Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Merry Christmas

First of all, thanks to anyone and everyone who takes a bit of time to read the silliness I put down here in this space. It does really mean a lot to me.

Secondly, I am very pleased that the baking for the holidays is over. I feel the itch to bake more, but my feet and back aren't having it. 

Thirdly, we are flying east tomorrow to visit with family and friends for the Christmas and New Year holiday, so for all those I am thankful for reading my blog, well the blog will be a little quiet. Hopefully, hopefully, we will return to our regular schedule after the new year.

So, I leave you with a little advanced practical life lesson, so nicely demonstrated by my two lefties...lots of practice is the key to achieving great results with royal icing! (Oh, and a small tip (no pun intended here) I am right handed and I twist the pastry bag clock-wise. I thought it kind of helped the lefties in my life to twist the pastry bag counter-clock-wise.)
 It might also be helpful to have larger hands...or a smaller pastry bag.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Week - Nothing December 15, 2014

We are taking it easy this week. We had a lot of fun last weekend on vacation but I, for one, am glad to be back. Big crowds and dealing with service staff isn't my kind of thing. I'd rather be with no one in the middle of nowhere. 

We have just about a week left before we hop on another plane, or two, to travel back east for the Christmas and New Year holidays. For this reason, and because I am inundated with other projects, we are focusing on other practical life lessons this week and not spending too much time in the classroom. Laundry, cleaning, dishes, grocery shopping, gift wrapping, gift giving, and cooking are all activities the kids seem to like doing and I am thankful for the teaching opportunity and the help. S helped me make buttercream last night, T helped me empty the dishwasher, and D helped sort the HUGE pile of laundry we brought home. 
The time we did spend in the classroom yesterday was dedicated to organizing and finishing the 1,000 bead chain. We had to clean it all up by the afternoon since our bedroom furniture FINALLY came and the chain spanned most of the upstairs hallway. 
 This is how S felt after finishing the bead chain.

This is T helping me code and finally really organize all the pin map flags I made almost a year ago.

In the gift wrapping department, this is what the office area looked like until just very recently. 

For those of you who love gift wrapping better than gift getting (I seriously do love wrapping better than getting...call me picky) check out this video. I've seen this done in Japan in the department stores, but never was actually able to attempt it in real life until I saw a slower video demonstration. It isn't as easy as it looks, and it is harder with a square shaped box. This video does the diagonal wrapping a little slower, but check out this lady!! The speed!! The ease! Can she help me out Christmas eve I wonder? 

Anyway, I plant to check in later in the week if I haven't burnt off my fingers cooking sugar to the hard crack stage. Hope you all are rolling along quite nicely this Advent season!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Week 7 Part 2 December 1, 2014

This is the start of our very choppy homeschooling routine. In between birthday planning for two different bashes, packing for an international trip, and wrapping gifts and sending cards, we will be away from home for two and a half weeks of December. Choppy homeschooling is what happens during this time. But we are still strolling along, and I've added an afternoon session to keep everyone engaged. I anticipate that things will smooth out after the New Year is upon us.
I think this book, The Story of Salt, is mentioned either in the KotU History or Language albums. This book is really awesome. T loves it and all the details it reveals. He came downstairs the other day talking about how he wanted some NaCl on his hamburger. WHAT? Oh, sodium chloride. Good thing I took a good share of college chem classes. T was reading along and found out that there is approximately 250g of sodium in a healthy adult human. So we got out the kosher salt and the scale to find out how much that really is. His comment, "wow, that is a lot Mama. Good thing I like salt so I can stay alive." 

D did a little bit of folding. Here he is folding his dust cloth with his little car on it. I mentioned this work in this post. This is a practical life exercise.

(I guess wasn't taking the right shot here. He said that I took the picture too fast and made this pouty face.)
Then he went on to do our folding cloth box. (I seriously don't remember where I purchased this one. Montessori Outlet? Alison's Montessori? I don't remember now and it's only been two months.) This is actually the Folding Napkins lesson in the Keys of the World Practical Life album. These napkins are made of a solid color cotton cloth that is neither too thick nor too thin and the edges are hemmed to make a napkin about 28 cm^2. Guidelines for folding are stitched onto the napkin in a contrasting color. You can sort of see from the picture, that one napkin will be folded on the diagonal, then another on the diagonal once and then once again, another napkin will be folded in half lengthwise, and the last napkin will be folded in half lengthwise and then folded once more width wise. 

