I suspect that D will want one of these cities of Jerusalem for home we may be "revisiting" this again soon.

Our atrium didn't have sectioned pasting boxes. Little pieces of paper were organized into tiny envelopes which were stuffed somewhere in some cabinet inaccessible to the children. My little guy, who is 5, is super interested in the paper work in the atrium, so I got out my 1/4" ply, my jig-saw, and some wood glue and set to work making pasting boxes. The one above is for the Baptism lesson. The one below is for the liturgical colors and city symbols. 

 The atrium uses the dove instead of the flame for the Holy Spirit symbol. In most of the pasting boxes, I pasted the control into the top of the hinged box. I stuck tiny eye-hooks into the left side of the box base and lid (not great for lefties I am now noticing) and attached a string (it is coated cotton from the jewelry section of the craft store if I recall correctly) to keep the lid from flipping open and down. I kept the string at a length that keeps the top from slamming closed and also keeps the box from tipping over backward. I also kept long tails on either end incase my glued square knot came un-done. Oh, I also used rubber cement to adhere each corner of the control charts to the box lid inside. The control charts are not laminated. This way, it will be easy to remove the control chart and replace it when necessary.

You can see on the top of the closed pasting box I put the symbols that represent what is inside the box so the child knows which one to choose. I started to mod-podge them on the top, but then realized that rubber cement would make it tons easier to remove them pieces when they need to be replaced.

None of the interior compartment dividers come up flush with the box edges. These shallow compartments make it easy to grab the pasting pieces, and also easy for the pieces to get mixed up if the child up-turns the box like a briefcase.

The kids and I also did a lot of polishing. Tons of polishing. These little containers hold the Baptism oils. You can see the horrible state of affairs regarding the one on the right. After polishing them, I filled them with a paraffin/olive oil/essential oil mixture. I don't think that the proportions are quite right yet. The balm should be solid enough to withstand some finger pressure, but yet be oily enough that the child can gather some on his finger. I feel that this one turned out too soft. I am pretty sure I'll have the opportunity to remake them at some point soon so that I can try again. (I added the following essential oils: frankincense, myrrh, lavender, and eucalyptus. I didn't add Baslm of Peru to this. Actual Chrism has a bunch of other oils in it in addition to the ones I've listed here.) I am usually not a fan of paraffin and I usually use bees wax for lotions, salves, and balms. But for this recipe, the idea is to be able smell the olive oil and the essential oils and bees wax would have added an incongruent odor.


Our level I atrium has never had a good tracing works station. This year, I re-made all of the tracing works for the atrium (that CGS-USA recommends in their materials manual) and figured out a way to keep our tracing paper on our tracing cards.

These tracing cards are 8.5" square, laminated, and the images are colored in with colored pencil. I specify these things because not everyone chooses to make their cards this way. I printed all of the images from the CGS-USA website. The folders are in a desk-file-holder, and we simply cut down regular white pocket folders from the office store. I laminated each folder with contact paper to make them slightly more durable, though with the typical child who comes through our atria, these packets will likely not be used as much anyway.

I designed a separate ply board with the magnets to hold the card and tracing paper in place. In the past, children needed to find four paperclips and ask an adult assistant to paperclip the card and the tracing paper together. I came up with this new magnetic board but it still needs a couple of tweaks, namely new magnets on top that aren't swallowable. (Maybe child safety magnets?) Anyway, I cut two holes in a 9" square piece of 1/4 plywood, one in each of the top corners. Then I cut another 9" square piece of ply and lay this on top of the piece with the holes in it and glued the two pieces together. Then I glued magnets into the holes in the bottom piece and flipped the entire thing over, so that the child sees the plain sheet of ply. The magnets are less likely to pop out since they will always be "pulled" up through the top sheet of plywood and the child has a smooth surface to write upon. The entire sandwich is about .5" thick, and the height isn't a problem. (D did a test run.) If you are going to do this, make sure that the magnets on top aren't swallowable, and that the pair of magnets, the one in the wood and the one sticking to the top, have enough magnetic power to want to be magnetic through a 1/4" of plywood.

I think we have a reader on our hands. Okay, he's been reading for a while. But this lounge-y position is just funny.

