Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Part 2 Week 14 Nov. 25, 2013

This is a short post, believe it or IS before Thanksgiving and my cooking list has just I'll be signing off for a few days and bringing out all the cooking and baking tips and tricks my mom taught me over the years while I stuck my nose and my eyeballs in her pots, mixing bowls, and over her shoulders.

Happy Thanksgiving to all those in the US, and a happy Chanukah to those around the world who celebrate, and a blessed first Sunday of Advent for still others.

We have been learning the Rosary. I picked up this pamphlet at our church and it has some nice simple language and descriptions younger children can appreciate. The kids already knew the Hail Mary, so since August, we've been working on the Our Father and the Hail Holy Queen. Now we are on to the Apostle's Creed. 
We start our morning by opening the classroom, turning on lights, opening curtains and shades,(turning on our space heater) and putting random things back in order. Then we come together, sans D usually, in a small circle to do morning prayer. Sometimes I lead, other times the kids lead. After prayer, I talk about any announcement type things, like we are going on a field trip, today there will be no afternoon school, or R & O are coming over.

They always ask to gaze at these colorful illustrations after we do morning prayer.
The back of the pamphlet for your information.
S is doing the hundred board. She found it really hard the first time. It's those tens and teens. At first it was all messed up, but then we worked together to put it in the right order and she did just fine. Then we pointed out some of the patterns you'd see vertically and horizontally, and I am hopeful that this will help her construct the hundred board in the future.
There is a board that has printed squares on it and a raised wooden boarder and is accompanied by a separate box of number tiles that are printed with the numbers 1 through 100. Also, not pictured here, is our control chart. The initial primary lesson guides the child through placing the tiles 1-10 in order across the top. After that, the child may place successive numbers up to 50 and then up to 100 in order on the board ascending from left to right, and top to bottom. Grouping the tiles into sets of 20 initially will make this work more manageable for the child. This work helps the child consolidate his/her knowledge of the numbers 1 - 100.
My Center for Guided Montessori Studies Math manual also gives some additional exercise ideas like: Play "far, far, away" by placing the board on one table and the tiles on the other side of the table. Play "Fetching" ask the child to bring "one after" or one before" a tile place in position on the board from a remote location away from the board. Invite the child to write 1 to 100 after completing the hundred board on a blank 100 square grid paper. Suggest this last exercise only after the child has sufficient motor coordination and is ready for this level of abstraction.
Again, another word about ordering materials carefully, (though don't know how this is really possible considering you can't SEE the exact materials before you order them) but this hundred board is from Montessori Outlet and the grid is off. It is just off center, and so the tiles, yes fit fine, but they don't line up with the grid. Anyone in their sensitive period for order, like D, would have a very hard time with our hundred board.
I had set this work up on the table, to see what would happen. Would D be interested? Yes he was, until he got interrupted by visitors and got "shy." I had set up the blocks in a triangle pattern and had left out block number 4 (the diameter of each cylinder remains constant, but the height increases, or decreases depending on how you orientate the whole thing) BUT, D, decided to change it up. You can see that he rearranged everything and added knobbed cylinder block number 4. He removed all the cylinders and carefully snaked them around in a spiraling rectangle, and then didn't want to figure out how they went back. There is always next week.
VERY careful placement.
R and O joined us again today, and here R is working with the fraction skittles.
O always goes for the pink tower!
Some unintended pink tower/brown stair extensions. Literally, extending past the reach of half of our students.
Did not know this: T knows almost all of western Europe by memory. Had a little trouble with the low countries, but other than that, zipped through the rest. Okay, now for the eastern half.
Okay, while we are on the subject of where to get materials, and whose are best...well I don't know whose are best, I got all of our pin-maps from Alison's Montessori. I think I received these all in April? We got the one for Europe, North America, South America, and Africa. When we first got them the pins didn't fit into the holes. REALLY? I called the company, and they were cordial, and told me that the product had been sitting in a warehouse for a while with low climate temperatures. They recommended that I let the maps acclimate for a week or so and that the holes should swell. They also said, I could try to gently force some of the pins in to stretch the holes, and this could help too. AND if the paint were to chip that they would replace the maps at no charge. So, they turned out to be OK, a little tight, but do-able after a week or so. And the paint does chip. These things are REALLY delicate. Though the ones I saw in our old school elementary classroom also had paint issues around the holes. So get them from here? I don't know. I guess for a classroom that only has three students, I'd go discount. But for a classroom with 25 students, you really need the real thing.
R is doing metal insets. She left the inset on the shelf, and her tray is upside down per-S. But the idea behind this work is to help the child develop pincer grasp and wrist coordination and strength thus making it easier for them to transition to writing language.
After doing the pin map of Europe, T did the puzzle map of Europe without the control map at all. D helped a little.
O was being a little loud voicing her dissent.
Introduction to the Stamp Game. Here we have the Introductory Tray of the Golden Beads and our number tiles. This is one of the first steps in the child's passage to abstraction. S completed her dynamic addition with the physical quantities, using the golden beads. Now on her way to doing addition with pen and paper only, this is the next step. Each tile represents a certain bead quantity. The green tiles that display the number 1, represent 1 unit. Each blue tile that displays the number 10, represent a single golden ten-bar. Each red tile is stamped with the number 100 and represents 1 hundred square, and each green 1,000 tile represents a single thousand cube. We'll use this Montessori material for static and dynamic (carrying and borrowing) addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. After the child has completed these operation exercises with the stamp game, he/she will move onto the Dot Game and or the Bead Frames.
These are story problems I downloaded and printed from Helpful Garden. She calls them Beginning Math Sentence Cards. They are beautiful cards and very nicely done, but they are far too easy for T and S. That is D's hand you see there in the shot reaching out to inspect what S had been up to. S used cards and counters to help her keep track of what was going on in the problem and to find the right sum.
R is doing color tabs box 2 with her mom. Box 2 has 22 tabs, or eleven pairs of colors. The aim of this Montessori work is to increase visual discrimination, and to prepare the mathematical mind (order, and one-to-one correspondence.) The suggested age for this box is 2 1/2 to 4 years old. D likes this work too. My CGMS manual gives a lot of extensions for this lesson like: pairing far, far, away, and finding color matches to other objects in the room. During the first presentations of this work, the child will not know the names of the colors. D does not know all the names, but I am pretty sure that R does as she is about 4 years old. Other activities can include, choosing one tablet and showing it to the child, and then ask him/her to remember the color and while leaving the tablet on the mat, he/she would walk around the room and note things that are the same color, or alternatively, the child could bring same-colored items back to the mat.
D is helping R put away the color tablets.
Here D is reluctantly giving up the color tablets so R can put them back in the box.
O is working on a practical life activity using a eye-dropper. I've color matched the sponge to go with the orange tray, and the liquid inside the small bottle is just water. She is aiming to drop the water into a cheap plastic paint mixing tray and any mistakes she can sponge up or dry with the accompanying cloth.
S is taking a picture of the sage plant that will NOT be consumed in our Thanksgiving dinner.
Marigolds blooming.
Have a wonderful holiday everyone!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Part 1 - Week 14 Nov 25, 2013

