Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Planning a Semester - How My Mind Plans Our Montessori Path

I must be honest, I didn't know what the plan WAS when we started out in August. But I sure am planning a lot now.

I know a lot of Montessorians will say that they don't have a curriculum plan. Some classroom teachers just say that they need to know everything, all the time, so when the child is ready, they can present.

I also know from a parent-perspective that our primary teachers did plan and integrated group presentations into their field-trip schedule and the changing of the seasons. Before the Native Indian American History Museum tour, they talked about the part Native Americans played in our Thanksgiving tradition. Before the planetarium visit, they talked about the stars, the planets and the rotation of the earth. And I know for a fact, that some works on the shelves cover these themed topics as well.

The main reason I plan is because I am planner. I like to know where I am, where I've been, and where I am going, and of course how to get there.

The other part of me that makes following a plan difficult is that I get hyper-focused. And I can get distracted. Not at the same time of course. I like to keep to a certain part of the plan longer than planned because I don't feel like switching just yet. And I also can start one thing, come to a road block and then start on another thing, and then, before you know it, there are 10 things started and none finished. So, I guess this all means that I like to plan and make lists, and set goals, but their interpretation and implementation are loose. Things just slide, we don't get to it all, and that is OKAY.

(Did I just write that? If you had asked me a few years back, I wouldn't have even known what that statement meant.)

So, how do I plan?

I look at my calendar. (I print one free from here.) I look at my albums. (I use the Keys of the Universe Elementary Albums, Cultivating Dharma - Elementary, NAMC - Lower El, Montessori by Hand - Primary, and CGMS - Primary.) I take out my planner composition notebook and set to work.

I go through everything one time per child. For T, it is the Lower El info. For S, it is the Lower El info, Primary info, and now the OT info. For D, it is the Primary info only.

I write down in the calendar portion, for each child, the lesson headings I'd like to cover in each discipline:
  • physical geography
  • cultural geography, 
  • language - there are different threads here like grammar, sentence analysis, aural prep, phonograms, CVC, penmanship, writing, mechanics, and word study
  • math - there are different threads here like numeration and operations
  • geometry
  • fractions
  • botany
  • physical science
  • zoology
  • history
  • art
  • practical life
  • sensorial
  • great lessons
  • OT - for S
  • other
  • and right now I don't have a music curriculum picked out
I take into account, prerequisite works, parallel works, the time of year, vacation/holiday schedules, field trips, birthdays, appointments, and anything else that will interrupt our flow. It makes no sense to embark upon a new lesson topic with lots of extension work right before a two week break. We'll lose the momentum and I'll need to review a lot when we come back to the classroom.

Taking it a quarter year at a time I've noted, through March, most of the key lessons I'd like to cover in the order that they need to be presented. April through to June, I have a lot less written down because I don't know exactly what we'll have covered by the end of March.
Then I break the Key Lessons down by week and I fill in a general time-line of what we'll do when. This includes a list of extension lessons I'd like to get to and when I hope to get to them.

I simultaneously make a list of materials I need to make, collect, or buy to be able to pull off this schedule. And I write them in just that order, MAKE, COLLECT and BUY. Then I back-up a few months and figure out when I need to order anything I am going to need and budget for these accordingly.

After all this, I go back to these lists weekly to re-assess what we did last week, what we missed last week, and what needs to be ready to go this week. Each week I write a new revised list of lessons for that week only. I also go back to the albums to re-read the lessons I have planned and figure out what materials I still need. And then I freak out and start making materials into the wee hours of the night.

So, how does this follow the child? Well, my planning doesn't really follow the child all that closely. Weekly I assess what we've covered, and where we need some review, and where the children want to work more. But it is the implementation that "follows the child."

We pause when the kids want to and I present the next lesson when they request them. When the children have questions, want more information, or want to delve into something further, we do. There is no "we-have-to-get-this-done-by-X-date." My planning is simply a map of the stepping stones I see to get from one side of the river to the other. If the kids want to examine a rock more closely half-way across, we all just pause there.

