Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Still More Other Stuff -- Not Montessori

One of the other reasons we aren't doing school as much these days is because we've been contemplating a big move. 

We've been in the interviewing process for less than a month with a clean-tech firm and they just gave us a written offer. So, we are moving to Texas. We are absolutely thrilled with the job opportunity (it seems to be a more than perfect fit) and the offer is a very solid one. The timeline is very tight to get our house on the market and then we have a planned period of time before actually relocating. But, I've been preparing for the opportunity, should it come through, by running financial scenarios and painting bathrooms, so I know with the entire family working together, and a little bit of faith, we'll make it there just fine.

So, for the next few weeks I will be a little quiet here on the blog. Since we are "missing" a few months of the regular school year, and I intended to do school year round anyway, I am quite sure we'll pick up our classroom work when we are settled there. So definitely look for posts here as you are preparing your Montessori homeschool endeavors over the summer. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Other Stuff, not Montessori

I've been blogging on and off for about 6 years now. I've blogged about sewing, home organization, crafting, charitable giving and Montessori homeschooling. Generally when I tackle things I like to get in deep. I like writing, sharing details, photography, and the whole notion of an on-line community. But there comes a point when I feel burned out from that "getting-in-deep." It usually happens around the spring and early summer for some reason. Maybe the new leaves and flower buds are speaking to me in their own secret language. Anyway, that itch to get away from the screen has hit me pretty hard this spring. T took his required test in January and passed. Since then I have been feeling that everything that we do now is just an extension of life learning.

So my update this week includes the following:

We visited with a high school friend of mine who was in town this week and went out for frozen yogurt. Well, her three girls and my three did the yogurt thing and she and I just talked and talked, and talked.

I messed up my pink sweat pants with white exterior gloss paint and I can't get the primer out of my fingernails or off my forearms for some reason.

S's Easter dress had so much glitter glued onto it she left a shiny trail where ever she went and that dress was put in a quarantine bag as soon as we got home.

I found a LIVE worm in the cod fish I was going to use for Korean fish stew. I screamed. My husband laughed. I didn't make the stew. And I didn't eat dinner that evening .
S's daffodils are finally in bloom. They are beautiful and she is so very proud of them.

D got is own little scooter and can ride pretty well. He rides the same way as S which makes me think that he'll be lefty.

Figured out, finally, that I like really sour kimchee, not fresh kimchee.

I've been pruning bushes, mulching, re-seeding the lawn, and pulling dandelion weeds in both my front and our neighbor's front landscape.
There is still so much to be done around here to get ready for spring time. I am enjoying getting outside more regularly, I hope you are too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Margaret Homfray videos

I've been meaning to post this but just keep forgetting. So that I don't need to remember this again, I am posting this now. The Margaret Homfray lecture videos about the primary curriculum are located here on YouTube. Margaret Homfray was a student and colleague of Maria Montessori and was the person instrumental in spreading Montessori education in Britain. She passed away in the 1990's. This link has more information about her life and work.

I've been to a couple of blogs that point to these training videos, but the links are broken. These YouTube links are current and working as of this post date. If, for what ever reason, these are taken down please leave a comment note and let others know. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Week 12 Part 1 April 14, 2014

We must be feeling spring fever here in these parts. The daffodils are blooming. The dogwood flowers are out. The cherry blossoms around the tidal basin are in full swing...there are no bugs outside, and I've got my eye set on that mulch sale they're having at the nursery. And there are supposed to be 20 degree temperatures this evening. Oh well. 

In this vein, I am also feeling more relaxed about our school time. On the one hand I know that time is floating away, and that the children will not be this age ever again in their lives. I feel the urgency to surround them with information. At the same time, I know that they are learning every day regardless of whether we make it into the classroom or not. S continually works on her reading skills and is writing short stories now on paper complete with original illustrations. The boys are doing the same. The relaxed nature of our learning is working for us at the moment.

On the more formal side of things, this is what we've been doing inside the classroom:
Sensorial: bells
Language: original writing
Math: LBF, wooden hierarchy materials
T is progressing continually with the bells. I haven't been posting a sequence for this material. But may get to that soon. At this point I can say that T didn't have any bells experience during his Primary years. We are starting from the beginning of the KotU music albums but he is speeding through the first parts very quickly. He has very good pitch, and pretty good memory. Right now he is exploring the bells and sounding out tunes he already knows. (Some of those tunes aren't easy. At this point we are way beyond "Mary had a Little Lamb.") He has done the matching exercises and most of the grading exercises. We'll see how well his interest sustains.
S is practicing her penmanship here with our Hello Wood cursive guided letters. She is writing entire stories now on paper but she uses print. Our former Montessori school teaches only print in Primary so I believe that this is where she picked this up even though we use only cursive alphabets and sandpaper letters in our classroom.
T has transitioned to writing primarily in cursive now. He finished the cursive Handwriting Without Tears work book (which I wouldn't have done if I knew then what I know now.) He decided that he was going to write in cursive. There are times he still uses print, but mostly he uses cursive. 