She was upstairs pitching a fit because she didn't know what 16-9 equaled. This is regular every-day behavior for her. Still. She's been doing this kind of thing since birth. 2 1/2 hours later she came down and said that the answer was 7.

Someone finished Book 1 and needs Book 2 cards already!

And finally, we did a bit of Montessori Math too. The other day I had a discussion with T about the Relative Size of Terms in a Multiplication Problem. This presentation is from the KotU Math album, Decimal Fraction section. Prior to this we did the Decimal Fraction Checkerboard. Oh, wait, I have pictures of that and I didn't blog about that work. Woops. Will have to write a post about that one. Anyway, this is the presentation after that, and then we will go on to Decimal Fraction Division by Another Decimal Fraction.

Incidentally, T has already figured out abstract decimal fraction multiplication, meaning the multiplication with pencil and paper only and without the Montessori material, so we will be skipping that part coming up. 

Okay, so the numbers above...The idea behind this presentation is to illustrate that there are some patterns that emerge when you multiply decimal fractions. 

If we are multiplying a number that is less than 1 whole (the multiplicand) by a whole number (the multiplier), we are always going to get something (the product) equal to less than the whole number multiplier. For example, when we multiply 0.5 x 6, we are taking a half, six times. If we were taking 1 six times, we'd end up with six. But we are taking something less than 1, six times. So, each of those portions of  less than 1 whole, all add up to less than a full six. T figured this out after a couple of prompts.

If we multiply a decimal fraction by a decimal fraction, we are taking a part of 1 whole, less than 1 time. We will get a product, or answer, that is less than our multiplicand, because we are taking that original fractional quantity less than one whole time. If we said, 0.5 x .5, we'd take a half, a half a time. If we took a half one whole time, we'd end up with one entire half. If we take a half less than one whole time, we end up with something less than that half. T figured this out before I figured out the album page.

In our third example discussion, we asked what would happen if we multiplied a decimal fraction by a decimal fraction that was more than 1. We multiplied 3.5 x 1.5 and got 525 as a raw product. Then we needed to decide where the decimal was supposed to go. T could see that if you take 3 and a bit a small bit, more than 1 time, that you'd get something near, 3 and a bit more. He crossed out 525 because it isn't anywhere near, 3 and a bit more. He also crossed out 52 because that is way more than,3 and a bit more, and then he decided that the decimal had to go between the five and the two. He found this fun. I thought that this seemed suspiciously like something you'd learn in a SAT prep class. 
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It is super cold here, and I feel like an ice cube sitting here at the dinning table with three shirts on, socks, slippers, and a scarf. It is 22 outside. We are kind of thin-blooded and wimpy here in these parts of the south. It is supposed to be up in the 70s mid-week next week. Thank goodness. Hope you are keeping warm where ever you are.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Geometry Solids, Owl Pellets, Lego Stories, Diagramming Sentences and The Nutcracker

Here are just a few of the things we are working on presently...

Geometry Solids:

This was a made-up-by-me lesson for T. He is a very hands-on-learner. Text makes his eyes glaze over in a hurry. Here he was doing a geometric solid exploration. I asked him to create prisms, pyramids and other polyhedrons out of paper. Then we explored how circles can help us construct regular polygons.
Later we will calculate and derive formulas for solid volumes and surface areas using our paper solids. To be honest, I haven't reviewed how our Montessori album says to do this, but I figured we just tackle this subject this way since T already likes to make little 3-D objects out of paper. (T, S, and D all like making messes with paper and scissors.)

Now moving away from a Montessori-centered curriculum, I am quickly realizing that T needs an entirely different curriculum than that which can be found in a book. I think one of the reasons Montessori has worked so well for us is that I haven't required a lot of expressive writing and the curriculum is highly manipulative-focused. T is clearly a kinesthetic learner who loves visuals. Text and verbal language just aren't his modes of communication and knowledge acquisition...AT ALL. The above geometry exercise worked well for him because it was experiential and very hands-on. I set him up with a "problem." How do you create a regular hexagon using this circle? He needed some prompts, but then he realized that we could use isosceles triangles to create our hexagon. Trial and error, hands-on, movement, problem solving, manipulation, and visuals are what drives his learning style. So, these are the kinds of learning experiences I am seeking to find and put in his path.

