Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Where Do the Hours Go?

Where do the hours in the day go? Lately I've been trying to focus on one thing at a time. My mind is always racing, with oh, I forgot to...I need to...I will...and the more I try to remember the more I forget. So no more. I'll have a pad of paper in my back pocket and a pencil in my ponytail, and that will be the extent of my double-tasking. If I remember something I'll write it down. I will put my planner book, cell phone and ipad away, and just write. Or just read. Or just name it. And THEN I will do the next, you name it. One at a time. Is there any other way to do it with neanderthal linear thinking brains? 
So, what have we been up to? Here is a very small bit of it all: starting with bead chains. And lots and lots of them. D is a little young to be going through this sequence, but this is where I like that Montessori is flexible. He really likes number symbols. He likes counting things, in this case beads. A lot. I've just figured out that I did these bead chains a bit out of order, but I was augmenting his number name memorization with another resource so my mind got switched around a bit. Anyway, usually one starts with the hundred chain and then proceeds on to the thousand chain right away before starting the bead chains. There are bead chains for the squares and cubes of 1-10. These bead chain works help reinforce physical quantity, linear counting, number recognition, skip counting, multiples, squaring and cubing, and probably a bunch of other things I am forgetting at the moment. So, we started with workbook pages. Oh, no, we started with the tens and teen boards and beads. THEN D really wanted to continue counting so we got into the workbooks. This was around the time when I started pushing down on that "need-to-know-your-math-facts" button with T and S and D needed workbook work at that time too. So he got a counting workbook. And then he finished that in a flash and he wanted another counting workbook and another one. I think he paused after three. Anyway, after all that number symbol recognition work, he was super excited to count beads. So he started counting and counting and counting. Above he has out the square and cube chains of 3. The children use color coded tickets to mark multiples. And you can see that he puts the squares and cubes above the quantities the correlate.
Here he labeled the cube chain of 4.
He completed the square chain of 7. He always says the numbers up and down the chain a bunch of times after counting.
And here is the cube chain of 5. He needed a little bit of help once he reached 99. He's been saying 100 after 99 for months now, but when he came the 100th bead, S had to help him out a bit.
Then he figured out that you could make shapes with the chains. He started making a stair with the 8 chain, but then figured out that he didn't have enough bars to make all of the edges. Then, by himself, he figured out that he needed the 10 square chain. I think he had stars on the brain because of the Land of Israel work we had been doing for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.
And finally, we are at the thousand chain. (And it isn't yet Christmas time! S got to this work just as we were packing to leave for Mexico last year. Great timing. D's timing this year is a bit better.) D is just shy of 4.5 years old and the album suggests that he should be about 5 when doing this work. BUT, D didn't do the collective golden bead exercises before this work which is what most children do. We are a tiny bit behind on that sequence, you'll see where we are below, but D started this whole math thing earlier than most children. Like 3.75 years. And he hasn't stopped since. He just really likes numbers and we are going with it. So anyway, the thousand chain is what you see above. It extends from our classroom down the hallway and into the boys' room.
First D and I put the tickets in order. Or rather, D put them in order and I helped organize it a bit here and there. I just love shots with that concentration face.
Here we are putting the blue tens tickets in "hundred families." They were a big mess but D got it under control and put them all together. I think it helps that he is a pattern finder.
I rarely post out-of-focus pictures, but I had to share this one. This is his "I-am-super-happy-face" he makes with the fingers to the mouth. This was his face when he finished putting all the tickets in order.
Also another exhibit of jubilation. I'll try to remember to post pictures of the finished thousand chain when we get to that point.
So, we are about mid-way through the introduction to the golden-beads work. I suspect that we'll start the collective exercises very soon (all of the operations with the golden beads.) Here I got a golden bead quantity with four different categories (thousands, hundreds, tens and units) and D retrieved the appropriate number cards. Next up is the change game.
While I am on D, I'll share that he did some writing. This is "ee" on his chalk boards. I encourage him to vary the size of his writing. He is definitely a lefty now, and all the time, when it comes to writing!
This is "pumpkin." He did this spontaneously.

D is also reading. I think I already mentioned that here on the blog, but I can say it again as a very proud parent. Here he is reading single word cards and matching them with pictures. I made these word cards as part of the Pink Blue and Green series. (We don't "do" PBG, but these cards came in handy.) I think he chose to share them with his sister who figured out that you can make a pretty hexagon with the addition snake game beads. 