There is a long list of steps to this lesson, but the points of interest are: having the child say stop when the edges and corners align when the guide is demonstrating, folding from one corner to the other, smoothing the fabric toward the fold, and keeping the fold close to the table. This work helps the child develop independence, concentration, and is preparation for activities that include folding.
Here D is feeling the stitched folding guideline on the fabric before he folds the cloth.

 Don't know what caused this.
S has finally graduated to dynamic subtraction using the stamp game. She is doing well at this level because she practices nearly every day. Hooray!

I am lamenting because we are so far behind, in my mind. The kids' handwriting is atrocious, and their spelling, well I don't even want to go there. So I am starting a dictation regimen. Above you can see that T did a lot of "oal's." He even wrote down a few that he thought up himself. His handwriting turns out much better, neater and with no random capitals when he writes in cursive. But he prefers to write in print.
S's dictation turned into penmanship practice. She got out the sandpaper letters to form the word "baby" which is what she calls her favorite bear.

I plan to continue to work on this in the months to come. Remind me in May to look back at these early December pictures and compare after they've had some practice.
Oh, those Montessori supply companies really get me in a tizzy sometimes. These are the flags of North America and South America I've been waiting for for 3 1/2 months. They came. These are the premium ones, and they are ENTIRELY different than the regular ones we have for the entire rest of the world. REALLY? I wanted to return them, but there isn't another matching option, and Alison's gives you 2 days to notify them that you'd like to return an item. What happens if it is a holiday weekend? You have to keep the stuff? (The other back ordered item I finally received was the cloth decimal checkerboard. Unless you are going to stitch it to a felt backing or something else, the "board" is completely unusable. The fabric is so thin, I can see through it. I'll just use the large wooden board I already purchased. Goodness. Save your money and don't get this item from Alison's.)

Anyway, focusing on the flags again, we picked out six flags we wanted to display first. (The flag stand is too long to fit on our 24" long shelf so we used the individual flag bases.) The US flag will probably always be available. Then we picked out Canada and Mexico because they are boarder the US and then S picked her favorite pink country, Brazil. T and D both thought that Chile's flag looked a lot like the Texas flag, which it does. But after looking at the flag book they found they are not the same. Finally, S randomly picked out Granada because she thought it was an interesting looking flag and then used our atlas to find out where this tiny island was located.

Oh, and these flags are really hard to assemble. They are big though.
Oh, Canada coincidentally has the same tune as my alma mater's school anthem. The kids don't know this though and it is a good thing because I'd be hearing it all the time!
 Reading with a whole bunch of non-essentials on the floor.
S is still working through the animals of the biomes of the continents from Waseca. The cards come with these blackline masters and I mentioned our pencil set here and why I got it.
Practicing matching pitches and notes. I wrote about this here.
A little bit of bolt board going on.
T has been working tirelessly on the multiplication work. He has long since discarded the LBF for just paper and pencil since he is doing the math in his head. He has two digit multipliers down okay so we went for three digit multipliers which he picked up quite nicely. When you multiply by 10, you add a zero. When you multiply by 100, you add two zeros. (Sorry more dark pictures.) 

After doing a few more LBF problems without the LBF, we moved onto the flat bead frame. (FBF I guess.) This work can come after the LBF and either before or after the Bank Game. If it comes after the Bank Game the Checkerboard is next. (You are right MBT, I am going to have to make 4-digit multiplier cards that exactly match my other cards.)

The FBF allows the children to work with larger numbers than the LBF. In addition, there are no spaces between the hierarchies like there are with the LBF, all the beads are golden, the numbers are on the top of the frame, the wires are vertical rather than horizontal, and there are dots on the right side of the frame that are hierarchically colored. Both the LBF and the FBF have the same three hierarchies, units, thousands and millions with the same colors, and there are ten beads on each wire. This work continues to encourage hierarchical multiplication practice and facilitate moving the child toward abstraction.