It is hard for me to let go of the linear progression and book-learning I personally prefer. But this teaching style doesn't work for T; he wastes time, takes for-EVER, and doesn't retain a darn thing. I am searching science kits, computer programming, and other experiential learning opportunities for him.

 Lego Story Starters:

The Lego Education Story Starter program is an attempt at a new writing sequence for T. I set aside our classical writing program, and went back to "before-the-basics." He really needs a TON of one-on-one help with this. These two pages required more than an entire day's attention and coaching from me. (Like more than 10 hours of my time.) T just doesn't understand how to express thought in a logical manner. I've known expressive language is a huge challenge for him since he was 2 years old. But now that composition is starting to be very important in the upper grades (past where he is now but coming up soon) I am wondering if he will be able to write what he needs to write in a few years.

So, Lego has this education arm which has developed a bunch of education programs that utilize its building bricks and include instructional support and assessment metrics. The product packages are generally designed for groups of 8+ students but they do sell uber-expensive sets for a smaller homeschool class environment. We didn't get the package...but I did manage to adapt their lesson plan to fit our needs, sort of.
 The end goal is a comic-book style story with photo visuals, text, and dialogue that illustrates a story from beginning to end. The Story Starter curriculum outlines scenarios and the child builds a visual with Lego bricks. He takes pictures of the 3-D brick scenes and then heads to the computer to post-edit, lay-out, and add text.

Lego has also developed software that makes it super easy for the child to independently upload their photos, drop them into their document, and add text. We did our spread in MS Word. After watching me align, crop, and add text boxes and bubbles, T was able to do much of this on his own (without deleting my entire computer.)
T was able to come up with a very simple storyline from the Story Starter prompts and a lot of help, and build and photograph what he needed to illustrate his story. Drafting the text was SUPER, SUPER, SUPER difficult. Who, what, when, why, how questions are like non-existent in his brain. I am never sure what is going on up there. It was like 100 questions to literally PULL the story out of him, "who was doing what and why." In the end, we created a pretty cool looking product. I am NOT looking forward to coaching him through the next one.

Diagramming Sentences: 

This is one of my new most favoritest books ever. EVER! You need to get it from the publisher, but I sooooooo, sooooo, highly recommend it for those looking for something laid out from A to Z in the sentence diagramming world. Eugene Moutoux, the author, has his own website here, and he has a ton of really great info on his site. I wasn't sure if I'd like the book, but it is really, really, really, helpful. Both T and S are using this now and we all like it.

Both T and S have had some exposure to the very beginning basics of sentence diagramming. T has had more Montessori lesson experience than S. But this book starts off with simple baby steps so it was easy to start on page one and progress. (We haven't gotten that far yet.)

One of the things I love about this book is that there are tons and tons of practice sentences that I didn't have to draft. I don't have the children draw each sentence though, especially T who writes slower than a snail. We do practice outside on the sidewalk with chalk. We'll put together our diagramming lines on the sidewalk. I'll call out the short sentence, and then they'll repeat the sentence, saying each part as they hop from indefinite article, to the subject, to the predicate, to the attributive adjective, to predicate nominative. It is kind of funny to watch them do this. (It is like 80+ degrees here today, so hopping around outside can be done comfortably in shorts and a t-shirt.)
 We also use white boards and dry erase markers to practice our sentence diagramming. Somehow children love dry-erase markers a lot. T likes whole body movements. Using a large whiteboard allows for whole body movements, and so does sidewalk sentence diagramming hop-scotch.  (The example above is S's work and I think it is on a piece of paper I laminated, not the big white-board.)

T seems to like this work since it is all about logical classification and he is pretty strong in advanced grammar concepts and sentence diagramming.

This book is pretty thick, it has answers to everything, and very good definitions and explanations of each rule. I am terrible at this kind of thing. I was never taught how to diagram a sentence in grade school. So for a complete novice like me, this book is just exactly what I needed!

