Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Feeling SLOW

This time I am feeling slow. I don't know why, I just am. This too shall pass and I'll return to my normal up at the crack of dawn, energetic self again.
Here we have some renewed interest in the metal insets!! Hooray!! D was so very uninterested in this material. But he needed help handwriting. So, how to bridge that gap....?
Lately, he's been asking for a lot of paper mazes and a lot of coloring pages. I think that this pencil practice has been very helpful.
Slowing down was also extremely helpful. When he goes around the inset like Sonic Dash, he makes mistakes and then he gets frustrated. When he proceeds slowly and takes his time, he traces beautifully, gracefully and easily. I think that this increased success really helped make this material interesting to him again.
He has no interest in creating more than one shape per piece of paper, and no interest in drawing inside the forms he traces. We are holding off on holding the inset and tracing around it until the cast comes off. For now, he is sticking to tracing the inside of the frame.
I also took the hack saw to his colored pencils. As you best see in this shot, his PrismaColor Premier pencils are all about half the size you'd find in the store. I "recycled" a used set that was all different lengths and cut them each down to about 4" with the saw and then stuck them in the pencil sharpener. I suppose I could have cut a regular set in half, and used each half set separately. But by using hand-me-down pencils I only wasted less than an inch off each pencil. You can burn through that much pencil just by over sharpening. D seems to like working with his shortened pencils and he naturally uses the proper rounded hand pencil grip each time.
I wrote more about this material here, and here.
D really got going this week. He is getting better at matching and grading the sound cylinders. I wrote more about this work here.
More knobless cylinders. I wrote more about this work here.
After he constructed the binomial cube outside the box, he told me that the work was too easy. I wrote about this work here.
I think this is a shot of everyone looking outside at the two mocking birds in the tree. 
S is still working on the multiplication finger charts. I am getting ready to introduce the Elementary math very soon.
And T is back to racks and tubes. This work makes me remember that he still needs a lot of work with his math facts. Ugh. This first problem, he even organized the boards backward, the blue-tens board should be on the left and the green-unit board on the right, but he got the divisor skittles in the right paces. T did a fair amount of this work last year, so this year we are reviewing and really working toward abstraction. If you have the albums, you know that the problem he is working above is about half way through the sequence. He is writing the quotient at the top of the problem. He is writing down the quantity that he means to distribute to the divisor skittles on the boards. He counts up the quantity that he does distribute, subtracts that from what he had to give out and finds his partial remainder. This partial remainder he finds on paper magically is the same as the bead amount that remains in the left-over cup. Then he clears the boards of beads and on paper brings down the next category of beads. Then he starts to distribute the new quantity among the divisor skittles and repeats the process.

Here we are working with a two digit divisor to keep it relatively simple. As long as he needs the practice, he will work though three and four digit divisors, and divisors with zeros. Finally, we will be estimating the quotient by category first and then distributing this many times. This last step is essentially how I was taught to do long division when I was in school. And I am hoping that we can get to this point before T tires of the beads. The albums say, and I've read elsewhere, children begin to not want to manipulate all the beads and small objects starting around 8 years old. T is almost 9. They were flying all over yesterday. FLYING and ROLLING.

S is journaling here.
I just finished making 30+ little geometry definition booklets. I printed them back to back, cut them out, laminated each page, and spiral bound them. 

We are way behind in geometry in my mind, which is somewhat interesting considering that the kiddos cheer each time I mention geometry. Here we are working on identifying triangles by their angles and by their sides. We also did a bit of working notebook follow-up drawing and labeling different kinds of triangles. 
The KotU albums tell you what definitions to include in your booklets, but the wording of each definition and each illustration is up to the author. I wasn't sure exactly what to put in the booklets, but I felt that for my comfort and for my children I'd err on the more technical side. I also decided to include a few mathematical notation concepts as well. Here, the single hash marks on each of the triangle's sides indicates that they are all equal in length.
The next day, we continued exploring the angles and sides of triangles. T determined that this triangle is an acute, scalene triangle; meaning that none of the angles measure more than 90 degrees and all the sides are different lengths. 
To help drive home the angle and side nomenclature we played the detective triangle game. I don't remember where I read this in the albums...but you can find a description of the lesson here. 

I also didn't get a lot of photos of our work since it all went kind of quickly and the lesson was upside down from my point of view.