This is one of his recent writing samples. The topic is very T. Nevertheless, he is WRITING! He couldn't just put words to paper six months ago. He is very motivated to write in this manner, and I am happy to let him go.
Don't have a caption for this picture.
I brought out our wooden hierarchy materials again, but this time for S. It took her a few days to remember the names of everything and figure out the number symbols, but once she did she was so proud that she had entered into elementary math. We used the lessons from the KotU albums. 

We still have much of the math facts to cover, but we are doing this slowly as she progresses through the elementary math work, like the Large Bead Frame which she LOVES.
S is getting a lesson from T on the pin maps. This was her first attempt ever and she did quite well.
T was working on that long division again. We made up a new way to do his "take-aways" as he calls them. If the problem is 15-7=, I take a slip of paper and write "7" on it. I ask T, "what plus 7 makes 10?"  He says, "3", and then I write on a second slip of paper, "3." Then I ask T, "we have 10, how much do we need to get to 15?" He says, "5", and then I write on a third slip of paper "5." Then we have slips of paper with 7, 3, and 5 on them. I say, "the equation reads, 15-7= so let's take away 7," and I take away the slip of paper with 7 on it. He looks at what is left, which is 3 and 5, and after adding them together says that there is "8 left over so 15-7=8." So far this method has seemed to work well for T.
S is here doing her multiplication board. It has taken her a while to remember the concept here and I have had to present this lesson again many times. I wonder what this means. 
On the other hand, S go right to work counting the Large Bead Frame.
And notating each number.
She really likes the LBF. I think it makes her feel like she is really progressing.
Here is S's second amaryllis. Her favorite colors are pink and white.
This is what happens sometimes at the end of the day when little D decides he needs some more gross motor work.
And these are S's bulbs in her bed out back. She planted hyacinth at the left side and the rest are daffodils that have yet to bloom. She was so proud of her flowers and said, "mommy they grew because I took care of my flowers!" Who can argue with that?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Our story...

I found this post in my drafts section and decided to clean it up and post it...this is our story about why and how we began our homeschooling Montessori Journey.

Back in August 2013 I just started posting photos here in this space. This blog was, and still is, for my mom and dad so that they can keep up with what we are doing homeschooling-wise 6 states away. And then other people found the blog. And they started to ask me to turn on comments. :) And then I started writing and elaborating a bit more about all that we are doing, again for my parent,s and then for others who want to know more about our Montessori school at home journey.

For those just finding the blog, I haven't yet gotten to the reason that we started down this path and how all this Montessori Madness came to be. So here is our back story:

My husband and I decided to pull our two oldest from Montessori private school just a little more than one year ago. S would have gone from part-day to full-day and T would have gone from primary to lower el and the tuition jump and 4% increase, on top of no salary-raise-since-we-took-a-pay-cut-for-this-job, was just too much. 

It was January 2013 and I started to go into panic mode right after we made the decision to homeschool. HOW was I going to educate my children? And, would I be able to pull off a real Montessori-inspired experience? 

Over the past 15 months I've been in high gear continually preparing myself and the environment for our journey.

I found Montessori education three years ago when researching and choosing kindergarten options for T. Since his first year at private school, I've spent a bunch of time a ton of time in the Primary classroom, attended parent education talks about Montessori education, and I've read a lot about Maria Montessori and her educational theory and sequence. But on that day, in January 2013, when we made the decision to homeschool, I felt in no way shape or form ready to be the sole adult responsible for the education of our three children, especially using complex Montessori methods.
So fast forward through the spring and summer of 2013...while the kids were still in school and D was a little one-year-old at home with me, I completed NAMC's Lower El certification in 8 weeks, took CGMS's 8 week Introduction course,  researched, read blogs, websites, books, message boards and magazines, ordered materials, planned spaces, built shelving, made materials, talked to other classroom guides, talked with other homeschoolers, organized our classroom, organized our storage room, and generally went a little crazy.

I decided to start class time in August when T was 7, S was 5 1/2, and D was 2 and a little bit. So I ordered materials for pre-primary practical life and sensorial work; early primary reading materials and early math operation work; and lower elementary phonogram review, grammar lessons and science materials.

