Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Some Words and More Photos

Week 10, Part 1, March 2, 2015

I am not feeling much like writing these days. Maybe it is the colder temps, maybe it is stress, maybe it is an upswing in classroom work, maybe it is that I need a rest. I don't know.

So, here we go on with just some words and more pictures. (Okay, some words for me.)
I am always searching for the "perfect" art book that will walk me through the basics of watercolor in some systematic and efficient manner. As much as I search, I haven't yet found a resource that speaks to me. So, I decided just to jump in and start exploring how to teach with the kids. 

This lesson started out as a "the flower and its parts" lesson...for D. After the nomenclature lesson I snuck in a little contour drawing and watercolor work. This is S's work above.

We were using the Seed to Plant book by Gail Gibbons again. Last week, I only had roses on hand from Valentines day, and our flower puzzle (from Montessori Outlet) and the illustrations in the book don't match the anatomy of a rose. BUT, stargazer lilies match the puzzles and the book. 

In the book, there is a bit about pollination. S accidentally got a yellow nose "pollinating" the flowers with her face. For the lesson portion, the kids used q-tips to pollinate. T asked about the wet sticky thing that sticks out in the middle of the flower. We discussed (without an album present!!) that it was called the "stigma," and reasons why it might be sticky. (So that pollen from another flower can successfully stick to it and the flower can then create seeds.) We also discussed possible reasons why the pollen was hard to get off S's face. (Perhaps because it needs to adhere to flying objects, like bees, and hang on for a ride in order to land successfully on the stigma of another flower.) The kids wished that there were more flowers to cross pollinate. They should go work for a scientific research greenhouse that needs a lot of hand-pollinators.

D was proud to point out the puzzle piece that represents the stigma. I think he liked saying that big word.
For the illustration part of the lesson I chose to focus on contour drawing, wet to dry and dry to wet watercolor, and blotting. (These were just some of the basic basics that naturally came up in our session. Later on we'll explore shading, mixing colors, highlighting, more blotting techniques, and more brush technique.) 

First I asked the kids to do a contour drawing of the flowers, or one flower of their choice. The above is D's line drawing. I filled in a tiny bit, but most of this drawing was him exclusively. We spent a lot of time, looking and talking about the specimen. We talked about shapes, angles, and scale. At first he was unhappy with the ripply line he'd drawn. But then, we took a better look at the petal, and he discovered that the petal edge was rippled as well.
...more of D's illustration. He was looking at the flower head-on, can you tell?
S and T were looking at another flower in the bouquet. The above is T's illustration partially done. I think we get into a lot of, what you think you know is there and not what actually IS there. 
This was T's finished illustration.
This was something that I put together...unfortunately it is supper, duper, messy and not at all accurate. That is what I get when I am not focused on my work and busy helping everyone else...my work gets compromised.
Oh, we also did a little bit of drying. I will not go into all the technique here, but just lets say, artists use hairdryers to dry other things besides hair.
The next day we put our dissection kit to use and cut apart a flower. T was a bit distressed by this whole process and kept asking if we were killing the flower. I said, yes, the flower will die in the process of being cutting it up, no it can't feel pain because it is a plant, and that we shouldn't just go around destroying life. But I also pointed out that in this case, our dissection and plant sacrifice is for a good educational cause and that we are seeking knowledge and hoping to find that knowledge in a humane and responsible manner. (Yes, we really went over this subject in that depth. T needed it.) 

I got the dissection kit from Home Science Tools and it worked beautifully. (The box is very very flimsy, and didn't close in the end. I used a rubber band to it closed and keep the tools from falling out of it.) The tweezers and the scalpel were really precise and I think we were able to get good results because we had some of the the right tools. (I was never much for biology in high school or college and never did any dissection. What do you dissect on?) D was quick to point out the parts of the flower. 
Then I cut as slim a cross section of the stem as I could manage. We stuck this on a slide and stuck it under the microscope to see if we could see anything. The first thing out of S's mouth was "ooooooooh!!" For her, looking at prepared slides and drawing them was really good practice for this lesson. I think she was super excited that she knew where this specimen came from. 
D is always so cute. These botany lessons really were aimed at his level: observing, describing, and naming. The older two have been pretty interested so we've begun incorporated them and their interests as well. D was pretty excited to get to use the microscope too.

