Wednesday, October 31, 2012

More Magnetism!

 As you may recall, our first Great Lesson (God with no Hands) led to an interest in the layers of the Earth, which led to an interest in magnetism.  This is a good example of how the Great Lessons inspire work across subject areas as well as an example of how the "key" lessons in the albums can and should lead to interest in topics outside the albums.  Magnetism isn't covered in my albums beyond a discussion of gravity so last week I turned to several pages of lesson plans in Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2.  We had fulfilled the prerequisites specified for this topic in the book during Montessori primary.  So, we were able to plow full steam ahead into magnetism starting with magnetic/not-magnetic work with the materials we had on hand which bought me time to outfit ourselves with some more magnetism resources.

In the photo above Me Too is working with an amazing set of magnets by Lauri  (Fun with Magnets).  I also bought an inexpensive set (Magnets and more 24 piece set by toysmith, which by they way has horrible reviews.  They are plastic like the reviews say but mine all work and pick up the things I need them to...paper clips, washers and the like.) to outfit us with the more standard horseshoe, bar and ring magnet equipment.  Kal-El is working with that set below.

The second suggested activity in Foundations of Scientific Understanding was to let the child explore a collection of many different types of magnets in order to discover the concepts of "attraction", "repulsion" and "poles" on their own.  They certainly did!  Me Too was the first to shout out "I've discovered something!"

We are happy with both sets, but I can't say enough good things about the Lauri set.  It comes with a few neat things.  The combination of the balls with the wand is genius.  It also came with a nice set of 14 experiments on cards that I bound into a book.  Kal-El was able to read and execute 12 of the 14 experiments himself.  It would have been 14/14 if he had access to the materials for the last two.  All of the magnets are waterproof...handy for a few of the experiments.  Also, the magnets are rather large which discourages swallowing (for those of you who still have both feet in Montessori primary).

One of the experiments in the Lauri kit was to tape the included washers to the included foam boats.  Then, you float them in a pie plate full of water so that you can drive the boats with with a magnet either above or below the boat.  In the above photo Me Too is driving his boat with the wand below and Kal-El is driving his with a horseshoe magnet above.

Everyone's favorite experiment involved inserting a 2" iron bar into a foam base then adding two ring magnets with like poles facing one another.

Can you see how one ring magnet floats above the other?

Kal-El was so independent with the experiments that I didn't get a photo of them all.  He keeps repeating them, so I might get some photos in the upcoming days.

Kal-El remembered that the book we read last week, What Makes a Magnet?, suggested that he explore the magnets that seal our refrigerator shut and he did so.

Last night the whole family watched a fun video called The Science of Disney Imagineering: Magnetism and the boys really enjoyed it. They learned, among other things, how magnets can be used to power a roller coaster and produce sound through speakers.

Some of the nomenclature covered this week included:  magnetism, repulsion, poles, permanent magnets, temporary magnets, and electrons.  We have more magnet work to show you in upcoming posts!
Montessori Monday

Monday, October 29, 2012

Elementary Albums: Magellan Montessori

Have you seen Magellan Montessori's Homeschooling Early Elementary(Ages 6-9 years)?  This is a really interesting option for homeschooling families during the elementary years.  All of the other options start with albums designed for traditional Montessori classrooms and adapt them to the home environment.  This resource starts with the home environment and applies Montessori theory and philosophy to the home, adding in the Montessori lessons and materials in a practical way.  This resource is perfect for the family who is homeschooling during the elementary years and wants to do so in a Montessori-inspired way without feeling pressured to replicate a Montessori elementary classroom as closely as possible.

The guidebook states:

Our guidebook, Magellan Montessori's Homeschooling Early Elementary(Ages 6-9 years) , is designed for parents that wish to offer their children a worldly, holistic and individualized Montessori experience at home...This curriculum does not profess or claim to be pure Montessori (as it does not require the full spectrum of didactic material, a classroom of mixed-age children, and a trained directress) but it does fully intend to honor and maintain the spirit, intent, and pedagogical philosophy of the method. Respectful of the method, it is designed for families that choose, for whatever reasons, to adopt the method for home use.  This text is geared not as traditional 'manual' (as would be taught in certification programs) but rather a parental based guide for those with a genuine interest in Montessori education who want to start applying the pedagogy now, at home, without formal directress training.  This curriculum follows the Montessori Cosmic approach to integrated subjects and is sensitive to the challenges of obtaining full spectrum materials in a home environment   In this regard, the materials that would likely be found in a traditional classroom are listed, as are more affordable approximations suggested that are suitable for home usage."

