Thursday, September 19, 2013

School Day

Today I thought I would show you pictures from just today, not any from earlier in the week, and talk you through a "morning in our life" so-to-speak.  Normally I get up at 6 a.m. to jog or bike.  This week I am resting a foot injury and also have been up the past two nights with a kidney stone (gone this morning, yea!) so I slept in.  Me Too and I both slept until 7:40 at which point we were both awoken to the sounds of Kal-El practicing violin downstairs. Me Too sprang out of bed and pulled out his violin as well so today all the practicing was done before breakfast.  

After a breakfast of eggs and toast, the boys snuck in a game of chess before school time.  They have both been playing for about two years now.

Both boys have been choosing a lot of math lately.  Me Too is working on the subtraction tables with the strip board this week.  I always bring this up, but this work is part of the primary math album.  Some people say that this type of work is meant for primary and to skip this type of work when the child reaches elementary age.  However, there is just NO WAY that we could have gotten to this work in primary.  We worked at math diligently and I never managed to finish the primary album during primary with either kid.  Kal-El will be starting the elementary math album on Monday. This would be his "second-grade" year in traditional school or his second year of Montessori elementary.  I think this work is important and the boys really enjoy it.  The Montessori school in my area that I've toured seemed to have classrooms full of kids doing this work during lower I'm not worried about it.  The reason I bring this up again today is because Me Too is really struggling with this work.  It has to do with his mental coordination at his maturity level.

  • He has a really hard time choosing the correct tan strip. 
  •  He sometimes grabs two tan strips instead of a tan and a blue.  
  • He starts solving one equation and then switches to another halfway through. 
  •  He has trouble reading the "difference" or "remainder" off the board. 
  • He fills in his answer on the wrong line, cries because he has to erase.
  • He writes numbers backwards, realizes it, then cries because he has to erase again. 
  • And, nearly everyday he has suddenly "discovered a pattern" in the answers and tries to fill them in without using the strips but has discovered the wrong pattern.   Then he cries because, he reports, he's "tired of erasing things."

Today was his fourth day with the strip board and the first day he didn't have any major problems.  I am really glad I homeschool him because he would be that kid who turns in worksheets full of the wrong answers because he thought he saw a pattern and just filled them all in without doing the work.  He would be the kid with red circles all over his work because the right answer is written backwards.  I'm glad he's home because I can see right away when he is filling in according to an incorrect "pattern" and ask him to do the work with the strips for a few more days.  I don't care if the answer is right or wrong as long as he is going through the process with the strips.  I don't care if the number is backwards...I can just sneak some more practice in on numbers separately and later.  I held him on my lap while he cried for five minutes yesterday.  Afterward, he felt better.  I did the erasing for him (there is no award for doing your own erasing) and he was happy to redo some of the pages again.  We can spend as much time as we need on this material until he is comfortable.

Kal-El figured out the relationship between skip-counting the bead chains and multiplication on his own.  He is choosing to work with bead chains more to help with his multiplication.  Today he reviewed the bead chain of 3 and we played Speed! , yesterday we did the same with the chains of 2 and 4.

Me Too worked on the 2 chain and played Speed! as well.

Kal-El is back into his routine of filling in two pages of fraction equations everyday.

Kal-El got overheated and changed clothes.  The pictures are still all from today.  Yesterday Kal-El completed the first multiplication finger chart.  Today he wanted to start the second finger chart and the second control chart.  He needed to understand the commutative property of multiplication to do that and hadn't discovered it on his own yet.  I set him up with some equations with bead bars on the white board and let him solve them until he discovered it.  Then he transitioned easily to the finger charts.

We had a funny conversation with the white board.  After he discovered the commutative property I asked him if he remembered the word "commutative."  He said, "yes!"  I asked, "what does 'commutative' mean?"  He said, "It's when you have two properties in two different places."  I must have looked at him oddly and at the same time he remembered that the word "commute" and realized that "commutative" must be something different.  Ever the jokester, he decided to go with it and although he could barely say it over his own giggling he said, "You know, you have two properties in two different places and then you 'commutatate' from one to the other!"  Then he exploded into laughter.

