Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Sun Finally Came Out!

It has been raining, and raining, and raining! The weather people say that we got over 24" of rain during the month of May. And the large lake reservoir in our area gained 20' but is still only less than 60% full. There is flooding. Everywhere. Everywhere but our house, which apparently is instead leaking. S's garden rain gauge filled to 5"+ in two weeks. We dumped it out and then immediately the next day it was refilled to 2.5". There has been tornado warnings, high winds, hail, and just tons of water falling from the sky. The sun just peeked out yesterday afternoon, and it is now 90 degrees.

I have been working on a homeschooling co-op and setting up summer plans. Since the kiddos have no regular sports or physical education, this piece of the curriculum, of course, falls to moi. So, I am sticking them in the pool this summer, since no one under the age of 10 yet knows how to swim on their own and since it gets so hot here I think that is where they are going to want to be in the pool at least until Halloween. (I am kidding about the Halloween, though it is likely until Columbus Day.)  I am also sticking them on the courts so they can get some running around time chasing down small fuzzy yellow balls. And I am putting them in a few camps so that they can see what other children their age are like. (I still haven't decided if this is a good idea.) And finally, I am making a commitment to keeping myself in shape to keep up with all this craziness. Sitting in front of the computer a lot less feels pretty good.

In and among all of this, I am still planning to have the kids in the classroom over the summer. We live in a very hot state. It is too hot to really venture outside for long periods of time in the afternoon hours during the summer months so we'll be inside checking out some Montessori works. 

Since Daddy was home yesterday and Friday we are traveling, this week's classroom updates are going to be short.
S pulled up her first radishes. These are a Korean hybrid of the more well known Japanese daikon radish. Korean radish is fat, white, and HUGE. (These are actually a mini hybrid.) They have green shoulders, and usually have beautiful green leaves you can also pickle and eat. We pickle and eat the radish itself, or put it in regular cabbage kimchee, or slice it and put into soups and stews. In chunks in a stew, it has the consistency kind of like a potato. The leaves on these radishes we aren't able to eat. When you've had as much rain as we have, it is hard to go out and pick off the little pests that eat the radish leaves and turn them into lace.

These radishes are all S. She was so very proud of her gardening skill.
S is measuring fractions using the Montessori protractor and our red fraction circles. (We got our Montessori protractor from Alison's Montessori and the fraction circles from Montessori Outlet.) This lesson sequence comes from the Geometry album. 

We only managed to get in half of the lesson. There is a story in the KotU Geometry album about the Babylonians and how they were observing the stars 4,000 years ago. They noticed that the constellations seemed to be moving around the earth and every 360 days came to rest in the same place in the sky. So they decided to divide up the circle into 360 parts and, today we call those parts degrees. S didn't think that this story was interesting and was already placing red fraction circles inside the Montessori protractor by the time I was finishing up. So we proceeded on. 

First I showed her how to measure the angles of the fractions by aligning one edge of the fraction circle up with the white line on the protractor and then reading the degree markings. She figured out that 1/4 = 90°.
Then she also realized that (2) 1/8ths, make 1/4th. But (2) 4s make 8. She also realized that this was true for 1/5th and 1/10ths, 1/3rds, and 1/6ths, and 1/2s and 1/4ths. 
And then she wanted to sketch her findings. Here you can see that she is simply illustrating equivalencies. The last part of the lesson, angle notation, is the part we need to circle around and cover next. 

This lesson comes after the parts of an angle, (amplitude, sides, vertex) and before adding and subtracting angles.
D is gaining a lot of traction with the number rods. This work started out so shaky, but I must say he really has developed a solid understanding of this material. We are still working on that number sense: when you can just look at the rod, and it's stripe pattern, and know instantly it is the rod of 8. For now, he knows the rod of 10, 9, 4, 3, 2, and 1 by sight. 

Here he is working to replace the rods back in their stand in ascending order. Somehow he got them out of order but then was able to put them back in order with no assistance. I approached to see what he was doing, and he told me, "I don't need any help Mommy."