I don't have blank slides yet, so we just placed our specimens on other prepared slides.
This just happened to be a prepared pollen slide and we used it to hold our pollen sample. S said that the lily pollen looked like grains of rice but brown.
D made some of his own illustrations too.
This was S's final illustration.
After flowers we moved onto seeds. I set these two specimens down on the counter and told D that they had seeds, or a seed, in them. Then I asked if he wanted to open them and see the seeds. Of course he said "yes." (Maybe I am getting better at inviting the child to do work.)
We discussed the seeds, their size, their shape, and their number. We also discussed the enclosures that protected them. And we talked about how "smart the plants are" to create seeds like these. I told D that we are animals and we like to eat the flesh of the fruit. When we eat the flesh of the fruit, many times we don't eat the seed and dispose of it perhaps on the ground. I told him that on the ground the seed is likely to land in a patch of soil and could soak up rain water and absorb sunlight. And then he said, "and then it could grow into a plant!"
We washed off the squash seeds and put some in a baggy with a wet paper towel. I put them in a warm area, and we'll see if these sprout. I have no idea what we'll do with them if they do sprout though. I don't have a place to "plant" butternut squash.
And then we did this with the avocado seed. (Just google, "how to grow and avocado tree from seed" and you'll get more instructions that you could ever want.)
These are the lima bean seeds we "planted" last week. The kids were super excited to see shoots. Now I need to get some soil and a pot.
D decided that it was a good idea to give the seeds some air.
Continuing to get ready for garden planting, we read this book, The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin. This is another really great book I highly recommend. It has a great story and beautiful illustrations. 
And, in the back pages, there is a bit of information about Chinese vegetables. Incidentally, we are planning to plant a few of these veggies in our garden this year. I don't know if they are the exact variety as the plants in the book but we use them for Korean cooking. (We plant Chinese leeks/chives for a garlic-y "salad" ban chan, and chrysanthemum greens for soups.) I purchase Asian variety seeds from the Kitazawa Seed Company in California. They have an interesting history and supply many Korean veggie and fruit seed varieties.
The kids and I love going to the craft store and we are always picking up new and interesting things. Here, D and S are inspecting the star fish we got. I didn't check the package to see if they are in fact real, but they look pretty real.
S helped D with his sound objects. That is a little boy face of concentration right there.
T is keeping up with the tornado research. Here he is using his tablet he got for Christmas to peruse the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's website for information about EF5 tornadoes between 2006 and 2015.
The following day he wrapped up his research and we are in the process of creating a report.

Piggy-backing on T's new found interest in tornadoes, we got to some of the Work of Air geography lessons. This is one of the many many geography charts I made last year. Generally it illustrates that the air at the equator is warmed and flows up into the atmosphere. It then flows around to the poles where it cools and falls again through the atmosphere toward the earth's surface. Since the hot air at the equator rises, this encourages cool air from the poles to flow in and fill up the space. This warming and cooling cycles create the wind patterns around the globe.
This is the next Work of Air lesson. The chart on the left shows how the air near the equator rises, flows to the poles, and cools and descends only to be drawn toward the equator again where it warms and rises once more.

The chart on the right shows that the air doesn't just flow from the equator straight to the poles. The warm air that rises from the equator travels toward the poles, but about when it reaches the tropics (of Cancer and Capricorn) it cools again, and flows downward through the atmosphere. Here the cool air either flows back toward the equator to be warmed again or flows toward the colder poles. The air that flows toward the colder poles will eventually reach either the arctic circle or the antarctic circle where it will hit a wall of very cold air. This wall of cold air will force back the cool air flow and cause it to cycle back toward the tropics. 

