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. 


  1. Woo-hoo for D! :) And for you - it's always nice to get over that big hurdle, especially when they have an easy time of it! I love the knitting - oh, to know how to knit! I can sew (when I have time) but was scared to death to learn at first, and I think I feel the same way about knitting/crocheting - I'm just sure anything and everything I make would definitely fall apart! :)

    1. Knitting is easy when you get the hang of the knit and purl stitches. That's only two stitches. Okay, well there is cast on and cast off, but those are super easy too. I've heard that crochet is easier, but having learned how to knit first, I couldn't say. It helps to SEE someone knit. That is how I learned. Once you get it though, I think it is a little like riding a bicycle. That motor memory doesn't ever leave you. And then you'll find that you have something to do when all the children have left the home!! ;)

  2. Haha! The original tablets ;) When I first heard of tablets (the modern electronic version), my mind went to Egypt. Same concept - sort of...

    I don't recognize those pages though from KotU albums... ;)

    1. Thank you for the correction on the source. :)

  3. Looks like you had fun with that Great Lesson! We still need to try paper making, it looks like fun. I'm glad you got some good ideas for books from my blog. I was hoping it would help someone.

    1. With both of us having a "t" who is about the same age, I am always finding good ideas from your blog. ;)