I wrote more about this work here. I think that we are about ready to move onto the next lesson. I was going to say that the next presentation would be to show the rod and bring the card, but he has already done this exercise independently. Then I was going to say that the next presentation was going to be rods and cards in sequence. But he has already done this lesson working independently too. I guess some children just don't need all the lessons. It is always when I am beginning to think that certain comments I hear just can't be true, my children prove me completely wrong.

I will say that the next number rods lesson will be the "impression of addition" where we find pairs of rods that are equivalent to the rod of 10. Or maybe he'll get to this exercise before I do again!
D is using his right hand to touch each band of color as he counts.
D is doing a very good job at repeating work independently. I am kind of amazed, since this is something my children generally struggle doing. His deeper understanding of what he is doing shows in his repeat work. 

I wrote more about the spindles work here. I think he is up for a new table and chairs this year coming. Someone grew a bit!

We also played the zero game yesterday. D wanted to sit in my lap so I let him do just that. Typically, this game is played with a small group of children. I said, "I'll clap one time." Then I clapped once and said, "one." D then wanted to do the exercise with me at the same time. Then I said, "let's clap four times." Then we clapped four times and counted each one aloud. Then I said, "let's clap zero times." Then I didn't clap at all, and said "zero." D didn't clap at this point either. 

After repeating the process with a few more numbers between 0-9, and repeating zero, a few more times, I asked him how he knew how many zero was. He got up and went over to the spindles box and pointed at the box and said, "zero is there Mommy." I asked him, "how many is zero." He said, "zero is nothing Mommy." Well he is absolutely right. 

The direct aim of this lesson is to further deepen the child's understanding that zero means nothing. The indirect aim of this lesson is to prepare the child for later decimal system work.

The zero game is played after the spindles work and before the cards and counters.
Racks and tubes. Again. T gets on a work and then that is all he can think about. I remember it being this way with the multiplication checkerboard. Anyway, we are working on the last piece leading to abstraction. (We are right behind you Kal-El!!) T is estimating each digit of the quotient and then verifying his estimation using the beads. I think once he catches on, that is he is going to like doing the problems this way and will want to forget the fiddly beads.Or, not, he may certainly prove me wrong. The last time I wrote about this material was in this post here.

Okay, now it just looks like we only did math today. But really, we only did math in between doing laundry, dishes, and tennis practice. 

We'll be back soon for another update! Hope your school is going well.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Has It Really Been That Long?

Part 1 Week 17, May 18, 2015

Has it really been that long? I think I skipped the entire month of May!! So many things have happened in the family, really far to many to count, and to recount here. No matter. We are trying to get back into the swing of things and I have a couple of topics to post!
D is finally showing an interest in the metal insets. He is still a maze fanatic, but every other day or so he'll pull out the metal insets and give them a trace. I wrote more about this work here.

Oh, and you'll notice that he got his blue cast off. The official verdict on the elbow was a "we don't know what happened." They didn't say those words of course. They are medical professionals after all. And we had to pay an arm and a leg.

Maybe we need a bit more in the way of outward organization? I thought that this kind of mess wasn't supposed to come about until the second plane of development. 
And D had no interest in drawing the line formations. There are several line formations children can practice while tracing the metal insets. There are wide parallel lines, narrow parallel lines, lines that traverse back and forth, shading lines, etc. D was very disappointed that his parallel lines came out slanted. He proceeded to take matters into his own hands and shade in the figure as you can see above.

D and I worked a bit on the classes of animals. I wrote more about the other parts of this work here. In this part of the lesson we were talking about vertebrates and invertebrates, and the different classes of vertebrates: birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

I found this neat link on MBT's Facebook page about how to teach sewing the Montessori way. I think this video link was from Planting Peas. Anyway, I watched the video too quickly and the only thing I remembered was this activity, threading pony beads on pipe cleaners. Since I had a few pipe cleaners and a few pony beads, I put together a tray for D. He loved it. As do the other two. Now I need to go back to the video to figure out what to do next.

