Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Still Going, Feeling Like That Energizer Bunny

Week 12 Part 1 March 16, 2015

Making, printing, laminating, cutting, organizing, planning, presenting, repeat. You get the idea, I don't think I need to write any more about that.
We did the first polygon geometry lesson the other day. Here the kids are simply making polygons of various shapes and sizes from our geometry sticks. (This material is from Montessori Outlet.) Each stick has a hole at either end and the kids are putting brass brads through the holes to hold the sticks together. This first lesson was a pretty loose exploration. I'd point things out here and there, but T and S were really not interested in what I had to say. They just wanted to make polygons.
We went over that open figures are not polygons. We went over that polygons must have at least three sides, but can have more sides...or many more sides. We went over that when you hold up a three sided figure by one of it's corners, or vertices, that the shape will hold the same.
We went over that when you hold up a more-then-three sided figure by one of it's corners, or vertices, that the shape will NOT hold the same shape.
And then they wanted to use all the pieces in the box to make one huge multi-sided polygon. S is working on one end, and T was working on the other end and their ends eventually joined to create a polygon about where I was standing to take this picture.

Our new equivalency iron materials came from Alison's Montessori yesterday. The older two were outside enjoying an 81 degree afternoon, but this one came up to the classroom to help me put these materials away in our cabinet drawers. He thought that these were the neatest puzzles ever.

I have three cabinets I use for fraction materials, the Pythagoras and Euclid materials and these equivalency materials. I purchased all of my cabinets from Montessori Outlet because I wanted them to match the cabinets I already had in our environment. I got two geometric cabinets and one botany cabinet and the materials that usually go in those cabinets are stored away in a closet. Right now, between the three cabinets I have 15 drawers. All the of the materials I mentioned above fit into 12 drawers. I have them spaced out a bit since I have 15 drawers available, and I keep our Montessori protractor and centesimal protractor in the top drawer.

I didn't get the 14 drawer cabinet from Alison's because it wasn't going to fit on my shelf. My shelves are longer than the cabinet is wide, and I would have had two feet of vertical dead space, which I can't afford, in our small classroom space. So, I got several smaller cabinets and put them on several different shelves and now I can use that extra bit of linear shelf space for other items, like our whicked expensive metal hollow volume materials. 

D and I did some land and water form work today. (Our last land and water forms work was here.) The primary language albums recommend preparing folders for each land and water form that contain just a couple of pictures of each form. (The pictures should have a label on the back that has a description and notes the location.) The album also recommends that the guide create a small collection of stories, one about each picture in the folders. When I was collecting internet pictures for these folders I was simultaneously searching Amazon for books about said land or water form. If there were not books about a particular land or water form, generally I didn't include that one. In the end I didn't have the patience to find a story for EVERY picture. 

Some books I found were just not appropriate. I chose to NOT include a picture of the Strait of Magellan because the book descriptions about Magellan's travels were so gruesome that I didn't want to introduce them to D quite yet. I ended up with:
The Waterman's Child by Barbara Mitchel - for the Chesapeake Bay, MD, USA
Sammy's Clam: A Cape Cod Story by Linda Conti - for Cape Cod, MA, USA
The Panama Canal (Wonders of the World Book) by Elizabeth Mann - for the Panama Isthmus**
Dancing on the Sand: A Story of an Atlantic Blue Crab by Kathleen Hollenbeck - for the Chesapeake Bay, MD, USA
Lala Salama: A Tanzanian Lullaby by Patricia Maclachlan - for Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania, Africa
Nessie the Loch Ness Monster by Richard Brassey - for the Lake Loch Ness, Highlands, Ireland
The Story of Hula by Carla Golembe - for Hawaii the island, USA

I haven't read all of the books, namely the ones with **.They haven't all arrived in the mail yet, so I can only really comment on the ones that we have in our possession. UPDATE 3/23/15 - we received the Lala Salama book and it is indeed a wonderful addition to our Land and Waterform story collection. 

Half way through reading Nessie, I didn't think that it was an appropriate book for primary. It is about an imaginary animal and there is a lot of speculation about this myth, and primary kids don't do a whole lot of speculating. T, however, really loved the book. It is a nice book and it describes many of the real-life encounters. But it is just not right for the first plane of development.

