Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Lot of Work Inside and 78 Degrees Outside - In January

Week 5 Part 1 January 26, 2015

It is January. And it is 78 degrees outside today. I grew up in New England people. The year before I graduated from college in Maine, it snowed on my birthday. My birthday is in May. That winter I also had to get my car towed 5 feet out of its parking space after 2 blizzards and an ice storm that all dumped down in one week. Now I live in a place where it is 78 degrees in January!! (I shouldn't worry too much because it will be in the 40's by the end of the week.) 

And wow, January is almost over. It seems like we just started school again. In reality it feels like it takes us 3-4 weeks to really get back into the swing of things again.

This week we are solidifying our work plans and telling time and remembering to log works is coming much more readily. Last week, when we started adding beginning and ending time stamps to our daily work lists, the telling time took FOREVER! I needed to help T and S each time they changed out their work. Now, it is only every once in a while they check in with a question and both T and S can tell time to any odd minute just fine. Now, writing it down is a little dicey sometimes. I saw 03:17 today. Another time I think there was a 12:8. We are getting there.

I am working on a draft post about our work journals and how we create our daily logs. This exercise has been a very incremental progression, but incremental baby steps seem to work better with my kids. Also, going at that next baby step with everything you've got also seems to be the better way to go. When we first started noting starting and ending times and I worked out the clock time 10 times or more per day, per child. After a week, T and S don't ask me for help at all. 

While the flow of school time felt easier on Monday, by Tuesday it seemed like the eraser fairy had been out and took all and every last bit of knowledge the children had put in their brain over the last six months. We couldn't count to ten. We didn't remember how to count BY tens. We couldn't focus on a single work problem and it took some of us 30 minutes to do the problem without me the guide standing over them, and only 5 minutes to do a problem with me the guide standing over them. I was frustrated, and I am sure they were too. So we reviewed a BUNCH of topics and the bumpy ride continues. 

Now onto the classroom stuff. There was A LOT in the first part of the week.
The bells are up first in this post. T started the sharps and flats sequence. He has wanted to use (and to understand) those black bells since we got this set of bells from Nienhuis about a year ago. It is exciting to see that we are getting somewhere with this material and progressing through the lesson sequence. It is also not exciting that he is blowing through the lessons so quickly that I feel like I am running to keep up.

This lesson is from the KotU music album, of course. Just as in the primary language sequence, with music, we first learn nomenclature, then how to write and then how to read. Our first lesson we worked to name the sharp and flat tones and then we worked on writing the sharp and flat notes.
This is how T feels working with the black bells.
These are our named notes from Nienhuis. I guess I could have made these little disks, but I was lucky enough to just buy them and save some time. The white disks are blank on the reverse side. The black disks have the sharp note name on the reverse side. So g-flat would flip over to be f-sharp.
We learned that each black bell has two names. When you are rising in pitch, the black bell pitch would be a sharp. If you are descending in pitch, the black bell pitch would be a flat. Here T is noting down this pattern he figured out by himself.  He said, OHHH and smiled a lot during this lesson. Somehow this was not a difficult concept for him.
Then we worked on writing the sharps and flats. We placed the g-clef sign on our staff board and started with g. I struck the brown g bell and asked T to name the pitch. He said g, and he "wrote" it on the green board with the black note and stem. Then I struck the brown bell (the black bell equivalent) to the right and asked him to name that pitch. He said it was g-sharp and then he placed that, with the sharp sign, on the board. Then he put the note name disks below his "written" work. 

Then after D slipped and fell and made everything on the board a couple of octaves lower, T recovered our original work and we proceeded to go over naturals. I explained that after a sharp is indicated, all subsequent same notes are also played sharp. (There are some other music notation nuances that can go here, but I saved them for a later time.) To cancel out the sharp, we need to put a natural sign in front of any subsequent note. So here, T put a natural sign in front of the second d, to make it a d-natural and not a d-sharp. (I think there was another "ooh" utterance from T at this point.)
Then we did a little work notating flats. I am trying so hard at this point to remember any of the music I learned in elementary and high school. I am so worried I am going to start leading T in the wrong direction. I just need to keep studying the albums. 
Then T wanted to write everything down on staff paper.
Ahhh. Daily Word Problems. These have been such a source of frustration for S. But not yesterday. REALLY not yesterday. I sat right next to her and she only asked me a couple of questions during her hour-long work cycle. I think she did 8 problems. Reading is easier for her, and figuring out what to do with the information they give in the problem is MUCH easier for her. TONS easier. SO MUCH easier. She drew lots of pictures and the "how much more" problems didn't trip her up at all.