D started the spindles material!! He was so very, very, very excited about starting a new material. Though he hasn't finished with the number rods and cards, he was able to do this work just fine. He was even able to figure out where he counted incorrectly when he came to the "bin" for 9 and he didn't have 9 spindles exactly. There are 45 spindles, so the child has that control of error built into the material. If he/she is short a spindle, or has too many at the end of the work, he/she knows that he/she has made a mistake counting.
This work is part of the early primary math sequence. I've seen this material made by hand in many different ways on a number of blogs out there. Our set is from Alison's Montessori. There are two wooden boxes that are divided up into five compartments each. Each compartment is labeled with a number from 0 to 9 in order. 45 wooden spindles are stored in a separate large wooden box. We initially used pipe cleaners as bundle fasteners.
I first pointed to a few random numbers, and asked D to identify them one at a time. I removed a single spindle and placed it the palm of my subdominant hand and said, "one." I closed my fingers around the single spindle and then opened them again. Then I used my dominant hand to take the spindle and place it in the box compartment labeled "1" and I said, "one." I continued in this same manner, counting, "feeling," and placing the exact quantities of spindles in labeled each compartment. After I got to about 4, I invited D to take over the process. 

After we had placed all the spindles, I pointed out that the compartment that was labeled "0" got zero spindles, because zero means no quantity. 

Then we retrieved our pipe cleaner bundle fasteners and used them to fasten the spindles into bundles. We couldn't bundle a single spindle, so we started with the group of two spindles. You are supposed to name the group, "this is a group of 2" and then tie the fastener around the bundle of spindles. D was able to name each group appropriately, but fastening the pipe cleaners around the bundles in a manner that actually made them stay together was tricky. We switched to using black yarn, but winding this around the bundles wasn't any easier. I am not sure if this fastening process is supposed to be difficult, or challenging, or not. 

After fastening all the bundles, and placing them back into their compartments, (the album didn't specifically indicate whether to put the bundles back in the compartments, though there was an illustration suggesting that this is the proper routine) D then removed everything, unfastened each bundle, collected the fasteners, and placed the spindles back in their box. 
The spindles material helps the child associate the quantities and corresponding numerical symbols, see the numerals in sequential order, introduces the zero quantity and helps the child realize that quantities are composed of loose, single, like, individual units. This work comes after number cards and rods, and before the zero activity.
This is also one of D's favorite activities presently: doing mazes. The ones pictured here are a bit hard for him. We picked up this particular book at a half price book store, and it contains a mix of difficulties some of which he can complete quite easily.

D is back at working with the fabric box. I wrote more about this work here. 

The materials consist of a single wooden box that contains six pairs of fabric squares (either sergered or pinked around the edges) of different fibers. In our case, I simply made squares of different textured fabrics. 

For the initial presentation, I arranged all of the fabric squares on the table in a random fashion. After sensitizing my fingers, I felt a random first piece of fabric. Then I felt another fabric square and compared it to my first fabric square. I simply picked up a corner of the fabric square between my thumb and middle and index fingers and lightly moved my fingers over the fabric. If the second fabric did not match the first in texture, I set it to the right side of my table and selected another square to feel. If the second selection did match  in texture, I placed the two matching squares together and set them to the side to the left of my space. I then proceeded to select another square of fabric and repeat the matching process.

D and I completed the first matching sequence with our eyes open. Subsequent matching we did with our eyes closed, or with our owl mask on. After pairing all the squares the child may check their work by seeing that the fabric pairs also match in color and pattern.

There is usually a second box or basket of fabric choices, but I think I am simply going to rotate out the selection in our one box. Language that describes texture and weave is given in a later lesson. Additional lesson extensions include distance matching and the environment game. This work helps develop tactile discrimination, and usually this lesson is given around age 3, after the touch tablets.

I am feeling like we are slipping behind with the sensorial lessons, so I am working this spring to keep him on track. I know that doesn't sound very Montessori; the guide keeping the child on a certain track. But in D's case, since we have a severe lack of peers, with only one primary child, which is him, he needs a bit of external inspiration and enthusiasm to keep going. The complete lack of a peer group is an issue we are constantly grappling with in our homeschooling environment. It is one thing that Maria Montessori just got right and I suspect this lack is the largest reason we don't find the results in our classroom that she found in hers.
D was very interested in learning some of the botany cabinet nomenclature. Here he has put the sphere in the inset for the orbiculate leaf shape. "Orb" means a spherical shape. 

