Monday, March 24, 2014

School Days

It has been three weeks since I posted about our "school days" with both boys.  Here are some glimpses of our work over those several weeks.

Geometry lesson on convergent, divergent, and parallel lines.

Grammar Lesson on conjunctions.  We once again used ninjas instead of the traditional flowers.  It was kind of fun tying up the ninjas with the pink ribbon.

I also introduced adverbs...


...and prepositions.  

...and interjections. Wow!

I find it very unsatisfying that our discount grammar symbol tray has an extra spot.  We have all of the parts of speech on the tray but it doesn't look like it.  I need ideas for something fun and useful to put in that extra spot.  We have finally completed our first pass through MRD Language Arts, Vol. 1. We are immediately starting back at the beginning and with an emphasis on command boxes this time through.  It will go faster from here on out because I actually have all the materials made in advance this time.

Kal-El has been working on the distributive property with the bead bars.  The addition symbols are not necessary, nor is a multiplication sign.  Kal-El thinks it's really neat that putting a number outside of the parenthesis, or two sets of parentheses next to one another, is a secret code for multiplying so we definitely eliminate the multiplication sign these days.  

Our math cabinet now has a drawer each for the parentheses, white number cards, grey number cards, coin envelopes, -/+, X/=.  My mom made a whole pile of parentheses out of black cardstock on her Cricut.  THANKS MOM!  If you need a fast way to make your own number and operations tiles you can access my file for free here.  You will probably want to make two sets of the number tiles in case you want to set up two equations side-by-side and need the same number twice.

However, we tend to use the addition symbol to emphasize that we are not multiplying those numbers.  Kal-El kept thinking that we were because they were next to each other with no operator.  The bead bars here (without the operation sign) are a small bead snake so the child should know that they are being added together.

Kal-El was working on the division bingo board until he realized he hadn't memorized all of the equations during the previous boards, had a meltdown, and refused to do the work anymore until he has memorized the equations.  There are about five different ways to deal with this (such as repeating a previous board, doing the bingo board twice using the fingerboard in conjunction the first time but not the second, etc.,) but he wouldn't hear any of it for at least a day. What we wound up doing was supplementing the sequence with a fun division game from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational:

He refuses to repeat any of the memorization boards, but he will happily work with them on the iPad.  He's been using the division bingo board on the iPad a lot in his free time.  The difference is that the program scaffolds the board by limiting the number of quotient tiles you have to choose from for each equation.

This made Me Too jealous that he didn't have a multiplication game to go along with his traditional boards.  So, I made him the Leprechaun's Luck game again from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational.  

They love both games.  I'll probably also make him the Pot O' Gold multiplication game because it uses the same materials.  He uses the fingerboards right along with the game (currently the half board as in the picture.

This year I remembered to do the "Needs of Plants" presentation while it was still cold outside.  We do most of our botany in the summer, but it is hard to find a location for the fourth plant that has "no warmth" but still has light.  We have to do it in the winter.  Right now a pan of sprouts is growing on the kitchen counter for the "Plants Grow Toward the Light" demonstration.

Me Too has been working on multiplication with the stamp game.  It took about two weeks for him to abstract, much longer than addition and subtraction.  He now does the multiplication equations in his stamp game notebook without using any stamps.

Dueling bead frames!  Me Too has been introduced to the small bead frame.  He loves to get it out and work on addition equations while Kal-El works with multiplication on the large bead frame.  Kal-El is multiplying by two- and three-digit multipliers now.

Our paper is from the Keys of the Universe course. It is perfect.  The free versions I tried to use previously didn't have enough rows per page.  This makes it difficult to fit even one equation on the page when you have two- and three-digit multipliers, especially at the beginning when you decompose the multiplicand an extra time.  On the KotU paper we have room to do two equations if we are adding the zeros right away.  I also like that there is a spot on this paper for placing a "check" next to each row of the decomposed multiplicands as you add them to the bead frame.  

I want to add here, that I was overwhelmed by the large bead frame multiplication work after reading multiple presentations in several different albums.   I would never be able to successfully present it.  When I read Jessica's presentation in the KotU album I realized that she provided a script and that if I just read the script I couldn't mess it up.  It worked brilliantly.  Phew!

Kal-El varies the types of maps he chooses very frequently.  Here he is enjoying the Waseca stencils while Me Too records spelling words that I am dictating.

Here he is working with the state quarters map.  The continent boxes have also been out more than usual.

Me Too is not very interested in big projects.  I don't think he is entirely in the second plane yet. Kal-El always has a big project simmering.  I think this is Kal-El's favorite impressionistic chart.  He is still interested in living "off the grid" in space.  He has been working hard learning how to build rockets.  There are some great videos on YouTube, although I must warn you that your child will leave you "things needed" lists that include sugar, potassium nitrate, and a hand mixer (to make rocket fuel).  The funny thing about that list was that he misspelled "sugar" but spelled "potassium nitrate" perfectly.  

Right now he has followed a rabbit hole into the study of electricity as he is trying to discover a way to ignite the rocket fuel without blowing himself up.


  1. Oh boy, rockets - I love it! :) We have a 'Mad Scientist' just north of us a little bit, who does a 1 day camp every summer and one of the things they do is show the children how to make rockets. It's a little pricey, but I am seriously thinking about sending my older two - or three - if we can. We have seen him in action more than once, and he is great! :) I am always so encouraged (and sometimes a tad overwhelmed, sort of) by your posts! Overwhelmed only in the sense that I see all the amazing things you all are doing, but then the encouragement kicks in to keep going and shooting for something greater than just the bare minimum, especially when the days are long! Having never read a language manual yet, I wondered if it was encouraged to give more than one new presentation on a part of speech at one time. It's good to see that it is possible, and glad to find the link to the MRD albums - I forgot how inexpensive some of them were. Do you recommend their fractions/decimals manual(s)?