This means that there are many different areas of high and low pressure. High pressure areas are where cool air is descending. Low pressure areas are where hot air is rising. 

T was really interested in the warm and the cool air rising and falling. He knows from his tornado research that the mixing of warm and cool air can help create tornado events. 

After reading this description in the albums, I FINALLY understand what the weatherman is talking about on the TV!
S got in a little noun grammar work. Here she is working on box 3? Not sure about that box number, but the contents were plural nouns that use special endings.

S ended up finishing the next and last noun filling box the following day and was very excited to get to the next level. Noun classification is up next and we'll introduce adjectives at the same time.

I just finished putting together images for our cultural cards set that is outlined in the KotW Language album. I skipped set 2, and still came up with 314 photos in the set. There is a lot of laminating in my future. I chose to substitute cultural books for the cards in set 2. This was one of the books I picked out, Mama Panya's Pancakes by Mary Chamberlin.
If there ever were a book that fits the Montessori philosophy perfectly, THIS book would be it!!! I was so excited to read through this wonderful story and then find all these extras in the back pages. There is information about life in Kenya, Kenya the country, the language Swahili, and a recipe for Kenyan pancakes with mentions of the pancakes made in other countries. T, S, and D really liked this story book and immediately wanted to make pancakes, though not the way that Mama Panya made hers. She ended up putting spicy red pepper and cardamom in hers.

T whipped through a number of the commutative and distributive lessons. Above, we laid out number cards for our problem. 
Then we decomposed our multiplier and multiplicand and started multiplying through. T began with 40 taken 20 times and started laying out the golden beads to illustrate this first partial product.
T noticed that we could do this, 400  taken 2 times, and declared the first partial product was 800. I said that was correct, but then I made him actually verify this by laying out 20 groups of 40 beads.

We started this lesson last year and I think that he understood it then. But this time, he really understood what was going on and this was neat to see. (The albums recommend that this lesson be given parallel to other long multiplication work.) He had been decomposing the mutiplicand and multipier on the large bead frame, on paper, and with the bank game, doing geometric multiplication on paper, and category multiplication on the checkerboard, and I think that this particular lesson brought it all together. (I don't know that I'd recommend doing this lesson after everything else, but I don't know that giving this lesson concurrently is the right time either. For T anyway, circling back around to this again after doing all the other multiplication work really helped it all sink in deep.)
 Okay, where was I? Right, 20 groups of 40 beads.
The next partial product is 2 taken 20 times. (Notice the beads, here, not the number tiles in isolation.) So, T figured out right away that this was 40 and wanted to put down 4 ten bars, but I made him count out 20 groups of 2 and lay those out to verify that we actually get 4 ten bars.

Then we moved on to 40 taken 4 times. 
T put out 4 groups of 40 beads. And then lastly, T put out 4 groups of 2 beads to represent 2*4.
Here T is exchanging the 80 tens for 8 hundreds. We arranged the partial products in this manner because it mirrors the category multiplication we do elsewhere. 
This is geometric form of multiplication layout. When we have units * units, we get units, and these reside in the lower right hand corner. When we multiply tens* units, we get tens, and these reside in the lower next left, and next upper right squares. And finally when we multiply tens * tens, we get hundreds and these are located in the upper left. We used this format to lay out our golden beads.
 Here T is exchanging the 40 unit beads for 4 ten bars.

 A final count revealed that the final product was 1,008. 
Then we did the same problem, but without beads but using number cards. We stole our number cards from the bank game. 
40 * 20, or 400 * 2 is 800. 
2* 20 (I guess we were doing it a little out of order maybe) is 40.
 40 * 4 is 160.
And 2*4 is 8.
Then after adding up all our partial products and exchanging number cards, T got a final product of 1008. This seemed to me to be a lot like the bank game, but it is presented in the geometric form or category multiplication layout. (Whereas the traditional bank game layout mimics the large bead frame paper layout a lot.)
And then we moved to paper only. We did the same problem on paper, but this time, used our "labels" instead of cards or beads. The writing on the top was me writing and T giving answers.
The second problem was T doing the problem his way. This is the last lesson in the commutative and distributive lesson sequence. After this comes multiples of numbers.
T finished up the elementary multiplication sequence. He had been using the multiplication checkerboard to do his problems on the diagonal. First he would multiply through to get units and then he would multiply all combinations to get tens before moving on to partial products in the hundreds.