What this process DOES afford me:
  • Plenty of time to read and re-read the album texts. I benefit from a lot of repetition. This time with the albums helps the key lessons sink in better and allows me to see how everything fits together.
  • Lots of handwriting. I am a note-taker. I simply remember things better when I transcribe them by hand. Typing doesn't do it for me. I like paper and pencil, and I believe I always will.
  • A heads-up materials-wise. I get a quarterly list of what is coming up and then I can get a better sense of what I need to make, collect, and buy. I like to comparison shop and figure out what is going to be ACTUALLY CHEAPER to buy after you account for laminate, ink, and shipping, and of course your time! 
  • A time-line of lessons. I am also a visual learner, so I like having a calendar that lists what comes first and what comes next. I like to think that the Montessori scope and sequence is a bit more linear that I once thought. In my mind it is the stopping and starting a subject/thread, switching subjects/disciplines, and the when to go onto the next lesson that are the flexible aspects of the "follow-the-child" philosophy.
  • Peace of mind for the planner in me.
The down-side to this method I see, is that it takes time. I spend a couple of hours doing our weekly planning. A quarterly plan could take me a day or two to complete all aspects. But I am learning, studying, and internalizing everything, and it all makes so much more sense to me after.

The other down-side I feel this plan unfortunately affords is that occasionally I feel like the rug is being pulled out from under me. I plan for the week generally what T will cover in math; what he has to work on, and what I have ready to present. And then T goes through all of that material in two days, demonstrating his understanding by doing the work independently and then asks for the next lesson. And I haven't prepared the next lesson. I find either that I am staying up late to prepare the next lesson in the sequence, or we just pause there, and he doesn't pick up the material again until we move on. This may topic may be another post in and of itself.

So there you have it. I am a planner, and I plan our Montessori curriculum. I do have a tendency to push through and I try to resist this. But I can also tell if we've moved on too fast and if the information hasn't sunk in and they aren't "getting it" if the follow-up works are too difficult. It is all comes around in the observation.

How do you plan? If you do... or if you've already blogged about this topic, leave a link in the comments. I'd really like to know.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Montessori Homeschooling Children With Speech and OT Challenges...Is Challenging

Okay, the title might say most of what this post means to say, but I shall elaborate here anyway.

It just occurred to me this morning why S may be having so many difficulties writing. I am hypothesizing that she simply doesn't have the hand and core strength to write. 

S was born 5 weeks early, much to our surprise. She didn't have the usual premie issues, but we still saw our share of specialists nonetheless. By 9 months little S wasn't sitting up by herself and she wasn't self-feeding, so we began private physical therapy for a low-tone diagnosis. 

Since then, I've seen a lot of sensory integration issues and I still see evidence of her low-tone issues and developmental delays. S didn't walk until she was 19 months old. Most parents and professionals-alike said to me, "oh, no big deal, they will learn when they learn." MY opinion is, if you are in this situation with your baby, GET PROFESSIONAL ASSISTANCE EARLY. While all of her peers were exploring their environment in an up-right position, 2' above the ground, she was still using her arms and hands to help her move around. While other walking children her age were exploring, manipulating, and furthering there physical and cognitive development, S simply couldn't do the same. I believe that she simply couldn't move forward developmentally until she learned to be mobile. 

S has a long history of sensory avoidance. She crawled with her little hands all balled up because she hated anything touching her palms. She hates enclosed areas with lots of loud ambient noise and she doesn't like rough surfaces, including sandpaper letters. 

S also avoids activities that require strong gross and fine motor skills. She doesn't like ball sports, balance beams, or monkey bars. And she refuses to do activities, like hand writing, that are too difficult for her. 

It just occurred to me that her hands may not have the strength to hand-write when she started throwing a hissy fit that she couldn't get the bag clip back on the marshmallow bag. She just couldn't get the clip open. I tried the clip and it isn't that difficult. I thought back to our ornament making session the other day when she couldn't manage the hole punch. I also thought about the time that she was crying because she couldn't clip a barrette in her hair. And then I thought about the times that she colors and draws. She moves her wrist instead of articulating her fingers and she can't color within the lines. And then I decided, maybe her hands just aren't strong. 