Here is a peek inside the book. I chose leave the book intact, unlike MBT, because I found another way to organize S's work that didn't include laminating this small corner of the world. The the little pink pieces in the corners are actually highlighter tape which is removable. I plan to have D do these problems too when he needs them and I didn't want S to write in the book. So S marks an X on each piece of tape near the problems she completes. She doesn't need to complete each problem in order and regularly skips around the book. I've only "labeled" problems I know she can do with her current skill set. As she progresses into fractions, measurements, and money, I'll add tape pieces to those problems too. She just looks for a problem that seems interesting and doesn't have an X yet and gets started. (I think I have mentioned that this is the grade 1 book.)
A little sample of S's work. We've been working on "number sentences" as well. The silly people should just call them equations.
Here S drew a stick with 15 termites on it. Then she scratched out the 8 termites the chimp ate and counted up those remaining.
This is a new geography lesson using the Time Zone Work Chart from the KotU Geography album. (A small plug for my friend MBT here: she has been posting some great geography work lately in this post among others.)

I think I may have mentioned a couple posts back that I restarted the geography presentations and we are just going at it all from the beginning. I feel this second time around T and S are really getting much more out of each lesson. They understand more, they enjoy it more, and they seem to catch on more quickly.
This timezone chart was a total flop of a lesson last year, but with our recent intensive-telling-time-exercises for our work journals, the kids thought these little clocks were cinch and liked the presentation a lot more this year.
After how the rotation of the earth affects what time of day it is in our location, I introduced this timezone chart. It is a map of the earth divided up into 24 zones. I made these little clocks last year out of wooden disks, tiny paper cut-outs and Mod Podge. We stared off placing the clock in our time zone and worked around the world from there. We decided since it was 3:00 daytime here, it would be 4:00 daytime one zone to the east of us and so on. We decided to say it would be night time around 7:00 in the evening and then become daytime again at 6:00 in the morning.
From there, we placed black strips over the "night-time" zones and white strips over the "day-time" zones so the children could see that about half the earth is experiencing night time and the other half of the earth is experiencing day time at any point.
The kids really liked this lesson. We only calculated the time in one direction. We'll likely revisit this chart to figure out how to calculate the time difference anywhere in the world at any time.
We started a new sequence this week. (We started a number of new sequences this week and I'm feeling it.) These are measurement cards from ETC Montessori. If you are in the US, order their customary measurement set, not the metric set. You get a little metric in the customary set anyway. I didn't do this and ordered the metric set. Then I called the company and asked them to change my order, which they did very pleasantly. I also had a stupid moment and ordered them not laminated because I thought I'd save some cash. So stupid. Anyway, I am slowly recovering from that stupid moment and have finally laminated everything. As you can probably see, there are several card categories: volume, length, mass, time, and temperature.

