Friday, October 19, 2012

Layers of the Earth, Magnetism

The first great lesson, God with no Hands, led to follow up work on volcanoes.  The work on volcanoes led to a great interest in the inside of the Earth.  For this reason, the next lesson I chose from the KotU albums was about the layers of the Earth.  The explanation given in Jessica's album tied itself beautifully to the "Dance of the Elements" portion of the great lesson and the "liquids settle according to weight" experiment.  I made my own chart like the example in the album because the ETC Press chart I have did not use the same vocabulary, nor does the image illustrate the "settling according to weight" idea or emphasize the magnetism of the barysphere like the chart in the album did.

This is the ETC chart.  We will probably use it in later study when we talk in more detail again about the layers of the Earth.

I cannot recommend the book How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World  enough!  We own it and the boys have read it before.  They suggested we bring it back out right away.  The tone is marvelous. It reminds me very much of the "If You Give a Pig a Pancake" books.

I expected this work to lead to interest in geysers, dirt and rocks, or the bottom of the ocean.  Instead Kal-El was fascinated with the concept of the barysphere and it's role in keeping us from falling off the Earth by pulling everything toward it.  He wanted to know more about magnetism.  I wasn't ready for magnetism.  My album has about two sentences about magnetism.  This was exactly what I've been worrying about.

Fortunately, several people had recommended a series of books to me that solved my problem.  Right on my iPad along with the albums I was using in the first place I had the Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding series.  A few finger taps and a keyword search and I was on to several pages of Montessori-style lessons on magnetism.  Jessica from Keys of the Universe coincidentally wrote about this resource in detail today so you can pop over to her blog to read all about it.

We pulled out the magnets that we have from our supply drawers and started with the recommended "magnetic"/"not-magnetic" work.  We added in vocabulary regarding "attraction."  This kept them busy for an hour.  We'll be heading into the other works, such as poles and magnetic fields, next week.  The book did exactly what I needed it me time to order some extra magnets and iron filings to do the continuing work as well as time to go to the library where we found some books on magnetism and some videos.

Once again Franklyn Branley hit the mark perfectly.  I recommend his book What Makes a Magnet? for this age level.

The next day we continued our work on the layers of the Earth.  The boys made models of the Earth's layers from playdoh.

I will say that this post is a good example of how the Great Lessons and followups are doing a more-than-adequate job of driving child-led work across multiple subjects.  I think I gave the God With No Hands lesson three weeks ago.  I don't want to stop the boys lines of inquiry by interrupting them with the next lesson, which will certainly spark new lines of inquiry and extinguish these.  However, by not having had some of the other Great Lessons Kal-El is missing out on some connections he would be making in other areas.  For example, we are talking a lot about etymology in geometry and grammar but he hasn't had the history of language lessons.

So, one of my few complaints about elementary Montessori albums, including Jessica's, is not knowing what to do next.  I don't know what to do on Monday.  Do I do the "further details of the composition of the Earth" lesson followed by formation of mountains?  Or, do I bump over to "attraction and gravity."  If I do bump over to "attraction and gravity" do I go through the four lessons in that chapter that precede "attraction and gravity" first, or can I jump right into it? OR have I lost momentum on the OTHER great lessons follow ups.  Should I be presenting the black strip on Monday instead?  Grrr.


  1. I am no expert and I have not even presented the GLs yet, but here is my 2 cents anyway. I would suggest to continue on Kal-el's interest. In a homeschool environment there are no other kids to help ignite interests at a later time, so when the interest is high it just makes sense to continue on that. When you see some interest waning then you can jump to the next great lesson, in my opinion.

  2. LOVE this post! LOVE that HUGE magnet! Wow!

    On the issue of what to do...

    Let's compare to a classroom briefly:
    All children receive the Great Lessons within the first few weeks of school, mostly regardless of other work going on. One group of 1st years will get Attraction and Gravity; another group will get Composition of the Earth; another group will be doing something else. But then.... they intermingle. They see each other's work, they are getting vague ideas from one another; and the presentations will cycle around to them.

