Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Still in Review

We are reviewing, and practicing and reviewing and practicing; reviewing what we already know and practicing new skills and the skills that we've forgotten. I hit the pause button and for now we are trying to recover that lost data that we compiled last school year. I am hoping that their brains are kind of like a computer and although it may seem that those files have been erased, they are actually still there if you know where to click to open. My fingers are crossed. 

We are also busy busy busy these days. I kind of miss last year when we did NOTHING. At this point last year we had just moved in and I was hauling box after box up to the second floor trying to set up our school room and unpack our house. This year we are in the car going here and there and trying to keep track of all the appointments we have coming up. 

Nevertheless, we have been doing school work. So here is a peek at what we've been up to.

 D did the hundred chain a couple of weeks ago. And he hasn't stopped counting ever since.
 Here he is using his green chalkboard to write his numbers.
He still needs a little refinement in this area. Sometimes our tens and units get reversed. But I hope that he'll figure it out in time as we continue to work with the category cards and keep on writing.
He used his number "chart" to help him do the 6 square bead chain. Here he laid out the tickets.
And he did the 5 chain. He says the numbers on the tickets when he finishes placing them.

 And we take a lot of pictures of our work on the kid camera.
 And we did the 4 chain too.
Here he is comparing the 4 square chain to the 4 square to make sure that they are equivalent.
I prefer that he touch each bead with his finger as he counts, but he likes to use the red plastic counter. And he uses the counter in his right hand. Arr. 

This is his "I am proud of me" smile.
We need a little help remembering the order in which we place our tens and units. I am very pleased with his form and handwriting, especially as a lefty. Somehow he doesn't end up smearing all of his numbers as he writes them.
He has also been writing sounds. Here he is fishing through the sandpaper letters to find that sound he needs.
I think that is a hand pointing to "it."
This one would translate as "you're it."
We also use the sandpaper letters to spell words.
And you could have guessed that D would come up with this.
And finally we are using the moveable alphabet too. 

Next time I will aim to have more bits about T and S and the review work they are doing.
D is participating in this picture but usually he makes it a point to NOT participate in anyway when his team is playing against another team.
 
S has been practicing and practicing and practicing her flute. This Sunday we sat in on a master class given by Robert Aitken. And this is a pic of S practicing her d-major scale under my office desk.
This is a very far away video of S at her tennis lesson. Here she was working on her foot work and not on her swing. She doesn't normally pop the ball up all over the place. 
And T has been working hard at his fall ball. He is really coming into his own and figuring out skills like this face-off stance. The coach here is a visiting coach from one of the local colleges and is showing the guys how to get the face-off ball out if there is a deadlock. T is generally pretty good at this skill. The last game he won 3 of 3 face-offs.

How is your school year going so far?
Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

New Elementary Lessons

T didn't have an introduction to grammar in Primary, or at least not to my knowledge. His first year in elementary I introduced all 8 parts of speech Montessori covers, noun, article, adjective, verb, preposition, adverb, pronoun, conjunction and interjection. He received these initial lessons and then partially worked on the grammar boxes. He never got to the grammar command cards because I didn't have these ready until this year. Last year, he worked relatively little with grammar. We started the sentence analysis sequence, noun and adjective classification, and word study, but since we lost three months of schooling during our move, there wasn't too much of that either. I'll also add that he wasn't all that into writing: that is, creative writing, letter writing, writing definitions, or factual writing. I think that his dislike for writing has stalled us from exploring language more. He loves to read, but the expressive language isn't all there yet.

Anyway, he is is a rules boy. He loves knowing just what is expected him and working with certainty. So I thought that some more classification and rules could do him some good. 

In the part of the school year I didn't take photos for some reason, T started with the present tense lessons. 

Pictured here is the past tense sequence. The KotU albums have you make this crazy set of cards. There is no where that anything sells like this, or at least I haven't seen anywhere that does. If you know of somewhere let me know too!

I think that I made these correctly. I wasn't able to find photos of this material anywhere either. 
Anyway, in this lesson we explore weak and strong verbs in the simple past tense. I put together three envelopes: one containing weak verb strips and charts, one containing strong verb strips and charts and one envelope that has a mix of strong and weak verb strips. 

For these "folders" I just put the strips into smaller zipper plastic envelopes with red cards with a labels on them. Through trial and error I was able to make charts and strips that fit the envelope "folders."
There is a printable for this material (minus the verbs, you'd need to come up with examples yourself) on the KotU message boards.

Above you can see the chart I made for the weak verb slips. In the present tense, the root of the weak verb doesn't change. In this case it would be "I paint," "you paint," "he paints," "she paints," etc. In the past tense, the weak verb root doesn't change either, but we know that the action was in the past by its suffix, in this case "ed."

