Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Story of Writing: Hieroglyphics

Another follow-up to the Story of Writing this year was writing with hieroglyphs.  We used Fun with Hieroglyphs from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Thank you for the recommendation Chasing Cheerios!).  The book we used comes with stamps for each hieroglyph.  It also came with an activity book that we will use slowly over many years with lots of different levels of using the hieroglyphs, words to decode, and more.  We started with the most basic way to use the hieroglyphs.  We haven't gotten into stacking them or writing different directions.  As an alternative to stamps, I have also seen a tracing stencil book, Hieroglyphs from a to Z, for hieroglyphs in use over at Expedition Montessori.

Our other Fourth Great Lesson Work:

The boys love the stamps!  Chasing Cheerios didn't like the quality of the stamps.  I thought they were fine.  I guess we don't know any better.

Kal-El wrote:  "Can I have some juice?"

It seems to be his new "thing."  You might remember that he wrote the same thing in cuneiform.

Me Too was ambitious! He wrote:

I love you Dad.
It is 2014.
I am having
a good school day.
Love, Me Too

I thought I was going to post about hieroglyphs LAST week, but Me Too's message was so long that he wrote part last week and part this morning.

Kal-El started to write "Can I have juice?" again this morning but I told him that was not going to fly.  So, instead he wrote "Can we practice violin?"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Unsuccessful Grammar Lesson

Oh boy.  Yesterday Kal-El was reviewing indefinite articles.  I let him sort the cards first because this was review and he already seemed to know which nouns took "a" and which took "an."  After he was finished I asked him to look over his work and then come tell me the rule for which one goes where. 

So you don't have to squint at the picture the pairs are:

an octopus
an eraser
an umbrella
an owl
an elephant

a house
a chair
a pen 
a table
a dog

 He looked at it a second and said with confidence, "The nouns that go with 'an' don't make good housepets."

He was NOT joking.  Oh dear.

Also heard in our house that day...

Me Too:  "I'm really glad I have a butt."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Can You Guess the Music Lesson?

Can you guess which music appreciation lesson I was about to give based on the photo above?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

School Days

This picture illustrates that cracking an egg is still a skill "in progress" at our house.  Whoops.  I keep a paper towel underneath the bowl when he cracks them so that we can still dump the egg into the mixer if he misses.

After it took the boys three full weeks to work through their work plans the first time, I quietly added a little incentive.  I announced that anytime someone completes their work plan we will "celebrate."  That person gets to pick a recipe and mom will teach them how to make it.  Kal-El picked monster cookies.  Me Too picked lemon bars.

He loves making anything with lemons because he gets to use both the juicer and the grater.  I think my plan worked, because Me Too will finish his work plan for the second time tomorrow and this time it took two weeks instead of three.  I don't want them to rush through their work plan.  They haven't.  They just seem a little more motivated to do one extra work before packing it in for the day.  Or, as they did last night, slip into the school room after dinner to knock out some word problems.  He has gotten a lot of enjoyment out of thinking about what he will cook this time.  I haven't heard the final decision, but it sounds like lemon merengue pie.  We will be chubby and smart.

Me Too has been working hard on the Africa map, the only map the boys don't have at least basic proficiency with.  Here he is using the puzzle map, control, AND the Montessori iPad app to help him pronounce the countries.  

Kal-El is plotting a volcano build in the near future.  He reviewed the parts of the volcano with the Waseca cards that came with the North America Biomes Curriculum.

One of his favorite things to do is draw scientific things on the whiteboard.  After his review he drew a volcano and told me about all of it's parts.

This always starts a lot of drama because Me Too likes to use the white board for spelling as intended.

Me Too was along for the ride last year when I presented the hierarchical materials.  I have decided he was really a primary child all of last year and therefore needed his very own presentation on these materials this year.  Such a difference!  He did all of the work with these in one sitting.  I've left them out for the week to encourage additional exploration.  He also had his introduction and first two exercises on the large bead frame.  Soon I will introduce him to the LBF paper.

A little insect work was done as one of his "kid's choice" selections.