This book is a very modern elementary answer to David Gettman's Basic Montessori: Learning Activities For Under-Fives.  If you are looking for a single-volume guide to Montessori elementary this is it.  It is written for today's technology.  Magellan Montessori has jumped into a world in which parents are homeschooling with a tablet in their hand instead of purchasing or printing a dozen albums to drag around the house with them.  Appropriately, this resource is only available as a digital book.  Instead of 10-12 300 page binders you have one slick 300 digital book on your tablet or e-reader. Keeping the text to a manageable size means that every image and presentation isn't visible immediately when you look at the page.  Rather, when a material is mentioned you will find a hotlink that will take you to images and descriptions from Nienhuis.  Presentations are hotlinked to Moteaco.  Any materials that are mentioned, whether it be something like geometric solids or something like three-part cards, are hotlinked to someplace you can purchase them (such as Alison's or Montessori Print Shop).  Some people will love this streamlining, some won't.  I personally love it because I don't need all of the pictures and presentation details unless I am giving, or preparing for, a presentation.  The streamlining makes the book much easier to navigate than a typical album all the rest of the time when you are reading and skimming to try to get the "big picture" and plan.

One paragraph in this book says much the same thing as I did in my first post about Elementary albums.  There are a lot of different ways to "do Montessori" at home.  One of the keys to knowing which set of albums is right for you is knowing which "way" you want to do it.  Or, as this resource says:

Families that intend to home school using the Montessori method have two options: to attempt to replicate a classroom at home, buy and make Montessori materials, follow a daily schedule with a parent or other adult gaining training to serve as a directress; or, to try to replicate the aims, curricula, theory, pedagogy, and general practice of the Montessori method at home, using minimal materials and readily available resources.  This curriculum is designed for families that choose the latter.  The traditional Montessori materials will be referenced so that families can see them, and in cases where there is no reasonable substitute sourcing options will be provided.  This curriculum will outline the Great Lessons of Montessori elementary and will provide lesson plans that are designed for use at home by parents that are supportive and eager to offer their child Montessori, but are not formally trained.  It is designed to make the best use of available materials and resources available within one's community.

Coates acknowledges the financial and space commitments of acquiring all of the Montessori math and grammar materials in a homeschool environment and expects that you will make or buy a much smaller number of materials and use the well-known "Key to"...workbook programs instead.  These workbooks are available for fractions, decimals, percents, measurement, metric measurement, algebra, and geometry.

The book assumes that you are going to prioritize Montessori theory/philosophy and the great lessons, but would like flexibility for most topics while still knowing what the typical experiences of a Montessori elementary child would be.  With this in mind, the book starts with full chapters on theory/philosophy followed by full presentations for the Great Lessons.  Just like any Montessori school, this resource is organized with the expectation that the Great Lessons will inspire work in many different areas.  The rest of the book is organized by topic.  The idea seems to be that you would jump to whatever topic necessary in order to follow the child.

This is how the book describes the organization of the topics:

This curriculum is designed to be self-paced with open choices for material and activities.  It is advised that the entire guide be read in its entirety before starting work with your child.  Reading ahead will allow you time to contemplate the theory while setting up and preparing the environment.  The Great Lessons are to be presented first, outlining the curriculum and illustrating the Cosmic web.  Once these lessons are presented, you and your child are free to move throughout the curriculum in any order (allowing that skill pre-requisities are met).  In accordance with the Cosmic approach, subject are comprised of multi-disciplinary components that integrate curriculum areas.  Within the three-year span, children will revisit topics several times, expanding and extending into classification, comparison, and experimentation, and expression.   The curriculum is a guide, not a road map;  the sequence and order is merely suggestion laid out in a manner that is designed for families new to homeschooling and/or Montessori education.

