Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Week 2 Part 1 October 20, 2014

My weekend was filled with preparing materials and lessons, digging cards out of storage, and studying the Primary albums (I just got the Keys of the World...these are so helpful!!) I am feeling kinda brain dead...and kinda cold, believe it or not. I think my blood thinned this summer and the mid 80's now seems kind of cool to me. My husband laughed at me the other day for wearing a fleece top out to the grocery store when it was 87 degrees outside. I was very comfortable.

Here is a peek at the first half of our week along with a bunch of my crazy comments. (I apologize in advance for not being as thorough as I have been in the past with all the lesson explanations, material sources, and the whys behind my set up decisions. My blogging brain is taking a little longer to come back from vacation too.)

Language: Suffixes, Sounds (Primary)
Biology: Living vs. Non-Living (Primary) Land/Air/Water Animals (Primary)
Math: Teen Beads
Geography: US Flags, US map-making
Art: Texture Rubbings
Other: Great Lesson: The Coming of Life, Learning the Pledge of Allegiance to the Texas Flag and the Texas, Our Texas
I needed to finish something downstairs Monday morning, so I let the three kiddos go upstairs to the classroom to start without me. And it sort of worked. Everyone picked work and got going. By the time I came upstairs, everyone was helping S with the puzzle map of Europe because she was pitching a fit of frustration. She was, however, very pleased with the completed product.
Straight away, we got to the Second Great Lesson, the Coming of Life. (I retold the version that I did last year, which was from....Cultivating Dharma?? I don't remember now.) The Great Lessons, of which there are five, are presented in short order at the beginning of the school year and are meant to spark the child's interest in exploring the classroom materials further. This second lesson describes the creation and evolution of the many species of plants and animals through the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic Eras. A timeline is the only material associated with this lesson. Our Timeline of Life is from Montessori Services and is about 9.5 feet long. The child can see a very long period of earth history along with a solid sampling of the many plants and animals that lived and died before for the arrival of humans. The arrival of humans is only noted at the very end of the timeline.

At the end of the Great Lesson story T and S and D all wanted to use the mute chart and place the cut-out objects in the different appropriate Eras.

This mute chart comes with the Timeline of Life. Moving back and forth between the charts, to see where their selected species is supposed to be placed, helps develop memory skills.

S figured out that there are three long "i" sounds in Life Timeline and she wrote them all in her journal. 

It really seems like she has just exploded into reading. As recently as last March, before the move, she was very timid and only wanted to sound out single CVC words in isolation.  Now she tackles double-letter phonogram sounds with ease and doesn't even skip a beat when she is up against a multi-syllable word. (S doesn't know all of her phonograms, but she is not afraid to sound it out nonetheless.) She sat down and read two early reader booklets this weekend, just because they were on the floor. She is really the one most excited about reading, though I'd say that I come in a close second place.
So, back to the Timeline of Life....there are cut-outs of each animal and plant illustration on the timeline. (As recommended by the Keys of the Universe, KotU, albums) I organized them by era in different envelopes which sit in a letter holder on our shelves. 

These are just regular 6"x9" envelopes, but when I stuck them on the shelf up-right they were too tall. I had been wondering WHERE in the world I was going to purchase envelopes that exactly fit my card materials since I hate tiny items in VERY LARGE envelopes. Well, I just chopped off the bottoms of these envelopes with a paper cutter and taped the bottom closed with packing tape, and I had an envelope that was custom sized. (Only the T-rex didn't fit inside.) WHY did I not think of this before? Duh!!

Meanwhile, as I was setting this material up, I was freaking out shelf space. I think I need AT LEAST three more shelving units to be able to fit everything I need to have on hand!! Last year was easy since I largely ignored everything science related and a lot of the early primary stuff because D was still 2 years old. But THIS YEAR, I still plan to add a ton of card material for both primary and elementary!! I guess this is what you get for trying to put together a primary AND elementary classroom in one space.
D and I did a few lessons together with some new cards I made. This was the living versus non-living lesson. (I can't post this file since I don't own all the images.) I had a set of these cards that I made last year for S, but the images were way too girly. So I sat down on Sunday and quickly put together this set that contains images much more D-appropriate.
"Toddler feet." Gotta love them while they last. D's living and non-living cards only display images. These are not three part nomenclature cards. I Googled a ton of topics and came up with these nice photos of objects he finds appealing. One set of cards represented items that are living, and of course the other set represented items that are not alive.