It is almost Thanksgiving and Advent, and those to-do lists keep on multiplying. Food, budgets, gifts, schedules and Montessori Homeschooling through it all. Here is a little bit of the homeschooling side of things.

First off, I am starting to think, A LOT, about this impending test we need to take. In the state of VA, homeschoolers can elect to take a nationally normed standardized test, or submit an evaluation as proof of progress. The superintendent has full right of refusal when it comes to the latter. I don't want our "evaluation" to be rejected because our reviewer didn't understand the Montessori method. And then be stuck because it is too late to scramble to take a standardized test. So, that leaves us with what, 3 - 5 1/2 hours of testing for the first grade, little bubbles to fill in on a scan sheet, and other tedium I personally think is rather silly. I know that T already knows most all that will be on the test. It is just a matter of getting him in a test-taking mode, and getting him to focus for long periods of time with a piece of paper, and a no. 2 pencil...and a stop watch. Goodness, you can see where my thoughts are going on this. I'll go no further here, but I do plan to share a few more of my thoughts on this process in the coming months as we traverse this forced terrain.

So, onto the good stuff... 

S started doing a little skip counting and it turned into an art project. I am guessing at this point that she never got to teen and ten boards last year at Montessori School. Goodness.

Those are flowers, and yes, the beads, the crayon, and the bowl were all matching PINK! (The bowls are from Ikea...they have a lot of small child-sized items good for practical life activities, though the quality does leave something to be desired.)

This little man D is so very precise. He has two piles of crayons. He picks up from one, and discards onto the other. Drawing with each in-turn, he manages to get all the colors going at once. And he really does have a better pencil-grasp than this, when he tries.

The slotted bolt board is something that most Primary classrooms have, in different iterations. I had put this on a Montessori Services order last minute, just to have, and since D at the time really liked tools A LOT. But back in August it was just a source of frustration. But after a few months, well 14 weeks of training those fingers and wrists, here we are.

