Friday, November 27, 2015

Plodding Along Slowly-Changing Seasons

We are going slowly. It is just our pace right now. And as for the changing of the seasons, today it is in the 70's. Tonight we are going down to the 30's. The leaves have yet to fall from the trees and I am thinking that we will need to plat bulbs in the next few weeks. I am not used to this zone 8 stuff yet.

Someone is reading!! We call it, "oh, no, who's cracking the code?" As in, all written language is a secret code and the one who is learning to read is actually cracking that code so that they can know the things that other readers know. Somehow, this reverse psychology really has my kids in giggles. The "oh, no, now you can read TOO!!" just makes them want to read more.
These are the easiest of the biome readers I have from Waseca. These are the parts of the biome readers. We also have the animals of the biomes of the world, but these are still a bit advanced for D. D quickly worked through the sound objects, the single word cards, single written words, and phrase commands that I wrote. Now he wants to read sentences and booklets. 

He's been going through our Bob Book series like lighting (I still have some of these left over from when T first started reading at his Montessori school.) And I figured it was going to get expensive real quick to keep a supply around. Plus, there just aren't that many to begin with.

I finally got the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise and Sara Buffington, to make my own set of early readers like MBT. I cannot recommend this enough. There are literally passages you can just copy from the book onto squared papers, draw some simple pictures to go along the story, and there, presto, a booklet your phonetic child can read on their own. I am SOOO glad I went this route. It is economical, since you buy only one book, and it is logical, since it follows largely the same phonetic sequence and uses few sight words. Now the problem is, that it takes me about twice as long to make these little guys (about 10 minutes) as it does for D to read them. He is reading and cracking the code so I'll take that problem and just get another set of markers.
D is also motoring along with the golden bead collective exercises. In our case, it would probably be more appropriate to call them solo operations. Small groups of children together will learn all four mathematical operations at once using physical quantity and numerical symbols. D doesn't have a collective, or small group. So I'll call him the solo one. As for the mathematical operations, so far, he thinks, adding, subtracting, and multiplying are no big deal. I was surprised that he just understands these operation concepts and thinks the whole exercise is "no big deal." He's kind of like, yeah, I get that, and....what else can I do?

Here I finally have a few shots of him doing multiplication. We are still in the static phase, and I haven't introduced carrying or borrowing to him yet, though he has done the change game. 

Above, he made three deliveries in the same amount. The tray was actually his delivery truck. I asked him to make three deliveries of 1,132. He got the cards, he got the beads. Then we counted everything all together to see how much product, or construction material, was delivered that day. He figured out that the construction site had received 3,396. 
I think he as getting the large number cards during this shot. We use three sets of small number cards to note each delivery. And we use the large number cards to indicate our total for the day inventory. At this point, I don't remember what you use for the multiplier (in this case 3.) Usually it is grey number card...but I don't remember off hand what you use in the first primary introduction.
D decided that the thousand cubes were the building blocks, the ten bars were beams, and the hundred squares were garage pieces. He said that the unit beads were the TNT for demolition. After a few multiplication problems we watched some demolition implosion YouTube videos on the iPad.
He is wearing a sleeveless shirt and shorts with no socks. I think it was warm this day. It's been really warm lately.
T has been reviewing his multiplication facts using the checkerboard and our equation cards. He is getting better and faster when he focuses. Focusing is still an issue. Sometimes he uses the stop watch to see how fast he can get a right answer.

And S has decided to go into business in the spring. Since the tree fell down out back, our landscape now has full sun in most parts of the yard. There is finally a TON of space to grow full-sun flowers and S wanted to plant a cutting garden. So that is what she is doing.

Her business idea came from the notion that many plants propagate themselves. My favorite flower, the gladiola, makes more corms each year. So you start out with 5 in year one, by year two, you may get 10. Wonderful, you dig up the 10 and replant them spread out in year two. And then in year three you end up with 20 of them. WHAT are you supposed to do with that many? Buy a farm? Well, you can sell them...or that is what S thought. She also thought that she might like to sell some of the flowers she grows as well, since really, we do only have a finite number of vases in the house. 
So here, S is researching which cutting flowers might grow well in our southern region, and what varieties she might like to plant. She's also been researching what kind of soil they like, what kind of care they need, and when to plant them. We've also worked on a business plan with details like start up costs, materials she'll need to cultivate, process, and sell her product, marketing strategies and display. S said that her business is: "to grow and sell beautiful flowers for display and for giving." I think we may have an entrepreneur on our hands.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Little By Little

Is how everything works. Or doesn't in some cases.