So, I briefly reflected upon the fact that there is no way we can afford two kids in therapy (T is in speech therapy right now) and I needed to find some resources that could help us strengthen her muscles and her confidence at home.

I just downloaded, and now have to read, a bunch of e-books from an OT mom who has her own website and blog. I'll let you know if these exercises work out.

I am planning on pausing the handwriting with S until I see some improvement in her core and hand strength. I am thinking that I'll try the OT exercises before most of the Montessori primary pincer-grasp activities. I feel as a-nearly-six-year-old, S isn't going to want the minutia that the cylinder blocks entail. If she feels like she wants to do some tweezing, eye-dropping, sponge-transferring, or finger-transferring, then we'll set those up. But this OT stuff all creates a new and interesting layer to our Montessori homeschooling.  

And this makes a great segue to T and his speech and language challenges. T was born just a few weeks early, by doctor's orders, for a kidney issue. That was later cleared up by a surgery when he was 2 1/2. 

At 18 months T wasn't talking. At 24 months T had about 5 words and didn't respond to his name. At 3-ish we had T tested by the county public school system. They came back with a low-average-doesn't-qualify-for-services diagnosis. At 4-ish we had T tested by the county again, and they came back with the same diagnosis with a "possible-but-we-can't-be-sure-PDD-NOS." T still wasn't using pragmatic language skills like the rest of his preschool peers. 

There were still be instances where he would ignore you. I would get down on his level, in front of him, touch him gently on the shoulder and say "T, would you like yogurt or crackers?" and get NO RESPONSE. There was no eye contact, no change in physicality, no verbal acknowledgement whatsoever but he still didn't exhibit classic autism symptoms. At 6-ish we had T evaluated for pragmatic speech development, and the private practice we chose suggested he would benefit from therapy and that he may have an auditory processing disorder. 

So, fast forward to 7-ish and we are finally able to afford private therapy, since insurance will pay for not even 1 cent of it. T has been seeing a speech therapist weekly for the last 6 months. We don't have an end date at this point, (I know, $$$$) but I am so glad we know Miss Amanda. 

At the beginning of our homeschooling year, I was at a complete loss as to why T just couldn't write. His pencil grip is fine. His posture is fine. There were just no words.  
Mama: "What did you do this weekend?" 
T: "I don't know." 
Mama: "Where did you go Saturday." 
T: "To the party." 
Mama: "Where was the party?"
T: "Sabrina's..."
Mama: "What was the party for?"
T: "Her birthday."
Mama: "Let's make a sentence you can write down."
T: "What sentence?"
Mama: "This weekend I went to..."
T: "....Sabrina's."

I am thinking, why can't he just link these thoughts and create a full sentence that conveys the thoughts he wishes to convey? Why can't he get to the main point? The main point isn't that he went to Sabrina's, it is that he went to a birthday party at Sabrina's house.

Well, long-story-short, Miss Amanda is working on this thought processing with him. I am working with him on the mechanics, or the grammar side. And I've put aside all notions of dictation, creative writing, or formal response until we have some more traction on the putting-together-the-words-to-express-thought. 

T's verbal and expressive abilities definitely keep things interesting when planning lessons. He is quick to pick up the concept, but expressing what he knows is so very difficult if not impossible.

I am working on a plan, or a map if you will, for the spring semester that will build into our homeschool curriculum focus exercises designed to help each child in their areas of difficulty. Considering I am still feeling shaky at best with the whole Montessori curriculum, this is an definitely an added level of challenging complexity I need to figure out as their guide. 

If you've read this far, and you are nodding your head and saying, "that sounds like my situation..." here are couple of tid-bits/tips/pointers that I believe are the reason I am writing this here. (Beside the fact that it is on my mind right this moment, and I want to vent.) (And even if you aren't in a situation where this applies directly to you, you may very well know of someone who is in a this situation, so stay tuned and be sure to share these bits with your friend if you think they would be helpful.)

If you think your child has a developmental delay, do not delay. If I knew five years ago what I know now about Montessori's philosophy about childhood development, I would have tried harder to help each child get over their bumps so that they could continue on to the next developmental milestone. Each milestone paves the way for the next, and it is largely linear. There is no skipping.