He has struggled a bit with story problems until recently.  He always, always seems to know the answer right away.  However, thanks to his firm Montessori background, the relationship between addition and subtraction, division and multiplication is really strong.  So strong that he sees every subtraction problem as an addition problem and every division problem as a multiplication problem.  The command cards ask him to write down the equation needed to find the answer.  So if he is asked, "A male seal weighs 340 lbs and a female seal weighs 200 lbs.  How much more does the male seal weigh?"  He writes down 200+140=340.  It really doesn't matter, but this is one of the few places in our work where I am trying to familiarize the boys with what a public school student might see or do.  So, I've been gently reminding him that he has just discovered the difference between two numbers and that when we find the difference we have subtracted.  The equation is 340-200=140 and the equation HE wrote down is also correct.  All of a sudden this week he seems to have caught on.  I'm not worried.  I think his reasoning shows understanding.

Kal-El works with story problems as well.  The difficulty level of the operations is much simpler than what he does in his other work, but it's the reasoning and working with different ways he can be given the information that he needs to practice.

He is still alternating racks and tubes work and checkerboard work from day to day.  He is working with three-digit multipliers now.  However, I have yet to see him get through an entire equation without some small error.  Usually it's a silly addition error when consolidating or exchanging.  I hope that is normal.

Me Too likes to work with our Albanesi command cards for geometry.  Our recent work on angles unlocked a few new cards for him.

Here Me Too is working with the grammar command cards.  He pulled a card that asked him to sort "plant" and "animal."  I shuffled up the picture cards from our animal and plants kingdoms charts. Those were TOUGH for him because he had to distinguish poriferan and cnidaria as animals (even though they look like plants) 

Monday, October 13, 2014


As seen in this video, my boys have been on fire learning the names and locations of all fifty of the United States.  They learned them using the traditional Montessori puzzle maps as well as a States' quarters map, and the Across the States game.  They also love to play  the  "Stack the States" game on our iPad.  The "Stack the States" game requires you to learn to recognize the states by shape, but also asks questions about capitals, flags, landmarks, border states, and major cities.  In order to master that game properly, the boys asked me to put something together to help them master the flags and capitals.  

By the way, I have a lot of other great ideas for learning about the fifty states pin on one of my Pinterest boards:  What DID We Do All Day? 50 States Pinterest Board.  

I made this mostly in the same way that I made our DIY pin maps of world parts.  I used the blank control map that is available to go with the Montessori puzzle maps taped to foam board.  I had lots of pins left over from that previous pin map project.  I hadn't used any of the blue-headed pins before so I used them for the USA map.  I made three sets of pins.  One has the state flags on them, as you can see in the pictures.  Another set is on red paper for the capitals and the last set is on green paper for the states' names.  

I simply wrote the name of the state or capital on the flag with a Sharpie.  The hole I made in each state is marked with a red Sharpie and is in the location of the state's capital.

Unfortunately DK Publishing doesn't make a sticker set for states' flags (although I see after the fact that other companies do such as these: 50 U.S. State Flags Mini Stickers ) so printed and cut my own.  They are larger than the flags I made for the maps of world parts.  The flags for each country are intentionally simple designs that can be identified from afar even on a windy day.  This makes it easy to shrink them down to sizes used in the sticker sets.  The states' flags are more complex (usually) and I made the flags much larger.  

A really easy place to print high-quality images of the states' flags is at the Professor Poppins blog.  I set my printer to print her download at 50% and they were just the right size.  Because they are larger than my other flags I had to use longer pins.  I used 2" T-pins, which were the longest I could find.  I cut all my flags, laminated, cut again, and finally poked the T-pin through the laminate and carefully slid it between the two back-to-back flag images inside.  Then, I slide the flag down, apply superglue to the pin and slide the flag back up into place.  Because I used longer pins they were less stable in the single layer of foam board I used for the rest of my maps. So, for this map I doubled up the foam board.

Even in the larger size it can be hard to see what exactly IS on the state flags.  My boys are also super interested in what is on each flag and why it is there.  So I bought The Nifty Fifty State Flags  book. 

It has postcard-sized images of each flag for detailed examination. I also has pages of questions that are essentially "I Spy" styled command cards to use with the flags. 