We've been doing everything a little and nothing a lot. This includes, sports, gardening, getting ready for Advent, CGS, CCD, flute, other activities, and schooling too.

There is another thing that has been taking a bit of my attention away from this space, and a lot of my computer time. I haven't mentioned it yet, since there wasn't really anything to mention yet. But now after a few recent developments, I can say that I am working with a special group of moms and with our Catholic Diocese to create a new Catholic Montessori school. It is both exciting and a lot of work researching, writing, meeting, touring etc. We are still in the information gathering and business plan development stage, but all of us are prayerfully optimistic that a new school may open its doors if not in the fall, within the next two years. 

The other portion of my computer time has been taken up by this CGS formation course. Goodness a lot of work!! Good and fun and interesting work, but a lot of work.  Right now, I am doing some materials making which as been interesting to say the least. It is most interesting when the kids demand to make their own "you-name-it" along side what ever it is that I am making. Just a couple of quick shots of my work in progress...
This is the raised map of Israel. This one is a mini one. And the falling star isn't quite correct, but a finished map nonetheless.

And an angel out of sculpey for on of the dioramas.

Getting back to the blog, yes, the blog...I have only a very small number of photos to share. I think that we'll return to a more intense schooling schedule after Christmas. Or that is my goal at this point. We are still reviewing everything in every way. And the little guy is getting along well with his reading, writing and math. 
We are very slowly working our way through the Story of the World first book. At this point I am just reading the stories to the kids and not doing many of the follow-up readings, nor the extension activities. I wanted to give them a sense of the sequence and progression of everything. I thought that if we spent a week dwelling on different topics the "story" may seem a bit convoluted. So, this first pass I am reading and they are coloring and then we "talk about the chapter" using the test questions as a guide. They actually like the test questions. The second pass through, I'll pick out particular stories to revisit and we'll spend a bit of time in each of these corners. Then if they'd like they can pick a few stories to examine more closely. And then I am thinking it will be time to move on to the next book. 
S has figured out all the names and locations of all 50 states. Here she is reviewing and quizzing herself again. It has been a couple of weeks since she did this last. I am always thinking, "GET THEM TO REVIEW IT!!" before it falls out of their brains.
T has taken to some zoology classification. Have we done all of the prerequisites in the KotU albums? No. But he seems to have enough language awareness, and general knowledge about different animals, to get the sense that some species are related . He's picked up on the fact that "felidea" refers the cat family and that lions, tigers, and not bears, belong to this cat family and thus may have characteristics and behaviors in common. 

For this project, T made a list of zoo animals and is now looking up the scientific classification of each. Then he plans to construct a chart that illustrates how the classes are related. I figured at this point he would probably want to find other animal species in the classes he had already researched to add to his chart. We'll just see where this project goes. For now, T is having fun making useful connections.
T is reviewing his math facts. Well, all the kids are reviewing basically everything. Here T is re-doing all of the multiplication checkerboard cards. I made sets with 2-digit, 3-digit, and 4-digit multipliers. 

Now, here is the rub. He can do a 2-digit multiplier problem in less than 3 minutes and get the right answer when I am standing over him just watching. When I am not standing right next to him, it takes him more than 10 minutes to do the same problem 2 times getting the wrong answer both times and never getting the right answer. I also find that he is staring out the window for 5 of the 10 minutes. What the...
T is doing some logical analysis here. These are the ETC Montessori 6-9 logical analysis cards.Thanks MBT for the recommendation. He can follow the task cards just fine, he could tell me what the predicate, direct object and indirect object were and he didn't need a review lesson. Again, what the??? We can't remember what a collective noun is, but we can remember all this?
I also assign reading for the older two. I don't know what S is reading in this picture. I do this to encourage a small challenge. T and S read independently and read and read and read and read, and eventually make  D mad because they aren't playing with him. (D is reading short story booklets too, but doesn't yet read everywhere, all the time.) They read in the car, in the stacks at the library, in bed, on the potty, and they try to read at the dinner table. When there are books at the table I say, "less reading, more eating." S has demanded another bookshelf for her bedroom so she can organize her growing book collection. So I don't assign reading to get them to read more, just to read something specific.