 This work develops fine-motor skill in the fingers and hands, as well as improves concentration, coordination, and focus.

Yes, the screwdriver is magnetic.

A little bit of Primary work going on here. These eye droppers are great for developing the pincer grasp and readying the hand for pencil holding.

These are smelling bottles. This work helps the child develop their olfactory perception, or sense of smell. I've stuffed cotton balls in each jar, and put liquid scents onto each cotton ball. (Since some of the liquids have color, I dropped the liquid onto the cotton ball and then stuffed it scent-side-down into the bottle so the child can't see the color.) Each scent is inserted into one black-capped bottle and one white-capped bottle. (I got the bottles from Montessori Services, the tray is from a Melissa and Doug toy set, (don't remember which one) and the neutral colored felt liner is 100% wool felt from, I think--it has been a long time, A Child's Dream.)

 I couldn't find a decisive list of scents for this material. The Montessori R&D manual mentions something about medicinal, perfume and spice. Elsewhere I had read that all the scents were supposed to be pleasant. I can see/smell that these three could be easily distinguishable, but I didn't think that they would be all that pleasant. For that reason, I chose other scents I had on hand.

Looking back, some are rather similar, but I was setting this work up for a 5 1/2 year old at the time and figured it would be a good way to fine-tune. Anyway, for those interested in what scents I put in there, I put: rose, lemon, vanilla, peppermint, orange and almond.  All of these liquids were all-natural, and none were artificial. (In my before-homeschooling-life, I was an avid baker and I made my own lotions and balms.) Frankly, the kids had a hard time with the almond, and they thought that the lemon and orange smelled the same. Maybe something different next time...

S's letter to Santa. Translation: Little (lamb was cut off the top), cupcake Lego Duplo, Palace Pets -- all of them, Dear Santa, Stuffie--Giraffe, outer space teddy bear. Considering this girl NEVER writes anything but her name, I'd say that this is a pretty great attempt. Being that she is nearly 6 years old, I'd also say that we have a lot of work ahead of us.

She never wants to write anything. But a letter to Santa was a pretty good pull.

Okay, I don't know why I get shots of the kids holding their writing implements completely wrong. She doesn't always do this. Just when I am behind the lens.

He is working to put our prism back in the box. If we ever get some good sunlight, along with a tiny bit of warmth, outside, I'll show the kids what the prism actually does.

New sound folders for S. These were the ones I think I talked about last week. I've taken down the link because I need to revamp them. Somehow, in my midnight-Montessori-materials-making-stooper, I didn't realize that the "oo" words I did don't use the key-sound for "oo," and the "ue" in "hue" doesn't say the key sound for "ue" either. Geesh.
These folders are petite, and purple, and each has a white sticker on the front that S can sign once she has finished the folder. These create a lot of fits and leg pushing and rolling around, and fussing. When she calms down, she does just fine, and motors right through the consonant blends and the phonograms. I've started putting lavender near her work space hoping that this will calm her a bit. It hasn't really so far, but I'll keep you posted.

Goodness look at that girl's hair!!

Got these great little skip counting sheets from Confessions of a Homeschooler via My Boy's Teacher. (Thanks to you both.) T wanted to make intricate designs and figured out the skip counting with little to no issues. He can tell you how to count by 5's; 5, 10, 15, 20, 25... He doesn't however know his multiplication facts. He can't tell you that 4*5 = 20 without doing some quick math in his head.
That is why I have another little game in the works that may help him with that part.

And then for S, this also turned into an art project. We REALLY need to work on tens and teens. With some help from T, S was able to do this one too.
You'll notice that we used counters (from the cards and counters) to help out with this one.

Yes, that is the plastic circle for tracing the hemispheres. Occasionally we are all offered pizza by D, served on said plastic circle.

These are the knobbed cylinder blocks and they are one of the first works in the Montessori Primary class. There are four blocks in a complete set, here D has block 2 on his right, and block 3 on his left. In block 2, as the diameter of each cylinder increases and the height of the cylinder increases as well. In block 3, as the diameter of each cylinder increases, the height of the cylinder decreases. (The largest cylinder round is the shortest.)

Here D is using two blocks together. Typically a child would first work with a single block, then move to using two at a time in a "v" formation, then three at a time in a triangle formation, and then all four blocks in a square formation. It is helpful for the child to do this work standing up as opposed to sitting down so they can reach further and see a better perspective. This is D's low table. I think that it is about 14"?? When we get to three and four blocks, he may be a little short to reach and might feel the need to walk around the table.