In addition to the work I photographed, both boys did a lot of language work.  Both boys did a word study out of The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  Me Too's was a review of all the different ways to make the long-e sound.  We also pulled out our Dwyer reading folder for the long-e sound.  Kal-El's was on changing "y" to "i" and adding "-es" to form plurals and words that end in "-es" that are verbs instead of plural nouns. Both boys worked on All About Spelling.  Me Too is in level one and Kal-El is in level two.  

I also pulled Writing with Ease  back off the shelf.  I started it last year with Kal-El.  We only finished the first four units.  This is pretty typical with me when implementing a new category of work.  I kind of fit a little bit in the first year or so in fits and starts.  By the second year I really figure out how to integrate the work into our schedule.  For that reason, I always start things like that about a year before I am concerned about being successful with it.  One of the reasons I will drag my feet on some categories of work is if I realize that it would be better to have the boys do the work together.  About 50% of the time Me Too can be pushed to do the work a year "early" and the other 50% of the time I hold off on Kal-El to wait for Me Too.  Last year Me Too really would have struggled with the copywork.  Also, each lesson provides two copywork selections to choose from.  One is easier, the other is more challenging. Last year, Kal-El could only really handle the easier copywork selection. So, this year we started right up on lesson five.  Me Too did the easier copywork selection and Kal-El was able to do the harder one.  Today the selections were from Alice and Wonderland.  It was just the part in which Alice talks with the caterpillar on the mushroom.  The selection stopped before she ate any.  The boys are dying to know what happened.  So, I quickly bought Alice and Wonderland (99 cents!) for the Kindle app on my iPad and I read them the first two chapters.  

This week I finally felt like our routine was reestablished and the boys are ready for some impressive presentations again.  That means next week I will present one or more of the Great Lessons!

After we finished our school time we headed out to the pharmacy and the grocery store and then had a picnic lunch on the patio.  Kal-El spotted a rabbit in the yard and informed me that he was going to give a full chase.  Me Too cracked up laughing because I asked Kal-El if the rabbit had a waistcoat and a pocketwatch, told him NOT to follow it into its rabbit hole, and told him that if he accidentally fell in DON'T eat anything down there.  Kal-El didn't laugh.  I think he was working out the possibility of all that happening.


  1. Thank you so much for this glimpse into your day! Do you find it hard to manage getting in to the school room at a good time and having plenty of time to get work done each day, while juggling the other responsibilities? (I DO - which is why I ask! Sometimes we don't make it in the school room until almost 10 o'clock, which doesn't leave a lot of time in the mornings to work with all five going different directions!)

    1. Amy,

      We actually DON'T have trouble getting school work done. I *DO* have trouble getting housework done. Typically (since July) I get up at 6:00 a.m. and exercise until 7:00 (when my husband leaves for work). From 7-8 I shower, dress, and do as much housework as quick as I can. That mostly means throw in a load of laundry and pick a task or two to get done (I follow system). At 8:00 the boys and I eat breakfast together. While we eat I sneak in a few things...daily devotions for one. Sometimes they quickly review some spelling words for AAS, sometimes I teach them a little Spanish, we'll sing a hymn or two... After breakfast the boys might play a game of chess or go get started in the school room while I clean up the kitchen. If they seem at loose ends I have them do a chore during that time. We always start school by 9:00. If I am lazy and skip housework, skip cleanup, or breakfast goes faster than usually we might be in there by 8:30 or 8:00. We always work from about 9-12 and often 9-1. The boys naturally work for about four hours. If I want it to be only three I have to stop them.

