Saturday, March 28, 2015

International Cuisine

We have been working hard learning more about Africa!
I remember at our old Montessori school each year the entire school would start preparing for International Day in late January. Each primary and elementary class would focus on a different continent and the upper el class usually focused on a historical theme. T's class did Asia one year and Europe another. S's class did South America.

International Day was a big deal. As a parent we spent time working with the kids on crafts (I hauled in my sewing machine one year), coming up with music ideas, decor ideas (I made 150 paper cranes one year,) and food ideas. Parents in each class made dishes from the continent their child was studying. And, since this big day always happened on a Friday during Lent, and I was gluten-free at the time, so I was pretty much relegated to eating fruit.

Well, now it is my turn to plan our own International Day for each continent. And this time I can make it be anything I want. You've probably read about our music, story books, collectibles, cards, land marks, flags, and coins. I also made this very short recipe booklet. 

Over the past couple of days we've made a few of these recipes and the ones we've tried were quite good. My mom also copied a few of her recipes from her old TIME Life Magazine Africa cookbook and those recipes have been really really good too.
The recipes I collected for this book all came from Internet blogs. I just copied them into Word, referenced each, printed them all out single sided, laminated the lot (better for kitchen splatters) and then spiral bound the booklet. (I got my own.....spiral binding machine!!!! No more waiting at the office supply store for them to mess up my binding job.) Anyway, this particular flat bread recipe makes a TON of flat bread. I had to break up the bread-making between two days because it was way too much for our family of five to eat in one sitting (or for me to make in one afternoon.)
S added the warm water to the flour.
Then she and D got to kneading, or rather, just picking sticky bits of dough off their fingers. This stuff is really, really, really sticky until the glutens start to develop and hold the dough together. Okay, even then it is really sticky.

Then we needed some coconut milk for our lemon chicken recipe. I just happened to have this coconut on hand from a seed lesson. It's been a while since we've cracked one of these things open so I asked T to do some research to figure out how.
He found this guy who told us exactly how to open a coconut.
This was our coconut cracking set up. How ever do they get these things open on a deserted tropical island?
We also needed fresh graded coconut for these lemon, cardamom, coconut cookies. These were very yummy. Those are small pieces of dried pineapple in the center. D and S picked these off before eating the cookie.

We also made a beef stew with curry spices and a beef/pork spiced sausage/kabobs on a different day. The dishes I made with the kiddos took us about 5 hours to complete. The dishes I made myself the following day took me about an hour to complete. The kids had fun cooking, and cleaning up, and they did end up eating the lemon chicken, the spiced sausage, the bread, and the cookies. 
S and D did some Africa cards together.
I also made these little booklets after I found a recommendation on MBT's blog. This text is on the BBC website, and the site also has pictures. (There are a large number of stories on the site, but not all are appropriate for the Montessori classroom.) I formatted everything in Word, printed it out, cut it into quarter sized sheets, mounted them back-to-back on green copy paper, laminated them, and then spiral bound everything. I made the covers myself and included the URL on the back cover.
The kids enjoyed hearing these stories.
At this point, I think that we are nearing the end of our Africa studies. I have a couple more books coming in the mail since the companies kind of messed up a few orders. But after that, I think we'll rest for a bit before heading into Asia. (I asked D which continent we should do next and he said, "Asia.")

Initially I felt that a lot of this continent study was a "guide-led" activity. I felt that much of what was done at our old Montessori school was "parent/guide-led" as well. But now that I reflect, I feel that the kids really did a lot of the connecting and exploring by themselves. No, this unit study it didn't inspire any independent research, but all three children did make their own connections between the book we had in our lap, and the cultural items on the shelf, or the music playing in the background, or the puzzle map in the cabinet. I guess that is where it all came together: that the kids were able to synthesize these connections themselves and I was able to provide the opportunity for some what we read in the story books to come alive. (I don't believe I'll be needing to make pancakes for a long while.)