Basically, we have a wooden box that contains a set of 63 plastic triangles that represent all the different types. Each type is in three different colors: red, blue and yellow, and three different sizes, small, medium and large. There are right, acute, and obtuse triangles, as well as isosceles, equilateral, and scalene triangles.

I first wrote on a single slip of paper "the triangle" and asked the children to give me what is written on the paper. Both T and S sighed, and rolled their eyes saying that they were going to fall for this, and asked me immediately "which triangle" and for more information about which triangle I wanted. 

So I took another slip of paper, wrote down the word "large," and placed it in front of "the triangle." T said "large the triangle" didn't make sense. S tried to rearrange it and I handed her a scissors. She cut "the triangle" into two single-word parts and inserted the slip of paper that said "large" in between. Then they sorted out all of the large triangles and put all of the medium and small ones back in the wooden box. And then they asked for more information about the triangle I wanted.

So, I wrote down "yellow" on a slip of paper, and placed this in front of "the large triangle" to read "yellow the large triangle." They giggled and rearranged the phrase. I asked them why they were switching around the slips of paper and they said the way I had placed them didn't make sense so they needed to fix it. They culled all of the yellow large triangles and then asked for more information. We went through the same process with "obtuse" and "scalene" and they finally found the triangle I wanted. (I actually hadn't planned to ask for a large yellow obtuse scalene triangle, but that was how it turned out.)
Then we got out our grammar symbols and labeled the parts of speech. T thought it was so funny that there were so many adjectives. I think we played this game a couple more times before packing up the materials. (I am pretty satisfied with our set of triangles. They are from Montessori Outlet.)
D really, really, REALLY, wants to do the spindles lesson. I told him that he needed to work with his number rods and cards before we could do the spindles lesson. 

I am having a challenging time assessing when to move on with him. He wants to charge on through without demonstrating anything near mastery with the prerequisite equipment. I don't want to squash enthusiasm and I do want to follow the child. I just don't want to make future lessons more difficult for him because he thinks we are moving backward when we revisit a prior work and therefore refuses to engage in the work that he actually needs to gain the basic skills he will need later on.
This lesson is called number rods and cards, and it comes after the sandpaper numerals. This work helps the child associate the quantities 1-10 with their written numeric symbols. Up until now, the child has worked with the quantity and the symbol separately. 

There are a bunch of exercises in this work sequence, but we just did the first presentation. The rods were laid out on the mat, or two mats, in a random order. Typically, they are orientated with their first red band to the left. D kind of was picking stuff up and moving it around, so some of his rods ended up perpendicular. Then I handed him a random card with a number on it and he was to assign this symbol to the corresponding rod. I'd say, "this is how we write 8, can you place this 8 next to the rod of 8?" And he would. He didn't make any mistakes assigning numeral names to each rod. He also verified each rod's length by counting its bands of color before he placed the numeral name card beside the rod.

After he had finished the first time, I asked for the cards back and we repeated the lesson. He did mention to me that this was a "hard work."
T made this rod formation. The next exercise in the sequence is to show the card with the number and fetch the corresponding rod that is set on the mat in a different part of the room.

We have family coming in from out of town, so we'll be away from the classroom and the computer for a bit. Hope you will be having a nice time in between.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Quite, Calm, Lazy

We are still making our way slowly. I imagine that as I get a few more materials made and out of the way, our studies will ramp up once again.
The older two are reading, reading, reading. S reads an entire Magic Treehouse book in an hour. T flies through the easier chapter books, like Captain Underpants, Choose Your Own Adventure, and Flat Stanley, but is presently most interested in all things Sonic the Hedgehog. Personally, I think that all of these reads are particularly fluffy, and so I read to them almost daily books like the Chronicles of Narnia and the Phantom Tollbooth hoping that we don't completely loose sight of what could be called quality literature.
D is doing a little exploration here. I had the insets and iron materials out while doing a little project for a friend.
T is still working on memorizing all the countries in Europe.
S is doing more stamp game division, this time using double digit divisors. (The last time I posted about this was here .)
S is exploring our Asia cultural cards. (I made these for our primary curriculum, but the older ones like them a lot too.) The set you see above is for Asia in general.
This set is for South Korea.
Above you can see at the upper left hand side of her cards there is an image of Korean folk dancers. My husband and I were lucky enough to see a troupe performing in Korea at one of the folk villages when we traveled there on our honeymoon. These are bits of video we took.

