Thursday, August 25, 2016

Moving Along, Slowly

With my roller-coaster health issues creating fits and spurts of action and complete exhaustion, a regular schedule has always been a challenge for me. We get into a groove that works for a week, and then too many errands, a lacrosse game, and teaching CCD puts me back in bed Monday through Wednesday. And well, there goes the "groove." My health is stabilizing and I am trying to protect my schedule and conserve my energy this school year.  I am hopeful that we'll be able to get into a routine that works for our family.

I've read many many places that children like predictable schedules when so much else in their lives is unpredictable and new. S seems to like this new routine a lot. This week we've had way fewer tantrums and fewer tears. Flue practice has been much more productive, and we've had more smiles and many more positive comments. Ahhh. My stress level has already decreased. I am hopeful that I can keep my health stable enough that we can make this routine ours.
We are learning the parts of the flower. I've introduced this nomenclature before, but this year, I have a different science scheme planned out. I pulled from Janice VanCleave's Biology and Plants books and put together a sequence of explorations (can't really call them all experiments) for the kids. I think that there are near 23 activities, and I plan to do 1-2 a week.

This lesson sequence is inspired by Susan Wise Bauer's The Well Trained Mind. For our ages she suggests reading from science encyclopedias, outlining, and doing hands-on science experiments. We are still in Story of the World Vol 1: Ancients, so this fall, I am planning to do plants and the human body. I don't know that we'll have time for a real animal investigation. Next spring when we transition to Story of the World Vol 2: Middle Ages I think we'll work on earth sciences. The Story of the World is our history text.

This is Bloomers: Parts of the Flower from the Plants book. If you end up doing the activity, you'll notice that we didn't follow the instructions exactly. I thought that somewhere we MUST have yellow and green pipe cleaners. NOPE. We used brown pipe cleaners and then colored them differently on our drawings.

 S's is on the left and T's is on the right.

This is what happens when we come back from the library.

Okay, I don't think any of the kids are reading what I call an "assigned reading" book. Each week I pick out a selection of library history texts, science texts, and fiction I think are appropriate, further explore the topics we are covering that week, and contain complete sentences. We have a designated "assigned reading" time each day, and the kids are allowed to choose multiple texts from that special pile. They don't need to read all of the books in that pile and they don't need to write about all of the books they read either. I instituted this "assigned reading" time to encourage them to read quality texts in addition to the other books they tend to choose.
D has decided that he is going to start in on the graphic novels as well. This print is so small he uses a magnifying glass to see it. I think this is Bionicle which is a Lego thing. They look a bit like transformers to me. Not really an easy-reader for kindergarten, but D can read and understand most of the words.
This year, we are starting Latin. We are using Latina Christiana from Seton Publishing. I like the teaching manual because it is easy to understand and well laid out. There are 23?? lessons in this first level? I think. I figured we'd go as quickly as the kids wanted and were willing to go without pressure to finish this text by the end of the school year. This week, our first week, is shaping up to seem like we'll do a chapter a week. On the fly, I've created a bunch of copy activities to go along with this lesson plan and I can share that in a later post.  We recite and write a lot. At this point, T and S are the only ones I'm working with, but D likes to "hang around" and listen and recite with us.

We are also memorizing the Rosary and Mass prayers in Latin. A bunch of the prayer words also pop up as vocab words in this text. It will be interesting to see if the kids catch those.
D is reading, reading, reading through the Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading.  At this point, he is reviewing sounds he already knows, but I am sure it will get more challenging and then we can slow down a bit.

He seems to like this book. I just let him read the text because it is too difficult to make little illustrated booklets like MBT did for her two. D goes through about 7 lessons in one sitting.
Humn, these look like T's hands. I think this is him doing his spelling work. (See, a lot more book work this year.) We use the Spelling Workout books.  D works in book B, S in book C, and T in book D. Book B is described as a 2nd grade level text. The kids whip through the exercises in each lesson, so after a week or so, we review. 