I learned so much about Africa through this process. In the beginning I was a little afraid that I would completely generalize things in all the wrong ways. All I could think of was that my third grade french teacher was from Senegal. But by digging deep, by following the Internet search trail, paying attention to the books we were reading, and remembering the tiny bits of knowledge about the different cultures in Africa that I had picked up over the years, I was able to piece together a continent study that I feel pretty good about.
T did some more Logical Analysis, or sentence analysis as it is called by the rest of the world. One of the sentences he was pondering was: They will complete the squaring and cubing material in the box by noon. He was pretty sure about what went where on the logical analysis board, but, he wasn't sure how to interpret the sentence. Even my grammarian-mom wasn't able to help clarify things other than, yes, the sentence is ambiguous. 

I kept thinking the whole lot, the "they" and the "materials," were in a box. My dad thought that there could be more materials than those in the box, and that "they" were only completing the materials that were located in the box. And my mom thought it could be equally possible that "they" were completing the "materials" in the box, as opposed to outside the box. I don't know if any of this is right, wrong, or sideways. I never learned this in school, and I couldn't find a definitive Internet answer, so I am just mixed up. Anyone know of a good book that outlines stuff like this?

The closest Internet solution I found was mixed-up-modifiers. Since the "in the box" modifier is next to the noun it modifies, which is the "material," it is assumed that only the material is in the box and not "they." Now about there being more materials outside the box, or doing the work outside the box, well I can't comment on that. 

This kind of, "I don't know where to point you (T the student) to try to find an answer" is kind of disconcerting. I don't feel that I am learning "with" the child when I can't find an answer and can't help T even begin to find an answer for himself.

D is into mazes. He doesn't like metal insets at all, but he does like mazes and is very particular about his line formation. 
T asked to do some more Order of Operation problems again. He is pretty good at this kind of thing. I suspect he likes it because there is a definitive right and wrong answer and he knows how to get the right answer.
S is working on the subtraction charts. These charts are part of the primary memorization sequence. I think she is a little old for this work and should be doing more elementary math, but she says that she enjoys this work, and she gets through it quickly, so we are continuing for now.

These charts are similar to the addition charts she finished not too long ago. She will pull a prepared equation from our equation box, read it and write it down on squared paper. Then she will find her minuend at the top of the chart, in the row in red that extends to the right, and then diagonally down the right hand side of the chart. Then she will find her subtrahend in blue, on the left hand side of the chart, and then track her fingers down and to the right bringing them together, and find the difference on the chart. She has a control chart to check her work if she needs to do this. She uses shopkins for this work as well.

After this work, we'll assess whether she wants to continue with the blank subtraction charts, go on to multiplication charts or division charts, or proceed with elementary math. (We will probably make this assessment before she finishes this work, so that she can be working in two areas simultaneously.)
We also did our next geometry lesson, analyzing triangles by their sides. S and I are still working in the wings on measuring angles. She is having a very, very hard time grasping this concept. What IS an angle, what are measuring? How do I know if it is bigger or smaller than a right angle...and so on. It is interesting that T had no problem with this concept, and I don't believe that he has been formally introduced to angles before.

Anyway, here the kids are making equilateral, isosceles, and scalene triangles with our geometry sticks. Equilateral triangles have three sides that are the same length. Isosceles triangles have two sides that are the same length. And scalene triangles have no sides the same length. (I didn't combine the sides and the angles analysis yet. i.e. equilateral triangles have three same length sides and three same measure angles.) 

I purchased these sticks from Alison's Montessori and overall they were a good purchase. I did notice the other day that a few of the sticks are warped, and I don't believe this is from student use. When these sticks warp it makes them pretty much unusable. The tacks aren't long enough to fasten them to the board when they are warped. Also, they move around on the board more because they only touch the board in one spot along their length. Not a great value for your money when this box of materials cost $90.

Even D got in on the triangle making action.
I also introduced the small geometry nomenclature and definition booklets I made. I used the text in the KotU albums as a guide, created my own illustrations and definitions in Word, printed them out back-to-back, cut them out in quarter sheets, laminated everything and then spiral bound them into booklets. (A note if you are following the KotU albums: these booklets are listed at the back of the geometry album, but keep in mind that they aren't listed in the order that you will present them to the children. Polygon booklets are listed second to last, but they will probably be the second set of booklets the children will see. This bit is only important to those of us who are making these as we go along!)