This is very much in line with what I've been talking about in recent months.  To keep things sane at our house, I've mentally organized the scope and sequence into "strands" that have a "beginning" and an "end" but are only traveled according to my children's interest.  Magellan Montessori has done everything they can to help you keep all of these ball in the air so that you can follow your child without falling in a pit.  For each topic they give you the objective and then list any pre-requisites so you know if you need to pick up any other presentations before you continue.  Next they tell you what the traditional Montessori materials are for that topic followed immediately by a section detailing alternatives to traditional materials.  This resource provides suggestions for specific books to use to stock your homeschool library in order to be prepared in these subject areas.  After detailing any materials, the next section for each topic, always titled "presentations", does NOT give you scripted presentations like you may have come to expect in a traditional Montessori album.  Rather, it talks in paragraph form about the types of presentations you should give and provides a list of appropriate activities and materials.  In some instances, if they feel there may be a specifically Montessori presentation you want to give, they provide a hot link to the presentation on Moteaco  (and possibly, Wikisori...I couldn't find an example when I needed to today).   There is another section that lists all the nomenclature you will want to cover.  Another section talks about control of error to help you keep your presentations as child-led as possible.  Frankly, if you have executed the primary Montessori at home you might not need your presentations scripted anymore.  Having them written out in the albums can tie you to reading from the album or make you feel pressured to use "their words" to keep things as "authentic" as possible.  Most who have seriously studied the theory and philosophy and gone through numerous "official" presentations instinctively know how to guide in a Montessori way at this point.  This book gives you just what you need:  what to teach, what materials to use, and the control of error.  My favorite section is that at the end of each topic, a paragraph on extensions and tie-ins to the great lessons.

Will I be using this book?  Probably not as my first "go to" source.  I think my Montessori-personality leans too strongly toward coming as close to a traditional Montessori environment as possible.  I want to use all of the materials, the impressionistic charts, and give all of the key presentations.  We have already made the financial and space commitments necessary to have those materials.  This book does not give all of the information I need in order to use them.  I am trying to avoid workbooks for as long as possible, so I would rather use the traditional Montessori sequence rather than the "keys of" books for math, grammar, and geometry.  However, I hear from a LOT of readers who are struggling to implement elementary Montessori without the materials or the space or the budget.  This resource would be an excellent way to do so without seeing "what you aren't using" shoved in your face every day.  This book is taking to heart the idea that it is the theory and philosophy that make an environment Montessori, not the materials.  I will be using this book a lot to stock my bookshelves and find suggested DIY options for materials.  And, if down the road I change my mind and want to loosen up a bit this book will be my first stop.

Also, this book is just a refreshing good read.  Some of my other albums have been altered, to varying degrees, to the homeschool environment.  It is like a fresh drink of water to read something written entirely with me in mind for a change.  The tone is lovely!  I highlighted several of my favorite spots as I read.  For example:  " is important to let go of wondering if every choice you make is 'right' by some external, objective standard.  The questions instead should be rephrased to ask 'is this right for me, my child, and our family?' If you can honestly answer yes, that is all you need to know."

I have mentioned in the past that albums are often not enough.  What a self-training Montessori homeschooling parent needs sometimes is just HELP...a place to ask questions.  So what if you need help?  Magellan Montessori has thought of that.  They state, "Interactive, our online community forum lets you share your experiences, ask questions, and engage with other home schooling Montessori families...Questions specific to the Montessori method are reviewed by a certified Montessori directress."

I know there are a lot of homeschooling families out there who love Montessori but aren't necessarily up for owning every material or going the route of traditional albums.  It is lovely that there is now a serious resource out there for those families!

Edited to Add:  This book is intended to replace the purchase of a complete album set (the purchase of a few specific albums is recommended in the book) and the price at $124.99 certainly reflects that.

*  Disclaimer:  I was given a free copy in order to write my own honest opinion of this book.  As always, the opinions given are my own!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

School Days

As always, I have a random collection of pictures at the end of the week that will give you a glimpse of some of the boys' activities.

Here Kal-El is using the second addition control chart to check the answers on equations he wrote in his addition book while working with the LAST addition chart.  He finished the last chart this week!  Next week he will start the subtraction charts.

Me Too doing his All About Spelling work using the Montessori movable alphabet.  The boys like the small, two-colored movable alphabet best (we have four different kinds).  They like it even better when I shove a field guide under the back like this to prop the box at an angle.

Someone had to leave mid-pin-punching to use the restroom!

He's back!

Kal-El has been practicing skip counting forward and backwards using the cubing chain of three.  We played a few hands of Speed! using the 3's deck for further practice.