The thing that is so interesting to me is that S started out with no confidence reading. Zero confidence. D is very very confident, but doesn't like reviewing sounds and doesn't like the sandpaper letters at all. He doesn't read just because he wants to yet. S did this all the time. If there was a single stationary word in front of her she was all about sounding that out. D ignores all words unless you say, "I want to "tell" you something," and you write that something down on a piece of paper. T took no time to explode into reading short stories. S took FOREVER to start reading more than one word at a time. I wonder what D will do.
 S is working on the grade 2 Daily Math Word problems...
And T is working on the grade 3 Daily Math Word problems. I think that this was a sequencing problem and he needed a bit of help with this one. All of the other ones in this book are pretty easy for him. I pulled back from the Challenge Math book since he wasn't being consistent with it. Not sure why. Sometimes he could do a set of word problems independently no problem. Other times I needed to take 45 minutes to PULL it out of him. And that was a simple money addition problem. So we rolled back for a bit.
S has been doing the addition snake game to practice math facts. I think I posted about this earlier, so if you are looking for more info use the search box or labels below.
 T is continuing with the racks and tubes division...
 And the bank game as a review.
And sometimes D helps him out with getting number cards. I have to say that D's work with T has really helped him recognize thousands, hundreds, tens and units.
And sometimes D is less than helpful.

Somehow S slipped into some plant classification. Not quite sure I remember how this happened, but here we are talking about angiosperms and gymnosperms and she is writing it all down. We used the Montessori R&D classification books we have and the internet to look up how to classify an amaryllis.
Here she looking at a picture of an angiosperm.
Then she wanted to classify a sunflower. It is my aim to help her create a collection of these classifications and then encourage her to draw parallels between the different types of plant species she knows.
Maybe this is a bit of Twister and a bit of US geography? S has only 6 states more to learn.
And finally, one of the big reasons I am not blogging much anymore is that I've been making Catechesis of the Good Shepherd materials. I am not opening my own atrium and I presently serve in a fully stocked atrium so these materials are for me and for my personal formation as a catechist. I find that when I do, I understand. So I am making all sorts of things and the kids are just overjoyed to get to do atrium work at home. T, S and D would probably want to spend three hours a day in the atrium but we only get 2 hours a week. Above, are the liturgical colors (chasuble) tracing cards.
Here D is doing a liturgical colors pasting work. There is a liturgical colors lesson that goes with this tracing and pasting extension work. D received this lesson in the atrium.

All three like singing the song that goes along with the liturgical colors and I think that besides the word "one-hundred" D's second favorite word is "Pentecost."
This is another liturgical colors work that also goes along with the raised surface map of Israel as it was during the time of Jesus.

And this is a liturgical calendar coloring work that D did half correctly. He hasn't had this lesson yet, but he took this paper from a stack I had elsewhere and I didn't have a control he could take with it. So, the feasts should be white, except Pentecost, which is red, the times of preparation are purple and the times of growing and resting are green. He figured out that the calendar kind of looks like it has a nose, so he drew in eyes, a mouth (11 Sundays worth of ordinary time) and two arms; one holding bread, and the other wine.
S found our rosary pamphlet and since we had been talking about Mary and the rosary this month in CCD, she decided to pray an entire rosary with the Joyful Mysteries. That is her praying expression, not her "I-have-a-stomach-ache" expression.
And finally, I've been working with the colored pencils. These are part of the Altar items tracing card sets. Next up, I get back to the power tools to make some dioramas. Fun!
T volunteered to play goalie last Sunday. I was surprised since he's had no coaching on this position, ever. Next Sunday is his last fall ball day, and after that, we hope that he'll get onto the local tournament team that plays in December, and he'll do winter ball clinic before starting spring league in February. S is keeping up with the tennis and the flute. She has a first very very informal recital this weekend. And D hasn't yet decided whether he wants to participate in his soccer games. He has another couple of weeks left in the fall season and after that he starts spring soccer in February.

And finally, I'll leave you with a picture of T playing goalie last Sunday. Have a great week!


  1. D is on a roll! Look at all that counting. We've been working with the Tens Board and I'm about to present the Hundred Board (even though it's not in the KotW albums) and my son won't be 4 until November. But he loves math too! And it's great to see D is reading. I'll be watching how he progresses. I've been comfortable with the language sequence up to the movable alphabet but then it seems to get more... subjective?... than I'd like. Im anxious to see what works for you and D.

    1. Do you feel the writing or reading sequence seems more loose? We've been overlapping everything a lot, reading and writing and CVC and phonogram work and generally just going with what works for D and what is "next" in the albums. He liked the sand tray, but then moved his preference to the chalkboards. He never preferred the moveable alphabet, I think because of its size. He doesn't yet prefer to use paper and pencil though he tries at times. He was sounding out words on his own while not showing much interest in the sandpaper letter symbols. So writing has been slow, but we've moved into the reading sequence. We learn sound symbols as we go and as needed. I use object boxes, our writing tray, and cards in combination. He already is very interested in certain phonograms so he reads and writes words with these, but not with others and he still doesn't know all of his single letter sound symbols.

