Friday, October 17, 2014

Week 1 Part 2, October 13, 2014

ARR Blogger is just FIGHTING with me today!! Sorry for the weird formatting.

Math: Word Problems, Stamp Game, Racks and Tubes, Fractions
Practical Life: Folding, Hand Washing, Scissor Cutting
Sensorial: Pink Tower, Puzzle Maps
Language: Grammar-Noun

So the second part of our week...
This is D's cutting tray. I am now 90% certain that he favors his left hand, though he likes to switch out and use his right from time to time. Nevertheless, he will always begin writing with his left hand. Scissor cutting activities are important because this motion helps strengthen the arch of the hand and gets the hand ready for pencil holding and handwriting. (I wrote about cutting, pincer grasp, and handwriting last year in this post. Scroll down to see the cutting part)

As you can see above, D still needs a bit of practice in this area. He is holding his scissors upside down and when he holds them right-side-up, as in the photo below, his shoulders hunch up. He is using small lefty scissors I purchased from Amazon to cut 1cm wide card stock on which I've drawn small vertical cutting lines as cutting guides. (He wasn't hitting the line very much.) The bowl (from a yard sale) is there to catch the cuttings and make clean up and tossing them in the trash easy. He doesn't always get the cuttings in the bowl either. This tray sits on the practical life shelves right behind his toddler table.

T chose the racks and tubes, or test tube division, a couple of times during the second half of the week. He needed some extreme review to use this material, like an entire first level presentation from moi. After that he was able to handle a two digit divisor problem with no remainder, noting only the quotient on paper, all by himself and get the right answer. This is a huge step backward from where we were six months ago, but I am seeing that all the kiddos need of a ton of review. This huge work covers long division and will help bring the child to total abstraction when he/she can compute the entire division problem, with up to four digit divisors and 7 digit dividends, on paper.
This is a shot of the messy space in front of the elementary size table and the window. I still have a bunch of organizing to do in this corner.

These are Melissa and Doug pattern blocks and boards. The other day S figured out that two trapezoids put together can make a hexagon.
S also got to the puzzle maps. She doesn't know all the countries in South America, but two years ago she studied this continent in depth with her Montessori Primary class. She does know that big pink country is Brazil after going to the Brazilian Embassy in Washington D.C.

S decided to do a little handwriting practice with the green boards. I purchased these blank green boards from Alison's Montessori this year. These are the first in the sequence of green boards and subsequent boards with lines on them are for children who have developed some more handwriting control. The blank green boards let the child create their letter forms in whatever size they choose when they are first working to perfect the direction of their strokes.

I keep only cursive sandpaper letters on our shelves with the intention that D will learn cursive first. T and S learned print first in their Montessori school back in VA but with some effort T can write in cursive. Most of the time he chooses not to. S on the other hand has a difficult time forming letters correctly in print and in cursive. As this school year progresses, I guess I'll see which she naturally tends toward and keep us going in that direction. At this point, handwriting is challenging for her so I just want to keep her writing whenever she can.

To write on the green boards we use very small pieces of chalk to encourage that important pincer grasp. And a word to the wise, prime your new boards with chalk first. Just use the side of a stick of chalk to shade over the entire board first and erase everything before the child begins writing. Also do this after each wash. It highly aids in erasing subsequent marks.

S used her word notebook to write down the word "mortal" during our discussion about moral sins and venial sins. She wanted to spell it out with the movable alphabet first.

We do a little memorization at the beginning of each of our sessions. Last year we learned some of the Rosary prayers and this fall we are starting out with the Act of Contrition T needs to know for his first Sacrament of Reconciliation in December. I plan to have them memorize the traditional prayer and the "kid" prayer that is published in his text book. After one week, S and T almost have it down.

D LOVES puzzles. Except these puzzles because they are are kind of difficult. They nest on top of each other and represent the life cycle of a flower and the life cycle of a frog. (I got them from Nienhuis.) I color-coded the back of each piece so if you collect all the green pieces they should fit together to create one level.
This is a pretty good picture of D sitting at his tiny table. His butt isn't quite up to the back of the chair so it looks like his heels touch.
Here S is getting some golden beads to use for the first stamp game presentation.