 Owl Pellets:

We did this a couple of weeks ago actually. I purchased the jumbo owl pellets from Home Science Tools and the kids got to work dissecting them and finding out what owls cannot digest. (T said that he remembered from the book Poppy, by Avi, that Mr. Ocax threw up a pellet after he ate Poppy's friend Ragweed and Poppy was able to collect her old friend's earring. Then T sighed and set to work pulling apart his owl pellet, probably thinking about Poppy and Ragweed.)
 Okay, I purchased two jumbo pellets for each kid not really knowing what was going to be in these things, nor how much time it would take to dissect one. My kids are 10, 8-almost-9 and 5. Everyone but my science girl was done after one jumbo pellet. I was also done after one owl pellet. And we now have more rodent bones bumping around in a plastic container than I know what to do with. They freak me out each time I see the container again. My advice: get one jumbo per child, or a large one will do. You will literally find 2-3 complete animals in a single jumbo pellet, skull and all.


Kindergarten Grammar

 D has finished up the elementary verb grammar boxes and we introduced the preposition. I gave the initial Montessori-style lesson asking him to put his stuffed dog Chase, "on the chair," "under the chair," "over the chair," etc. He thought this was funny. A preposition is a word that describes relative position between two things.

Then I introduced grammar symbol, the green bridge, which stands upside down on our grammar tray from Montessori Outlet. I made some sentences for him and he used our grammar symbol stencil and assigned each work their appropriate symbol. Then he wanted to act out each sentence, like a command card, but S didn't want to be stuffed into a box.

Stamp Game Division...or not 

I went away for 5 minutes and this is what D did with the stamp game. He was supposed to be finishing up his division with the stamp game. (8988/14=   )


And, D is working hard on his Minecraft activity book. I seriously do not understand what the Minecraft craze is all about.

Flute, flute, flute...

S is preparing for her next flute recital and is working on the Spanish Dance from Tchaikovsky 's Nutcracker in addition to her other tone exercises and Suzuki pieces.

We practice about an hour once a day, almost every day. She has lessons for 30 minutes once a week, and has been playing now for a bit over a year. (She started playing the assembled instrument last September.) S just loves her teacher who is a performer and recording artist in the time that she is not teaching. With hard work S has progressed to about half way through the Suzuki Flute Book 3. She knows all of the 12 major scales and we are working on tone quality.

We are also trying to sort out some flute stuff now. She has an Azumi Wave-Line Flute which has that bend at the top. She started playing when she was 7 and her arms were too short for a regular student flute. This wave-line flute reaches low D and goes up to high A. The Suzuki music she is doing now extends lower and reaches higher than her flute. Typically, one would just upgrade to a larger flute. But S is still very small. She is 2-months away from turning 9, but our last measurement indicated that she is still two keys-worth-of-arm-length away from being able to fit a larger flute. So, what to do? This is something we'll be exploring in the months to come, while making sure that she gets enough calcium, green juice, and sleep so that she can grow and grow and grow.

A special thank you to a special someone for your very kind and wise flute wisdom. :) It is very much appreciated.

And that is what we've been doing!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Growing Bacteria - Microbiology in 3rd Grade?

  S is my science girl. She loves, loves, loves all things that require gloves and goggles. We talked about how to prepare petri dishes and how to inoculate them with bacteria. We will be staining these samples and looking at them under the microscope as well. We will also be preparing some antibiotic test samples too. We talked about antibiotics, how bacteria can be beneficial and harmful to humans, and how to prevent and encourage the spread of bacteria. We talked about bacterial resistance and sensitivity, and then we got to work growing some bacteria. Or well, S got to work. The boys were talked out by then.
  S wrote down the steps in her notebook how to prepare the agar and petri dishes. Then we set to work re-hydrating our agar and preparing our petri dishes.

 If you want to learn how to do this, either look on YouTube, or go to Home Science Tools' website here for brief instructions.

 These are her inoculation diagrams illustrating the patterns she can use to ensure recognizable growth. (If you use the bacteria swab to create a recognizable geometric pattern on the agar petri dish, you can see what grows along that swab pattern. Spots of growth in other areas are likely from accidental bacteria that have flown into your dish.
And these are her inoculated dishes waiting incubation. I took one biology course during the course of my 19 years of schooling. Chemistry with all the redox reactions, organic hexanes, and physical entropy properties were more my thing; but, growing things like bacteria, viruses, and fungi, were not so much. Preparing these is petri dishes was an entirely new to if you really want to know the correct way to do any of this...please refer to a reliable source.