You can see that the verb strip is inserted into the chart. I just laminated the entire chart and then used a ruler and a utility knife to cut slits in where I needed, leaving enough strip at the ends to be able to move it up and down.
I chose to include "to ask, to stamp, and to paint" in my weak verb folder.
You can almost see the weak verb charts at the top of this photo. In the initial presentation, we only present the weak verb charts and the other strong verb charts you see at the bottom of the shot would still be in their envelope.

Anyway, the "s" for the third person singular "he" and "she" on the weak verb chart is printed on the chart already, making the addition to "he paints" and "she paints" automatic. Only the verb root word "paint" is printed on the weak verb strip. The simple past tense chart has "ed" printed on it for each conjugation. 

The strong verbs are also called irregular verbs. The root of the verb changes in the simple past tense. For example, "I eat" becomes "I ate." You can almost see in the shot above that the simple present tense chart for the strong verbs also has a printed "s" for the third person singular conjugations. And the simple past tense chart for the strong verbs has nothing printed on it but the pronouns because the verb is not modified by a suffix. The different verb root, "ate" is printed on the back of the verb strip. (So "eat" is printed on one side, and "ate" is printed on the back side.) I made the strong verb charts in the same manner as the weak verb charts.

I chose "to eat, to grow, and to find" for the strong verb folder. 
These were some of the other verbs I made for the "mixed" envelope where the child must figure out if they are strong or weak verbs. 

**Try to have your child not look at the backs of the verb strips while looking at the simple present tense. Otherwise they can guess whether they are strong or weak verbs right off the bat.**

T liked this lesson and thought it was pretty simple. I was glad that he liked the lesson material that cost me three days, and some grey hair to make.

I don't remember if the albums have the child do follow-up works for this lesson. I had T look through his Captain Underpants books for weak and strong verbs. He ended up with a good collection of both.

Stay tuned, there is more to come!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Oh Goodness, an Alien Invasion

S in her closet sitting on a bin of stuffed animals playing her flute.

I think there was a summer alien that came and landed on our roof and in the middle of the night it decided to take my children's brains back home with it to the far reaches of the galaxy and left them with only Jello up there in the empty space above their eyes.

To all who think that we do a lot, that I really know what I am doing, and that my children are always well behaved, and I am always calm, cool and collected, well, that is a completely false. 

We are in the throws of a MAJOR review session. No one under the age of 9 remembers what a noun is. No one remembers what 2x5 is. And no one remembers what we had for dinner yesterday. So for now, we are spending time, lots and lots of time, revisiting works we already did. 

The other day T didn't remember how to decompose his multiplicand. He did this work for a number of months this spring. Does this mean he needs to continue to do this work long after he is bored with it? Does this mean that we need to have a "review" slot in our work plan and actually re-learn-review, and revisit works that we already put away a couple months back? I am not a huge fan of this game plan since it means MORE time added to our classroom day. If more time is what the children need to retain what they did three weeks ago maybe ongoing review is the only way to get their brains back from those aliens.

I seriously don't know how other teachers do this. I see this as one of the huge pitfalls of homeschooling using Montessori. In a regular Montessori school, this brain evaporation might not happen, or at least not as much. 

If T was in a lower el class of 25 children, after he finished with the bank game, he'd see Sam using the bank game for a week, and then Alice using the bank game with Samantha. Maybe a week later, Mark would have a question for T about the bank game because he knew that T had moved passed that work. In this manner, T would be brought back around for continual review long after he had mastered the activity card set. And maybe after three months he wouldn't forget absolutely everything he did using the bank game. 

Here at home, when he puts the bank game back on the shelf, he has to wait for a year before S gets to it. There is no continual review. He "gets it" very quickly, and doesn't like to dwell in topics that are "easy," and so moves on only to forget it all just a few months later.

I don't even think that long problem sets, or thick decks of task cards would help much either. T's done a number of long sets of problem cards for a number of different works, like the checkerboard, the LBF, fraction operations, and grammar cards and he doesn't remember those concepts either.  I think that long task card sets keep the child in the material, but there is no review, just continual work, which unfortunately T doesn't like. How long does the child need to continue doing problem cards for a typical work to have all of the concepts "sink-in" fairly permanently? Long card sets don't encourage teaching someone else what you know or seeing the work worked later over and over again, and so there is little-to-no retention.

I also don't feel that there is enough repetition in the key lessons that a single child can adequately revisit basic concepts like decomposing the multiplicand. (There very well could be enough repetition among the key lessons and it could be that I don't know well enough how to overlap the different subjects so that the children revisit the same concepts enough that they actually retain them.) We have seen geometric multiplication a bunch, but beyond that, there I don't see a comprehensive continuation of the many threads we are working through now in Elementary. 