The second phase of this category multiplication is to remember carries. First, T would multiply 2*8 to get units. He'd come up with 16 units. Typically he would place a red one bead bar in the blue tens box in the bottom row and a 6 purple bead bar in the green units box in the bottom row. This time, he only placed the 6-bead bar in the units box and kept the "one ten" in his head as he multiplied 90*8 to get his first "tens" partial product. He'd get 72 tens, remember that he already had one ten in that box and end up with 73 tens. He would place a pink 3 bead bar in the blue tens box at the bottom row and then keep that 7 bar for the red hundreds box in his head for later. 

Next T would find the partial product for the other blue tens box, which was 2*90, or 18. He'd place a brown 8 bead bar in the blue tens box and keep the 1 red unit bead for the red hundreds box in this head for later. Next he'd head back to the red hundreds box in the first bottom row and multiply 500*8. He would come out with 4000 and remember that he had a seven hundred to add to this from the previous 90*8 partial product. He'd lay down a pink 4 bead bar in the green thousands box and a white 7 bead bar in the hundreds box before moving on to the next hundreds box to find his next partial product.

After multiplying everything through in this diagonal-headache-inducing-manner, he'd end up with a single bead bar in every box. He'd slide them all down to the first row, keeping the categories separate and organized, add them up, exchanging where necessary, and find his final product. 

T did fine with this. He didn't enjoy it, but did a couple problems on his own and got all right answers. Then he declared himself done.
T and S also did some geometry together. Here they are working with the constructive triangles to find congruent, similar and equivalent combinations. T and S had a very good sense of the differences between the three concepts. Congruent is same size and same shape. Similar is the same shape but not the same size. And equivalent means the same value but not necessarily the same size or same shape.
I didn't interfere too much with their exploration. I can see how a larger group of children would have been a benefit to all involved. Think that T and S got most of the combinations, but with a few other minds to inspire further exploration, I think that a larger group could have found all the possible combinations.
S had already started to explore some of these boxes on her own, so some of this was kind of a "review." Although the albums say to introduce one box per session, we worked with them all in one longer session. First we explored the triangles in each box. Then we mixed the triangles among boxes to find congruent, similar and equivalent combinations.

I'll note here that I had NO idea what the "special example" was. I need an album picture. 
The next lesson will be the box of blue triangles with which the children can create designs and find equivalent figures.
D did some more cutting and this time I got smart. Instead of trying to lay out everything on the computer, I just Googled pictures, formatted them in Word, printed them out without borders and drew in diagonal lines. D has been doing a lot of straight cutting, so this time we tried diagonal lines. This layout was simple and interesting for D. 
D didn't want to pin punch an apple. He didn't want to pin punch a star. But he was willing to pin punch Texas. He is pin punching on a round cork trivet I got from Ikea.

S started some money cards. (I got ours from ETC. Buy these laminated if you get them.) She said that she wanted to start learning about money so that she can get an allowance and save up to buy more Shopkins. Well, that is motivation.

This is the very beginning of the set...T didn't do these cards since when he started he was already past this stage. First we did some naming. (Do you even use half dollars, ever?) Then we did some exchanging. Like, one quarter is worth 25 cents, let's count out 25 cents [in pennies.] Now that we have 25 cents, what can we exchange them for? Oh, we can exchange 5 cents for a nickle. Oh look, a nickle is worth 5 cents, and so on.
Then she completed the first set of task cards like this one above.