Here we are doing a review list, which is kind of like a quiz though it isn't graded for anything. I dictate the word and the child writes it down. Then he checks his work, corrects any that are wrong, and writes the "trouble" words in the upper right hand corner in a list format. We keep re-writing the "trouble" word list in the upper right hand corner of each "quiz" paper we do. Just for extra practice. At some point, I'll dictate his "trouble" word list and we'll see how many he can spell and which need to stay on the the "trouble" word list. 

They are also reading a bunch more quality and varied literature and I am hoping that this will help their spelling and word recognition a bit too, though this never helped me.
S is doing some sentence diagramming. Somehow this is an activity my kids find super fun. I never did this in school and so I am learning how to diagram sentences right along with them. I find it kind of fun too. But everything I've heard from others is that this was THE lesson they hated in school. Maybe my kids like it because it is like an analysis puzzle. What is this? Where does it go? 

We are using the Voyages In English text from Loyola Press. The kids like the predictable lesson format. I like the practice in the additional practice book. 

I don't like how these lesson progress, and I don't like their definitions for things like subjects and predicates. I just substitute other definitions that make more sense to me. The entire series starts in third grade. T has received the Montessori introductions to all parts of speech and sentence analysis. S has not. We may end up adding in a few Montessori introductions for her and using these texts for review and reinforcement, if these texts aren't "sinking-in." We'll see.
Dynamic addition on the large bead frame. S is doing well with this exercise, though she sometimes loses her place a bit. It's all about organization!! 
D is working on his math facts. Here he is doing some addition. They still look like baby hands to me!
And D is working on his skip counting. He's gotten 9's down!
The headphones are so I don't have to also work on skip counting. He and S like to "dance" with the animal in the video.
And our history text! We are about half way through the Story of the World Volume 1 by Susan Wise Bauer. We use the story book text and the Student Activity Pages text. 
I've found that this progression works best for us. I read the story and the kids listen. I use the question prompts in the Student Activity book to help guide our narrative conversation. I'll ask questions like, "Who was Cyrus." "Was he a good King?" "Where did he rule?" And we'll rehash the most important points in the story. Then T and S will write down their narrative. T will write a summary of the story and usually ends up writing almost a page. S usually writes about a particular part she thought was interesting, and she ends up writing about a quarter of a page. D draws a picture first about the part of the story he found most interesting. Then he tells me about his picture and I write down his narrative. Sometimes the chapter is long and we will split it up into two sessions.

In another session we will recall the story and, using the Student Activity Pages as a guide, (there is a script to use for each chapter) we will look at the map (also in the activity pages) and note the land masses and waterways referenced in the story. 

I try to have books on hand from the library for our "assigned reading" time that pertain to which ever chapter we are reading. Depending upon the child's age, they can draw a picture about a part of the book they found most interesting or write a bit about what happened in the story. We aren't going into thesis papers yet. I am focusing on retelling only. 

At this point, I am ignoring most of the "crafting" ideas in the activity pages. There is a lot to get through and I really don't know what to do with three Roman soldier helmets, and three gladiator shields, and three Greek water pots, and get the idea. There are some consumable projects, and if they strike our fancy, I suppose we'll do those. 
It is interesting to note here that Cyrus is holding a trident in Astyages' (ADD-stee-ages) dream. Cyrus the Great was Persian, not Grecian (like Poseiden the God of the Sea) or Roman (like Neptune who was the Roman God of the Sea and someone who we haven't covered yet) and he wasn't a God. Yet, D did remember that the Poseiden's trident was a weapon of power. In the story we read, Astyages dreamed that his grandson would grow up and take his power and his kingdom. Despite great odds, that grandson, Cyrus, did just that. Being a powerful man, it is only appropriate that Cyrus would have weapon of power. What an interesting tid-bit for a five year old to remember. Or, it could be that because food is D's favorite subject above all else, that he thought that Cyrus the Great was hungry and was just holding a huge fork.
This was T's first draft. We later switched some words and made some different grammatical choices so that it read a bit more smoothly. 