T got a letter from a friend who lives a few states away and here he is writing a letter back.
After T finished his draft letter we explored some of the rules he might capture and put on his "rule ring." A lot of these rules he didn't know, and I am not certain from reading the albums how the child would end up knowing these usage rules, if it were not for the guide pointing them out directly. And this is what I did. I just outright told him the rule, he wrote it down on in his own words and captured the rule on his ring.

We also talked about contractions and got out the printed alphabet to explore these further. T was using the word "can't" in his letter. We talked about how the apostrophe takes the place of the letters we've omitted in the squished-together word. He wrote down this rule in his own words and captured it on his rule ring. Then he fixed his letter and added apostrophes in the right places.

There were a whole host of other issues with his spelling, punctuation, and usage, but I felt it was better that we tackle those in a later lesson.
S is back at the plant illustrations. We took a look at some botanical illustration books at the library this week and now I have a few on my "books-to-buy" list. (You can see S's radish illustration here.)
And finally, T and I had a one-on-one session Friday morning to work on his tornado report. He collected some really good data and now I am teaching him how to organize it all and recognize trends and variation. I say "teaching" here because at this point it is really teaching. I say, wow, you have some great bits here, let's see how we can organize these bits into a visual picture that illustrates what we want to say. And then I am demonstrating how to do this by making charts and graphs that illustration our points we wish to communicate. 

This is one bit I find interesting about Montessori education. The child isn't left to guess and we don't leave them hanging. We show them how to do it. We demonstrate each step in the process. Then they practice the process a bunch. And then still later, they start making links and connections to other parts of the cosmic curriculum, and they can expand upon those processes. This is what I am hoping will happen with T. It is my aim to show him there are different ways we can organize our data to say what we want to say. And I hope that in the future, he'll use these communication tools to continue to share what he knows with others.

This is just one of the charts he and I made together. It has been a LOOOONG time since I've had to use Excel for anything really useful. Like a decade long. So we ended up with something super-duper simple, which was perfect for a first try.

After I put the data into some kind of graphical representation, we talked about what the visual "said" to us. He mentioned that he was glad that we were working on this together.

There were a bunch of other things that we've been working on this week but they don't photograph very well and so they aren't here on the blog. S is taking daily pictures of her amaryllis bulb that is flowering and she plans to make its process into a booklet. D is working hard on his sandpaper letters and we are seeing progress! And I am forgetting the rest...

Check in next week...I think that we are going to make a river.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


We start off with a little bit more about Asia! Above is our Taj Mahal from Safari Toobs and our puzzle map of Asia from Montessori Outlet.
We also started exploring our cultural cards for Asia. This is also the Nanoblock version of the Taj Mahal, built by S. As D was connecting the Nanoblock version with our photo version, told him a bit about how Emperor Shah Jahan built this mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
There was an intense Nanoblock session over the weekend.
 My husband helped D build the very, very, very complicated and tiny St. Basil's Cathedral.

D realized that these new structures, were similar to the Kaminarimon Gate and the Great Pyramid set we have.

 D also remembered that Ishani from Disney Planes flew around the Taj Mahal.
And then when D saw this card from our Asia cultural set, he thought of...
 ...the Nanoblock set he built.

T has been working to memorize the countries in Europe. I didn't suggest this lesson. He is almost all the way there, but is still working on Yugoslavia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania.
This is the back-side of Russia, and I don't think it is right side up.
More sandpaper letters. I think we are going to need to institute some order and organization in our presentation. D just likes doing ALL the sounds. I don't. And he doesn't actually remember ALL the sounds when we do ALL the sounds. Then again, this could be a case of him exploring a lot, not retaining a lot, and then all of a sudden it all just clicks and he remembers everything and proceeds forth like a speeding bullet. That is, after all, how he learned his beginning, middle and ending sounds.
D spelled "Boost" which is the name of one of the hot rod cars in the Disney Cars movie. The key spelling for "oo" is "ue." At this stage in the game, all words that have the "oo" sound in them will be spelled using "ue." The child will spell "blue," "nue" and "huet." Later on they will learn that there are multiple spellings for that same sound.
This is a very "grow-up" seeming shot of D documenting his work with the kid-camera.
These are a few of S's drawings of our prepared microscope slides.
S is still working through our stamp game division problems. I think this and the finger charts will wrap up shortly and we will officially begin elementary math.
T started working on some of our time task cards from ETC Montessori. I wrote more about this set of measurement cards here and included a list of materials you need to perform most of the tasks in this set.
We finally got back around to fractions. This is an area we've been largely neglecting. My scope and sequence album pages suggest all fraction lessons be introduced by year 2 and finished by year 3. We are not quite there. 
T and S have had some experience with fractions, so both whizzed through a review of naming, equivalencies, and addition and subtraction problems with like-denominators. Now it is on to some multiplication using whole numbers. The last time I posted about fractions was here, and here.
I am trying to encourage the children to write more. I have found in our homeschooling situation that this is one area that turns out very differently than it might in a traditional Montessori environment. The kids see me writing all the time, but they don't see 28 other children writing all the time--communicating all the time. And since T, S and D all communicate verbally pretty well, they don't see a lot of need to communicate visually. So I am trying to change this in our homeschool in a way that is perhaps a bit more "artificial" than it might be in a traditional Montessori setting. 

