Monday, October 28, 2013

School Days

Welcome to another "School Days" post!  I  have some random photos taken of some our work over the past week.  I have a couple of interesting works that will be getting their own posts this week so they are not pictured here.  I presented our new version of The Second Great Lesson today so stay tuned for that this week!  I also am planning posts on decurian division and some fun language work.

It has been very exciting watching as Me Too wraps up the primary math works and as Kal-El dives into the elementary work.  Kal-El is starting multiplication on the large bead frame.  We started with "short multiplication" (one-digit multiplier) so that Kal-El could learn how to analyze or decompose the multiplicand.  Above is his work on 6 x 1,231,451.  

Kal-El has a lot of irons in the fire when it comes to math.  He also worked through a couple drawers of fraction equations, story problems, abstract addition, and squaring chains in addition to his work with the multiplication finger charts for memorization.  He started his LAST game on the LAST chart today!  That means he has organized all of the product tiles in stacks from lowest to highest.  He chooses a stack of like-products and finds and records all the equations that satisfy that product.

In the above photo Me Too has just barely started the second game for the last subtraction board.  He is choosing difference tiles at random and finding an equation to satisfy it.

Kal-El is still working on the detective adjective game.  The last time I posted a photo he was organizing triangles according to their sides.  In these photos he is organizing them by their angles.  I tried this with Me Too but he needs some geometry review before he can be successful. Plus, he just didn't care that day.   However, he has been doing other triangle work:

The constructive triangles.  

He has been really interested in using the constructive triangles more like tangrams (making things other than geometric shapes) so I took out a set of Colorforms  that I have been saving.  Here is one one of his creations:

It's a ninja battle.

While the retelling of the First Great Lesson has had no noticeable affects on Me Too, Kal-El at least has exhibited a renewed interest in astronomy.  Above he is working with a heliocentric longitude (planetary address) chart to position the planet by degree according to the date.

Our language work is not always particularly photogenic, plus I am a little more "involved" as they do it. For those reasons you don't often see a lot of pictures.  However, they are both still working at word studies, All About Spelling, Handwriting Without Tears, and Writing with Ease.  You'll see a post on one of Me Too's word studies later this week.  Kal-El has been cracking up at random moments every day whenever he thinks about his word study.  He had been working on "silent P."  He says, "that's when you actually remember to close the bathroom door so Mom doesn't hear you going."  In actuality he worked on words like "Psalm" and "psychiatry."  Today he worked on "eu" words like "maneuver" and "grandeur."  Maybe the giggling will stop now that he's moved on.


  1. Boys and their giggling - I totally believe boys giggle more than girls ;)

  2. Wanted to ask, and just never remember, why did you choose to use handwriting without out tears, and the all about spelling? Was it so that you have a guide so that you make sure to hit it all? I am finding that T has some gaps in his spelling and reading, and just doesn't know all the "funny" spellings. Some are sight words, but some are under the categories you mention, like "silent p." He can read these words well in context, so I don't want to totally bog him down with the particulars, but I'd rather him learn the rules, so that he doesn't turn out to be the sight-reader I am. Thanks!

    1. Handwriting W/out Tears: There is something about the way I implemented the Montessori handwriting sequence that didn't work for my kids. Kal-El would do all of the Montessori activities perfectly and then pick up the pencil and do something totally different on the paper. I tried all kinds of "bridge" work and had no luck. I added HWT to force myself to sit down with him and systematically fix his handwriting. SO, then with Me Too I worked even harder with him on the Montessori handwriting work, did things even more traditionally, and did twice as much of it. I also started HWT with him earlier and had him do the kindergarten workbook TWICE (I changed the cover so he wouldn't know.). And the result? His handwriting is significantly WORSE than his brother's at the same age. The other day he handed me something he wrote and not only was each letter reversed but it was all backwards. It looked like nonsense then I held it up to a mirror and it was PERFECT. He needed to write his dad an apology note the other day and it was awful. It's a combination of reversals, bad spelling, no spaces between words, mixing capitals and lowercase, and forgetting what word he is on.

      So, yesterday Me Too started handwriting "boot camp" with me. He started the HWT first grade book but I have the sandpaper letters, sand tray, HWT chalkboards, sponges, and towels out all at once. He traces the sandpaper letter, traces it in the sand tray, writes it on the chalkboard, erases it with the wet sponge (in proper stroke order), and dries it with the towel (in proper stroke order). THEN he writes it in the workbook. Let's hope it works. I actually was researching dyslexia this week. I found a bunch of things that say that he should exhibit 10 of 37 "symptoms" and he only really has one...the reversals.

    2. All about Spelling: I might as well add, "Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading." There are, as you know, a bunch of reading and spelling patterns that the kids are supposed to learn. There are not pages in the albums for these. In a pure Montessori environment the guide helps the child notice these patterns in real-life situations as they organically occur and has the child track them in a spelling notebook. The child manufactures his or her own spelling lists and practices them in several "Montessori" ways. The guide miraculously makes sure they have covered all such rules during their six elementary years.

      There was NO WAY I was going to do that successfully. I couldn't even remember what they all were and took SO MANY for granted. For example, this week in the OPG word study Kal-El did he read words of French origin and was to discover the occasions in which "qu" acts as "k" such as in pique, picturesque, mosque, unique, etc., This NEEDS to be pointed out, he needs to practice reading them, and eventually he'll need to be able to spell them too. Another thing along these same lines is VOCABULARY. He didn't know what any of those words meant. The OPG is the reason he is reading at a fifth grade cued me to cover all of these things. I don't think I can get his reading level any higher until I start increasing the amount of vocabulary we cover. Kal-El pointed out himself yesterday in the car, "Mom, I just thought of something. Reading lesson aren't really about reading. They are about spelling, and where words come from, AND about teaching us what words mean too." DING DING.