Anyway, this is the wrap up of the rest of our week. It is likely that we will be taking a rest during the next two weeks. It just happened that we have come to the end of a couple of "sections" and now I need to dig in deep again and ready a big batch of new materials to continue on. At this point I plan to work hard for a week, mining pictures, laminating the world and spiral binding anything that will fit in my new binding machine. After that I think I'll need a rest and I am looking forward to tending our garden (we put in a couple of weeks ago now) reading books, and exploring a bit. If it seems a bit quiet on the blog, it is because we are busy away from the screen. But no worries though, we will be back soon.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Africa, Africa, Can We Live There?

Part 1 Week 13, March 23, 2015

We are certainly in an Africa mode these days.  Last weekend I found these videos that have some great footage of Kenya: Africa Into the Wild and Children of Africa. D really liked the shots of the animals.

This week D and I explored some of the Africa Cultural cards. We talked about how things in the photos were a little different than what we usually see here. We don't usually carry olives on our heads in great big baskets. We don't shop at open air markets where the produce is arranged on the ground. We don't see elephants out our backdoor, although D did ask, "can we live there" at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. I said, "maybe," but that he'd have to watch out for a lot of other wild animals. 

I have a hunch that in a couple of decades, D is going to be an aid worker living in Africa. I also think that I'll have this feeling only until we move on to another continent.

The other north African coins I had ordered came in the mail this week. Now we have coins from Libya, Somalia, the Sudan and Ethiopia in addition to the coins we have from Morocco, Egypt and Kenya.


T saw the coins from Kenya for the first time on Monday, and he immediately got out our Mama Panya's Pancakes book because it talks about money. He thought that the coins we had in our collection were definitely the coins pictured in the book. 
D and I also read this book. I mentioned this first book here when I was writing about land and waterforms but now I need to make a correction. Originally I had said that this book was about Lake Victoria, but it is actually about Lake Tanganyika which is the second largest fresh water lake in the world, if you measure by volume. D and I really liked this story. The illustrations are just beautiful, and you do get a sense of what life is like in that part of the world. It is also a very good land and waterform story "fit" telling about what life can be like near a lake.

We worked on putting new flags on our flag poles this week. We put up the flags for: The Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Tanzania, and the Sudan. D asked if he could live in each country. 
These small carved wooden animals, made in Kenya, arrived in a banana fiber box.  After receiving these, I tucked away our other plastic animals for Africa. 
D thought that they looked a lot like the animals in the book Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema


And finally, our thumb piano came in the mail. When she saw it, S immediately smiled and said that it was like Rafiki Kaya's thumb piano in our book, Mama Panya's Pancakes. (You are probably tired of reading about that book here!) Then she proceeded to play it out in our backyard for the next two hours. Our neighbors must be wondering what we are up to. 

That thumb piano has also accompanied us on many a shopping outing and somehow always gets put back in our bolga basket in the classroom afterward safe and sound. (T, S and D generally have a hard time putting things away. Except in the classroom.) 

I talk more about our Africa Cultural Studies here and everything that started it here and here. 
More logical analysis. The last post I can find on this topic was here, in November! My albums suggest that the child write, or find their own sentences. Well, T doesn't feel like doing this. He feels more like analyzing other people's writing. So, for him, I printed out a large number of sentences on colored paper and cut them into strips. He has been happily snipping away ever since.

 S is still going with her Daily World Problems.

And I think that S is just about done with this iteration of the division stamp game. Not is is on to two and three digit divisors and then divisors with zeros in them. 
T started on the next bells lesson, writing music. I started "writing" a song on the green staff boards and he saw my first five notes and without touching the bells, asked me if was writing "Mary Had a Little Lamb." REALLY? I told him since he already understood the lesson without me presenting the lesson, that he could just take over. Which he did, and then he wrote down "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" on the green staff boards.

D and S did sound objects the other day: initial sounds only (f-f-feather.) She commented that he really knows his sounds.

I think we are getting to the cusp sooner than I had thought where D is ready for sandpaper letters. The other day, D came up to me and asked me to show him how to write "Tokyo Mater" (from Disney Cars.) I think we'll be presenting sandpaper letters very soon.