It is also possible to buy Set of 50, 4 by 6-Inch States' Flags for only $25 on Amazon.  

I made two types of controls for the map.  The first is in the same style that I made for our maps of world parts.  All fifty states are listed alongside their flag and capital.  You can see the boys using that control above. Unfortunately I accidentally alphabetized the list by state rather than capital.  The boys are going to be using this control when putting in the States' flags or capitals so it would be most useful alphabetized by capital.  It will take some time to redo that because when I realphabetize the program doesn't move the flags.  Grr.  Anyway, in the meantime here is a free download for what I have:

The other control is just for the flags, but is quick and handy to have.  I don't mind my boys using it because they already know the location of each state.  If your children don't, you might want to limit them to the other kind of control.  You can print it for free from Printable Paper.  Me Too likes to use a magnifying glass with it.

The map has prompted a lot of new work from Me Too.  He has favorite flags and flags he dislikes.    I told him that there are actually ways to score flags and principles of good flag design.  We looked them up on NAVA and read about which flags have the lowest and highest scores.    As a result, Me Too has designed his own country.  Each state is named after one of his stuffed dogs.  He has drawn a map of this country.  He is designing and drawing a flag for each state, scoring, and ranking them.  It is starting to remind me of traditional Montessori "imaginary island" work.  I'd like to parlay this into that, but he might be too young.

I think my favorite thing about this new map, by far, is that the boys like to work on it together...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fourth Great Lesson: Story of Writing

Movie pitch:  "Bad Montessorian."  Brought to you by the producers of "Bad Santa" and "Bad Grandpa."  

Movie description:  Watch as a Mom breaks Montessori rules left and right starting with training online, adding insult to injury by doing it at home and topping it off by giving the Fourth Great Lesson first in the fall of 2014.  How will her children learn without a multi-aged classroom of 25 kids?  Will she ever implement a work journal?  

Note:  this movie may be too intense for some Montessori purists.

This is my third year giving the Great Lessons.  I've done a bang-job two years in a row on the First Lesson.  Last year our Second and Third lessons were epic.  The first year I don't think I managed to give the Fourth and Fifth lesson at all.  Last year I gave them but they were, well...."meh..."

When I realized we were coming right up on "The Story of Writing" on our The Story of the World cd's I decided to give the Great Lesson on the same day.  I thought shaking things up and doing that lesson before I ran out of steam might help make it as exciting as it should be.

It worked!  The boys have given me a long list of follow-up work they want to do.

The first follow-up activity they wanted to do was to write in cuneiform.  The "orange sticks" you use with the botany cabinet are perfect for this (those are those sticks you buy at the drugstore for pushing back cuticles).  We used Sculpey Polymer Clay because I had it on hand. It worked well in that you really had to work it first like you would river clay before it was malleable enough to roll out.  However, something like Crayola Model Magic  would be better because you let it air dry and that would be truer to the original process.  The Sculpey needs to be baked in the oven for 15 minutes.  I HAVE Model Magic in the house but recently our laundry tub on the first floor flooded the Montessori storage room in the basement from above.  I have everything pulled out while the room dries and it is hard to get to things right now.

The SOTW resource book has an alphabet chart you can use with the cuneiform symbols.  The boys wrote secret messages on their tablets.  Me Too's says "I love Mom."  

Kal-El's said, "May I have juice?"  He didn't let me decode it until after it was baked.  After I decoded it I gave him some juice.  The boys have fevers in these pictures, hence the odd glazed over expressions.

Above Me Too is working with a map from SOTW identifying:  Egypt, the Nile, the Nile Delta, Mespotamia, Sumer, and the Euphrates and Tigris rivers.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dueling Division

Today I just have some glamour shots of the division work going out at our house.

Kal-El has been working on long division with the test tubes (racks and tubes). 

He was not introduced to this work in primary so we have been practicing with one-digit divisors first.  Today he finished practicing the first exercise (recording the final answer only).  Tomorrow he will start two-digit divisors.  

Me Too has been working with the division bead board.  He likes to photograph his work and took the following two pictures:

He is working through this board much more quickly than Kal-El.  He did all the equations for dividends 81-56 in about four or five days.   As soon as he finishes the sequence of division memorization boards I will start him on racks and tubes as well.