    So in a homeschool - what to do?

    Whatever you want ;)

    I DO strongly encourage doing the Great Lessons no more than 2 weeks apart the first year. No you won't hurt them waiting longer, but you got to the heart of the issue when you said that your son is missing some connections. We want to give Cosmic Education (and all those connections). So give the other lessons, but don't "expect" follow-up work except in areas of interest.

    Give that big overview picture. Then you have all year to go back and review those stories again to ignite greater interests.

    From personal experience, I STRONGLY encourage doing all the Great Lessons to give that overview. (new post fodder!).


    (as far as skipping ahead within geography (or any) chapters - unless there is a specific pre-req, just go with their interests! Even with a pre-req, if it is necessary for them to understand the new presentation then slip it in beforehand). :)

  3. PS

    Yes, that ETC chart would be great for later when looking at more details. It does seem to have more details on it, thus great for the later studies when coming back in subsequent years for review.

  4. Wow! What amazing work! I love that Kal-El is going so deep into the work and really following his interests! It is just amazing! I really think I need to look at that scinece book you have for the same reason as you! It seems like I never have the info when I need it! I really need to work on building a library here! I really have notied that just going though the great lessons has made a difference when Bunny is learning about something! I am sure that you will do great! Kal-El is going to love the other lessons and like you said, he will love to see the connections! Good Luck and Happy Schooling!

  5. I would not present the next great lesson yet, if the interest in the first is still strong. Jessica is not right in saying that ALL Montessori schools will have presented them all in the first six weeks - there are as many variations as there are teachers. Last year I did the classic six lessons in the first half of term and then tried to present key lessons throughout the rest of the year. It was a huge failure - because the youngest children could not remember the lessons by the time they came back from Christmas. I considered re-presenting them but after much discussion with colleagues decided to continue with the key lessons. Unfortunately, because they couldn't remember the lessons they were not adding to knowledge, and were confused. By the summer everyone was researching whatever they were interested in, without a lot of variation - so an animal interest didn't develop into a wider interest, etc.

    On my 6-12 course that I am attending this year we talked about this. The school that is leading the course give a great lesson every half term, so in about six week blocks. They use Mondays for their great lesson and key lesson work and it becomes part of the work cycle too. I am doing this this year and already I am seeing the difference. The extended amount of time finding out about the first great lesson has been marvellous. I have given key lessons according to interests I have observed. As I have the full three years in my class my older children have pulled in work that they remember from last year, so one group has done their own fundamental needs for astronauts, another group has researched Galileo and made a time line of his life, while the younger children have done similar work to your boys. In this way the other great lessons have started to make their appearance in this one. There is no need not to make the connection before you give the next great lesson. When you get there he will have an "aha!" moment.

    We had a German lecturer come over for our lesson about the first lesson and she told us that at their school they start the school year with the story of communication, then maths, because the children connect with them because that is what they do at school. In the darkest months of the year they do the first great lesson and use the dark to star gaze and do astronomy. In the spring they present the coming of Life and then either the River of Life or the coming of Humans, depending on interest and then last of all whichever one was left. They also spread them out over the first year.

    It is all very well presenting them altogether as Montessori suggested but if it doesn't work for your class, however big or small, then follow the children.

  6. Annicles is right that there are many ways of going about utilizing Montessori, with the main focus on following the child. I have also heard (just to throw out another idea) that you should give *all* the experiments from God with No Hands (and all the follow-up experiments that AMI later pulled out from the main story and set aside as a follow-up lesson) in the beginning weeks of school (let's say you start in autumn), let the children work with them, and then only in the SPRING time present the Story of God With No Hands - not even getting to any of the other lessons until the second year of lower elementary (presumably - there is actually no indication of when to get to those). The idea being that we present the concrete before the overview, general, imaginative. This particular option ignores the child's imaginative state as he enters the 2nd plane which could have begun back at age 5 somewhere and in typically developing children is heavily present for sure by 6 1/2, thus keeping him from getting into the work he NEEDS at this age.