D worked with these drawers of insets almost two years ago. The initial presentation demonstrates how to remove the drawers of insets, how to remove the shapes and then how to trace the empty inset and the shape with an orange stick and then replace the shape inside frame. (I think the our old pictures he isn't doing these lessons first, but rather working with the cards, which are supposed to come later. This was in August of our first year of homeschooling and I didn't find the KotW albums until much later.)

The second presentation demonstrates how to scatter the shapes and then match them to their frames. Children are allowed to work with one drawer and then more than one drawer at a time. After this point, the child is given language to describe the leaf shapes in the drawers. This language is given in a 3 period lesson.

In the orientation of the photo above, from L to R, top to bottom the leaf margins are: orbiculate, hastate, ovate, lanceolate, deltoid, and linear.

After the language lesson, extensions include distance matching, scattering the shapes in the environment and matching them to their inset, the environment game when they find a matching plant or specimen in the environment, and the stereognostic game where the child will replace the shapes in their insets without the use of sight. This work usually extends from 3.5 yrs to 4.5 yrs.

The insets in the cabinet's three drawers aren't meant to be an exhaustive collection of all known leaf margins. These insets represent some of the most prevalent leaf margins and are meant to inspire the child's enthusiasm to investigate new leaf margins they discover but do not yet know how to classify.
I don't remember if I wrote about the song that D sings when he is rolling up a mat. I learned it from my Center for Guided Studies Primary course. The words are:

Roll, roll, roll your mat,
Roll it nice and tight,
When we roll it nice and tight,
It will fit just right.

This is sung to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Fitting just right refers to being able to get the rug into the bin/holder.

Over the past couple of weeks, we've been doing a huge amount of practical life activity around here. Through some horrible allergy testing, we found out that S is severely allergic to literally EVERYTHING. Some things she reacted to so severely, they couldn't even measure her reaction on their "scale." 

So, we've been wiping down banisters, blinds, baseboards, ceiling fans, chair-rails, bed-rails, headboards, shelves, toys, clocks, pictures, appliances, electronics, furniture, and pretty much everything that exists in our household. (I am so very glad that we put down wood flooring everywhere and that I hadn't yet gotten area rugs.) Here D is helping out with the spindles in the banister. This is one of the areas he can actually reach.
We are super glad that we have an allergy wash setting on both the washer and the dryer.
I've been wondering a bit about gross-motor work for D. Since we are at home, and are not a traditional pre-school, I was wondering if he was getting enough. Doing the laundry (our front loaders aren't on stands so he can actually reach them) has been a great way for him to get in some gross-motor heavy lifting. He did 6 loads of laundry this day.

Meanwhile, we wrapped up our Sunday school schedule for this school year and with the end of the year parties, and thank-you gifts, the kiddos ended up making 4 different cookie recipes! I tried hard to stay out of the process and just let them do some problem solving. They did a pretty good job and everything tasted okay in the end. (Even for a Montessori homeschooler, this is hard for me. I have a ton of backing experience so seeing inefficiency really makes me itchy.) 

T and S took 90 minutes to make the chocolate chip cookie recipe. I made an oatmeal milk chocolate chip recipe in about 7 minutes.
 Messing with the mixer.
Somehow this was a good way to form the icebox cookies.
 T cleaning up after making a few batches.
S figured out that the bells were in dire need of some dusting and took it upon herself to very, very, carefully clean them off. She even noted that one had a finger print on it!! Oh the horrors! The metal on these bells isn't supposed to be touched anywhere since oils from the skin can change the pitch of the bells. We've had more than a few visitors over the last month or so, and I haven't been as good as I should be about erecting the baby-gate. 
Oh, fractions. This is another area where I feel we are so very far behind where we should be. T and I have been reviewing, rather quickly, the ins and outs of adding and subtracting fractions with like denominators, multiplying fractions by whole numbers, and dividing fractions by whole numbers, and finding different denominators when needed (like 1/2 ÷ 4=.) Sometimes T chooses to use the fraction circles and skittles to illustrate his problems and sometimes he chooses to simply write down the problem and his answer on paper only.