I can now see that T was doing his bead frame "upside down", moving the beads from bottom to top. He set up his multiplicand at the bottom with the white number tiles and his multiplier on the right side with the grey number tiles. Then he set up to multiply through with the unit multiplier. After moving the beads and exchanging where needed, he set up to multiply through with the tens multiplier. To do this, he "shoved" his multiplicand over to the left adding a single red zero to the right side. Then he multiplied through again, starting with the tens as the line on the right extending from the multiplier's second digit indicates.
His product was larger than the board, so he made 7 billion with the white tile at the top left. In subsequent lessons, we will start notating problems on paper. 
D did some rough and smooth boards too. (There are pictures here, from January 2014 of D sensitizing his fingers. And more pictures doing this blindfolded here. I suggest you click on both of these links. His little chubby 2-year-old-ness and his owl mask are just so cute.)
Then he wanted to do the touch tablets. Somehow he was able to figure out the match for each tablet super easily without any practice. This box contains five pairs of tables of varying grades of roughness. (There is also a smoother set which I have yet to locate after the move.) He sensitizes his hands before doing this task. This time he sensitized them three times. Come to think of it, maybe this is why he was able to complete this matching task so easily. 

We didn't do this lesson exactly.  I coded the back of each tablet with a colored dot to denote matching pairs. I used this to make two stacks of tablets, each stack containing one of each color code. Then I asked D to feel the first tablet from the stack on the left. Then we took the top tablet from the stack on the right and he felt that one to decided whether it was a match or not to the first tablet. If it wasn't a match we moved the second tablet to the upper right hand side of his work space. If the second tablet was a match, we moved the tablets side-by-side to the left side of his work space. Then we proceeded with the next tablet from the left side pile to find its match.

D did this completely correctly the first time. I was amazed. We checked his work by turning over the tablets and checking that each pair had matching dots. He was pretty happy he got this one right. 

This work progresses to blindfolded grading exercises and distance matching and grading games when language is incorporated as well. This work helps the child develop his/her tactile and visual sense as well as tactile discrimination of texture. This work also indirectly prepares the child for the lightness of touch he/she will need to properly explore the sandpaper letters for writing.

This is S dong the thousand chain!! It extends across our classroom, down the hall and into T and D's room. The chain is from Montessori Outlet and the pad under it is from Alison's. In the picture above they are un-snaking the chain we had snaked together and superimposed the hundred squares on top to show that the entire length equals a ten one hundred squares or one thousand cube.
Yeah, someone, not naming names, kicked out one of the spindles. This mama was NOT happy. And then husband put that ugly cardboard thing up to prevent small people from falling down to the landing below.
This work comes after the 100 chain and before the other square and cube chains in the linear counting primary math sequence. The child will work with the long 10-cube chain, the ten hundred squares, the thousand cube and green, blue and red tickets.

First we superimposed all the hundred squares on the chain we had snaked together to demonstrate the chain represents 1,000 units, or 100 ten bars. After this we examined our tickets. We separated the tickets that show units, tens, hundreds and one thousand. Then we sorted the tickets by hundreds putting tickets like 310, 320, 330, 340, 350, 360, 370, 380, and 390, in a single pile. And then S got started counting. This was VERY difficult for her. She can read numbers into the thousands when she does her stamp game. Just a month ago she blew through the teens and tens boards. But figuring out how to count up beyond 31 was still hard for her. She also switches numbers a lot...so 310, in her mind is 301. HUMN. I wonder what could be going on here. By about 500 things started to look up and the tears and frustration started to fade a bit. But by 600 she had had enough. I expect to pick this up for a bit tomorrow to finish it before we go away on vacation. Hopefully some rest tonight will do her brain good. This was her last work of the day.
This work gives the child the opportunity to apply his/her knowledge of the traditional names for the combinations of hundreds, tens and units from 1-1,000. And this work shows the striking difference between the hundred chain and the thousand chain. The indirect purpose of this work is to prepare the child for squaring and cubing.
So, we will be gone next week...but will be doing school all day everyday the following week on top of making a dacquois cake, croissant rolls, white chocolate gingerbread blondies and perhaps a mock-up of Disney Frozen's Elsa's ice castle out of sugar. (Was that punctuation correct?) (I think must have been a pastry chef in a previous life.) So stay tuned for more school coming soon!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Week 7 Part 1, December 1, 2014 and a little bit of last week thrown in

A lot has been happening behind the scenes here and school has largely taken a back burner to all of the rest of the action. I don't remember everything and all the anecdotes that went on last week, so I'll leave you with a slightly abbreviated post.