Public county services aren't the authority, dig deeper. I spoke with a county services coordinator and she said just this to me: the county works with certain statistical and budgetary parameters and they can't except anyone into the system who doesn't score within those percentiles on the particular test they administer. Your child may not score to qualify that day. The therapist may not have knowledge of THE activity that would be most beneficial to YOUR child. Dig deeper, ask other professionals, do Internet searches, read books, if your gut tells you something is amiss.

Work with the therapist, or become friends with one you trust. Working with our speech therapist has brought light to a lot of the writing challenges T faces. I talk with her openly, and e-mail her nearly constantly, about what we are doing in the classroom, exercises and games we can play at home, and ways I can understand how he is processing the verbal world around him. I feel our open communication is the best way I can work our Montessori curriculum to complement what T is doing in therapy, and get my questions about anything and everything answered. I also have a family friend who is an OT whom I ask periodically for help with the kids. She doesn't live near us, but her professional advice has been very valuable. 

Follow the child. Really, look, observe, and question what you see. How are they sitting? What are they writing about? What do they love to do at the exclusion of everything else? What is their behavior like after a relaxing activity? What is their behavior like after/during/before a challenging activity? Do you see any sticking points? Does their frustration need to be at the level it is? Are they crying? Are they abstaining? Are they avoiding? Are they throwing a tantrum? What is going on? Go with your gut. Don't be afraid that you are that worry-parent, ask a professional therapist questions if you have them. And ask them early. And pursue them.

You are your child's best advocate. Create the environment. Supply your children with the tools they need to be successful, build confidence, acquire knowledge and become the person their potential means them to be.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Wrapping up 2013

This will be probably the last "school update" I write for 2013. The latter half of week 16, we visited our old Montessori school, didn't do school at home, and T passed his orange belt test.

Here S is examining the turtles in T's old primary classroom. It was pajama day this day and all the kids were wrapping up their first semester with a little bit of free time.

D just couldn't wait for lunch time, so he had some of his lunch early.

The reason you don't see T, nor the rest of the class is because they are outside at this time. S was taking a break from the hubbub of her old primary class and hanging out with me in the *quite* empty class as I took some pictures.

I had the fast lens that day, not the wide angle. Sorry, but this is about what a small slice of the room looks like from the entryway.

T is warming up for his orange belt Taekwondo test. His splits are pretty outrageous.
 He is practicing his compass kicking here.
 They do a forms segment, a sparring segment, and a board breaking segment. You can see a very short video of his forms test below.

 All ready for some front snap kicks with his sparring gear on.
 Here he is doing board breaking using a hammer fist.
 Did it on his first try this time.
 *sigh* again blogger cramping the neck... the evening after testing they have a belt ceremony. Here T is receiving his orange belt.
 T is receiving his certificate of completion from the Grand Master with a handshake...
 and a bow.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Part 1 Week 17, December 16, 2013

We aren't really doing school this week. We've been at the planetarium, which was way cool because the guide covered some of the exact things we'd been learning recently. T was belting it out, "if the earth didn't rotate, one side would be very cold and the other side would burn up!" You can read more about that in this post.

Today, we visited our friends at our former Montessori school. We had a lot of fun, did a lot of works, and since I forgot the camera, took no pictures. 

BUT, I did want to show you this little tid-bit...it is a Montessori-inspired work I made up for D. And I guess T too. 
The landmark figures are from Safari Toobs and the cards I made myself.  
 I used small pieces of pre-cut craft wood you can buy at the craft store. I Googled pictures of each landmark, formatted them, printed them and cut them out, and then used Mod-Podge to paste them on to the wood.
I was debating whether I should put a description piece on the reverse side, or a location map. I chose a location map, since I felt T, who can read, would like to know where these landmarks are located, and because the map is a more visual clue for someone like D, who is becoming familiar with puzzle maps, but can't read yet.

I Googled these maps as well, formatted them in my publishing program, and added red dots to denote the local of each landmark. I think I might have also added country names here and there too. Then I printed them, and Mod-Podged them to the reverse side of the wooden card.

The littlest one was VERY interested in getting his hands on this work.