I don't have a comprehensive list, but I think that most of the materials you need for these cards are not listed in the KotU albums. UPDATE: So I commented on my own blog and there is now a pretty comprehensive list of the materials you'll need to do all of the cards in this card set. (I could have missed one or two items here, but they aren't anything huge. Like I don't see sugar on my list and I think that this is mentioned in the cards. There are some caveats, like some of the sand needs to be outside, you'll need access to water and ice...and a heat source, and a fridge and freezer, but most of you will probably have access to these things.) Also, the KotU albums, (the geography and biology ones) do require a lot of these materials and many of the other materials you'll likely find lying around your house. So I think my original 2-$300 estimation was if you needed to buy pretty much everything from the get-go. So, if you purchase these, (and you use KotU) you will need to go through the cards and make a list of materials you need to purchase to complete tall the tasks. I'd say I maybe spent $200-$300 on everything (the most expensive being the scale and weights, the calipers and the stopwatches. The scale I think you do need for the KotU albums anyway). We had just a few things on hand, like tennis balls (from the KotU albums) and things like a crayon, a pen, a nail and a screw. I ended up purchasing things like measuring spoons and cups even though I already own these items. I got duplicates because I didn't want to lend my kitchen sets to science. So, in reality, you could probably get away with purchasing a bit less than I did. I didn't end up making a complete list of materials needed for these cards but if I have the inspiration, I'll put forth a list in the future.
Overall I like these cards. They seem fun, they progress incrementally, and there are varying levels of difficulty within each category. There isn't an answer key?? (Okay, now that I think about it, don't quote me on that. There may be an answer key that came with the cards.) I decided to not put the answers on the back of the cards. Partly because I forgot to do this before I laminated everything and I didn't want wet answer stickers on the backs of my laminated cards when someone put the card down in a puddle of water, or a pile of soil, and partly because I felt that these cards were really for exploration and I didn't want the children to be preoccupied with getting the "right" number answer. I believe overall accuracy will come a little later.
We keep our measuring materials in the eat-in-dining area, not upstairs in our classroom space. (I don't think I've ever showed you our kitchen cart. It sits right next to our kitchen eat-in table and it is low so the kids can help themselves to plates, napkins, cups, chopsticks, silverware, and now school materials.) S helped me decant some sugar, salt, beans and rice into the mason jars you can see here. I didn't want to end up eating the stuff the kids have massaged.

I was going to post a video of T and S working on a task card...very slowly. But SOMEONE said SOMEONE ELSE'S name in the middle of the video. They were using a 1/8 tsp spoon to fill a 1/2 C cup with wild rice and counting out each scoop together. At one point D was dancing to the rhythm of their counting. Don't worry about any loss here since I am a terrible, terrible videographer.
This is D being D, which he is most days. Lately, he's been resistant to classroom work and likes to close himself in his bedroom and play with toy cars. When I do new lessons with him, he is more interested in classroom work, but he is so singular in our homeschool, and the other two are so far ahead of him, that I think he feels a little left out at times. 

This change in attitude could also be a growth-spurt thing. He's been eating a lot and sleeping A LOT lately, and his 3T pants finally don't need to be rolled up three times anymore now that he is almost 4. He's still a little short.
Okay, this shot is a little weird because McQueen's eyes are peeking up above the table. I try to frame and angle each shot well, but I totally didn't notice this weirdness at the time I pressed the shutter button. I must have been trying to frame in at the top of his head.  

Here he is working on sound cards. I am slowly, slowly, slowly working to color in this set. (I downloaded these black and whites from Helpful Garden, and now I can't find the download file. I just visited her blog and found that she had been posting again and that her son has leukemia. So we are sending prayers for someone in our Montessori community who gives so much and for her family.)
The file that I have has 8 cards for each initial letter sound and includes single letter sounds only. The file images are black and white so I've been painstakingly coloring in each figure and then laminating each one. I only have about 12 hours more work. The coloring is kind of fun but also kind of tedious.
D liked this "l-l-l-lightning" bolt since it matches Lightning McQueen.
Then Lightning's other friends came out to help him sound sort the rest of the pictures. He did pretty well this smaller sound sort. I still haven't introduced the letter forms, and I intend to keep it that way until we can segment words well and know all of our single and double letter sounds aurally. D does really likes these picture cards.

The other day, S asked D, "what is the first sound in "es"?" (She gave him the name of the letter.) D responded, "-eh-eh-eh-es," saying that "eh" is the first sound in the letter name for "s" pronounced "es." (Wow, that was hard to type in a way that is understandable.) S said, that no, "ssssss, is what "es" sounds like." I laughed because, sure enough, D is a Montessori trained boy, and he correctly gave Noona the first sound in "es" which IS, "eh-eh-eh-es."
These are the other sound cards I've finished and we did another sound sort the following day.
D did only five sounds during this game (though you can see from the photo above that there more sounds in the set) and he really has these initial sounds down. These top cards are his favorite cards. The boy with his arm up the air is officially, "i-i-i-itch."
This is our land, water, and air mat from Waseca. I've posted about D working with this material before but I don't remember where. (Search the archives if you must.) This is the first time I've seen D improve his skills working with a material. The first few times he pulled this work off the shelves, he was guessing which animal lived in which area. Now, Noon has read so many of the animal biome readers aloud to him, he really knows which animals live where.
He did need Hyunga for a consult. I think they were discussing the differences between the beaver and the muskrat and T pulled out the biome animal card drawers we have and showed D that the beaver lives in the wetlands.
T was in deep disagreement about this habitat choice. T thought it was a mouse and said it would live in the grasslands. D thought it looked like a chinchilla and therefore it lived in the mountains of South America. After D made his decision, that is what he stuck with because it was his work. T agreed to disagree.