    If the children are missing out on connections, then they are missing out on Cosmic Education, and they are then not being "followed."

    My trainers, as well as my experience has shown that waiting TOO long between the Great Lessons the *first time through them minimizes the flow of the greater story that is being told. I could not imagine ever telling the stories entirely out of order the first time through - the connections just aren't built up!

    I suppose it could also depend on the "version" of the Great Lessons used. Specifically, if there are fewer connections in-built. As MBT pointed out, the Key Lesson on the layers of the earth was a perfect correlation to the settling of the elements in God With No Hands - the (also 6-12) training I attended (this is one thing I really liked about it!) encouraged those connections where it naturally made sense. Each time you start a new lesson, you "hook" it on a previous lesson or connect with other work - naturally, not arbitrarily and not forced. Thus encouraging Cosmic Education.

    I have a blog post draft written about one experience I had waiting too long in between; and the results when I re-did them within a 5 week time frame (speeding up a bit because it was already their second time hearing them). In subsequent years, the children in schools are invited to hear them again at their choice, with all new children required to come to the story - it's in the invitation.

    And I am considering whether to add in about the groups of children who have only ever heard the Great Lessons, never done any of the follow-up work (because they were not in a Montessori environment) but that may be another post :)

    In our homeschool, I find that in lower elementary thus far, we have gone through the stories about 3-4 times a year (we work year-round), and my son still comes to the most of the stories when I do them with new co-op children. The other co-op children always come back for all of them (and they have a choice).

    Now, there is always the concern of presenting too much, too fast and that is what prompted me to make the mistakes I made in delaying the stories. Not only were connections lost, but the work was not deep - they were "busy" but not "deep"; the children would hit their brick walls that they hit, but I hadn't laid a foundation enough for them to readily re-direct themselves. There is a huge gap between "novelty" for novelty's sake, and providing enough of the continuing story to not exhaust just ALL work possibilities stemming from one Great Lesson - by continuing at a decent pace their work will go deeper and they will build more and deeper connections.

    Long response to say - if your gut instinct says "all is well" go with it; if your gut instinct says "but this piece is missing" then move on to the next story. But DO give the big overview - that is the present piece of cosmic education foundation to work on.

  7. Also, I should clarify - my post wasn't clear. I didn't intend to say all Montessori schools; I intended to say that all the children within the classroom would hear the stories each year. So you wouldn't leave out a new child from hearing the next Great Lesson if/when all the other children are going to hear it. You don't pick and choose the children to come. You invite all the new children (they must come) and the returning children have a choice.

    My point at the start of that comment was actually in how the follow-up work goes, not so much the actual timing of the Great Lessons. But I got it fuzzed together! Later I talked about the timing.


  8. This post makes me want to get out our magnets and play!

    Since my children started very late learning using the Montessori Method I don't follow any prescribed "rules". Deschooling last year allowed them to "feel" the method and allowed me to be sure this was the right thing for them.

    With that being said they are into the Great Lessons, after six weeks of the Time Line of Life, they may be ready to move on. I think at this point introducing the Coming of Life is just perfect and will spark new interest for Ken and Michelle. For DJ I can see him looking at the human skull and comparing it to a prehistoric animal's skull, tracing it back to the first mammal like creature.

    Ken will probably get excited that the first human skeleton was found in Africa, and I predict Michelle will debate creationism versus evolution.

    I say all this to say that I think that the story of "God Who Has No Hands" is big and if my kids were into doing all of the follow up experiments like your son, I would of stopped and did them. They only did the follow up lessons after hearing the "Time Line of Life". For some children they may need to hear the next story to go deeper into the story they heard before.

    I don't think there is a right or wrong way. Every child is different and so is every school.

    Follow the child:)

  9. Well, I was uncharacteristically silent in the comments on this post. Sorry guys! I wanted to let the rest of you post your thoughts without my own interference. I wanted to pop back to say "thank you" for the advice and different perspectives!