So there you have it. Feel free to Pin this if you'd like. And I'll be back for a later-in-the-week update.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Part 2 Week 16, December 9, 2013

Goodness there are A LOT of pictures this second half of the week. No matter, I am sure more is better in this case. (You will not believe how many shots I deleted because they just weren't carrying the story!) 

Anyway, as I see it, we'll do one more week of school before the holiday and then pack it in for a couple of weeks. The kids have a field trip on Monday, and then I plan to visit our old school (with gifts, as you'll see below) a day next week as well, so the posts may be a little leaner in the photography corner.

After that, during our "break" I plan to buckle down, finish some materials making, give gifts, drink dairy-free eggnog, plan lessons for the first quarter of next year and start "studying" my Keys of the Universe Albums. And I plan to do some more heady posts here, like how I organize, how I figure out which way is up in this web we like to call cosmic education, how I've made some of my materials, and how I plan our schedule, to the extent that I can...so stay tuned.

This part of our week we worked on:
Math: golden beads - primary level dynamic multiplication, 
elementary distributive and commutative properties of addition and multiplication, 
elementary level dynamic multiplication with double digit multipliers and golden beads, 
skip counting
Grammar: Conjunction key lesson (twice) and a lot of interjections
Physical Geography: The Earth is a Sphere and its Consequences

Here we are doing some golden bead work, dynamic multiplication to be exact. It has been a while with this, but T stepped in to help S with the counting, and she finally found her magic wand, and we were off to the races. 

The problem we are working on here is 3268 X 3, which can also be said, 3,268 taken three times. T and S set up three thousands three times, two hundreds three times, six ten bars three times, and eight units three times.
Then we wave our magic wand, and say the magic words, and then there were THREE!
Now they smoosh them all together and count up all that is present.

Searching for the large number cards to represent our product. It helps when the large number cards are placed out on a mat.

So, 3,268 taken three times is 9,804. S doesn't have a problem with the zero tens. She says it in her answer as she reads it, but it doesn't bother her that the zero is red, not blue.

I decided to go onto multiplication after addition and then go back to subtraction afterward. It is a concept thing for me, and for S too. Addition and a multiplication are both number builders. Subtraction and division are different concepts. I suspect shortly after the new year that S will be moving onto Stamp Game multiplication and Golden Bead subtraction.

I wonder what a traditional grammar teacher would say about this photo of our conjunction lesson. Yes, this was our set up. Actually, it was three set ups, one for each child, and also, yes, D did participate too. This Conjunction key lesson is from the Cultivating Dharma Language Album.

We started with S's materials first. I asked the kids for a noun family for each bear. They came up with "the pink bear," "the yellow bear," and "the purple bear" and I wrote these on slips of paper in black ink. And here you can see that they added the wooden grammar symbols for article, adjective, and noun.
Then I asked them to give me the pink bear. Then I asked them to give me the yellow bear, and finally, I asked them to give me the purple bear. And THEN, I asked them "what if I asked you to give me all the bears? What kind of word could I add here that would help me ask for all of them at one time?" T came up with the word "and." I wrote the word "and" on two slips of paper and inserted them between the noun families.

Then I showed them, or rather T produced for me the pink grammar symbol we use for the conjunction. And you can see above, D's hand placing the wooden grammar symbol above our conjunction.
Then I showed them that the conjunction links the noun families together, much like this ribbon gathers the bears together.
Somehow the kids thought that this was beyond hilarious.