I assign only one book at a time. There is never a deadline by which they need to finish it. I ask only minimal questions about the book. I assign books that are only slightly more challenging than something that they'd normally pick up. Usually the book is among the more challenging that they do normally pick up. And the book is usually about a topic that I think is a bit more "worth-while" like a classic or something inter-personal, or novel or creative. There is never any forced reading. I do check in with them to make sure that the book is still something they are interested in and if it isn't, then we switch titles. And I ask them to pick up the book if they are being too rowdy right before dinner time, or we are going on a longer car ride, or someone needs the equivalent of a "time-out" to cool down and regroup. We actually don't do "time-outs." I usually re-direct, or impose a "cool-down" period during which we are suddenly doing something unexpected and fun. Since they actually enjoy reading the "assigned" book, the "time-out" doesn't become a punishment, but just, well a time to cool down and regroup. 

In case you were wondering what I assign, the last books T read were A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, and Lost and Found by Andrew Clements. S recently read Frindle, also by Andrew Clements and Sisters 8: Annie's Adventures by Lauren Baratz-Longsted
S and T have been working on their math facts. Here S is using the addition snake game to work on her addition facts. She isolates the first two bead bars, say, 7-bar and an 8-bar, and adds these two together. 15. Then she gets the black-and-white five bar and a golden 10 bar and uses these to continue rebuilding the "snake." Then she'll add the next two bead-bars together until the entire snake is golden. By isolating the two bead-bars (instead of counting all the beads) she is practicing her addition facts.
S here is working on subtraction with the Large Bead Frame. Since she is still working on math facts, and she didn't do the small bead-frame, we are doing subtraction on the LBF before the multiplication you usually see on the LBF.
Here T is reviewing his plural nouns. We put together a small packet of command cards, or task cards if you will. One reads something like,"make 5 singular and plural noun pairs that use "es" using the farm, and label each noun and take a picture of it with the kid-camera." These are some of what he created...
 















D is off to the races with the golden beads. Sorry I don't have any pictures of his chubby little hands moving around beads and cards. Somehow he hasn't yet tired of laying out the large number cards. The first time he saw the smaller number cards he said, "wow, those are very small!!" I said that they were and that we'd be using them with the larger number cards. 

I've introduced static addition and static subtraction with the golden beads. Next I plan to introduce the rest of the operations, (*, /) and then somewhere in there introduce dynamic addition, subtraction, etc. 

He doesn't seem at all phased by these operation concepts. He is like, oh, you have some, I have some, we put them together and we get a bigger sum. No big deal. I think this sequence worked the way it was supposed to work. 

D has really mastered the number cards. He names all of the numbers correctly without fail and is able to get the correct number card that corresponds to the quantity he has. I'd say that with almost daily work, he's mastered that symbol-to-quantity connection over about 2 months? Has it been that long? Or maybe it was a little less. I tried to really take our time on this one to make sure he had a strong foundation so that later lessons in the sequence could just roll out smoothly.
I don't know WHY this happens. There are lizards that are getting stuck between our window and the screens. YUCK. They change color too. Double YUCK. I tried to crack the window and push out the screen so it could get out. (It got in through a small hole in the screen.) But the reptile started descending and I didn't want it to get in the house and get lost, so I screamed and slammed the window shut. T laughed his head off. The next day the babysitter opened the window, grabbed it, and put it outside. I guess we pay her well for a reason.
And finally, the kids had a little mustache fun perpetuating a little mustache humor with you-know-who. Here is a good shot of them being silly!

Stay tuned, there is always more!!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

D Working, Working, Working Hard

This week is all about D. No doubt T and S have been working hard too, but we are the middle of a re-organization. I am reading a very good book Brain Rules by John Medina about how the brain works, and how it acquires and retains knowledge. I am hoping to get some good review techniques out of this book that will help my children "retain" a trickle of what they encounter. We'll see though.

This little guy is still in his absorbent period so we aren't consciously trying to retain new knowledge. And I've slowed the pace a great deal to "hang out" in each corner a bit. Hopefully, he'll remember something of what he's done in 6 months time.

D finished the thousand chain. But not without help. He didn't need help putting the tickets in order, nor did he need help remembering how to count aloud. He did need help focusing and settling. So, even though he is capable of counting to a thousand, the discipline and maturity wasn't quite there for the lesson. Maybe this is why the albums recommend introducing this lesson to a 5 year old.