This is some of the Work of Air, Currents demonstrations. This demonstration calls for a shallow dish of water and fine saw-dust. We emptied out our pencil sharpeners and used these wood-shavings.

We could see here that the "wind" will push the dust particles in a single direction.
We could see here, that the wind blows the dust particles in two directions when there is a rock pile interrupting the flow of everything. When the currents are interrupted by land forms (in our case a pile of rocks) the currents tend to circulate in two different directions.
Here we saw that by heating this beaker of water, the dust particles at the bottom of the beaker will move upward with the current of warm water.
This is our chart from the KotU albums that shows the names of some of the different ocean currents around the world.
D did a little bit of Europe with T. Getting Europe back into the puzzle was pretty easy for T, but not for D. Next time we'll work on taking out only the pieces we know and a couple more we want to learn. This way we aren't inundated with a whole continent of pieces we have no idea how to put back.

The KotU albums reading list suggests the Sir Cumference book series. These are pretty neat books, but they are kind of tricky to get since they are out of print. (If you are looking for used books, because they are cheaper than new books, or otherwise, go to Abe Books, or Thrift Books.com. I think that both of these sellers also sell through Amazon as well. Even with paying the occasional shipping cost on these sites, the total cost of the book is many times less than the $0.01 book cost plus $3.99 SH on Amazon.) 

Anyway, we have collected almost the entire set, and T is asking me everyday to find the last two books. These books are about a knight named Sir Cumference and his adventures. The stories are pretty neat and they all are about geometry. T really, really enjoys this series and is now stretching ahead of us in terms of his geometry knowledge and he is even asking to learn more. Horray!!

Speaking of geometry, we examined our Geometric Cabinet triangle drawer by angle the other day. I talk about the prerequisite angles lesson here.
Then they did a little bit of geometry collage and labeled their angles either, acute, obtuse, or right.
This was T's little sign saying that he was "done" with Factors table C. (You can see more of this work here.)
D got into some of our new Montessori materials. I think I am just about finished collecting all of the official wooden, metal and bead materials. I told my husband to not get too excited about the fact that I had exhausted all the catalogs because there are still many materials to make and so many more items/specimens/books to collect!!! D has the algebreic trinomial cube...or at least that is what the materials companies call this work.

Primary doesn't usually get their hands on this work. The color patterns are different than in the sensorial trinomial cube, but D did get the new color pattern after a bit and was able to determine by size, which cube and prism went where.
D actually did this work before the algebric cube. Here he is creating each layer separately. (He decided he wanted to stack them after making them.) He starts with the diagonal squares and then fills in with the prisms.



We also tried a little more color box three. (I thought that I had posted about D doing this lesson before, but evidently I didn't. You can see what this work might look like at the Elementary level here.)
At first I thought that I needed to re-present this lesson to D, but now that I am looking at this shot, I think he's mostly got it. We just need a bit more systematic organization. I don't know if you can tell from this shot but he has graded a good number of the sets correctly. It is just that some of them extend from darkest to lightest and then others extend lightest to darkest. After this D made a huge long train track.
D also did a bunch of biological classification with me. I made these booklets from the descriptions and text from the KotW language album. Then I made the card sets separately. I have a number of other digital cards sets from other places, but felt that making a collection that fits D's personality and interests was the best way to go.
We worked on classifying items as "living" or "non-living," and "plant" or "animal." He has done these activities before and knows this stuff pretty well.
The cards I collected for the Story of the Five Classes of Vertebrates is from the Learning Resources Classifying Cards Bundle. I wrote more about this set of cards here. These biological classification stories are part of the KotW language album vocabulary section.

A couple of things we did that I didn't capture on digital film were: ant studies and grammar command cards. Perhaps I'll get a shot of these activities next time. 

I can feel that we are coming up on a spring break here. Things are getting looser, momentum is slowing. Everything is a cycle, so I am sure before I can write down on my shopping list, river rocks that we will be up and going again. Hope you are having a good one where ever you are. I need to go help the kids fill our planters out back.