Saturday, March 28, 2015

International Cuisine

We have been working hard learning more about Africa!
I remember at our old Montessori school each year the entire school would start preparing for International Day in late January. Each primary and elementary class would focus on a different continent and the upper el class usually focused on a historical theme. T's class did Asia one year and Europe another. S's class did South America.

International Day was a big deal. As a parent we spent time working with the kids on crafts (I hauled in my sewing machine one year), coming up with music ideas, decor ideas (I made 150 paper cranes one year,) and food ideas. Parents in each class made dishes from the continent their child was studying. And, since this big day always happened on a Friday during Lent, and I was gluten-free at the time, so I was pretty much relegated to eating fruit.

Well, now it is my turn to plan our own International Day for each continent. And this time I can make it be anything I want. You've probably read about our music, story books, collectibles, cards, land marks, flags, and coins. I also made this very short recipe booklet. 

Over the past couple of days we've made a few of these recipes and the ones we've tried were quite good. My mom also copied a few of her recipes from her old TIME Life Magazine Africa cookbook and those recipes have been really really good too.
The recipes I collected for this book all came from Internet blogs. I just copied them into Word, referenced each, printed them all out single sided, laminated the lot (better for kitchen splatters) and then spiral bound the booklet. (I got my own.....spiral binding machine!!!! No more waiting at the office supply store for them to mess up my binding job.) Anyway, this particular flat bread recipe makes a TON of flat bread. I had to break up the bread-making between two days because it was way too much for our family of five to eat in one sitting (or for me to make in one afternoon.)
S added the warm water to the flour.
Then she and D got to kneading, or rather, just picking sticky bits of dough off their fingers. This stuff is really, really, really sticky until the glutens start to develop and hold the dough together. Okay, even then it is really sticky.

Then we needed some coconut milk for our lemon chicken recipe. I just happened to have this coconut on hand from a seed lesson. It's been a while since we've cracked one of these things open so I asked T to do some research to figure out how.
He found this guy who told us exactly how to open a coconut.
This was our coconut cracking set up. How ever do they get these things open on a deserted tropical island?
We also needed fresh graded coconut for these lemon, cardamom, coconut cookies. These were very yummy. Those are small pieces of dried pineapple in the center. D and S picked these off before eating the cookie.

We also made a beef stew with curry spices and a beef/pork spiced sausage/kabobs on a different day. The dishes I made with the kiddos took us about 5 hours to complete. The dishes I made myself the following day took me about an hour to complete. The kids had fun cooking, and cleaning up, and they did end up eating the lemon chicken, the spiced sausage, the bread, and the cookies. 
S and D did some Africa cards together.
I also made these little booklets after I found a recommendation on MBT's blog. This text is on the BBC website, and the site also has pictures. (There are a large number of stories on the site, but not all are appropriate for the Montessori classroom.) I formatted everything in Word, printed it out, cut it into quarter sized sheets, mounted them back-to-back on green copy paper, laminated them, and then spiral bound everything. I made the covers myself and included the URL on the back cover.
The kids enjoyed hearing these stories.
At this point, I think that we are nearing the end of our Africa studies. I have a couple more books coming in the mail since the companies kind of messed up a few orders. But after that, I think we'll rest for a bit before heading into Asia. (I asked D which continent we should do next and he said, "Asia.")

Initially I felt that a lot of this continent study was a "guide-led" activity. I felt that much of what was done at our old Montessori school was "parent/guide-led" as well. But now that I reflect, I feel that the kids really did a lot of the connecting and exploring by themselves. No, this unit study it didn't inspire any independent research, but all three children did make their own connections between the book we had in our lap, and the cultural items on the shelf, or the music playing in the background, or the puzzle map in the cabinet. I guess that is where it all came together: that the kids were able to synthesize these connections themselves and I was able to provide the opportunity for some what we read in the story books to come alive. (I don't believe I'll be needing to make pancakes for a long while.)

I learned so much about Africa through this process. In the beginning I was a little afraid that I would completely generalize things in all the wrong ways. All I could think of was that my third grade french teacher was from Senegal. But by digging deep, by following the Internet search trail, paying attention to the books we were reading, and remembering the tiny bits of knowledge about the different cultures in Africa that I had picked up over the years, I was able to piece together a continent study that I feel pretty good about.
T did some more Logical Analysis, or sentence analysis as it is called by the rest of the world. One of the sentences he was pondering was: They will complete the squaring and cubing material in the box by noon. He was pretty sure about what went where on the logical analysis board, but, he wasn't sure how to interpret the sentence. Even my grammarian-mom wasn't able to help clarify things other than, yes, the sentence is ambiguous. 

I kept thinking the whole lot, the "they" and the "materials," were in a box. My dad thought that there could be more materials than those in the box, and that "they" were only completing the materials that were located in the box. And my mom thought it could be equally possible that "they" were completing the "materials" in the box, as opposed to outside the box. I don't know if any of this is right, wrong, or sideways. I never learned this in school, and I couldn't find a definitive Internet answer, so I am just mixed up. Anyone know of a good book that outlines stuff like this?

The closest Internet solution I found was mixed-up-modifiers. Since the "in the box" modifier is next to the noun it modifies, which is the "material," it is assumed that only the material is in the box and not "they." Now about there being more materials outside the box, or doing the work outside the box, well I can't comment on that. 

This kind of, "I don't know where to point you (T the student) to try to find an answer" is kind of disconcerting. I don't feel that I am learning "with" the child when I can't find an answer and can't help T even begin to find an answer for himself.