The Waterman's Children and Sammy's Clam were perfect stories for our land and water form studies. The first book touches briefly upon the real-life efforts to "clean-up the Chesapeake Bay" that is going on even today. After reading Sammy's Clam we watched some YouTube videos about people clamming and D said that he wanted to live in a place where he could go clamming. I seriously doubt he'd ever eat a clam.
The hula book also came with an audio CD so D could listen to the story independently. Though this book doesn't describe what an island is like, it does describe well the traditional dance and culture of the islands of Hawaii.
D wanted to get a better look at the Nessie book. When we get to the other books in this collection I'll write about them here on the blog. 

I'll note here that I made picture cards for the following land and water forms:
The Strait of Gibraltar - Spain/ Morocco, Europe/Africa
The Strait of Dover - UK/France, Denmark - Europe
The Gulf of Mexico - North America
The Persian Gulf - Asia
The Islands of Hawaii - North America
Easter Island - South America
Loch Ness Lake - Ireland - Europe
Lake Victoria - Tanzania/Uganda/Kenya - Africa
Korean Peninsula - Asia
Geins Peninsula - France - Europe
Corinth Isthmus - Greece - Europe
Panama Isthmus - North America
Chesapeake Bay - Maryland, USA - North America
Ha Long Bay - Quang Ninh Province - Thailand - Asia
Cape Cod - Massachusetts, USA - North America
Cape Hatteras - North Carolina, USA - North America

I printed half sheet images I laid out in Word. Then I cut them and mounted them on brown or blue cardstock (brown for land forms and blue for water forms.) I made file labels with pertinent information for the backs of each image and stuck them to the card stock. Then I laminated and cut out everything. I chose to store these cards in large plastic velcro closure envelopes I got from Amazon. I made labels in blue or brown font for each of the envelopes so at least I can tell what is in each at a glance.
S is working on money cards again. (Her previous work is here.) These are the very, very first card sets in the long series we have from ETC. I talk more about these cards here. S says that she wants to learn about money so she can get an allowance too and buy things.
S did some very useful practical life. I don't know that any one in this homeschool has done the shoe polishing lesson, but we were in some great need of shoe polishing today. I finally, got the boys new rain boots and they arrive today. I get everyone red, so they can be passed down without issue. D doesn't want pink rain boots and S doesn't want navy blue. Mine are orange, but then again, I am not passing mine along to anyone because my feet have stopped growing.

These boots are made of real natural latex, so the rubber blooms after awhile and they tend to get a dusty white look. The last time I ordered anyone boots was actually two springs ago. So with this recent order, I got the buffing stuff that you use to shine up the rubber. S had a wonderful time polishing her hand-me-downs from T and D's old size 6 booties. They are so cute and small! The one in the shot above is pretty much shined up. Sorry I couldn't post a before-shot. She really enjoyed this practical life work.
S got to a few more math word problems. Now that she can read pretty well, I think I might need to put a little fire under this burner and get the move on. This is level 1 and the types of math problems in this book are pretty easy-shmeesy. I am thinking the types of problems in subsequent books would help her more.
T finally got the naming the scales lesson on the bells. For a while, I was the hold up because I hadn't made the cards you see below the bells. Then he got caught up with all things tornado and put the bells on hold for a bit. But now he is back. (His last sharps and flats lesson was here.)

At this point, the child already knows the diatonic major scale from middle c to c. This scale has a whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half  8 note pattern. (C to d is a whole step. D to e is a whole step. E to f is a half step and so on.) The word diatonic is from two Greek words: dia which means "through" and "tonos" which means tones. 
In the shot above, you can see that T has drawn this first scale at the top of his page. The semi circles and the "v's" are how we note whole steps (semis) and half steps (v's.) 
The second scale we named was the chromatic scale, which has all the sharps/flats added and there are 13 tones in this scale. All the steps are half steps. "Chromos" is the Greek word for "colorful."

The third scale we named was the pentatonic scale. We only play the black bells for this scale and there are five tones in all. This scale has a whole, whole, half, whole, whole pattern. The Greek word "penta" means "five" and "tonos" again means "tones."