Kal-El likes to write his All About Spelling words and phrases on the Handwriting Without Tears two-lined chalkboard.

Me Too likes to repeat math works!  He has been begging me to put cards and counters back out (I recently removed all of the early primary works from our shelves).  He likes to do the 100 board, but doesn't like to sort out the tiles first.  So, this week I showed him how he could put the tiles on the board in a non-linear fashion.  He is interested, but will not pull the tiles randomly.  He starts by searching for his "favorite" numbers...100, 1, 10, 99, anything that ends with "3", anything that ends with "2" (27, 54, and 84 are on there because they were the examples I showed him).  After a little while he decided this was like completing a "puzzle" and proceded to do all of the "edge pieces" first.

It is funny how different the boys are.  Kal-El did the 100 board once and figured out by the early 30's what all the patterns were that can serve as a control of error.  The second time he did the chart he started pulling the tiles randomly on his own and he told me how it should work.  Me Too had a lot of trouble placing tiles until there was one tile in each row.  Kal-El was 5 years and 11 months old at that time.  Me Too is 5 years and 3 months old.  That's more than a half-year younger.  I wish I knew whether it is the age difference or the personality difference.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Food

Me Too loves to work in the kitchen.  The boys have been planning a "spooky food" party for their friends for weeks.  When it came time to assemble the food, Kal-El kept getting frustrated and eventually would leave (only to return again when we would start the next item).  Me Too was a trouper.  Not only did he do excellent work, but he was delighted the whole time.

None of these food ideas are my own ideas.  The boys and I did some browsing on Pinterest and made a list of what they liked.

Simple "dirt" for dessert...chocolate pudding, Oreos, gummy centipedes.

Dirty Band-aids.


Severed fingers


Spider Eggs

You can find a lot of prettier pictures on Pinterest...but our are child-made!

Fraction Equivalence

Kal-El began fraction equivalence work today.  This was just the first presentation, and he tired out after finding all of the fractions equivalent to 1/2.  He's not feeling very well today :(

He picked up on some "patterns" right away.  He noticed that only even denominators had the potential to be equivalent to 1/2 and that the number on top increased sequentially.

The tree in our front yard finally lost all of its leaves and the sun is streaming in the school room window.  You'll be seeing lots of rainbows from our prism in our pictures again.

To do this work we used our fraction circles, homemade fraction bars, and our arithmetic signs box.  Next week we will do similar fraction work with some of the other fraction materials such as the divided squares and triangles.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

DIY Montessori Elementary Materials Collaboration is UP!


Attention all Montessori ELEMENTARY homeschooling families!  A specifically elementary Ultimate Montessori Homemade Materials Collaboration is up and functional!

I am always so inspired by bloggers making their own Montessori materials. There have been some amazing posts by people who have shared pictures and sometimes instructions and/or tips. I thought it might be nice if there was a place where people could post a link to their at-home experiments.  That is why I originally started the Ultimate Montessori Homemade Materials Collaboration.  Some of us have been adding our elementary materials to the existing links.  Others have been asking for a specifically elementary section for the collaboration.

I am to please!  The primary collaboration is still nestled snuggly at the top of the left-hand sidebar in the section titled: Ultimate Montessori Homemade Materials Collaboration.  Please continue to add links to the primary collaboration!

I have added new links to that section.  There is now a group of "primary" links and a group of "elementary" links. As always, there may be some crossover.  If you feel that your material should be in both sections, add it to both by all means!  In the elementary section I have listed seven Montessori "subjects": Language, Math, Geometry, Geography, History, Biology, Music/Art. These seem to be the most standard headings for AMI Montessori albums.  AMS tends to break it down even further.  When it comes to adding your links to the right "subject", don't over-think it. Use your best judgement and feel free to add something to more than one subject if you feel it helps you cover the bases better.  If you click on the links they will take you a link-list where you can add a link to any posts you have written in the past or write in the future about making your own materials. The idea is that you can click on "history" and see a list of DIY history projects that others have attempted. You might someday find three different approaches to making your own black strip, for example.

I didn't know any other way to do this other than to create a blog post for each of the subjects. I back-dated them so that they would be buried out-of-the way in the depths of my blog. They may show up in your reader, sorry about that. I also added my own posts so that the lists wouldn't all be completely empty at the start.