First the child removes each knobbed cylinder, and places it down inside, or outside, the "v" mixing them up out of order if possible. You can see below, D didn't want to mix them up. Then the child would use his/her visual discrimination as well as tactile sense (which is heavier, which is lighter) to decide where to replace each cylinder.
This work helps improve, visual discrimination, pincer grasp, precise arm and hand coordination, focus, attention, and concentration, and sense of order.
In the pictures below it looks like he just did one block. He did do the other one. This little one is squarely in his sensitive period for order, so don't be surprised if he takes extra time to organize the cylinders and if the basement door slams in your face because ALL doors must be kept closed.

I can't tell if D will be lefty or righty. He uses both equally, maybe a little more on the left. His sister, who is lefty, didn't decide until really late. His brother who is a righty, was always a righty. You can see here, he is doing the work with both hands. 

NOTE to folks out there who haven't worked with this material. These blocks are HEAVY for a 2 1/2 year old. I wasn't sure I should be even snapping a picture during this one...
A little video of D working on the knobbed cylinders...

D has some great focus and concentration. You can hear both T and S talking, LOUDLY in the background. Both T and S came up to me during the course of this video asking for things. (You can hear me say to T that he needed to figure it out.)

Another thing about the sensitive period for order, and about ordering materials carefully, is that D notices that cylinder block 3 isn't exact. You'll see him ask if the second largest cylinder and hole is a "match." The cylinder does match the hole, but the height is off, so the cylinder edge is lower than the edge of the hole. You'll notice it that he runs his finger around the edge of the hole to feel that height difference. Fortunately this isn't a sticking point and he moves on.

So, lesson to be learned here...I purchased these cylinder blocks from Montessori Outlet. Some of the cylinders aren't perfect in height. (They do match up with the knobless cylinders though, the red, blue, yellow and green ones.) If you are going the as-true-as-is-possible route, I'd say order with caution. If my 2 1/2 year old can find that height difference using two blocks at once, so can yours.

Okay, one last thing on this'll also see that D goes through that false fatigue cycle during this work video. In my Center for Guided Montessori Studies (CGMS) course, I remember them talking about, false fatigue. You and I experience it, and so do children when they are focusing on their work for an extended period of time. For example, imagine you are at your computer, working on a blog post, and you've been typing that next post up against background noise, the phone ringing, and e-mails coming in for say an hour. And say at this point you are almost finished with the first draft. You may feel that false fatigue. Your brain feels a little weary, your butt feels flat, and you need to look at something very far away. So what do you do? I get a cup of tea, go to the bathroom, and stretch. Then I resume working and edit the draft and post it. (And then update it a million times because I see a typo or something that needs clarification.)

So, what do children do? They get that sense of false fatigue too. D takes out all the cylinders and then asks me to take a picture of his work. Then he decides to slap at the window behind him. After getting the rest-bugs out, he resumes his work.

My CGMS instructors pointed out the importance of guiding the child through their false fatigue. Let the child find an appropriate outlet, running isn't one of them. Encourage them to take a pause, and then encourage them to resume their work cycle. So don't get antsy when you see your child stop work mid-way through. Let them rest, watch them patiently, and see if they get back to work on their own.
This is one of D's favorite books, National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Animals.
The large photography is great. 

Here T is helping D pour, though D already knows how to pour just fine all by himself.

T is working on distributive property of multiplication. I took these lessons from Cultivating Dharma's Math 1 album. Here we are beginning to transition from beads to number tiles. T still likes manipulating the bead quantities, though I think it is still because his multiplication facts are a little shaky. He gets the concept really easily though.

Now we are doing the problem (a different problem than the one above) with number tiles and operation tickets (*, +, =). Again, T picked up the concept really quickly, and was very excited to hear that this is a stepping stone along the path to doing the elementary binomial cube. There really is no keeping up with this one in the math arena.  

Believe it or not, it gets distracting in our classroom of three students. I'd say that D is the best at keeping distraction at bay. But T is another story. So we have some headphones which you can totally hear through, but I think just having that on your head keeps you focused...since you have something on your head. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Here T is doing the sound sort. The Dwyer booklet recommends that once the child has read through the sound folders, that he/she test him/herself and see if they can sort the double letter combinations according to what sound they make. T has nearly completed the reading part, and here is "testing" himself on the ones that he's read through. He got all but one right. Way-to-go T!! And that one he got wrong, I don't think he'll ever get it wrong again.