Then we went over the etymology of 'conjunction' which comes from the Latin word 'conjungere' which means "join together." And there you have it, S's conjunction grammar key experience.
We repeated the key experience with D's monster trucks.
I don't know that he was a fan of the "join together" part.
And then we did the lesson again with Lego ninjas. How could we not?
Lego ninjas, with a little Legends of the Chima thrown in there for good measure.
This was a spontaneous Lego-grammar extension on T's part. I was able to bring in a little about the compound words here as T was considering the word "policeman," and if he needed an adjective and a noun, or just a noun. With the compound word reminder, he came up with simply, noun.
D is starting his memorization of the ever strong vortex of multiplication facts. Just kidding.
Someone didn't put the hundred board away correctly. We went over some of the vertical and horizontal patterns, but S couldn't get un-mentally stuck, and basically had one of her hissy-fits. (These are very frequent. They have been since birth basically.) So, she decided to abort the mission.
Here is a peek at what I am doing in the classroom when all the other work is going on as well. I am working on making form cards for the Geometry Cabinet for D. He's already done the set I made for the Botany cabinet.
I think that this work was an extension of some atlas reading. T asked what are the different countries I've traveled to, and I said, among others, Spain. Here he is looking at some pictures I took while I was in Seville, Cordoba, and Granada. This particular one was in one of the many Cathedrals in Seville?? Or was it Cordoba? I don't remember.
This was taken from the Alhambra in Granada.
These are ruins within the Alhambra. I don't know why I didn't take a shot when he was looking, but I also attended an afternoon of bull fighting. T had a ton of questions about those pictures, and also recalled a lot from one of his favorite books, The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf.
Someone else likes to do the hundred board right after Noona.

We have a "kid-camera" which is a point and shoot digital. The kids are generally responsible for this one and that includes recharging it. Here S is taking out the battery and putting it in the charging station. I haven't figured out yet what to do with the images we get off the memory card. There are many, but I delete the ones that are blurry, or you can't tell what it is meant to be.
A little stamp game for S. Here is an example of the quantity cards I made up. They don't have a control on the back. But some are useful for an orientation about how to deal with zeros. 
Doing the dynamic addition thing...and that hair!! Goodness!
And finally, we've reached the 9th, grammar symbol, the interjection. (It is the gold exclamation point looking solid in the photo above.) T is Sooo, excited.
From this post alone, you must think that the only thing the kids do is grammar. It isn't. But I sure wouldn't have guessed that grammar would be so much fun. Above, T and I did the Interjection Key Experience right out of the Cultivating Dharma Language album.

I wrote down on a slip of paper the first phrase, "I cut my finger" and T put his wooden grammar symbols above the sentence slip. (I don't know how he knew "I" and "that" were pronouns. We did go over pronouns, but on a day when they weren't really paying attention, and I don't remember that we went over those words in particular. I guess he just gets it.) Then I wrote "Ouch!" in gold pencil and asked him if that changed the meaning of the sentence. He said it did, but then we discussed how it didn't really change the meaning of the entire sentence, but rather this small phrase gave added emotion to what was being said. 

Then I repeated the process with a sentence that made him laugh, "Ewww! That stinks!"

We also went over the etymology and established that the word interjection comes from the Latin word "interjectio" which means "throw in between."
And then he wanted to dive into the grammar box.

We first construct our sentence on the table and then put them in their appropriate slots in the grammar filling box.
(I purchased our grammar boxes and filling boxes from Montessori Outlet. They are so-so. The grammar filling boxes are mis-aligned in some places, glued with gaps here and there. And some of the grammar boxes came with warped lids. The cards are a personal re-design of the file I purchase from Montessori Print Shop. If you want to read more about why I did a re-design, go here.

This is how T feels about grammar.

Yesterday S requested a second conjunction lesson. This time she found four new friends and we tied them up in a pink bow using our powerful conjunction, "and."

After the interjection grammar boxes, T wanted to do more. So he took out his Lego Ninjago graphic novels and got to work finding great interjection phrases.

After pretty much the entire morning, this is what he came up with. That is a lot of interjections.
S curled up in our I-don't-know-if-this-fits-our-classroom pillow and read a book to her stuffed animals.

Then she revisited the pink word cards and whipped through the three folders she took out. No fuss, no muss. Just read right through them. It is amazing what a little confidence will do for you.
And then I guess you could call this not-so-false-fatigue. (I wrote more about real false fatigue here.)

Exploring the fraction circles, it was D's choice.

More skip counting.
Holiday skip counting, but as you can see, there is an error in these hundred boards! T found it, not me. Guess I need to go ahead and make my own.