The final scale we named was the whole tone scale. This scale has seven tones in it and has a whole, whole, whole, whole, whole, whole, whole pattern. In this case, it would be c, d, e, f#, g#, a# and this happens when we have all 13 bells lined up and we pull every other one out of the scale. T thought that this arrangement was the coolest.

Our next work will be composing on the bells, or writing music.
T finished up the last bit of the Squares and Cubes notation section. In the last "sums using squares and cubes" lesson T added squares and cubes like 2^2 + 6^3 and subtracted squares and cubes like 7^2-3^3. He also multiplied squares and cubes like 5^3 * 3. And he also divided squares and cubes like what you see above. 

The above problem was 6^3/6. I gave him the bead cube of 6 and told him to divide it into 6 equal portions. He came up with the layout above on his own.

These last lessons are supposed to introduce the fact that all operations can be done with squares and cubes of numbers. These lessons prepare the child for working abstractly and for algebra. Also, the album suggests that these lessons start at age 6 and extend over a period of 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years, and children could be as old as 8- 8 1/2 by the time they get to these last lessons. I am not sure that this last statement applies to just these last four mini-lessons, but rather it applies to all of the games and the square of pythagoras work we've been doing. I don't know why it took T so little time to complete these. Maybe he whizzed through these this year because I had introduced a few of these concepts last year, while following another set of albums not knowing in the least what I was doing. At any rate, he is done with this section and it is on to the next thing. We will probably catch up with our factors, fractions, decimal fractions and geometry work.
Oh, right, this little tid-bit is at the very end of the squares and cubes notation section. It is the order of operations. I am sure you remember, Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally from 7th grade. Okay, well I do. The PEMDAS confused T because he calls parentheses "smiles," multiplication "taken-s," division "dividing," addition "pluses" and subtraction "take-aways." He had no idea what PEMDAS was. He does remember "() ^ * / + -" and this is what he rights down in the margin of his page. 

Anyway, it took a couple of problems for him to "get" what was going on, but once he did, he whizzed through it all, even the last problem. He asked to do that last one on the calculator to check his work, and he had gotten it right.
S did a tiny bit more of her cat embroidery yesterday and....
...she also did some knitting.
I can't get a very good shot of us doing this because I can only get an arm's length away, but these are my photographic attempts. I hold the working yard in my left hand (and the camera in my right hand) and then hold her left hand very loosely. I don't hold her working right hand. She does all the manual work pulling the stitches through and adjusting the stitches on her needles. I wrap the working yarn around the needle and keep the tension. Eventually, when she has the needle part of the process down, and can organize the stitches reasonably well without dropping one, skipping one, or slicing right through the yarn, I'll have her start holding the working yarn and knitting all on her own. 

I don't remember how I learned but I felt, for S anyway, it might be easier to do it all in two steps.

S has finally finished all the Animals of the Biomes readers for all the continents from Waseca. Now I have to figure out something else. Any suggestions out there?
We've figured out that D likes to cut paper into tiny pieces, but he doesn't always like to glue them onto another paper and make a collage. He just likes to have a ton of tiny little pieces of paper.
And finally, D got to a little sound object work, without a rug. There are some days when I am supremely glad that we don't share these works and materials with others. D decided to put the sound objects between his toes. Mind you he had a bath just hours before this shot, but really...I felt a little grossed out. 

He has always had this, "I need to feel things with my feet" thing. I remember visiting this one family who lived an hour away from us in VA who also did Montessori homeschooling. D was under 2 at the time. He reached over and took two test tubes of beads from the racks and tubes material, dumped them both on the carpet, and then walked all over them with his little chubby bare feet. Luckily the other mom wasn't horrified...but really D? First impressions man!

Anyway, this sound object session I did a little note taking to officially find out where we are. Most of the time he does sound object work with S. I found out that he can, about 95% of the time, identify anywhere in a word the sounds: short and long a, b, c, d, short and long e, f, j, k, l, m, n, short and long o, p, r, s, t, short and long u, v, w, and z, as well as sh, ch, oo (look), ar (car), er (purr), and ou (out). He can most of the time identify: g, h, short and long i, l, qu, x, y, th (both voiced and unvoiced), and oi (oil.) The ones that trip him up the most are: l, x, y, and th. "Th" gets turned into "f" a lot, like in "ear-f" or "tee-f." He can segment any three sound word like: "ch-ur-ch," "s-ee-m," "c-o-t," "h-ear-t" "sh-e-ll" or "c-or-k." He can't yet segment words with more than three sounds, especially those with consonant blends in them. 