Right this moment, T and S are working on nouns. They've both had this key presentation, twice. They've both worked through all of the noun grammar boxes, and S did the noun task cards we have. They've written nouns in sentences and symbolized hundreds of nouns. They both read tons and tons of books of varying difficulty levels. But neither of them could tell me what a noun is. Ugh. Back to square one. Literally.

I don't know how long this review session will last.  Maybe we can let up when those summer aliens decide to let my children have their brains back. Until then...*sigh*.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Getting Out of the Groove of Blogging

It has been a gradual road to a full school schedule and we aren't done yet adding activities. T started lacrosse fall-ball this weekend. S finally has a regular flute schedule, time, and location. D had his first soccer practice with five other 4 year-olds and S had her first tennis lesson with a new coach at a new court. D has yet to play his first game, and CCD hasn't started yet. I've started orientation for CGS, and I am almost done with my almost-6-straight-weeks of dental visits. 

The weather is still reaching almost into the 100s each day, and the sun is coming up later each morning. I am hoping that we'll be able to play tennis mid-day and practice lacrosse and soccer in the evenings as the days cool down a bit. I am also hopeful that I'll be able to tweak my morning schedule so that I will be able to see the sun and will not have to go jogging with a head-lamp on. And I am hopeful that our family schedule will become routine again very soon.

Along these lines, I have a ton of school stuff to share, but I just haven't had the time to sit down at the computer to modify all my pics and to write about what we've been doing. A full posting routine will come in time, but for now, here is just a tiny bit of what T's been doing with our cubing materials.

T has finished the Passing from One Square to Another lesson sequence and can pass to a non-successive square and express this process algebraically. For example: we can pass from the square of 3 to the square of 7. (I realize now that I wanted to get a shot of this before I posted about it, but sorry, no shot.) So, numerically he gets: 7^2 = 3^2 + 2(3*4) + 4^2; and algebraically he gets: (a+b)^2 = a^2+2(a+b) + b^2.

T also finished the next lessons in the squaring sequence, Squaring a Sum, where we do somewhat the same process using bead-bars. T had a big ah-ha moment when he figured out that the rectangles were equivalent to the 2(ab) he's been seeing over and over again. Sorry, no pictures of this either.

The next lessons in the sequence would be Squaring with Hierarchical Value. In this sequence we revisit the peg board and a bit of geometric multiplication. I decided to move on to Passing from One Cube to Another and do the Squaring with Hierarchical Value lessons concurrently.

This work uses our cubing materials. They are from Alisons I think. This material is incredibly heavy. Only I can actually move it. I need to keep it on our top shelf since our weird shelves are organized from bottom to top so that the littlest guy can reach everything he needs. This box is a really wonky weird shape which I hate. The entire material was super expensive and it came four months later since it was on back-order for ever and ever. Anyway, the quality is nice and the kids are very intrigued. 

The material consists of one huge box with dividers to fit each cube. There are 27 cubes of 1. All cubes and squares are color coded according to the Montessori beads. There are then 27 squares of 2, and one cube of 2. The squares are all one unit thick. There are also 27 squares of each size (3-9) and one cube of each size (3-9) as well. The albums note that the cubes should be a shade darker than their corresponding squares...but this doesn't really seem to be apparent in our set.
The first lesson is passing from one Cube to Another: Passing from One Cube to its Successive Cube. Above we have the cube of 5 (lt. blue) and the cube of six (purple.) We then worked to turn the cube of five into the cube of six. You can see that T added a square of five on three sides and a length of 1*5 to three edges and the cube of 1 to one corner.
These are the pieces taken apart he used to create the cube of 6.
Then we added writing to describe what we were doing. Here he wrote that he used the cube of 5, three squares of 5, three lengths of 5, and the cube of 1. He verified numerically that all of that does indeed equal the cube of 6, or 216. 

The album suggests in the first lesson to use tickets and name individually each piece we used to build the cube of 6 and then move to writing down the entire equation on a single sheet of paper. T didn't need to do this step and just wrote down his equivalent equation on paper in one step. I think that it may have been because he had been doing something similar with the passing from one square to another and that this looked similar to the binomial cube he used in primary. Later on we will derive the algebraic description of what T is constructing here.
T decided to carry on and pass from one cube to a non-successive cube. Here he is going from the cube of 4 (the yellow) to the cube of 6 (the purple.)
Here he is verifying that these cubes are indeed equivalent or equal on all sides.
And these are the pieces he used to construct his cube of 6. The cube of 4, three pieces consisting of two squares of 4, three prisms of 2x2x4, and the cube of 2.
This was T's equation describing all of the pieces he used to build his cube of 6.
T here made the cube of 9, from the cube 6. I don't remember if he wrote this one down. 
The next lesson will be cubing a binomial using beads. Later we will include algebra and lastly link our mathematical description to the sensorial material T used in the primary class, the binomial cube.
D decided to get in on the construction action too.
We'll be back with more school stuff soon!