Okay a note to all the pure Montessorians out there, my shelves are backward. Most Montessori classroom shelves are organized first lesson to last lesson, from the left to the right and from the top to the bottom. This reflects the way we normally read as well. Well Mr. Short is very short, so in order to mix his materials in with our elementary materials I needed to reverse the order and make this consistent throughout the classroom. The first lessons are at the lower left hand corner of the all the shelving units. Then the materials progress to the right and upward, leaving more advanced elementary lessons on the higher top shelf...too high for Mr. Short to reach. At some point I'll just need to let Mr. Short know that we read from top to bottom.

On to the stamp game. S has already had a lot of experience with this work, but I am realizing that the kids' brains feel like it has been a LONG LONG time since we did anything in a Montessori classroom. So we started from the beginning lesson.

The stamp game will help the child take that first step toward abstract operations. Prior to this work the child will have worked extensively with the physical golden bead materials, developed a deep sense of quantity and acquired a lot of experience with each operation: adding, taking away and multiplying...and in some cases dividing. I skipped division with S and T so I could introduce the Division with Bows lesson closer to the time we start in with the racks and tubes.

The first presentation for the stamp game correlates the golden bead materials and the physical quantities they literally illustrate with the single different color stamps and the quantities they represent. Each tile category is color coded just like the number cards we used with the golden beads. Green is for units and thousands, blue is for tens and red represents hundreds. Below you can see that S has successfully grouped each stamp with the physical quantity it represents.

Next we build quantities with a single stamp category. Here S built 900 with nine red hundred stamps.
Then we built larger numbers using more than one category of stamp. If you look down at the bottom of the blog there is a link to this printable, which I think is on the Primary page (wow it has been a long time and my memory is foggy) and the file name has something to do with golden bead operations. I've coded them A, A1, A2, B1, B2, etc. Here we have a single quantity card coded A. After this bit of review we proceeded to the static addition problem A1 cards. Later we'll progress to A2 cards that have dynamic addition problems.
S did her first static addition problem with the stamps. If you want to see the stamp game in action, I think that this a pretty good video example.
Meanwhile D had T help him with some puzzles. These are the life cycle puzzles. T is a slight bit large for the toddler chairs.
Then T helped with a truck puzzle from Melissa and Doug.
And then T helped D with the World Parts puzzle, or the continents puzzle, which isn't pictured here. After that puzzle map, the boys took out this puzzle map of the United States. T put back all the states he knows and then took out the control map to locate the states he didn't know by heart.

It all looked a little like Swiss cheese.
Last year I was at a loss as to what to do about the math word problems part of the albums. Each section says that the child should be working on story problems in addition to the Montessori materials so they can further solidify their understanding of each math concept. I really didn't want to spend weeks thinking up word problems like "Sally had 17 bushels of apples and Ted ate 9 bushels of Sally's apples and before he threw up he asked Sally how many apples she had left if each bushel basket held 57 apples." But after reading a few reviews I bought this set of math books instead. (You can read this overview of the series which is the main reason I got the set and didn't look further.)

After getting my fingers on the pages, I like these books. They are nicely illustrated. They aren't dumbed down. And they seem to encourage thought and reasoning and not fact memorization which I find appealing.

Then I had to figure out how to present this material to T first, and then prepare the same material for S, who I think will likely be ready sometime early next year. The only way to get good photo copies of these books is to rip apart the binding which I didn't really feel like doing. (The books are a couple hundred pages thick.) And I didn't want to spent a ton of money and time photo copying and laminating problem sheets/tickets/strips. So, removable highlighter tape came to my rescue.

T is starting out with the Primary Challenge Math book. Using the removable highlighter tape I marked the table of contents chapters I thought he could manage at this point. If there are more chapters he is able to tackle later on, I'll add highlighter to those. T's color is orange.