      Mornings feel pretty relaxed. It's afternoons that stress me out. School puts lunch at 12 or 1. It takes the boys about an hour to eat. This is when we'll listen to stories, music, or Story of the World (soon to start). After lunch they have free time. They play outside, inside, do a ton of art projects, etc., I still have about an hour of violin practice to put them through though and many days there is "something" at about 3:30...violin lesson, scouts, soccer, I *WORK* two evenings a gets crazy. I find I have about an hour to myself in the afternoon and I have lunch cleanup, bills to pay, phone calls to make, etc., and that is usually when I write my blog post. Somehow it always seems like we are getting home from someplace about 5:00 and that's when we usually eat dinner. I try to cook every other day and make enough to have left overs the day between. I also use the crock pot a lot. They boys go to bed early and in the evening I usually spend about an hour making some kind of Montessori material.

      If you haven't read the FAQ section of this blog (there's a tab under the header) you might enjoy it as I talk about some of this stuff there in more detail.

      I only have the TWO kids of course, which makes the work period really really easy. I set up *everything* I possibly can so it can be done independently. That still leaves me buys giving presentations and doing work that they need a partner for (golden beads, narration, reading the spelling words so they can write them with the MA or whatever medium they choose that day...). I can imagine that is even trickier with five. My best advice is to get some childcare for a day and go sit and watch an real Montessori elementary classroom in action for a few hours. If two adults can do it with 20-30 kids, you can do it with 5. I DO think the primary/elementary mix makes it tricky for a little while. Then go have lunch by yourself or have a cup of coffee :)

  2. Amy, I am the same as you! Except I only have 2 and a newborn.

    Poor little Me-Too - and he is so brave to continue to carry on trying. That is so commendable. I too have just started with the subtraction strip board, but I chose not to use the plain wooden strips. I saw it somewhere that someone didn't use them. I don't really see what their purpose is and just adds an extra complexity that I didn't think was important.

    Thanks so much for sharing ... "I always start things like that about a year before I am concerned about being successful with it" - I think we put too much stress on ourselves on things to just work. Could we have a photo of your language work please? How do the boys go about choosing this work they want to do? Or is it still the board of work they have to choose per week (work plans)?

    Lovely post of just your day.

    1. He IS so brave :) Today is Saturday. I was doing some housework while the kids played. I stepped into the school room to polish glass and there was Me Too with his subtraction board out on a rug and he was SMILING away! He said, "Look Mom! I'm finishing my subtraction tables book!" After all those tears over "erasing" he was in the school room, on a weekend, on his own time, doing the subtraction board. He finally figured out the procedure too. He was really proud and invited his dad in to show him the book and show him how to use the board.

      I was surprised all week every day when he would choose the subtraction board first out of all the materials when he was having so much trouble with it!

      A MontessoriLive video I watched talked at length about the fact that there are 3 or 4 ways to use the subtraction strip board and just as many procedures. People use different combinations and numbers of strip colors and different placements...

      We use the tan strips to cover the numbers at the top of the board that are NOT used in the equation. So, for 13-7 we use a tan strip to cover the numbers 14-18. The exposed numbers (1-13) represent the minuend. Then, we would choose the blue "7" to represent the subtrahend. It is placed over the numbers at the top of the board.The difference is the highest number left on the board, the exposed number just to the left of the blue strip. The red strip would be added to represent the difference. So, for us, it is the red strip that seems like an extra, unnecessary step and we just leave them in the box. They would be useful if we were putting a bunch of equations on the board at once because then you wouldn't want to cover the numbers at the top. You would still need to isolate the minuend (with the tan strip) and represent the subtrahend with the blue strip. However, it would be nice then to add the red strip as the difference so that you could easily see patterns such as how the difference shrinks as the subtrahend grows (if your minuend stays constant).

      You obviously are using the board one of the other several ways, LOL! Another thing, the way we use it we be just as well off with a number line. I don't think Kal-El ever did multiple equations on the board so we never used all of those rows. We never used ANY of those rows actually, because we put the strips right on top of the numbers.