And that was the first part of our week! 75 pictures! Whew!


  1. Unlike you, I haven't been taking ANY pictures. I don't feel much like writing either. No pictures plus no writing equals no blogging. How about that math?

    We have been really enjoying the art curriculum I bought. I happened to notice one day that the same author has a resource for watercolors specifically: http://www.howgreatthouart.com/products/painting/beginning-watercolors-101.html

    Your posts yesterday were both great in that "wow, she's the perfect homeschooling Mom kind of way" in which I picture you all singing "Kumbaya" and plucking plants from your garden and then painting pictures of them everyday while S and D sit in clean blue shirts that match S's hairbows. In the meantime I am diffusing essential oils in my school room not because I'm cool like that but because the boys have so much gas. Me Too has pulled leaves off of a houseplant not to study it but to annoy his brother who is now hitting him. And, instead of botanical drawings I'm trying to decide what to do because our assignment in our art curriculum today was to draw a clown and Kal-El has embellished his with a "gas noise" written by the butt and Me Too thought it was funny to draw his complete with a penis. I won't be taking a picture of THAT to put on the blog. No blue hair bows here. After declaring that "he has never been glad" while doing command cards, Me Too puts on his sweatshirt which I then discover has vomit on it from his bout of stomach flu on Friday. Better go turn up the essential oils.

    Kumbaya My Lord....Kumbaya...

    1. ACK! BOYS! Love 'em and grossed out by them at the same time! ;)

    2. Goodness!!

      Our schooling is far, far, far, from perfect. That is for sure. But you know that. :)

      The blue shirt that D's wearing is actually Korean long-underwear which we use as pajamas. He is always in pajamas.

      So, tell me, which essential oils are you liking better than vomit? ;)

      I'll definitely check out that watercolor resource. Thanks.

  2. Awesome work. Very inspiring.
    A few quick questions about your microscope. I am in the look out for one for my kids. Do you recommend yours, or any other brand? I have an almost 4 and a 5.5 year old at home. We don't need slides yet, but will eventually want to be able to use them. As of now, we like to look at bugs. Perhaps with your experience with your three kids you can share some thoughts about microscopes?

    1. Thank you for your kind words!

      We like our microscope for what it is. I would recommend it as a very beginner piece of equipment. I think it was about $100, but I don't remember how much it cost. The things I would prefer to change (if I were to get another microscope) are: the base gets hot after many minutes of use. It gets too hot to touch comfortably or put back under the dust baggie we use to keep it on the shelf. Another thing is that I'd love for us to be able to fine tune the focus a bit more. There is a rough focus knob, but nothing more and sometimes I wish we had a bit more clarity. I don't know if this bothers the kids. And finally, with only three in our classroom, and even with a table right next the power outlet, I would have really liked a cordless microscope.

      Okay, that being said, would I recommend it generally, yes. As a beginning microscope. If the kids, S especially, continue to really like using it, we will probably upgrade at some point.

      Would I recommend the microscope for your family, probably not. With only a rough focus, it could be hard for younger ones to find the specimen. Also, since it is a compound microscope you can only view very thin slices of specimen. The light needs to be able to shine through the slice so you can see it with the lens. A bug leg or wing perhaps could work, you'd still need to place it on a slide to be able to view it though. My stem slice was a little too thick to be able to see most clearly.

      A stereo microscope could work better for you. These use, either top light, or ambient light, so you can view 3 dimensional objects. MBT has a cool microscope you can use to view 3d objects as well as slides. http://whatdidwedoallday.blogspot.com/2011/05/microscope.html

      Oh, I think my microscope is a Kids Microscope from Home Science Tools http://www.hometrainingtools.com/kids-microscope/p/MI-1100STD/

      My overall recommendation would be, yes, go with reviews, but get the best piece of equipment you can afford.

  3. Thank you for the input! Little Guy's birthday is coming up and I know what to ask for him! I think we are going to go with a stereo microscope. I think he likes looking at bugs the most.