Then I flipped through the book and highlighted the pages I think he is ready for. This book is divided into chapters and then each chapter offers a well illustrated example and four levels of questions. Each level has five questions and each level gets successively more challenging. At this point T can do level 1 and level 2 in the chapters I've picked out.

T doesn't need to do the chapters in order. So he can flip to the table of contents, or any highlighted page, and see if that is a page, or a topic, he'd like to work on that day.
After he has completed a problem set, we remove the highlighter tape on that page, but leave the highlighter tape in the table of contents. This way he will not repeat sections and I'll know which chapters he's completed. 

I plan to highlight chapter pages for S in pink so she can also select any chapter she feels like doing that day and T and S can share the same book. (I got the highlighter tape from Amazon. The price of each roll varies by vendor and color.)
I also use this highlighter tape in my printed albums. I highlight the lesson I am preparing so that I can later flip to that one quickly if I need a reference. Since there are many lessons with multiple presentations the highlighter tape helps me keep track of where we are with the scope of that material. After I am sure the child has mastered that presentation I take the tape off and move it to the next presentation.

A note about the tape though, I have an ink-jet home printer and the tape lifts a little of the ink, though it doesn't damage the page, so the tape isn't really reusable. On professional print the tape doesn't lift any ink. (I haven't tried it on laser jet images.) Also, sometimes on glossy paper, the tape will come off in little strips, which come off quite easily.
This is D figuring out the dust cloth folding lesson. This is part of the Practical Life - Care of the Environment sequence. I am using the Keys of the World albums (and they are fabulous!! I can't say enough about the way this series and the Keys of the Universe albums have helped me.) This lesson is a folding lesson and a prerequisite for the dusting lesson. In this exercise the child will fold the clean dust cloth to put it away for storage.
The album says to prepare a cloth approximately 12"x12" with a small design stitched into the middle. I just happened to have two blue miracle cloths and two yellow car buttons (originally from JoAnne Fabrics.) These buttons serve as a folding "guide" if you will. We fold the edges of the cloth up to the "guide" mark. The cloths are stored in the small basket and they live on the practical life shelves. (I think I got that basket from Montessori Services.) D loved, loved, loved this lesson. Probably because he still likes ordered objects and partly because he loved the buttons.

You'll note here that D hasn't folded the cloth correctly, though he has folded it neatly and evenly. He repeated this folding several times in one sitting.
And then D gave S a dust cloth folding lesson. D said, "look Noona, I will show you how to fold and then you can have a turn. You observe first." (Noona or 누나 is the Korean word a boy would use to address and older sister.)

S and I did the first noun lesson. (Sorry I don't have a shot of my complete layout. It included coal that I purchased from Amazon, the Noun pyramid solid, and our wooden grammar symbols. The Montessori materials are from Montessori Outlet.) I mostly followed the sequence from the Keys of the Universe albums but I inserted the story about the Egyptian pyramids and the black coal from the Cultivating Dharma Elementary Language Album. Here S is reading these prepared word cards and deciding if they are names of objects or not.
All of the names of objects are under the noun card and the other words that are not nouns are laid to the side. Since S is a beginning reader, I stuck to words with the "ai" and "oa" sounds.

She really wanted to change all the non-noun words into nouns and indeed did change some. I tried unsuccessfully to stay away from words that could be two parts of speech, like "rock" which can be a verb and a noun. But S wanted to change it into "rocking chair," which then would  have made "rock" an adjective, but I didn't tell her that at this stage. She changed "stay" to "stairs" and "under" to "underwear" and then after laughing hysterically about the latter, asked for more cards to do the next day.

How DO we get these really cute shots of D?
We also did some of the Different Ways of Combining activities from the Geography albums from the Keys of the Universe set. This is cupric sulfate dissolving in water. The children are observing that some kinds of particles like each other and tend to hold together. CuSO4 particles like H2O particles so much that the particles disappear.