He is also working on larger division equations (4-digit dividends, single-digit divisors) with the stamp game.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Earth as a Sphere and its Result

Last week we finished up the presentations in the section of of KotU geography album called "The Rotation of the Earth and its Consequence."  This week we moved on to the "Earth as a Sphere and its Result." I'll give you some of the highlights of our work.

We started with a rectangular prism made out of modeling dough.  The patio doors to the right represent "the sun."  The toothpicks represent rays of light.  We had the toothpick fly from the patio doors straight into the clay.  We discovered that the toothpick and clay form right angles and that if the Earth had been formed with flat sides all of the rays of light would strike the Earth perpendicularly.

Next, we did the same thing with more modeling clay this time in the shape of a sphere.  The boys measured the angles where the toothpicks meet the clay and determined that they form acute and obtuse angles in many places.  Most of the toothpicks meet our clay "Earth" obliquely.  Only the toothpicks at the equator reach the Earth perpendicularly. 

It helps to have done or to review the study of lines, and the study of angles presentations in geometry before you reach this presentation.

We pulled out our impressionistic charts to take another look at this idea.

The next part had us crammed in the windowless upstairs bathroom with construction paper, chalk and a flashlight.  The geography album seems to trap us in that bathroom pretty frequently.  This time I was able to get Me Too to hold the flashlight so I could get a picture.

I gave them each a chance to do this on their own piece of black construction paper.  We shined the flashlight onto the paper so that the light struck the paper perpendicularly and the boys traced the resulting circle of light.

Next we shined the flashlight onto the paper so that the light struck the paper obliquely and the boys traced the resulting ellipse.

Here is Me Too modeling his work.  We observed that the same number of "rays of light" covered different sized areas depending on whether they approached perpendicularly or obliquely.

The boys then asked me take a silly one.  Enjoy.

We looked at three impressionistic charts that show this same idea.  Yes, I have three different charts for this at home.  Because it's the type thing I find interesting, I'll show you the three charts and talk about some of the differences.

Above is the chart by ETC Montessori.  I like these charts a lot and they are certainly beautiful.  My complaint about them is always this:  The realistic images are neat but don't always clearly illustrate the idea at hand.  Sometimes something a little less realistic is better.  This chart was great for showing the boys how what we did in the bathroom with the flashlight relates to the actual Earth and light from the sun.  However, it doesn't really illustrate WHY this matters.  It matters that when the approach is perpendicular a large amount of light meets a relatively small area of the sphere.  It matters that when the approach is oblique that same amount of light covers a  larger area.  

There are two ways to illustrate that idea and apparently there is not a "standard" way to draw the chart for this as you'll see from the following two images.

This is one approach from the Mid America Geography album.  The have show a specific number (seven) of rays of light covering different sized areas as a result of their approach.  This is the chart I chose to use first and we actually took out a ruler and measured to see that the area reached was different.  I chose this chart first because I felt it actually matched the experiment we did in the bathroom:  A fixed amount of light coming from our flashlight hit different sized areas on our piece of paper.

This is the final chart we looked at for this concept.  In contrast to the other chart, on this chart the size of the area where the rays meet the Earth is the same and it is the amount of rays striking that specific sized area that is different.  This is helpful because what is important about this is that when the rays of the sun strike perpendicularly, as they do at the equator as we observed with the clay and toothpicks, that area is receiving a larger number of rays from the sun than the areas where the rays strike obliquely.  The KotU image does a good job of showing that.

There is another reason this is important.  The perpendicular rays have to pass through less of the Earth's atmosphere than the oblique rays.  Here is the ETC chart for that concept:

Again we pulled out a less realistic chart from one of the other albums so that the boys could actually measure.  You CAN do that on the ETC chart but it was easier on the other.

On our chart at home the atmosphere was about an inch thick for the perpendicular ray and about three inches for the oblique ray if I'm remembering correctly.  I explained that the ray loses heat as it travels through the atmosphere.  This is another reason it is hotter at the equator.  Less heat is lost en route.