These are S's "people." She draws these people all the time. That horizontal line through the nose is apparently a beard. Be sure to stay tuned for more of these figures in roman gladiator sandals and Grecian togas.
And finally, S has been working on the Carnival of Venice. This is an okay run through. She's done better and she's done worse. We are working on consistency. About a year in, this is where we are.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Working Inside -- Rain Outside

It is pretty wet outside right now. But we've been inside keeping dry and getting into the new school year.
Little D is getting into some big math. This is our large bead frame and we are learning categories. Here he is just counting beads in each category. 
Here D wrote down the numeric value for each category, almost up to a million. He really likes adding the commas. And he thinks the pattern of zeros is pretty cool. We are still working a bit on math fact memorization, but he seems eager to press ahead.

It is hard to believe that just a small while ago he looked like this, and was doing this!
After reviewing dynamic golden bead operations and how to form quantities on the LBF, S has finally set sail with this material. FINALLY. It is going very smoothly and she says "she likes math." I've been giving her very, very, very small bits at a time. We are taking our time to review, do more review, and just dwell in what is easy. She seems to like this approach so far. I wonder what will happen when things get a little tougher.

At this pace, I feel like we are inching (millimeter-ing if that were a word) along at a snails pace. BUT, we aren't going backward and having to review many times. And we aren't having fits, tears, stomping, and tantrums. I am hoping (fingers AND toes crossed) that she will be able to develop a bit of confidence and this will make future mini-challenges more manageable. HOPING.
This year T will be tying up lose ends at the end of most of the KotU elementary math album topics. And then he'll be done!! Anyone have any thoughts about Montessori algebra and beyond?This is a numeration lesson (usually presented in year 1 or 2) about divisibility rules. T was figuring out if 3,958 (or something like that) was divisible by 2.

The child will be able to do some abstract work by the time he/she gets to this lesson. They will probably already know their math facts. 

I asked T is a thousand cube could be divided into two equal pieces. He said, yes. Each pile would get 500. I asked T if a hundred square could be divided into two equal pieces. He said yes. We established that every thousand could always be divided in exactly half, and the same would always apply to hundred squares. T said that the ten bar would always be able to be divided in equal halves as well, but not the unit. 

I asked him if one unit could be divided into two equal (whole -unit) parts. At first I didn't say whole-unit and he said, yes, half of one unit would be (5) tenths. Then I corrected myself. He said one unit could not be divided into two whole unit only piles. But two units could be made into two one unit equal piles. He also said 4, 6, and 8 and 0 could also be made into two equal whole unit piles. Then he said, only even numbers are divisible, or divide-able, by two.
Then we worked on the definition and combined the fact that any category larger than a unit is divisible by two, and that it is the unit category that decides whether the entire number quantity is divisible by two. Above was his definition. 

We have a bunch more divisibility rules to find, but seeing how this one took T about 5 minutes, I am thinking we'll tie up this loose end pretty quickly.
 T was happy about the math.
T is also going back to a few of the other lessons he's mastered for some additional review. Though I'd personally love to have him move on, his independent review work is something I know he wants and needs right now and it makes it easier for me to spend time with the other two who need some attention.
Somebody who's name begins with D and who is 5 years old is a reader. He read all ten readers in this set in one sitting, or laying down session. These are this phonics booklet set. 

We are still using the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, by Jessie Wise, to make sure our bases are covered, but D has really taken off all on his own. We are reading Mercy Watson To the Rescue, by Kate DiCamillo, his first chapter book, together (he reads a page, I read a page.) It is fun to see him reading. He says he likes being able to "crack-the-code."

We've been inside a lot lately; first because of the heat, and now because of the rain. Our area got a fair amount of rain over the past week and there is more coming. Luckily, we still have our trusty rain gear!

These are actually MY boots. T can wear them now.
This is S's rain gauge. It read almost 5". This was Monday. It is now up to about the same 5" inch mark again!! At least the temps came down a bit!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

CGS Materials and Slow Going

We are going slow. Taking it easy, and not getting too overheated. The heat index today is 112.