Other components in other mixtures can like each other and lay right next to one another. But then they also can get up and leave. The above is kosher salt and iron filings.
D mixed the mixture with a glass stirring rod.

And then he got the iron fillings to "get up and leave" with a magnet stuck under a small cloth. Iron filings aren't toxic, but we always use safety gear, goggles and gloves, when we do science activities.

After this activity, the kids spent the large part of the afternoon playing with a set of magnets. 
We started at the very beginning of the fraction lessons in the KotU Math album. T knew a lot of the first lessons, but I just wanted to make sure that the lessons were easy and fun, and that we weren't missing any basic knowledge. 

First we discussed that you can divide up a single "whole unit" into any number of different equal parts. And that the number of equal parts that comprise the whole unit is also called the "family name" of the fraction or the "denominator." T and I also discussed how to write fractions on paper.

Then T got to work labeling all of the fraction parts. Next we'll work on equivalencies and operations.
S continued to explore nouns the next day, with some additional prepared cards. It turned out that she was more interested in exploring the words and didn't really focus on the noun lesson.
I am so mad I can't show you S's real work because Blogger is fighting with me again. I tried two different ways to rotate the photos, but they still loaded sideways. ARRRRR! 

Anyway, S took out one of our print alphabets, from Alison's Montessori, and start creating other nouns and labeling them with the wooden grammar symbols. Afterward she recorded each one on a slip of paper and pasted them in her work notebook.Then she used the grammar stencil (also from Alison's since our first one got lost during the trip from VA) to denote each noun with a black triangle. (This print alphabet box is HUGE and very HEAVY. I got three different colors from Alison's Montessori, but this material was not what I had expected at all.)
D and I did the hand-washing lesson which is part of the Practical Life Care-of-Self sequence. I read the lesson last night and I understand that the traditional method of washing involves a lot of total body control, sequencing, and pouring control which are critical in other areas of the classroom and life. But that isn't the way we wash our hands anymore, and to make sure D does a good job washing after he goes to the potty, I decided to change the lesson a bit.

I first demonstrated the task. The points of interest were, removing jewelry before washing, washing each finger, turning on and off the water to conserve water while washing, using the nail brush, drying the hands completely, and moisturizing afterward. D did a pretty good job remembering all the steps. He repeated the lesson sequence about five more times and ended up with very wrinkly fingers.

That moon you see on the wall is also for D. These light switch extenders help Mr. Short turn on and off the lights in many of the rooms where he can't reach. (Well he can't reach in any of the rooms, but he doesn't need to turn on the light in every room.)
This is also one of our water spout extender that helps short/little children reach the water flow from the faucet. 
The nail brush is from a dollar store pedicure set. It is small and just the right size for D. He ended up scrubbing his palms and elbows with it too.

I gave T a lesson on the second noun grammar box. This lesson introduces indefinite and definite articles as well as vowel agreement ("a" vs "an.") I think I got the filling boxes from the Montessori Outlet. These grammar cards are from Montessori Print Shop in the traditional colors. 

After the lesson, during which T organized all the nouns to be in agreement with the articles, he noted an example of each type of article in his working notebook.
D took out the pink tower and built it well, without a work rug as you can see. I keep the pink tower not stacked on the shelves at the recommendation of Margaret Homfray. (You can see her collection of lecture videos here.) Basically, the child should not be required to build the tower when putting it away. He/she should have worked with the material long enough and deeply enough to achieve mental exhaustion and thus making the act of rebuilding the tower one last time perhaps beyond their capability. So, we store the small pieces in a little basket next to the large pieces on the shelf. 

Here D is not following the lesson correctly by omitting a work rug under his work and by constructing the tower directly from the shelf. It is proper and much easier to place all the blocks on a single plane/work rug and then visually select which is largest and build the tower in this manner.

After D built the tower he came over to me with a huge smile on his face. I asked him if he wanted to play a game. (This game is from the Keys of the World Sensorial Album Pink Tower sequence.) D covered his eyes and then I removed one of the blocks in the tower and rebuilt the rest. Then D opened his eyes and found the place in the tower where that block belonged. He really liked this game.
T finally pulled out the pin maps I made. This map is of the North East Atlantic. D and S decided to help him find the pins.