Many, many, many people who came before us left their legacy written down on paper, stone, or on clay tablets. These people were smart and they had something to share. They knew that they wanted to share their ideas with the people who would come after, people they would never meet. If they spoke their ideas, these ideas could be forgotten. If they wrote their ideas, these ideas could be preserved. I think of all the people who have written ideas that have in some way helped me live my life the way I am living it today, and I am thankful. It is my responsibility to help my children "know" these authors, these bearers of knowledge, and encourage an appreciation of their written contributions. It is also my responsibility to help my children to be able to, and want to, make their own written contributions to share with the world.  

The KotU albums offer numerous writing options and this has been so very helpful. These ideas aren't set up as "lesson pages" so you have to mine the ideas and synthesize a delivery method. 

One of the writing options is list-making and S wrote this down in her work journal. On any given day, I give her a topic and she writes down a list of all the things she can think of in that category. The list you see above is about "forest animals." She used our Temperate Forests of North America Animals cards we have from Waseca as a reference.
We also received some new readers from Waseca as well. These are part of the "Complete Set of the Parts of the Biome Readers." I think that S is reading the readers about the sun. I can't really yet tell you what I think about the readers, since S got to them before I could. 

From what I could see these readers progress to a slightly higher reading level than the "Complete Set of Biome Readers for all Continents." Each set for the Sun, the Soil/Water, the Plants, and the Animals, progresses from the easier red-booklet to the more challenging orange-booklet.  S, is considered an "early fluent" reader, (she can read books like Magic Treehouse) and these readers were no problem for her. She was very happy to get her hands on some newly laminated cards.
These readers came with another entire set of single word cards that correspond to all of the booklets. Some words are easier, like "eat" and others are more challenging like "energy." I don't know what to do with these cards. There isn't any mention of these cards on the Waseca site. Not having been through the Waseca reading program, I am assuming that maybe these are sight word cards. I feel if the child already knows the phonograms the majority of these cards aren't actually sight words. Since S already can read all of the words on these cards I've set them aside. When I figure out exactly how these cards are used I'll comment again.
This was S's reaction to D's demand to "read them ALL!" He thought her reaction was pretty funny.
Again to encourage writing, we've been "capturing" rules. T and S have started making their own rings of spelling, punctuation, and grammar rules. The KotU albums suggest that the guide create "rule" cards the children can reference when they are writing. I thought about doing this, but I figured it could be more worth my time to point out rules we find in the classroom during our normal course of study, suggest that they "capture" this rule on a note card and help them put it on their binder ring. This way, the children are writing more, looking out for rules to capture, and by writing are internalizing, memorizing, and understand the rule better. I think at some point I might need to laminate these, or at least get those silly stickers with the holes in them.
This is where S decided to hang up our rules.
Note cards have become a bit hit in our classroom. Who knew that lined little pieces of card stock could be so exciting. T is at it again this week writing down his "bits" of information for his tornado research report. (I wrote more about this project here and how we are tackling the writing part with a boy who doesn't like to write.) We are looking over the data he collected and making some inferences and generalizations, and recognizing trends. I have visions of pie-charts and bar charts floating in my head! This is T's first introduction to formal data organization and there is SOOO much to learn. (I loved my statistics class in graduate school.) So I am trying to dial it down a bit for a second-grader and help him produce something that is simple but informative.

In this shot, T is "capturing" his bits on a binder ring and hanging his report on the wall.

And that is what we got into the first part of the week!