As I see new DIY posts crop up on other blogs I may add them myself to keep track of them, so don't be surprised if you find yourself already there at some point!

Instructions for how to title your post are at the lists. I also added in a few words where necessary to clarify what types of materials are generally in the AMI album of each title.  If you can find a way to link back so that people can return to see other projects on the list that would be great. You could use the "Ultimate Montessori Homemade Materials Collaboration" button above that Walk Beside Me created for me and have it link back here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Montessori Grammar: Articles, Day five

Well, this is certainly not my "shining moment" as a photographer.  What this is a picture of is our grammar work from yesterday.  Like nearly all of my photos, it will get bigger if you click on it.

I created a columns of buttons, beads, airplanes, erasers, and umbrellas.  I labelled each individual item accordingly (a button, a bead, an airplane, an umbrella, an eraser).  It was Kal-El and Me Too's job to figure out why some used the article "an" while others used the article "a".  It was very easy later to notice whenever "an" was used in the books they were reading.  We have to spend a little time contrasting "a/an" with the uses of "the", but soon we'll be moving on to adjectives!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fraction Charts

My husband thought I was nuts.  For two nights in a row, as we sat on the couch watching Netflix episodes of the Walking Dead, I was tracing itty bitty fraction circle segments onto colored paper.  For the next two nights I watched while cutting out itty bitty fraction circles from the paper.  My husband thought I'd finally gone too far.  This was crazier than the February phonogram dictionary episode.  He said, "I can't wait to see what you are going to do with those.  It had better be good."  I told him he should be quiet or I was going to hand him a scissors.

I want to toot Jessica's horn over at Keys of the Universe (do I sound midwestern or what?).  Her albums are the only albums I've seen that actually show you what these look like rather than just refer to them.  This is what made it possible to actually make these.

They probably would look best on white paper.  However, I wanted to follow Jessica's suggestion to use the same colors as our bead materials to facilitate reading the charts faster.  The manila paper allows for the visibility of the white sevenths.  I cut one inch of the length of 12x18 paper so that the paper would fit in our portfolios.  It was really tight, both lengthwise and widthwise, to get all of the information on the paper.

charts 1 and 2, fraction circles shown in bead bar color scheme

charts 3 and 4, equivalences

chart five, more equivalences

charts 7 (top) and 6 (bottom), addition, like-denominators

chart 8, addition, unlike-denominators

chart 10 (left) and 9 (right), subtraction with like-denominators, addition with unlike-denominators

chart 11, subtraction, unlike-denominators

chart 12 (right), multiplication by whole number
chart 15 (left) multiplication of a fraction by another fraction


chart 13 (top) multiplication by a whole number
chart 14 (bottom) multiplication of a fraction by a fraction

charts 16 and 17, division by a whole number

charts 18 and 19, division of a fraction by a fraction and group division

Montessori Monday

School Days

As always, I have a random selection of pictures that didn't wind up in any other posts this week.

Me Too is learning the addition snake game.  I love this photo because I happened to pick up the camera at that those of you who have done this with a child will recognize as that "perfect moment" in the snake game.  He's counted to ten, left his counter in position, placed his ten bar and his black placeholder beads, and is about to discard the bead bars he counted.  I think we are hitting the memorization works at just the right sensitive period for Me Too.  At the lunch table a few days ago Me Too decided it would be fascinating conversation to tell me all the ways he could think of to "make five" (he called it "spell five") using both addition and subtraction.  I don't think he missed any either!

I gave both boys a presentation on acute, obtuse and right angles.  Unlike the presentation on the lengths of a triangles sides, they loved this one.  Kal-El thought of the constructive triangles right away and the boys each pulled out a few boxes to see what kinds of angles the triangles had.

Me Too looks so serene while working on Handwriting Without Tears.

I love this shot of the boys working on their books together.  I wish every moment was like this, but frankly they fought a lot this week.  About five minutes later Me Too was screaming at Kal-El because Kal-El had moved on to math.  Kal-El likes to do "ninja moves" in between activities, and during math even between each problem.  Me Too was furious because the ninja moves were distracting.

Me Too has also announced that he doesn't want to learn anything Kal-El already knows how to do.  He only wants to learn things Kal-El doesn't know.  Try planning presentations around that criteria!

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.