This week S traded out the flags. Somehow she always picks out  the tiny islands. This week she got, St. Kitts, and Nevis, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, and Nicaragua. After picking the flags, she finds them in the Flag Book, and colors and labels them in her working notebook.

We try to do a bit of memorization each day. This week we are reviewing the Act of Contrition and the Nicene Creed. (And come to think of it, we should really be doing the Apostles Creed first since this is the one that we do with the Rosary, and the other one they learn in confirmation class?? I am not a cradle Catholic so don't take my word for it...anyway, we'll learn both creeds nonetheless.) T and S already seem familiar with both prayers. I printed the card above just for a reference. You can see there are two versions of the Act of Contrition. I also printed a Creed card as well.
These are the biological classification stories from the KotW Primary language albums. I can already see that I omitted an "of" from one of the titles. The albums supply the text for the booklets, but I searched in the internet for images. I printed everything back to back, laminated the pages and then had them spiral bound at my local office supply store. D really loves these little books that are made just for him.
He really gets the concept of living and non-living. But he doesn't really understand the concept of "was-living" but now is dead. Maybe we should start a compost pile for the garden.
Here is a peek inside my booklets.
Then D pulled our animal figures off the shelf (these are from Safari Toobs) and we did a little vertebrate class sort. He is slowly understanding the concept of invertebrate versus vertebrate. Each time we came across a fish, bird, reptile, amphibian, or mammal, we traced his spine for a little sensorial experience. He laughs, of course, and remembers that these animals also have a spine and are vertebrates.
This was his favorite bird. Not because it was the most petite or because it had the most beautiful coloring, but because its slim beak can poke through the woven work rug. GREAT.

The aim of these booklets is to introduce the child to new practical vocabulary.
Here S is working on her addition strip board (also posted here) making all addend combinations that make the sum 12.
This is her red-booklet with squared paper where she writes down her equations.
T has made it a routine to iron his Sunday church clothes each week. Here he is ironing his pants, I think the wrong way. After ironing his pants he ironed his shirt and then put everything on a hanger. He then stuck some boxers and socks on the hanger too so he wouldn't even have to think about what to put on in his sleepy Sunday morning stupor and hung the whole lot in his closet.
D and I did some pink tower extension work. Last time we used some comparative language when I asked for a bigger or smaller cube. This time, we used some more refined comparative language and this proved more difficult. I think we are going to dwell a little bit here with this lesson. 

In the photo above he is putting the material away. We don't stack our pink tower for reasons Margaret Homfray speaks about in her videos. You can access this video series here. 
D also did some more cylinder block work. I posted about our latest grading lesson here, but this time we worked with two blocks at once. D will take out all of the cylinders before he removes the blocks to a distant location. Then he will use comparative reasoning to organize the cylinders into two graded groups which will fit back into the two blocks. I think we used block B and block D.

This is a concentration tongue.

Working with both hands.

I think I shot this last week, but didn't get to post it Friday. Here S and D are choosing some biome readers from the shelves.
And then S is reading a few to D and showing him the pictures that match with the booklet pages.
And lastly here is D getting into those biome readers all by himself. No, he can't read yet, but he does take out the booklet and flip each page of text as he looks at the next picture.

I have more pictures to post but this installment is getting long so I am going to end here. I plan to put the other pictures into another post and get that up soon. 


  1. I just LOVE your school room. So relaxing to look at pictures of it.

    I can't wait to look over those measurement materials. I wonder If I'd need to spend that much or if I've already collected a lot of it. We have another set of science experiments resources that I've collecting things for. I also felt like I had to collect somethings (like rice) for the grammar commands. We just eat the rice anyway. I never want to hand out the three cups of salt when the command card asks for it though. We just don't buy salt in that format.