At the time when he can segment pretty much any word, with any number of different sounds, I will then introduce the sandpaper letters.
I felt secretly triumphant the other day when I heard him start to sing the "A,B,C's" song and he didn't know the names of the letters after "g." He switched and sang "twinkle, twinkle, little star" to the same tune instead. 
I wonder how it is for a child who is in a regular classroom and is still working on the sound games and hasn't yet started the sandpaper letters but sees other children learning these symbols. Do these children know a few symbols before they have learned all their sounds? I am thinking that they must. Does this in anyway, accelerate their sound game works? Or does this hinder them at all since they are eager to get along to the sandpaper letters without a very firm aural language awareness? I don't need to ponder about this topic too much since D is my youngest, T and S are well past this stage, and we aren't in a traditional school setting. T and S don't use the sandpaper letters any more, so D has only observed Tes using them. In our classroom, D will just finish up his sound games before we introduce the first sandpaper letters.
And that is the end of the first part of our week. Hope you are having a good one!


  1. I wonder too about your musings on the sandpaper letters. My son was really resistant to sound games but was teaching himself to recognize some letter symbols so I decided to go against advice and start him on sandpaper letters. Since then he LOVES sound games and often initiates them himself.

    1. That is so nice to hear! I bet it makes you breath a sigh of relief knowing that he is getting all that he needs.

  2. Thank you... You are a little bit ahead of us in a lot of the things with D, so I love reading what is coming next for us! I love your shelves... Is there any way you can do a classroom tour and close up of the shelves? I am always so intrigued at them in the background and I wish I knew what was on them :-) (please sometime... I know you have loads to do! Thank you)

    1. I'll see what I can do about a classroom tour. I am actually transitioning a bit right now and somethings are being moved to new homes in the environment to make room for some new materials--some of which are on backorder. Maybe I'll be able to do this after the dust has settled a bit. :)

  3. Hi Abbi,

    For more ideas on the next step of reading - have a look at my language section, - https://dreambeforeyou.wordpress.com/tag/language/ - namely the Sentence Strips. I'm at your stage of doing picture to first sound match at the moment and have used the website I mentioned in this post, soundcityreading to get great pictures that I am too now colouring in!

    Spelfabet blog http://www.spelfabet.com.au/ has great games for building words. Alison who runs it is a speech pathologist and has great videos too on teaching reading/spelling.

    If you're looking for other great famous landforms, my favourites (coming from my hometown of Cape Town) are The cape of Good Hope - many wonderful stories of trying to get around the tip of Africa to reach the east and being challenged by this windy, dangerous cape. And of course, the beautiful Cape Peninsula, which some believe divides the Atlantic from the Indian ocean - but alas it is Cape Agulas, the most southern tip of Africa. I love your idea about reading stories about land forms - what an awesome idea.

    1. Thank you for your tips here. I had no idea that you were from Cape Town! This is the one place in Africa I have any family connection, to, my dad visited decades ago for his work and brought home lots of small items, many of which, I had no idea where from South Africa as they sat in my childhood home for years and years! (We have a number of friends all from Nigeria somehow.)

      I'll look into Cape of Good Hope. We'll have to do a bit of land and water form map coloring for just the continent of Africa it seems!! How wonderful it is to learn so much about a continent I was feeling I knew so little about! The idea about land and water form stories wasn't mine! It is in the KotW albums.

      As for the language section, I'll take a look at your link, thank you! S kind of did the explode into reading thing. I know I've written on the blog that I've heard that for homeschoolers this doesn't usually happen, but for S it did. (T did too, but he was in a traditional Montessori classroom then.) Maybe kind of later for S, but it did. She can read very well now. She is sitting right next to me with her pot of morning tea, reading Martha Stewart's Crafts for Kids book. She can pretty much read any children's story book just fine. She usually has a stack of 10 books at morning tea. (kind of her ritual since she rises early.) I am thinking of booklet readers (like the animals of the biome readers), or a story book series. I think in about a month or two she'll be ready for chapter books. It isn't that she can't read the words, but rather a focus thing.