After numerous hours on the phone with my dad, I designed and built shelves with my husband at two different heights for toddlers and for elementary. I somehow managed to get all the cardboard packing materials from our orders to the recycle dumpster. I worked on training little D so that he would be ready to enter our classroom come the fall. (Another post perhaps?) And I was very thankful for the laminator I had bought so many years ago and never managed to give-away. 

I think about June I felt pretty burned out. I stopped work on the classroom and did some other things outside. I pulled all the creepers out of our azaleas. I fertilized, finally cemented the capstones on our retaining wall, pruned, and planted shrubs. (All before the mosquitoes got bad.) And then it was back to work to get everything done before August.

Preparing to ramp up from 0-100 mph for three different age-levels in 8 months wasn't easy. I felt like I was dragging along something really heavy, with no road map, all the while going around in my head many late nights wondering WHY I had decided to do this. Then I remembered that it was because my husband and I decided we wanted to give our children the best learning experience that we could afford. We really wanted our children to receive an education that strongly values peace, community, and personal responsibility. 
Planning and preparation of both the environment and my own self has never stop and probably will never cease. I am still endeavoring to learn as much as I possibly can every day. I am striving to keep the momentum, flow with things, let go, and follow the child. 

We plan to homeschool for as long as it makes sense. We just don't believe that the public school system is for us and our family. I grew up with a very alternative elementary school experience and I feel it gave me great perspective. I am so thankful for the teachers and friends who supported my exploration of nature, art, music, mathematics, poetry, and so much more. So I am dedicated to giving my children a taste of what is out there in the world. If it means homeschooling through to college, then that is what I will do.

So all in all, I would recommend a little bit more lead-time if you are planning to begin Montessori homeschooling three children in different planes of development. I would also recommend just going for it. You will never know if it will work for you unless you try. It is certainly challenging. And it isn't for the faint of heart. But it is really can be for everyone. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Week - don't know - maybe 11 Part 1 April 7, 2014

It has been a while since I really posted about our school days and a lot of things have been swirling around here. Snow melting, toilet training, a purple belt in Taekwondo, daffodils growing, radishes dying...Easter coming...this is a bit of what we've been doing all this time!

Practical Life: toileting
Advanced Practical Life: knitting
Cosmic Education: Fourth Great Lesson: Communication in Signs - and our crafting extension activities
Other: Taekwondo

D decided to toilet train. How did we do it? What is the secret? I don't know. D decided he wanted to use the toilet last October. I wasn't ready and had a lot of other things on my plate at the time so I let it go. I asked him again about using the toilet three weeks ago. He decided this was a good idea and we started talking more about it and practicing. I'd say the first 10 days or so we had at least 3 accidents a day. We didn't get out much those days. But I kept it strict. There was no parental fussing, no harsh words, no sighs of disappointment, and we kept really relaxed schedules and cleaning supplies handy on all three floors of the house. As of today, he has been completely dry, even at night, for six days. 

He had been refusing to wear diapers since the beginning so I just sold our last unopened case of disposables. Yippeee! D is just two months shy of 3 years old, but he just decided this was the time to do it. He stays dry playing outside and comes in to use the toilet if he needs to. He'll use the toilet at other people's houses and in public restrooms. (We haven't gotten to use one of the automatic flushers yet, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that he doesn't get freaked out.) He needs help getting those undies up over his tush, but he is always the one to tell us he needs some assistance. Or sometimes T or S helps him out. 

T and S didn't decide to use the toilet until they were 4 yrs+ and just shy of 4 yrs respectively. I don't know for sure what prompted little D to do this now other than he felt he was ready. As a mom I am proud that it was his own decision. And I am glad to be saving the cash on diapers. (Oh, that is another thing...we didn't use cloth very much. I know people always say that helps the child feel wetness...but in D's case, it was just the right time for him and that was all that mattered.)
T just earned his novice purple belt. Here is dong his compass kicking: roundhouse and ax kick...okay the hands are a little low in this picture...and I think his eyes are closed. We are working on this.
And side-kick board breaking. He likes the breaking best.
All three children are really liking the bells. T just sounded out the tune to "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" all by himself. It took him three days to find those 30 notes but he did it all by himself.
S has been reading more and more on her own. I think it was just a matter of giving her a little bit of space to develop confidence on her own. Here she is exploring words with the long "a" sound in them.
I don't remember when I learned to knit, though I think I was in grade school. This is S's knitting and that is mine peeking into the photo on the right. When T and S were babies I used to knit a lot. It was mostly baby cardigans, sweater vests, mittens, and hats. And then D came along and my knitting fingers took a rest.