There is always a TON to consider when grabbing photos from the Internet for a new material. First, of course, is the dpi and what resolution will fit on your card and not look terrible when you print it out. (Also think about what kind of printer you have too.) A 300 dpi or higher image is best. Also think about the contrast, the lighting, and the background in the photo...I took many images on a white background and many images with a natural habitat background. The white background certainly isolates the point of interest, but the natural habitat background helps give the child context and perspective. It is also useful to use images that include the entire plant or animal. And finally, I only used images that depicted items that D was already familiar with. This wasn't the time to introduce new vocabulary especially when new introductions should include a physical sensorial experience. It is too hard for him to fully understand what a llama is like from a picture without having actually "met" a llama before. 
So, this car and the doggie in the top picture were D's favorites. We had a general discussion about the differences between living and non-living things. Living things need food and water, and can grow and reproduce. Non-living things do not do any of these things and do not have these needs. D did pretty well with this first lesson.
So, the tricky homeschooling thing in Virginia was their standardized testing law. In Texas the tricky homeschool thing, in my mind anyway, is the "good citizenship" requirement. I took a look at what school districts, ours in particular, do about this and found that in first grade they start out with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Texas flag, and the Texas State Anthem, Texas Our Texas. Okay. I barely remember the US Pledge and the first couple of words from the Star Spangle Banner. But there I was at 10pm Sunday You-Tube-ing (is that a verb?) both Anthems so that we could learn these in the classroom. 

Texas has a very interesting history and the state pride here is second to none. Really. So, we are memorizing these songs and pledges along with our Act of Contrition, which S and T can already recite very well.
I prepared a new rubbing exercise for D which I just realized you can't see very well in the photo above. I cut some common shapes out of 80 grit sandpaper and rubber cemented them to black card stock squares. I kept these templates to the 5.5" metal inset size. D is using the 5.5" square Metal Inset paper and jumbo crayons with their papers peeled off to rub the texture onto the paper. We reviewed how he needs an underlay between his project and the table and he got right to work. (This lesson is part of the visual art part of the Sensorial Keys??? of the World Album. Okay don't quote me on that and I am too lazy right now to get up and look.)
S knows all her teen beads!! We just completed the third period lesson and she can name each bead quantity in random order. Instead of Swiss cheese knowledge, what do we have now? Maybe aged Parmesan? Yeay!! Now on to the boards.
Then we got to the first suffix lesson. I didn't give T this Word Study lesson last year but this year he caught on pretty easily. It is S's first elementary year but I thought she might already be really prime for this lesson since there is a bit of memory training, going back and forth between the chart and the work, and she had done that so beautifully with the Timeline of Life and the mute chart. And because, S had already figured out what a suffix was when she added endings to her noun card words to form new words. (Like the "under" to "underwear" example.) 
So I stuck the suffix chart in the corner and T and S set out our new printed alphabets on the table across the room. (These printed alphabets are from Alison's Montessori. I am VERY glad I didn't make these. There are 20 of each letter and I spent nearly 2 hours putting all the little tickets back in their compartments after receiving the tickets all mixed up in the shipping package.
The initial lesson involves each child to choose a pair of words on the first suffix chart. (These pairs of words share the same root word, and one has an added suffix. At this point we aren't introducing the child to the terms "root" and "suffix.") The child will choose the pair by looking at the chart, and then will spell the words using a single printed alphabet color in another space. The child can return to the chart to check their spelling if they are unsure. I then asked T and S what was the same about their words and what was different. Both figured out what part was the root and what part was the suffix. (Again we aren't giving the child this terminology yet. This exercise is simply to point out that the second word has a added part at the end.) Then I asked them to change out the "different part" and write it with the red printed alphabet. T and S both chose a few more pairs and S decided to spell her own original addition.
I am just excited that S is so excited about words. She loves, loves, loves to express herself in writing and she is never afraid to try. This was her own suffix example that was not on the chart. She made "fish" into "fish sticks." I didn't tell her that "fish sticks" is two words and that this changes the noun to an adjective, but we'll get there eventually and she will probably eventually figure this out on her own. 

We also have a little switching going on here, which S does frequently. But with a tiny bit of double-letter-phonogram-sound help, she was able to read all of the words she created with the printed alphabet.
Monday, I received a package in the mail that contained the Nifty Fifty State Flags book MBT recommended. I thought it was a book. It isn't. It is a bunch of cards (that have holes in them and are tied together with a string, but come a part) in a box. The box set also includes tiny useless colored pencils and pad of paper as well as a brochure with the map of the US and a couple of other cards that give other information about the state flags. The kids LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, this material. S set right to work drawing her favorite state flags.
D decided to pick out all the flags that had stars on them.

And then, inspired by looking at all the states, T and S stayed up until 9:30 pm working on their hand-drawn maps of the United States. 

S remembered this book she purchased from a yard sale in MA when we were visiting Ammy and Gramps. She pulled it out and added some of its detail to her map, including some of the state names. (I can tell from the handwriting T added most of the names.)
I guess Montana needed pig-tails.
The next morning before I made it up to the classroom, S had gathered these materials and had sprawled herself across the table to make a new map of South America.
I guess this time Brazil, her favorite country, needed a party hat. Yea, these works aren't totally Montessori since countries and states don't have faces, pig-tails, nor party hats. BUT if the children are exploring political boundaries and labeling their work, I am okay if they add a little artistic embellishment.