One of the funny things I do remember is a comment T made last week. I downloaded this classical music compilation and we play it regularly in the classroom when we are working. From time to time I pipe up with the name of the piece and the composer and I had mentioned the Flight of the Bumblebee sometime recently. T heard the piece cycle back around on the iPod and looked up and said, "Mommy, this is the mosquito!!" S had a really good laugh after that.

This week we are doing school this week, but next week we will be away. The following week I hope to post again and then we are gone until after the new year. We'll regain some normalcy soon. :) Hope you all are hanging in there this Christmas season!

D has worked a lot with the trinomial cube. He is able to construct it from a random collection inside the box now. This is a new lesson where we construct the cube outside the box. To make it a bit simpler, we've made "trains" of blocks and each "train" composes a single layer. After he constructs this cube, we can "split" the cube and see that the color and block pattern repeats throughout. He can already construct the binomial cube outside the box.

That is D's Chase Doggie and Blankie under him. These go EVERYWHERE with him. That blanket used to be white. 
These are some of the cards from our ETC Money study set. And these are the plastic coins I hate the came with the set. I have figured out that the little label slips and these square cards fit perfectly into those 4x6 photo boxes, which store nicely in their own box. The coins also fit into a single photo box as well.
I'll take a picture of the entire set when I get through all the laminating.
These are some of the geometric command cards from the ETC set. I like these. This particular subset was a little too easy for T.

A little puzzle making.
And some posing for the camera.
S is still doing her animals of different biome cards. We actually just got a new pencil set, still Prisma Premier (there is a difference between the different kinds of pencils, these are the softer waxy leads) but one with 48 color choices. S has been doing a lot of shading on her own since realizing that a lighter shade makes a lighter hue of that color and blending hues can get you to a different color all together. The new set will allow them to pay a little more attention to the detailed color and help her achieve just the hue she desires. (This reminds me of the graded color tab box 3!)

We need some penmanship lessons here. Goodness.

A little addition snake game. Here we are isolating the head and beginning memorize addition facts. I almost feel silly noting here that S hasn't done any of the memorization charts. This is the very beginning of this, but I still feel it remains to be seen if she will go through this sequence since she is almost 7 at this point. (And she can already do 10-buddies and skip count by 6s, 8s, and 9s very well.) 
This is just how little shelf space I have left in the classroom. S is pulling out the biome readers from the corner. The box comes with the complete set of biome readers, and it is all from Waseca.
D is doing a little botany cabinet here. He removes the piece, traces with his fingers, and lays it aside. then he picks up his writing utensil (in this case it is a sharpened dowel) and traces the inside of the inset. Then he replaces the cut out. This lesson practices pencil holding and later on leaf shape nomenclature.

The prerequisite to this lesson was the geometric cabinet, but D was positively NOT interested in that one, so we progressed with these lessons.

This is what we got with the geometric cabinet. "Arrr-matey!"
More money cards. This time T is doing little word problems on cards I haven't laminated yet. T is writing down his answers in his working notebook.

D and I did some more brown stairs "games" last week for extra practice. He likes the one where you hide a step and he has to figure out which one is missing.

A little more US state flag coloring for S.
Some sound objects for D. He is slowly, very slowly coming along with these. I'd say that he is 50% of the way there with initial sounds. I have no idea whether this is average for a child who is 3 1/2, but I figure that when we find that sweet spot, or the "sensitive period" as Maria Montessori would put it, he will just take off with the Dwyer sequence.
The boys started out at the table doing a little geometric solids work...
And then progressed to the floor. Wonderful.

Hope you have a great rest of the week! Gotta go finish wrapping presents!