Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Part 1 - Week 14 Nov 25, 2013

It is almost Thanksgiving and Advent, and those to-do lists keep on multiplying. Food, budgets, gifts, schedules and Montessori Homeschooling through it all. Here is a little bit of the homeschooling side of things.

First off, I am starting to think, A LOT, about this impending test we need to take. In the state of VA, homeschoolers can elect to take a nationally normed standardized test, or submit an evaluation as proof of progress. The superintendent has full right of refusal when it comes to the latter. I don't want our "evaluation" to be rejected because our reviewer didn't understand the Montessori method. And then be stuck because it is too late to scramble to take a standardized test. So, that leaves us with what, 3 - 5 1/2 hours of testing for the first grade, little bubbles to fill in on a scan sheet, and other tedium I personally think is rather silly. I know that T already knows most all that will be on the test. It is just a matter of getting him in a test-taking mode, and getting him to focus for long periods of time with a piece of paper, and a no. 2 pencil...and a stop watch. Goodness, you can see where my thoughts are going on this. I'll go no further here, but I do plan to share a few more of my thoughts on this process in the coming months as we traverse this forced terrain.

So, onto the good stuff... 

S started doing a little skip counting and it turned into an art project. I am guessing at this point that she never got to teen and ten boards last year at Montessori School. Goodness.

Those are flowers, and yes, the beads, the crayon, and the bowl were all matching PINK! (The bowls are from Ikea...they have a lot of small child-sized items good for practical life activities, though the quality does leave something to be desired.)

This little man D is so very precise. He has two piles of crayons. He picks up from one, and discards onto the other. Drawing with each in-turn, he manages to get all the colors going at once. And he really does have a better pencil-grasp than this, when he tries.

The slotted bolt board is something that most Primary classrooms have, in different iterations. I had put this on a Montessori Services order last minute, just to have, and since D at the time really liked tools A LOT. But back in August it was just a source of frustration. But after a few months, well 14 weeks of training those fingers and wrists, here we are.

 This work develops fine-motor skill in the fingers and hands, as well as improves concentration, coordination, and focus.

Yes, the screwdriver is magnetic.

A little bit of Primary work going on here. These eye droppers are great for developing the pincer grasp and readying the hand for pencil holding.

These are smelling bottles. This work helps the child develop their olfactory perception, or sense of smell. I've stuffed cotton balls in each jar, and put liquid scents onto each cotton ball. (Since some of the liquids have color, I dropped the liquid onto the cotton ball and then stuffed it scent-side-down into the bottle so the child can't see the color.) Each scent is inserted into one black-capped bottle and one white-capped bottle. (I got the bottles from Montessori Services, the tray is from a Melissa and Doug toy set, (don't remember which one) and the neutral colored felt liner is 100% wool felt from, I think--it has been a long time, A Child's Dream.)

 I couldn't find a decisive list of scents for this material. The Montessori R&D manual mentions something about medicinal, perfume and spice. Elsewhere I had read that all the scents were supposed to be pleasant. I can see/smell that these three could be easily distinguishable, but I didn't think that they would be all that pleasant. For that reason, I chose other scents I had on hand.

Looking back, some are rather similar, but I was setting this work up for a 5 1/2 year old at the time and figured it would be a good way to fine-tune. Anyway, for those interested in what scents I put in there, I put: rose, lemon, vanilla, peppermint, orange and almond.  All of these liquids were all-natural, and none were artificial. (In my before-homeschooling-life, I was an avid baker and I made my own lotions and balms.) Frankly, the kids had a hard time with the almond, and they thought that the lemon and orange smelled the same. Maybe something different next time...

S's letter to Santa. Translation: Little (lamb was cut off the top), cupcake Lego Duplo, Palace Pets -- all of them, Dear Santa, Stuffie--Giraffe, outer space teddy bear. Considering this girl NEVER writes anything but her name, I'd say that this is a pretty great attempt. Being that she is nearly 6 years old, I'd also say that we have a lot of work ahead of us.

She never wants to write anything. But a letter to Santa was a pretty good pull.

Okay, I don't know why I get shots of the kids holding their writing implements completely wrong. She doesn't always do this. Just when I am behind the lens.

He is working to put our prism back in the box. If we ever get some good sunlight, along with a tiny bit of warmth, outside, I'll show the kids what the prism actually does.

New sound folders for S. These were the ones I think I talked about last week. I've taken down the link because I need to revamp them. Somehow, in my midnight-Montessori-materials-making-stooper, I didn't realize that the "oo" words I did don't use the key-sound for "oo," and the "ue" in "hue" doesn't say the key sound for "ue" either. Geesh.
These folders are petite, and purple, and each has a white sticker on the front that S can sign once she has finished the folder. These create a lot of fits and leg pushing and rolling around, and fussing. When she calms down, she does just fine, and motors right through the consonant blends and the phonograms. I've started putting lavender near her work space hoping that this will calm her a bit. It hasn't really so far, but I'll keep you posted.

Goodness look at that girl's hair!!

Got these great little skip counting sheets from Confessions of a Homeschooler via My Boy's Teacher. (Thanks to you both.) T wanted to make intricate designs and figured out the skip counting with little to no issues. He can tell you how to count by 5's; 5, 10, 15, 20, 25... He doesn't however know his multiplication facts. He can't tell you that 4*5 = 20 without doing some quick math in his head.
That is why I have another little game in the works that may help him with that part.