    1. No, it's not really possible. There are sometimes two or three steps you can bundle together along with the key experience. I wouldn't introduce three or four parts of speech at once like you see in this post. I guess it wasn't clear that this is portions of THREE WEEKS worth of work. I edited the post to reflect that at the beginning. I waited a full week between each part of speech and filled up the time between with follow-up work. So, it's about four weeks worth of grammar work.

      I like the MRD fractions manual I have. I have the decimal manual but am not sure how I feel about that one yet.

  2. I am glad you said you edited it, because I read it this second time around and thought maybe I had totally missed the time reference! I knew there were a few follow up exercises possible, and I guess I was thinking you did a key pres. per day and then went back to follow ups. I thought maybe they boys were just very interested in new presentations! :) I am glad you confirmed the wait period - it's been at least a week, usually 1 1/2 weeks between new presentations in grammar here for the most part. I wondered about moving faster for LM - she has had quite a bit of grammar, but I wanted to be sure she completely understood the basic parts of speech before moving in to advanced POS with her. Do you think I should move at the same, steady pace, or see how much she understands and try to do some close together with her to make sure she isn't confused before moving on to what she doesn't know? i hope that what I am asking makes sense and isn't confusing....

    1. I would recommend again, that you observe your child. What are they doing after the first lesson? Are they practicing with good repetition? Or are they hanging on your arm asking for the next lesson? The latter was my oldest. So, we went through the lessons very quickly, like 2-3 per week. (Occasionally we skipped more days than that.) We didn't do many extensions in between other than labeling. Now he looks at the sentence from a total stand-point. He loves that the same word can be classified as a different part of speech depending up on how it is used. I don't think he would have picked upon this until he had done all the lessons. I didn't worry too much about whether T had understood each part before moving on to the next. I am no grammarian!!! but as I understand it each part really works together with every other part of speech to create a fabric of words that illustrates the thought we all understand. No part is really used in isolation. He is solidifying and deepening his understanding of each part of speech in real life, in made-up extension projects, and in other lessons we touch upon from time to time.

      So, instead of looking at the calendar and a planning notebook, observe the child. Are they getting the first presentation? Do they want more? Are they interested? If they are not, perhaps they need a more engaging lesson presentation. Maybe there is a natural lead-in to the next part of speech lesson that is right in the middle of a work she is already doing. That would be perhaps the most perfect time to present.

    2. Since part of my quandry is with just review to make sure that LM was grounded well in what she learned previously, this is such an applicable suggestion! Observation is definitely the key, and sometimes, I am afraid I don't catch signs or wait too long/spend too much time on something, and they end up getting bored and losing interest! Oftentimes, lessons on parts of speech even come up in our day-to-day conversations, oddly enough - I guess there's no better practical application than that (if they are truly listening, that is, and not just humoring me! :) )

    3. I wondered what in the world they meant by "observe the child" when I starting studying Montessori's methods and read that phrase over and over. Don't underestimate your ability to know your children through observation. Teachers make mistakes presenting too early or too late. They learn from their mistakes. So can we, un-trained teachers! Do what you feel your child might receive well. If they don't, please don't fear that you've messed everything up. Try something else! You all will figure it out in the end. (And then it will keep on changing.) :)

  3. MBT, I think we need to keep our boys from colluding. You know that community aspect they are always talking about in the Montessori classroom? HUMM. The rocket-fuel recipe, perhaps a budget, and a short list of safety guidelines could be showing up on our pillows very soon...:) I'd be likely to tell my husband that I nominate him to oversee this project, so I don't need to face the neighbors who may need to remove a smoking rocket from their roof top. ;)

    1. I love it :) My husband already has experience retrieving balls that he (not the kids) has hit onto the neighbor's roofs so he already has experience in this area. Perfect.

  4. Amy,

    It's great that other chime in here for different perspectives. Read what Abbie said and follow your gut for each kid. Me Too couldn't handle what she suggests. The closer together the key presentations are the more he muddies them and mixes them together. He need time to solidify a key before presented with another similar key. As it is, he has lost the ability to identify an adjective. Kal-El has kept everything straight, but I don't think he would have if I had presented closer together. Also, I don't know if they are different just because they are different or because one is older.

    Also, if we hadn't kept dropping grammar altogether for months at a time because I kept waiting for the boys to "agree to a presentation" we could have gotten through one part of speech per week in about six weeks. Now that they are getting regular presentations they are super excited about grammar and choosing it all the time.

    1. You are both so wise! I think LM could handle some close together, the ones that she just needs to review. Hoss couldn't - he may be "running late" on some presentations and parts of speech knowledge, but he's just going to run on his own time frame, because he couldn't handle it, even if it is a review of something he has actually done in the past and may not remember well. I can understand the 'dropping grammar' comment - mine have definitely had times where they were less interested in a particular *subject* and only kept their toes in with prompting from yours truly! Thank you all so much for your advice - it is so helpful! Sometimes I think to myself, "Oh the conversations we could have if we had a chance to sit and have coffee and chat for a few hours..." :) No doubt, they would be priceless!

  5. In that empty space, you could put a label saying "Parts of Speech" or a pretty design using all the symbols ;)

    LOVE their work :)

  6. For your empty space, you could add another noun pyramid with a gold top (point) to represent proper nouns that require capitalisation.
    Best wishes

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  8. I have the same tray, and it really bothered me as well. In my empty space, I placed a blush brush (the flat kind that comes with your make-up). The kids use the brush to dust the symbols when needed.
    Although I like the idea of a label too.

  9. Oh my! Bless you Lady. You make my life 1,000 times easier. Again, I needed a visual to help me understand a presentation in KOTU. Of course I found it here, AND a printable to save me time. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!