Review, review, and review. Last year everyone kept forgetting pretty much everything and it was a frustrating mess. This year, I am trying to start off soft and slow. S is reaching back to golden beads, but I hope to get her through most of the first year Montessori KotU math lessons this year. (She is technically in 3rd grade this year.)  

D is using the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Reading. And in a very-un-Montessori fashion, he just reads from the book. He doesn't mind this method one bit, and is eager to do his "reading-practice" each day. At this point, we are about a third of the way through the book, just starting long vowel sounds. BUT, he is already reading many of the long vowel spellings, so this book feels a little like review to him. It gets more complex in another 50 lessons or so, but I am wondering if he keeps up his other reading, if he'll think that is also review by the time we arrive at lesson 130. 

We are adding in new subjects and different texts gradually. I haven't cracked open our religion texts, nor our Latin lessons yet and we have yet to start our fall science sequence. It will all come in time.
T is reviewing decimal fractions. Here he is using our decimal fraction material to convert common fractions into decimal fractions. 
Here he is finding the decimal notation for 1/8. 
We started with a green unit bead and the numerical notation for 1/8 on a piece of paper. I told him, 1/8th, also means "1 divided by 8." Can we divide this unit bead among these 8 unit skittles? 

He grabbed the bead from me, put it to the side and "exchanged" it for ten light blue cubes that represent tenths, or 0.01. Ten tenths are equivalent to one whole unit. He distributed his ten tenths among the skittles, exchanged the two tenths he had left over, for twenty hundreths. Each light blue tenth cube is equivalent to ten light pink (or orange in our case) hundreth cubes. He distributed these hundreth cubes among the skittles, exchanged what was left for light green thousandth cubes and distributed these as well.
He figured out that 1/8 = 0.125, or one hundred twenty five thousandths. T was also able to write this down on paper. We did a few more of these conversions and he did fine. I am hoping that he'll stick with this lesson a bit longer and really let the process sink in. Or we could be moving on tomorrow.
Even our plushies are getting some math review. Those are S's reading glasses. She doesn't need them all the time, but they do help her see texts up close.
D is being cute here. I think he is doing some copy work from the first Writing With Ease book. I use their script book, and student pages with both D (who does level 1) and S (who does level 2.)
And one of the reasons our schooling is going slowly is because my creative attention is elsewhere, making Catechesis of the Good Shepherd materials. My garage is a mess with sawdust all over, and bits of discarded cut wood on the floor mixed in with extension cords, and drill bits. I told my husband that I'd get it cleaned up soon.

I finished the Level 1 classroom training this summer and BOY am I glad that is over. With everything that I know about "learning about the Montessori method" I decided to write my own version of each album page. In two weeks I finished 70 album pages. (I didn't write up the celebrations.) It was like cramming for a college course. Our course didn't require that you write up each album page, but I know from experience, if you don't get your hands on that material that you spent countless hours making, and if don't write down and ponder each point you'd like to lift up in each lesson, it is very difficult to present said lesson, or at the very least, feel anywhere near confident doing so. So I wrote down album pages for each lesson and am no making materials for our own at home use.  

The diorama above is for the Pearl of Great Price, and the furniture is for the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, and the white figure is an outline of the Good Shepherd.
The diorama above needs some string around the sheep fold posts to keep sheep inside. Otherwise, we use this diorama for the Nativity of the Lord and the Adoration of the Shepherds.

I was surprised at the lack of time and attention spent on Montessori's classroom methods. Classroom management is something that all participants thought was a huge challenge for them in their atria. I would like to think that a bit more time discussing and understanding Montessori's methods could only help catechists be better guides.

At the end of the course we were introduced to a few of the Level 2 lessons, like the Fettucia. By this time, late in the week, my brain was fried and it all sounded so much like elementary Great Lessons I mentally kind of checked out. But, I was struck by the extreme similarities between the second level and the elementary Great Lessons and I am looking forward to an opportunity to learn about Level 2.