Next, we will cover adding and subtracting fractions with different denominators and exercises leading to abstraction.
Spelling is one of the very few areas I have chosen to use a curricular approach that is different from Montessori. Because we lack a class of 30 children spelling words along side mine every day, and because I am a terrible speller, I have enlisted the help of All About Spelling. I felt a systematic, teacher led, lesson plan could do us some good and break things up a bit. 

We've adapted the AAS curriculum a tiny bit. We "capture" spelling rules on our rule rings. When we learn a new spelling rule, T and S write the rule down on note cards, in their own words, hole punch it, and put in on their binder rings of rules. Later on, when we are working on other writing projects, such as thank-you letters, I'll proof their work, or ask them to proof their work, and then they can look at their ring of spelling rules for reference.

Somehow T and S love AAS. I thought that there was a 50-50 chance that they would think it was the most boring activity on the face of the planet, but they love it. We started a couple of months ago and both children have nearly finished the first book. The first book was a lot of review for T and S but I still wanted to start at the beginning to ensure we reviewed things like what a syllable is and a few of the early rules like when we use "ck" and when we use "k" at the end of the word. (You use "ck" right after a short vowel. You use "k" after any other letter.) 

There is also an iPad app MBT told me about that eliminates our need for magnetic letter tiles. The app is called Spelling Whiteboard and you can buy it from iTunes. The children are handwriting a lot, so this also speeds up dictation since we aren't manipulating letter tiles all the time. We'll see how this all continues to go and I'll make updates on our progress periodically.
S got into a few more of the adjective grammar boxes. This particular filling box contained adjectives that were all about size and shape. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page where I have that enormous cloud of tags, you can click on the one that says "grammar" and pull up all the posts I've tagged "grammar." 
This was another grammar filling box and S was very surprised that it didn't contain any sentence strips. Instead, she had to figure out which adjectives agreed with which noun. For example, she found that her phrase, "the cylindrical pyramid" made no sense whatsoever. But the phrase, "the square pyramid" made more sense.
I relented and gave S permission to write in her Daily Math Word Problems books. These books aren't inexpensive so I was hoping to find a method by which she could do the problems in the book, but not write her answers and notes in the book. Not possible. I was flipping through the other day and found that she had written all over the place. So D isn't going to be able to use this volume. Oh, well. After I told her that she could just note her work right in the workbook she decided that all of the raccoons needed a bit of color.

T is getting back into the racks and tubes division. I think I may have mentioned this before, but I would really like him to finish with this material before he is just "over" the fidgety beads. I think he is still liking this material enough since he pulls it out every day. I wrote more about this work here and here.
Here, T was estimating how many distributions he was going to make using arithmetic before distributing his beads. This is one of the first steps to abstract division.
The children are starting to read a LOT of books. We don't have formal homeschooling reporting requirements here in the state, but I still feel it is a good idea for them to begin logging their reading. So, in the back of their work journals T and S have started lists of books they've read.
S decided to explore the cultural cards I created for our primary language sequence. This is part of set 4, which focuses on a particular theme from each continent. This particular themed packet is about Japanese calligraphy. She thought that this style of writing was especially interesting and very beautiful. She said that some characters looked like ducks while others looked like trees in the wind. 
Here she is writing down a list of materials for me to purchase so that she can try out a bit of calligraphy writing.
Also part of our Asia cultural study I picked up a few story books. This is Hush! A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho. This is a very sweet book. D really liked all the animals in the story.

This is Kite Flying by Grace Lin. This book is super simple and all the kids wanted to fly kites after reading it.

I think I already mentioned this book, The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin, on the blog here.
All three of these titles were very nice reads that explored a bit about different Asian cultures.
And finally, it has been raining here. A LOT. So far this year, we've gotten more rain that we got all of last year. The kiddos rain boots and rain jackets finally came!! And they had fun splashing in the puddles the other day. 

And that is what has been happening in our neck of the woods! It is getting hotter and hotter here! S's lettuce in the garden is bolting already and I can't believe that it is nearly Memorial Day! So happy Memorial Day to all! We'll be checking back in soon!