And then for S, this also turned into an art project. We REALLY need to work on tens and teens. With some help from T, S was able to do this one too.
You'll notice that we used counters (from the cards and counters) to help out with this one.

Yes, that is the plastic circle for tracing the hemispheres. Occasionally we are all offered pizza by D, served on said plastic circle.

These are the knobbed cylinder blocks and they are one of the first works in the Montessori Primary class. There are four blocks in a complete set, here D has block 2 on his right, and block 3 on his left. In block 2, as the diameter of each cylinder increases and the height of the cylinder increases as well. In block 3, as the diameter of each cylinder increases, the height of the cylinder decreases. (The largest cylinder round is the shortest.)

Here D is using two blocks together. Typically a child would first work with a single block, then move to using two at a time in a "v" formation, then three at a time in a triangle formation, and then all four blocks in a square formation. It is helpful for the child to do this work standing up as opposed to sitting down so they can reach further and see a better perspective. This is D's low table. I think that it is about 14"?? When we get to three and four blocks, he may be a little short to reach and might feel the need to walk around the table.

First the child removes each knobbed cylinder, and places it down inside, or outside, the "v" mixing them up out of order if possible. You can see below, D didn't want to mix them up. Then the child would use his/her visual discrimination as well as tactile sense (which is heavier, which is lighter) to decide where to replace each cylinder.
This work helps improve, visual discrimination, pincer grasp, precise arm and hand coordination, focus, attention, and concentration, and sense of order.
In the pictures below it looks like he just did one block. He did do the other one. This little one is squarely in his sensitive period for order, so don't be surprised if he takes extra time to organize the cylinders and if the basement door slams in your face because ALL doors must be kept closed.

I can't tell if D will be lefty or righty. He uses both equally, maybe a little more on the left. His sister, who is lefty, didn't decide until really late. His brother who is a righty, was always a righty. You can see here, he is doing the work with both hands. 

NOTE to folks out there who haven't worked with this material. These blocks are HEAVY for a 2 1/2 year old. I wasn't sure I should be even snapping a picture during this one...
A little video of D working on the knobbed cylinders...

D has some great focus and concentration. You can hear both T and S talking, LOUDLY in the background. Both T and S came up to me during the course of this video asking for things. (You can hear me say to T that he needed to figure it out.)

Another thing about the sensitive period for order, and about ordering materials carefully, is that D notices that cylinder block 3 isn't exact. You'll see him ask if the second largest cylinder and hole is a "match." The cylinder does match the hole, but the height is off, so the cylinder edge is lower than the edge of the hole. You'll notice it that he runs his finger around the edge of the hole to feel that height difference. Fortunately this isn't a sticking point and he moves on.

So, lesson to be learned here...I purchased these cylinder blocks from Montessori Outlet. Some of the cylinders aren't perfect in height. (They do match up with the knobless cylinders though, the red, blue, yellow and green ones.) If you are going the as-true-as-is-possible route, I'd say order with caution. If my 2 1/2 year old can find that height difference using two blocks at once, so can yours.

Okay, one last thing on this video...you'll also see that D goes through that false fatigue cycle during this work video. In my Center for Guided Montessori Studies (CGMS) course, I remember them talking about, false fatigue. You and I experience it, and so do children when they are focusing on their work for an extended period of time. For example, imagine you are at your computer, working on a blog post, and you've been typing that next post up against background noise, the phone ringing, and e-mails coming in for say an hour. And say at this point you are almost finished with the first draft. You may feel that false fatigue. Your brain feels a little weary, your butt feels flat, and you need to look at something very far away. So what do you do? I get a cup of tea, go to the bathroom, and stretch. Then I resume working and edit the draft and post it. (And then update it a million times because I see a typo or something that needs clarification.)

So, what do children do? They get that sense of false fatigue too. D takes out all the cylinders and then asks me to take a picture of his work. Then he decides to slap at the window behind him. After getting the rest-bugs out, he resumes his work.

My CGMS instructors pointed out the importance of guiding the child through their false fatigue. Let the child find an appropriate outlet, running isn't one of them. Encourage them to take a pause, and then encourage them to resume their work cycle. So don't get antsy when you see your child stop work mid-way through. Let them rest, watch them patiently, and see if they get back to work on their own.
This is one of D's favorite books, National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Animals.
The large photography is great. 

Here T is helping D pour, though D already knows how to pour just fine all by himself.

T is working on distributive property of multiplication. I took these lessons from Cultivating Dharma's Math 1 album. Here we are beginning to transition from beads to number tiles. T still likes manipulating the bead quantities, though I think it is still because his multiplication facts are a little shaky. He gets the concept really easily though.

Now we are doing the problem (a different problem than the one above) with number tiles and operation tickets (*, +, =). Again, T picked up the concept really quickly, and was very excited to hear that this is a stepping stone along the path to doing the elementary binomial cube. There really is no keeping up with this one in the math arena.  

Believe it or not, it gets distracting in our classroom of three students. I'd say that D is the best at keeping distraction at bay. But T is another story. So we have some headphones which you can totally hear through, but I think just having that on your head keeps you focused...since you have something on your head. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Here T is doing the sound sort. The Dwyer booklet recommends that once the child has read through the sound folders, that he/she test him/herself and see if they can sort the double letter combinations according to what sound they make. T has nearly completed the reading part, and here is "testing" himself on the ones that he's read through. He got all but one right. Way-to-go T!! And that one he got wrong, I don't think he'll ever get it wrong again.

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