This may look like a porcupine, but it is actually our Physical Geography lesson from the Keys of the Universe Albums: The Earth as a Sphere and its Consequences. Here we established that if the earth had flat sides, as with the prism on the right, the sun would always hit the surface at a perpendicular, 90 degree angle. If the earth is a sphere, like it is on the left, the sunlight will sometimes hit at a 90 degree angle, and other times, at a very oblique angle.

Then we started to look at the angle at which the sun hits the earth. The chart on the left shows the sun hitting the belly of the earth at a perpendicular angle. Notice the yellow area. The same number of rays of sun hit the earth at an oblique angle, and notice again the yellow area. On the earth to the left the yellow area is larger meaning the same number of sun rays fall on a larger area of the earth when they hit at an oblique angle. 

Looking at the middle chart, we see the same concept in a different way. The width that both sets of rays occupy is the same. The number of perpendicular rays is larger than the number of oblique rays. I asked the kids under which representation would they feel hotter. They said the one with the larger number of rays of sun light, or the perpendicular illustration. 

We even tried this whole obliqueness of light and area of illumination thing with a piece of black paper, a white pencil, and a flashlight. When the flashlight hits the black paper straight on it creates a circle of light and T traced around it and came up with the inner-most circle you see on the black paper. When we held the flashlight the same distance away from that center spot on the paper, but with the light shining at an oblique angle, the area T traced around the light was larger.
Finally, there is the matter of sun rays passing through the earth's atmosphere. When the rays of sunlight hit the earth at a 90 degree angle, we measured how far they must pass through the atmosphere. 
And we marked this measurement with a piece of painters tape.
Then we measured the length of atmosphere the light rays must pass through if they were to hit the earth at an oblique angle. This measurement was much larger. I explained that as the sunlight passes through our atmosphere, it looses energy and heat. We established that the equator is generally where the sun gets to pass through to the earth at a 90 degree angle, and since here the sunlight would retain most of its energy and heat, the earth would be the hottest here. Finally, we established that the poles are where the sun likely passes through the atmosphere to the earth at a much more obtuse angle, and since this would cause the sunlight to lose a lot of energy, the earth would be coldest here.

After a little commutative and distributive review with number cards only, we moved onto multiplication with double digit multipliers and golden beads.
Here we are multiplying 42 * 23. We made our equation therefore, (40+2) * (20+3). In the picture above, he has turned over the 3 in the second term and is creating 20 groups of 40 beads (or four ten-bars.)

Now he is making 20 groups of 2 units.
Here he has exchanged those 20 groups of 40 beads for hundred squares and he has eight hundred squares.
Here we wrote down his first partial product for 40*20 and 2*20 which is 840.
Then he turned over the first number in the second term and flipped up-right the second number to do his distributive multiplication again.
Here he chose to make 3 groups of 40 and 3 groups of 2. He came up with his partial product and wrote that down and is now adding through to find the final product. 
First grade math! Even I, who sees this everyday, still need to pinch myself sometimes to really believe that T can do this at age 7.
Sung to the tune of "O Tannenbaum"...

Oh, gift-y bags, oh, gift-y tins, oh, how you all make a mess.
Oh, cocoa packs, oh, marsh-mal-lows, oh bows, and ribbons and tags
We pack and wrap, and tape and glue 
and shrink wrap and decide for who
Oh, a little gift, for teachers who, we want to say a thank-you!
We have, even as homeschoolers, 20-ish people we call "teacher." So I quickly devised a way to make everyone a little bit of something, that is easy on the budget, and easy on the kid-assembly-line.

(I had seriously thought about making some quick elf tunics, hats, and shoes with jingle bells on them for the kids to wear during our gift-prep practical life activity.)
We learned about volumes.
Practiced our penmanship.
Learned about how heat can change the form and shape of solids.
Enhanced our scissor cutting skills. (S is lefty, but she cuts righty.)
Worked on cleaning our environment. (This wasn't really a part of the activity...an extension maybe.)
Learned about the properties of double sided tape.
Remembered the power of snack-time.
And also, had great fun putting together a lot of little holiday giveaways. 
Hope you have a wonderful weekend.
P/S, yes, that is the same dress S wore all week, since Monday. Her Halmoni got it for her to wear to Christmas Mass.