    2. Oh, Cape Town is just gorgeous! A huge mountain in the middle of a city.

      Izaac's beginning favourites are Geronimo Stilton & Thea Stilton series.

      Also a great Aussie author and illustrator series, Andy Griffin and Terry Denton which starts with the 13 storey treehouse. Don't be fooled by the silliness of this story, the author was a teacher and has amazing rhythm and story stills, of which I get so many chuckles when reading. The ratio and illustrations to words is just fantastic for beginnner readers, they wouldn't even think they are reading a chapter book.

      We used their other books, 'The cat on the mat is flat' and 'The cow that went kapow' for drawing and copy work last year. Izaac loved it. The illustrations are doable for children. Once again his rhythm is just incredible and assists in explaining different spelling rules. I should blog about what we did here. One of those things where you do something, just because you have to get handwriting into your schedule, have no grand plan, grab this book - and end up actually doing something really good.

  4. Hi Abbie,

    I can't help but think after all those Waseca readers you don't really need more "readers." That said, I assume you have already read my recommendations for the Phonics Practice Readers and Miss Rhonda Readers.

    I have some suggestions for getting into "chapter books." If you have the right book she's unlikely to be intimidated. I printed out and laminated several lists of series and books (http://thorntoncreek.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/series-at-levels-chart-F-W-20120618.pdf and also http://roxhilles.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1708881/File/Fountas%20Pinnell/Book%20Series%20by%20GR%20Level.pdf

    and also
    One other that is my favorite because it lists picture books AND series, but can't find it online. I'll scan it for you.

    I don't make my boys stay in a level (they tend to read across at least four levels) but I'm always looking for "what to read" suggestions. If they are really enjoying a particular book or series I check the lists and see what else at that level they might like. I find series very helpful because once you get them going they want to keep going. Which brings me to my next point...

    If the boys are ever "intimidated" by a book we take turns reading pages. With my nephew we sometimes have to take turns on paragraphs. Inevitably the phone eventually rings or I have to get up and do something for a few minutes and they can't STAND the wait so they keep reading on their own. Sometimes I come back to someone still waiting, sometimes they say "I read six pages, we can take turns some more now", sometimes they say "I don't need you, get lost."

    And, of course, a child who can truly read doesn't need leveled books at all. They can choose any book. Usually then they are choosing something based on compelling subject matter. If they are interested enough in something they will read almost anything about it. However, I find that combining that strategy with leveled reading in parallel keeps "upping the baseline" of what's "comfortable" and then they will read harder and harder books even when the subject is less compelling.

    I know you already do this, but read-alouds are an important piece of the puzzle. I read them pretty tough read-alouds in order to get them ready for the language used in older or more academic books. When you can listen to Dickens it's hard to be intimidated by "Harry the Dirty Dog."

    Anyway, to jump right in I would recommend picking a chapter book series off one of the lists that is at the same level as a another book you know she has read on her own and liked. That should get her going.

    Last thing, my youngest really liked the Sherman the puppy series. It is a series that is not in chapters yet. Single readers almost with good stories and pictures.

    1. Ahhh, Dickens...I remember the days when my dad would read us that. I suppose the day will come when I will read David Copperfield to the kids, and read, and read, and read... (Why DID they need to paid by the word in those days?)

      I think you hit the nail on the head. She is past readers. She literally does read everything, just to read. Packages, signs, mail, catalogs, boxes, letters, maps, what I am typing on the computer. EVERYTHING. She is presently reading most all of her story books that she's had since she was a baby, literally. And she is reading D's books and T's books, if they aren't about something too, BOY.

      S really really loves to be read to and prefers much more complex, literature to fluffy stuff. I wonder if she would go for reading some of her "series" chapter books that she already has, but has never read independently WITH me like you suggest. I think she would enjoy the one page for me, and one page for you.

      Thanks for the lists. I am hoping to find some series that aren't too fluffy and still compelling and interesting.

  5. Ha! found my favorite list after all:


    1. Ha! Ivy and Bean. That is one of S's favorites. Before she could read we read all of the published books and now are waiting for the series to publish a few more. I am going to try to do the me read a page, you read a page thing with her. She might be surprised that she could read Ivy and Bean.
      Ivy and Bean crack me up. I think that they could be a little too girly for your guys. :)