    I really wished we had your nice fabric flags for our Spanish lesson last week. #envious

    The music lessons go really really fast because they are really not hard. Just plan on it going quickly because these music fundamentals are really basic concepts. Soon you'll be out of album and picking up the violin :) Then the kids can play duets over skype.

    If you have any extra time, could you explain to me which Prismacolor set is for WHAT again? I know ones for writing and one for shading? Can never figure out which is which.

    1. Think "Verithin" is thin and hard. So perfect for lines (writing). ;)

      The "Premier" is wider and softer. No name trick there, sorry! ;)

    2. Thank you Jessica! I only have the premier. I'll have to get some Verithin for our grammar pencils and for math. Now I know why it's been frustrating writing with the premier. I'm always sharpening.

    3. Okay, measurement materials that go with the ETC cards,
      You probably already have a lot of these:
      paperclip, screw, button, nickle, penny, nail, crayon, pencil, quarter, pen, scale, thousand cube, sponges (2 exactly the same) copy paper, construction paper, blindfold, beans, tape, balloons, ruler inches and centimeters, yard stick, meter stick, tape measure, rice, beans, masking tape, calipers, bean seeds, stop watches (you need 2), 3 different sized sand timers, 3 different sized balls (round ones basket, soccer, softball, tennis, etc.) sand, pie tin, shallow dish, thermometers (need 2 that read indoor and outdoor temps, can go up to boiling (212F) has an exposed bulb, is not digital, nor circular, but linear with a liquid reader, and can preferably measure soil temp as well) magnifying glass, salt ( a small amount), the volume cube with cm cubes, rock, stick of butter, microwaveable container (and a microwave), and measuring containers/cups/spoons that measure the regular standard up to 1 gal, (and have measurements that can equal 1/2 gal, pt, qt. and all that in ounces) cup measures in 1c, 1/2c, 1/4c, 1/8c, and spoons 1T, 1t, 1/2 t, 1/4t, 1/8t, and metric measures that measure from 1 ml to 980 ml. A NOTE ABOUT THE standard measures...I had originally gotten a set that was too precise, make sure your standard cup measures note rounded ml volumes, 57ml was going to confuse my kids when the card asks for 60ml. Oh, also mass weights, need standard measures from 1/4 oz (need 4 of these) to something that adds up to 30oz. (need (2) .5oz, at least (8) 1oz or an equivalent if your child can add up smaller ones) Also, need gram weights, at least (5) 1g (4) 5g (2) 10g, and (10) 2g or something that adds up to 10g. Above this, you'll need weights that can add up to 20g, 40g, 50g, 100g, 200g, and 250g.

      And lastly you'll need something called density blocks, but I haven't figured this one out yet, so I've removed this card from the line-up until I can spend time on this.

      A lot of house hold stuff, and then some stuff that is more specific. If you are sporty, which I am not, you probably have a lot of this already. :)

    4. Density cubes can be purchased at Home Science Tools - and other places, but those ones I do know about ;)

    5. Ahh, thank you!!

      Okay, looking at this list Jessica, you really did have us covered. I don't know WHAT I was talking about in the post. Most of the stuff, I guess I was counting if you had to build a stash from scratch...like we don't use balls. so I had to buy balls, but for the albums, so I had a few extra on hand for these card activities. Weird we don't have any balls I know. Last time I used a ball, I gave someone a black eye.

      Anyway, some of the more specific stuff like the stopwatches, and the specific volumetric stuff are separate purchases, but a ton of it is stuff you'd find around the house. I'll go ahead and edit my post a bit so others who use KotU will not be scared off from these cards, since they compliment the albums quite nicely.

      Oh, the only thing that got me in a tizzy about any and all of this stuff was trying to find the right thermometer. There were just a lot of different ways it needed to be used and what I had in my head that I wanted didn't really exist. Thanks for this cube clarification though!!

  2. Loving the biological classification story books you have made... I had planned mine to be A5 but I like your size better... You don't happen to have any printables for these do you please?

    1. Ah, I do have the file, but let me check to see if this is something that I can share. I'll get back to you on this one...