      I guess this does sound like it is all over the place, but I never really think it is because I am tracking only one student and I know exactly where he is in the mix. Is this helpful? Is this what you were even talking about? :)

    2. That does sound a lot like my son. He hates tracing SP letters but he's loving the chalkboards. He'll work with the movable alphabet but the "small" version I bought is so HUGE it takes him a long time to get a word written.

      But still, the SP letters, movable alphabet and chalkboards were materials I could understand how to work with. The "reading" section of phonetic boxes, phonogram boxes, etc aren't quite so tangible. I'm wondering how I'm going to keep track of all the little, weird details of English to be sure I teach them all. AND I'm worried that my son will "explode into reading" and leave me completely unprepared and unable to keep up. Haha. Is that a rational fear or what?

    3. We were in a move during D's sensitive period for sandpaper letters. I think that this is one of the reasons he sees no use in feeling any of them. Nevertheless, we did work a bit on improving muscle memory. He preferred the sand tray, shaving cream on the shower wall, and the steam on the glass in the shower (we have a large glass "wall" in our walk in shower.) Using these tactics, he did get in a lot of letter formation. He is also a visual learner and he loves tracing things. I think that this may have come from the maze books he does all the time. Since we do workbook stuff a bit, he also has cursive workbooks which he works in less, but may work in more as he feels more interested in writing with pencil on paper.

      I was just thinking while typing my previous response that D should try the printed alphabet for writing. But, alas, ours is print, and it would be nice to have him focus on cursive for now. I think that someone needs to reform the boxes that these moveable alphabets come in. My printed moveable alphabet box is not large at all.

      The reading section...have you read the dwyer pamphlet?

      As I've come to realize, this is a great primer, but it is not all inclusive. If you haven't already, go here to visit the big themes and see the overall flow of the writing and reading sequence. Then go back to the albums and see what is recommended and when. Dwyer apparently leaves certain parts out in her overview.

      An interesting thing, that may be in the pamphlet, but I am not sure, since it has been months since I read it last, is that there are a very small handful of words in the English language that aren't phonetic. With the phonograms, and the other phonogram spellings, (all given in the Dwyer publication) there are very few sight words to share with the child. My children picked up sight words as they started reading. We never had a list of sight words to memorize. To learn how to spell everything is a different matter. This comes way later. D still uses the key phonogram spelling for everything. My olders are learning the rules for when to choose what spelling. We use a separate curriculum, (All About Spelling) for this since my spelling is terrible and I learned sight reading and never any spelling rules.

      And as for exploding in to writing and reading...I've found over and over again and have been advised by Montessori trainers on this as well, that children who are isolated and not in the traditional classroom tend to not experience that "explosion into writing and reading." Even those in classrooms that don't strictly adhere to the Montessori philosophy may not experience this either. I've found that the Montessori philosophy breaks down is so very many ways when we try to implement it at home--an environment entirely different than the one Maria Montessori observed. What Maria Montessori observed in her classroom is not at all what I can expect in mine. BUT, we are still using Montessori principles in our homeschooling to enhance our depth of understanding and we focus on the positives and I work to bridge the gaps where we need to. Whenever I wonder, why is X "not working" the way I thought it would, or how I read it might, I go back to the theory and try to see if it is an implementation issue I can correct, or if it is perhaps because as a group of three homeschoolers we simply cannot closely replicate what Maria Montessori did. She always said that her results were because of a specific environment, because of specific apparatus, and because of specifically trained guides. She never said that one would get the same results if these three foundational pillars were altered. Not being able to afford traditional Montessori school tuition we get what we can from the Montessori philosophy and we go from there.

  2. I have seen children in home environments do the explosion into writing and reading - so the large group experiences is not the key factor there. Each child is different and even individual children in a 'classroom setting that DOES get the explosion in most children' might get it in smaller bits and pieces.

    There is an environmental factor that plays a much larger role: matching sensitive periods. You've noticed this - and it is the most important one, second only to having all the keys available and removing extraneous hindrances.

    There are also windows of opportunity for reading/writing - there is the 4yo window, then another at 7/8 and a smaller at 10/11. Provide keys, plant seeds, ensure the environment is rich in opportunity and the child will use the window appropriate to that particular child.

  3. The later language work at primary does feel more subjective because it is almost entirely based on the child's interest - there is simply less of a linear build-up here. The child is writing - and can read at a 2nd grade reading level (not necessarily chapter books - but all that nomenclature we've been teaching orally? all those booklets they have heard and the stories we have read to them? all their writing ideas? if we've given all the keys, there is no limit to what they can read!) - so now we are delving into various areas of that reading experience: analyzing particular sounds again (the rest of the phonograms), looking at some of the parts of speech (function of words), exploring new words in relation to concepts we know (word study with the animal groupings, homophones, synonyms, etc.), analyzing the function of phrases (reading analysis).