Now he is on to the 9 cube chain, and again, it is the same thing. He is enthusiastic, and can order the tickets just fine. But then it comes to all that counting and he gets antsy. 

I don't usually let the kids wear two different socks, but D insisted this day.
We are on to the change game! This lesson comes after we've combined the golden beads (physical quantity) with the category number cards (numeric quantity.) D has been working very hard to fetch cards and beads and can fetch four categories very accurately. One thing that may seem a bit redundant to us adults is to have the child verify their quantity each and every time. When they return with a bead quantity or a card, have them re-count, or re-read the quantity that they have brought. It reinforces fact checking, counting, and the entire lesson linking physical quantity with numeric quantity. D loves all counting, so he was happy to do the "check" step.

For the change game, we lay out all the large category cards, (1-9,000) on a separate rug. I grab his tray, and fill it with random quantities of beads, making sure that there are more of 10 of some categories. (Example: more than 10 hundred squares.)

I say, "wow, what a mess." He laughs. And then he starts to organize the mess, putting all the thousand cubes together, and the hundred squares together and so on. 

Then starting with the smallest category, we count up the beads. The lesson in the albums suggests that when we get to (10) unit beads, the guide say, "stop, now we exchange, the ten unit beads for one ten bar." We did it this way the first day but somehow the impression didn't stick. 

The next time, he didn't understand why we stopped at 10. So, I improvised. I let him count all the unit beads without stopping. I think he had something like 19. Then I asked him what to do next. He said, "get the card." I said, "okay, get the 19 unit bead card." All of the unit bead cards are green. He hopped over to the category cards on another work rug and came back saying that there was no 19 - unit card. I said, "oh, well let's count again and see what we can do." THIS next time, I stopped him at ten units. We counted the ten units again in a cup. Then I said, we can get ten unit beads, wired together. He said, "oh, a ten bar!!" We counted the beads on the ten bar, to make sure that there were 10 units wired together. I said, "we are giving 10 unit beads back to the bank, and we are taking 10 beads wired together as a ten bar." We added this to his pile of ten bars.

Afterward, he counted up the remaining 9 unit beads and went to fetch the 9-unit card.

He then was able to quite readily make all necessary exchanges. 

After practicing for a few more days he is ready for the collective exercises with the golden beads (all operations; addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.)
I think S was putting together a random "secret" quantity of beads for D to count.
And he is also writing. This, of course, is the first sound in his name. 
 I encourage him to "fill-up" his page.
 He was super happy about completing this work.
See, super happy.


 I'm going to take a picture of my work -- happy.
And we are reading. A lot. Everyday. Here we are using our writing tray to name some objects. I've already cut some longer slips so that we can work on reading phrases. 

D can almost recognize all of the single letter sounds, and now we are mainly working on phonograms. He loves, "ai" and "ee" and "sh" but the others are still a bit foggy.

We've started blends as well.
After he reads a bunch, then he tapes the slips onto a larger piece of hole-punched paper, illustrates his favorite phrase and sticks the entire work in his binder.
Some of the phrases are commands (like "cut it up") so I guess we have started those too. We are mixing double letter sounds (phonograms) in with single letter symbol recognition. We haven't gotten to the Dwyer folders with the little booklets that have words spelled in all the different ways you can spell, say, "ee." And we haven't gotten to books, easy readers, home-made booklets yet either. 

I feel doing a bit of this work each and every day, and keeping this work short, and giving him the same routine each time, has really helped keep up his enthusiasm and momentum and has helped stave off frustration and boredom.

For now, his enthusiasm is great, and this is the way I want to keep it. We'll keep going slow, at his pace, adding concepts slowly, and I have no doubt that at some point something will click and he'll be off to the races. 
Besides, school work we've also been contending with a ton of rain. A TON. This was the tree out back after hurricane Patricia passed by.
This is me feeling $1600 lighter. 

It was also lucky, but expensive, that we had put down another $7K to patch up the 6" hole in the roof and put on all new shingles BEFORE the rain came.
And D went out to enjoy the rain on a balance bike in a slicker, rain boots and shorts. Poor guy can't really see.

I've been working on a lot of CGS stuff, CCD stuff, flute (and more flute, and more flute, and more flute,) and sports stuff. Next up, Advent, Christmas, and keeping up with school. Busy is good at this time in our lives!