 Yes, those are big-boy and little-guy faux-hawks. 
And that wraps up our first week at school. There are so many more lessons to present and so much more to prepare, to purchase, and to look forward to. At this point, I am feeling comfortable that our first year of homeschooling is behind us and the largest part of the classroom set up is done. I feel optimistic because the kiddos seem interested in moving through the works. Stay tuned for more on-goings next week!


Please excuse the weird lighting in some of these first shots. I am using a new Nikon sb300 speed flash and I am not comfortable with everything yet so some of the shots are a bit wonky. My last flash, the Nikon sb400, broke about 9 months ago but I couldn't replace it because they don't manufacture it anymore. So now I am using a completely different flash and I have a lot of practicing to do before I feel comfortable with the lighting. (And for those who are interested, I use a Nikon d40x camera body and a AF Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8g for most close up shots inside.) 

Signing off for a 87 degree weekend! (I still can't believe the fall temps here in Texas.)


  1. What a great first week you all have had!

    And I never have any complaints on your photos myself ;)

    1. Thank you! I think I am way nit-picky, and I don't post the worst of them. :) The ones where the light makes them look like hollow eyed zombies, or washed out white ghosts. :)

  2. Oh my! I have so many things to say about all this. I don't have time right now, I'll have to come back.

    I WILL say this... 87 DEGREES!!!! I sat through Kal-El's Saturday morning soccer game in pouring rain this weekend and it was 41 degrees! We were wearing long underwear and winter coats, hats, and mittens and sitting under umbrellas. My husband wore snowpants. When we got home we had to put everyone through a warm shower, change into clothes that were warmed in the dryer and drink hot apple cider before we could stop shivering. ENVIOUS!

    And you KNOW how ENVIOUS I am of your school room. Your kids are looking so beautiful in this pics! No complaints here.

    Gotta go and make geography chart GW3 before my husband gets home!

  3. Love the fauxhawks. Love D in his goggles, ALWAYS! Your pix of the racks and tubes in progress are sooo pretty. Kal-El started two-digit divisors this week and loves it.

    Love watching the kids work TOGETHER on those pin maps. It's great how D looks like he is correcting T.

    Am always amazed at how close S can get her head to her feet when doing language work.

    Kal-El LOVED seeing T doing the same works as he is (maps, tubes, articles/nouns). He asked how old T is "right now."

    I'm so glad you posted about the "ways of combining." Our work on that last year all came out of BFSU. I'll have to remember to do the KOTU lessons this year as review to change it up a little and keep it fresh because those experiments LOOK more fun in pictures than they did on the page!

  4. Some how they LOVE racks and tubes. T was so very excited to get his hands on that straight out the package last year, and this year, after a 6 month hiatus, it was the first material he wanted to take for a drive.

    My kids somehow are VERY flexible. I am not. T's Taekwondo kicks...make my legs hurt watching them.

    T is a few days shy of 8 years, 3 months old, "right now." :) (We technically held him back a grade--in traditional school terms. He repeated his third year primary at his Montessori school instead of continuing on to lower El. Since we waited to start him in Sunday School and all the other grade-level-specific activities there are out there, we never had the age/grade/mixed issues you have. And since T and S are only one year apart in age for 6 months out of the year they never really questioned being one grade apart.)

    My kids keep asking when you all are going to come for a visit. :) They really want to do "school" with Kal-El and Me Too.

    We did a few more "ways of combining" activities that day, but the others weren't as photogenic as the blue cupric sulfate and the crazy iron filings clinging to the magnets. I liked these activities because they were pretty easy to put together and quick. And not too messy. (Maybe a toddler using a glass stir rod to mix a dry mixture on a plate is kind of messy.) (I got my materials from Home Science Tools on line after having to give away most of our chemicals in March since the moving company didn't want to ship flammables half way across the country for us.)