      I use AAS for the same reasons. I know which words in English have a doubled "ll" at the end but I didn't remember WHY they were doubled until I read the rule again in AAS. I think they need to learn those rules and I can't count on myself to "seize the day" every time it comes up in their natural environment.

      I might be adding "Building Academic Vocabulary" to our environment as well.

      I guess I don't sound like I have a lot of faith in elementary language the Montessori way do I. We do all that copywork in Writing with Ease too....

      In my defense, the boys really don't know there is a "book" for these things. I sneak it all in and give it like any other Montessori presentation. ("Read this word list. What do you notice about these words? Yes, the 'qu' makes the 'k' sound in all of them. That's because they are all French in origin. Let's read these words in this little story... Let's write these down in your language notebook and practice them.)

  3. Thank SOOOO much for this. REALLY helpful. Man, where else on the internet can you find this kind of advice but here? This is why I read your blog.

    S does that too, write mirror backward. I have also done some research on this and she doesn't have the dyslexia exhibitors either. I saw in a video once (I tried to find this but couldn't, sorry, it was a lecture by neuropsychologist talking about how the brain works when it reads and writes it was posted on playschool6??) and the lecturer was talking about how mirror backward writing is developmental, and not to be worried about. Many times it is just where the child decides to start writing. For example if you put a dot on the right hand side of the page, and ask a 5 yo to write their name beside it they'll write their name starting at the dot, backward, right to left. If you asked a 9 yo to do the same, she would back-up left, make space and squeeze her name in writing left to right. That being said, S has had some other things going on that make me think that we need to a boot camp of sorts. She was a premie baby and still seems to exhibit some delays because of this. For example, she doesn't love sandpaper letters. Just doesn't like that feel, and is traditionally sensory avoiding. She started Montessori sooner than T, but didn't get that third primary capstone year. She will turn 6, in two months and I think she has already passed into the next plane of development, so teaching her handwriting and reading I feel will be more a remedial matter...and I did get KotU, and am reading up on this. (It makes so much sense!)

    So, long story short, I need to seize the day with S, and do something that will help her learn that reading and writing pronto. Or really just inspire confidence, which is what she really lacks and your resources may be just what I need. And I need to do something about the spelling with T. I need to learn the rules and so does T.

    Oh, goodness, and then there is D! He'll try to mimic his siblings, and take a look at that picture card with a truck on it and sound it out, "d, d, d...guck." And of course someone is always there to correct him which he doesn't appreciate usually. Oh, when did you start doing sandpaper letters with your boys? D is now 2 1/2 and I figured I should start him on the Primary path, we are currently doing a lot of aural games and vocab building. I'd love to get him through the botany and geometry cabinets. Or I guess I could comb the archives. :)

    Thanks again for your replies. So very helpful.

    1. For children who don't like the texture of the sandpaper letters (or the globe), there is a work called "sensitizing fingers" - I have only ever seen it in AMI schools and AMI sources, but I'm not sure why AMS and others would remove it. It makes the sand feel SO different! I usually am fine with it, but I find that some days I just can't stand the feel. Sensitize fingers and it's like night and day difference!


    2. Abbie,

      Thanks for mentioning that about development and where they start on the paper. One of the things that was bothering me was that a friend at coop, whose son is profoundly dyslexic, asked me if Me Too was dyslexic after working with him. I brushed it off because she had handed him his paper with a line to write his name on in the upper rh corner. However, she handed it to him upside down so the line was in the lower left-hand corner. Me Too wrote his name upside down and backwards so that it would be correct when the paper was set to rights. It was watching him do that that led her to ask me if he was dyslexic. I only thought of it again as I've been witnessing some of his VERY BAD handwriting lately. Of COURSE I wish I had started with cursive but it was too late for Kal-El by the time I discovered Montessori and it would have been very hard to have Me Too write everything in a different way than his brother.

      In fact, I blame his learning from his brother for some of his handwriting problems. Me Too has learned so much from watching his brother from his vantage point on the wrong side of the work rug. He is brilliant and reading things upside down, sideways, and mirrored through a piece of paper by holding it up to the sun and reading from the wrong size. Great for reading, bad for writing orientation.

      The "sensitizing fingers" is in the Gettman if you are looking for it. He writes it up as if it is "step one" for EVERYONE and anyone doing sandpaper letters. I was too lazy to have my kids dipping their hands in water. It's important to know if there is a sensory aversion though isn't it.

      It does NOT seem to be in the Montessori by Hand album.

  4. I'm fairly new to this blog, so I was just wondering, what type of script did you use with your boys? Did you use cursive at all, or just print?

  5. Yael,

    I always recommend that people start with cursive. That said, we didn't. Kal-El had already learned print by the time I discovered Montessori. I didn't think it was going to work to do print with one kid and cursive with the other. I wish we had discovered Montessori sooner because I would have done cursive from the start.

  6. Thanks for your replay, I've only just noticed that you had mentioned it in a previous reply. I was quite curious, because a friend of mine was experiencing some of the same problems you mention - letter reversal, bad handwriting - with her son (she too discovered Montessori once her son had already been introduced to print, so initially she decided to stick to print, so as not to create too much confusion), but she did eventually decide to introduce cursive at 6.5 yo ( this is actually quite standard practice in Italy) - which seems to have solved both of the problems and I was very impressed to see what a beautifully handwriting the boy has developed in only a couple of months in spite of the late start in Montessori terms.