I started S and T off with a very easy garter stitch pattern on 8mm circular needles with just ten stitches per row. (I find with smaller ones it is difficult to gauge tension with beginners and with bigger ones, it is more difficult to get into a rhythm.) We are using the continental style (the working yarn is held in the left hand) simply because this is the way I learned. I have never been able to get the English method and alas fair isle knitting is not likely in my future. Nevertheless, some would argue that Continental is more efficient than the English method. S declared we were making scarves for her babies (stuffed animals.)

The learning is slow going, but I intend to keep up with a little practice at least a few times a week for each child. 

Knitting is really all about muscle memory. Sometimes I'll have a child sit in my lap and observe me knitting. Other times I'll have them lend one hand and just focus on that one hand's motions while I work the other hand motions. I think yarn tension is a difficult concept to "get." until you've well, "got it." S is just amazed that you can make fabric out of yarn.
Switching gears to growing stuff. I still have no idea how to get anything to grow in our basement. These seeds the kids sowed last week all died at the seedling stage. So we are changing a few variables, re-sowing, and we'll see what happens.

Last week I presented to T and S the fourth Great Lesson, Communication in Signs, and our crafting endeavors got off to a pretty good start after that. (CORRECTION: These sheets are from the Mid America Montessori Language album.)

This story is one of five Great Lessons that really touch off the elementary Montessori curriculum and begin to inspire the child to explore his/her universe in more depth. This story describes how and why humans developed written language to communicate. This presentation is supposed give them just enough information to spark the child's imagination and inspire them begin to explore topics they find interesting.
With recommendations from this blog and this blog, I gathered these books, and others, that explore hieroglyphs and book making.
This is what little D thinks about hieroglyphs. (He doesn't know any letter symbols yet.)

T found some ancient Egyptian Gods in one of our new books and in some of our older books about creation myths (The Star-Bearer: A Creation Myth from Ancient Egypt by Dianne Hofmeyr.) 
I also borrowed the book Hands-on-History Mesopotamia: all about ancient Assyria and Babylonia with 15 step-by-step projects and more than 300 exciting pictures by Lorna Oakes. The kids got right to work noting which projects they wanted to do and writing down their supply shopping lists. Luckily the only item we needed was clay.

S decided to make these lion figure paper weights.
T wanted to make a tablet for hieroglyphs.

Afterward we got to paper making. First we read about the Egyptians making papyrus scrolls and viewed some YouTube videos of present-day museum demonstrations. Then we viewed a couple of videos about Japanese paper making in present-day and S said she wanted to try that. So we did.
I think I got a "recipe" somewhere on the Internet. Just search "making paper in a blender" and you'll get there too. Here D is stuffing ripped up paper, that was packing filler, into our blender that already contained a bit of water. (I don't remember how much, maybe a couple cups?) Blend it all until smooth.
We dumped the paper pulp and water into a larger container of water. I think I had already put 4-8 cups of water in the container before adding the paper. Here S is demonstrating how we used our homemade frame to scoop the pulp out of the water. You just submerge the frame and lift it straight up out of the water and let it drain. 
Then you can add natural adornments to your paper piece. Here D is adding grass to his sheet of paper. After you add these pieces, use a ladle or a spoon and scoop some more paper pulp on top of the adornments to affix everything and keep the small pieces in place.
Then D added some color to his. I just put a few drops of food coloring into a tiny bit of water. We used a dropper here, but you could use a spoon too. Make sure the color is concentrated so when you iron the paper dry the color doesn't fade too much.
Then gently press the top of the paper in the frame with a clean cloth. (I used an old cloth diaper.) At this point you can just peel the paper sheet right off the screen frame and lay it down on a cloth on an ironing board. Use an extra hot iron and a press cloth and pressed the paper until the color lightens and the paper is dry. Here D is holding up his finished product.

(We made our frame out of left-over quarter-round, duct-tape, and door screening. A picture frame and some screen would work too. It was all very inexpensive and worked wonderfully.)

I am sorry I don't have pictures of this stage, but to further emphasize that writing and paper are used for communicating we made our own writing implements. I lit a tea light candle, got out some take-out-Chinese wooden chopsticks and burnt the ends to make charcoal "pens." They worked like a charm. If you need to "sharpen" your pencil, stick it back in the flame. Two other notes: use a spray fixative if you want to prevent the charcoal artwork from smudging (you can get this at an art supplies store) and have a mug of sand on hand for putting out those flaming chopsticks. Just stick the chopstick into the sand and the flame will go out without breaking off the charcoal end.

And that about wraps up the last few weeks I've been MIA.