In fact, all of this work allowed T to pretty much master the names and locations of all the states in the US. 
In this video T is naming each state as he puts it back into the USA puzzle map. (He saw this very cool video of Me Too over at the What Did We Do All Day blog by MBT and wanted to see if he could do it too.)
In this video, T is naming each state as he removes it from the USA puzzle map. He isn't perfect in either of these videos, but VERY near close. He was pretty proud of himself. (Sorry, so sorry, about these quality of these videos...so poor. I am not a videographer at ALL, and I haven't gotten around to getting a new memory card for the video camera, and the iPhone, well...I don't need to say any more.)
T then decided to turn his hand-drawn map into a puzzle and proceeded to label the back of each piece with its state name.

D got some new Melissa and Doug 24 piece puzzles of his favorite emergency vehicles.
S helped D with his sound objects today. Both really enjoyed working together.

S also helped D with the land, water, air animal activity. I haven't a clue if lesson is really in the real Primary albums. I set up the lesson to be for S as a vertebrates/invertebrates reading activity. I put together a huge number of Safari Toob animals in a basket and made laminated labels for each one. The idea here was to divide the plastic figurines into groups of vertebrates and invertebrates and label each one. 

Since D can't read, I felt he could explore this material as a land, water, air activity. Inside each jar we have a sample of each substance and they used these jars as category headings instead of lettered labels.

In this photo D is exploring our geometric solids by touch only. (I got this eye mask here. It is actually adult size, but I just knotted each elastic to make the circumference smaller.)

And finally, I didn't capture on digital film D's first bells lesson. Okay, WOW, this had me in a stressed out tizzy...I think we may wait a little while longer for a next introduction. He is fully capable of "hearing" the bells and is successful with this part, but he needs a lot of work in the gross motor department. He ended up walking backward while striking bells as he played down the row of white bells. I was just picturing a single swipe of his arm taking down the entire set! Okay, we'll wait a bit.


  1. Woo hoo! I can't wait to show the boys! Is that D or S giggling about "Delaware" in the background?

    The boys would like those maps with the faces drawn on. Good idea cutting the paper map into a puzzle. I might file those ideas away in my brain for review in a year or so.

    LOVE the owl mask.

    It's going to be fun watching D do his primary work. I have a feeling I will be jealous that I didn't have those Keys of the World albums when I was doing it.

    I'm glad they like the state flag cards!

    I like your paper alphabets. I keep wanting to get one, or a third color of movable wooden one, but then I think of how little work we have left and we can totally make do with what we have. It's good for you guys though with S having so much work still ahead of her.

    This all reminds me, Kal-El was looking over my shoulder at your blog earlier this week and saw a pix of the three kids together and said, "Wow, mom. She has THREE. Did you see that? THAT would be way harder for homeschooling." I'll have to show him Heidi's blog again soon!

    Great post!

  2. That was D blurting out "DELAWARE!!!" T had just done another "put everything back in the puzzle form" and the last state was Delaware and he couldn't remember what it was called. I reminded him the name and said that the very small state might be "sad" that he forgot all about it. So, because of that focus on Delaware, D thought it was funny when T took out that piece in the next go-around.

    I liked the cutting the map up, (not the logistics though, we rubber cemented them onto poster board which was hard to cut, but made nice stiff pieces) since it helped T focus on the state boundaries and who sits next to whom.

    I am trying really hard to keep the activities available to only what is in the albums. Partly because I don't have room for other stuff in the classroom and partly because I don't have time to prepare other elective activities. This is one of the reasons I like the AMI albums. I feel they keep you rolling in one direction.

    The paper alphabets were something I thought I could make and didn't really need last year. I was wrong on both accounts. I had it in my mind that this material was WAY smaller than it really is. Basically two alphabet boxes take up the entire elementary table. They are HUGE. I figure most of our materials will go through at least two if not three kids. Also, I like/feel a strong urgent NEED to have the appropriate materials in the classroom and I am usually very short on time learning three levels. I count myself lucky that I am able to purchase most things.

    You crack me up. Three is no more or less challenging than two. Maybe it is the different levels that gets challenging. It was really hard to figure out WHERE everyone was in the span of the scope and sequence. After I kind of got that down...it was hard to figure out why no one was retaining anything and needed review in all areas all the time all the while never moving forward in the sequence. (I think that was just my personality and the kids personalities.)

    It is good to "see" you in the comments again.

  3. Yay! We have the same timeline from Montessori Services and we have the same envelopes with the same stupid T-Rex tail hanging out. Is yours sticking out? I REALLY debated chopping that tail off! Ok anyway now I'm really itching to come over and discuss schooling matters! I'm bringing a notebook with a list of topics and questions!


  4. (Not sensorial - it's in the EPL album ;) --- but really, it's ok ;) )

    I need to get more photos of my son's work posted. He's BEEN working, just moving in the middle of it all (a 2 1/2 mile move doesn't justify breaking from school ;) ).

    The paper alphabets I made were smaller - but they do still take up some space when all set up.

    I love their creativity!