D is into mazes. He doesn't like metal insets at all, but he does like mazes and is very particular about his line formation. 
T asked to do some more Order of Operation problems again. He is pretty good at this kind of thing. I suspect he likes it because there is a definitive right and wrong answer and he knows how to get the right answer.
S is working on the subtraction charts. These charts are part of the primary memorization sequence. I think she is a little old for this work and should be doing more elementary math, but she says that she enjoys this work, and she gets through it quickly, so we are continuing for now.

These charts are similar to the addition charts she finished not too long ago. She will pull a prepared equation from our equation box, read it and write it down on squared paper. Then she will find her minuend at the top of the chart, in the row in red that extends to the right, and then diagonally down the right hand side of the chart. Then she will find her subtrahend in blue, on the left hand side of the chart, and then track her fingers down and to the right bringing them together, and find the difference on the chart. She has a control chart to check her work if she needs to do this. She uses shopkins for this work as well.

After this work, we'll assess whether she wants to continue with the blank subtraction charts, go on to multiplication charts or division charts, or proceed with elementary math. (We will probably make this assessment before she finishes this work, so that she can be working in two areas simultaneously.)
We also did our next geometry lesson, analyzing triangles by their sides. S and I are still working in the wings on measuring angles. She is having a very, very hard time grasping this concept. What IS an angle, what are measuring? How do I know if it is bigger or smaller than a right angle...and so on. It is interesting that T had no problem with this concept, and I don't believe that he has been formally introduced to angles before.

Anyway, here the kids are making equilateral, isosceles, and scalene triangles with our geometry sticks. Equilateral triangles have three sides that are the same length. Isosceles triangles have two sides that are the same length. And scalene triangles have no sides the same length. (I didn't combine the sides and the angles analysis yet. i.e. equilateral triangles have three same length sides and three same measure angles.) 

I purchased these sticks from Alison's Montessori and overall they were a good purchase. I did notice the other day that a few of the sticks are warped, and I don't believe this is from student use. When these sticks warp it makes them pretty much unusable. The tacks aren't long enough to fasten them to the board when they are warped. Also, they move around on the board more because they only touch the board in one spot along their length. Not a great value for your money when this box of materials cost $90.

Even D got in on the triangle making action.
I also introduced the small geometry nomenclature and definition booklets I made. I used the text in the KotU albums as a guide, created my own illustrations and definitions in Word, printed them out back-to-back, cut them out in quarter sheets, laminated everything and then spiral bound them into booklets. (A note if you are following the KotU albums: these booklets are listed at the back of the geometry album, but keep in mind that they aren't listed in the order that you will present them to the children. Polygon booklets are listed second to last, but they will probably be the second set of booklets the children will see. This bit is only important to those of us who are making these as we go along!)

Anyway, this is the wrap up of the rest of our week. It is likely that we will be taking a rest during the next two weeks. It just happened that we have come to the end of a couple of "sections" and now I need to dig in deep again and ready a big batch of new materials to continue on. At this point I plan to work hard for a week, mining pictures, laminating the world and spiral binding anything that will fit in my new binding machine. After that I think I'll need a rest and I am looking forward to tending our garden (we put in a couple of weeks ago now) reading books, and exploring a bit. If it seems a bit quiet on the blog, it is because we are busy away from the screen. But no worries though, we will be back soon.


  1. A very important tip on logical analysis - this is exploration. There is NO one right or wrong answer.

    I can ensure you that "they" are not in the box; but there is a squaring/cubing work that has a very expensive box that it is stored in. Some context changes how you interpret a bit --- but I still emphasize: it doesn't matter because it is all exploration. If the modifier is in one place, what does it mean; if the modifier is supposed to be attached to something else, what does it mean.

    It doesn't mean you tell the child "I don't know what the right answer is" :) It means you tell them, "Let's explore it - if we say this, what does it mean (let's act it out!); if we set it up this other way, what changes? (let's act that out too!)."

    I personally don't care for the analysis board - I find it limiting and frustrating. ;)


    1. Thank you for this comment!! So helpful, but you should have also put in there, Abbie, Read the Rest of the Language Album!! THIS is where the logical analysis, word study, spelling, mechanics, etc. comes together and make sense. I am reading, reading, and reading right now!!

    2. Thank you for this comment!! So helpful, but you should have also put in there, Abbie, Read the Rest of the Language Album!! THIS is where the logical analysis, word study, spelling, mechanics, etc. comes together and make sense. I am reading, reading, and reading right now!!

    3. Lol - I thought you had! ;)

  2. Which binding machine did you purchase? I've been thinking I might need one!

    1. Oh, gosh, sorry it took me so long to reply, apologies!!
      I love this binding machine though I haven't tried the automatic part that is supposed to "thread" the coil through. I've read that this part doesn't work as well.

      It is this machine: TruBind-TB-S20A

      I usually print on copy paper and then laminate with 5mm and this machine punches right through. I do punch only one piece at a time to prevent jamming. But with small booklets and the like it doesn't take that much time and I like it because I know that they are almost done and then I can "check them off my list." Oh, the machine also comes with a coil crimper which you need to "finish" the coil.

      I also bought a box of coils, there were 100 and they will probably last me until the kids are in college.

      I have this thing about not liking comb-bindings. So I waited at Office Max while they tried to spiral bind my stuff. Their machine got jammed all the time and they even ruined print jobs I had put together. So this machine was a wonderful alternative. Between the geometry, and geography materials I think I'll make enough books to cover the cost of the machine by the end of the school year!

  3. We had a lot of fun making African food as well. I'm glad your recipe's turned out. Ours were really good too. Ack. Logical analysis. I'm glad there isn't one right answer!