Friday, January 29, 2016

School Days

We've had a great couple of weeks of school.  This week felt like it was all over the place.   This week Monday Me Two finished his work plan around noon and started vomiting around 12:20.  It was very considerate of him to wait until his school work was complete.  I've never seen anyone get sick that many times in a day.  He spent about twelve  hours with a bucket.  

One of my husband's best friends is a retired science teacher and he pulls out all kinds of neat things for our kids.  He put on an hour science program for the boys' cub scout pack last week...we're talking big impact stuff like lifting three scouts at time on a hovercraft he threw together onsite with some cardboard, milk crates and a couple vacuum cleaners (!!?!).  He always plans more demonstrations than he could possibly get to and when the show was over my boys were treated to a private demonstration of everything he didn't use during the show that day.

We have a "going out" once a week.  This week we attended a school day concert that the symphony put on.  Last week we went swimming (indoors!).  The week before the boys planned our museum trip.  Me Too had just completed memorizing all of the African countries so he wanted to look through the African exhibits.  Our museum  has four giant dioramas of different important ecosystems in Africa.  They also have individual dioramas of artifacts organized by African country.  They cover maybe half of the countries and Me Too really enjoyed being the expert here.  Kal-El had just finished memorizing all of the European countries.  He wanted to visit an extensive exhibit in which a building or shop from each of 33 different European cultures  has been built to scale showing daily life, skills, and traditions from those cultures as they would have been about 100-150 years ago.  He is really starting to act like an older child (and he's grown 4 inches since September).  All on his own he decided to bring a notebook for the first time to record anything particularly interesting.  Me Too does something similar, but using his camera.

Above is one of the games we use to practice our Spanish vocabulary.  You could use this game to practice many different types of things.  I built a tic tac toe board by taping 9 envelopes to one of our white boards.  I fill the envelopes with pictures representing various vocabulary words.  The kids take turns closing their eyes and pulling a picture out of an envelope.  If they can tell me the word or phrase that goes with the picture successfully they can put their X or O on the front of the envelope (written on post-its).

Unless someone makes an error all of our games end in a tie.

We completed the divisibility section of the KotU album this week.  Last week we learned the rule for elevens.  Above is a photo from when we were working through the proof.  This week we learned the rules (plural) for sevens.  That deserves it's own post so stay tuned.  The KotU album covers the rules for 2, 5, 25, 4, 8, 3, 9, 7 and 11 plus divisibility by a prime factors and products of a number's factors.  Sixes aren't covered but there is an Eric Johnson  video about divisibility by sixes so I might throw that in before we move on.  The reason sixes are not included in the KotU album here is likely because the rule for sixes is actually just the prime factors rule.  However,  the prime factors presentation (in multiple albums, not just KotU) didn't really drive the correct point home.  It seemed to me that the point was that a number is always divisible by its prime factors and products of its factors.   The whole time I was teaching it I kept thinking "this is silly, of course a number is divisible by its factors and combinations of them."  My attitude must have rubbed off of the kids or something because their attitude was very "Yeah Mom.  We know."  What the point should have been perhaps is that if you want to know if a number is divisible by a number that is tricky (basically any number that is not one of the numbers listed as covered) you can break that number down into its prime factors and if the dividend is divisible by each of those prime factors than it is divisible by the original divisor which is, of course, a product of those prime factors.  Anyway, sorry if I'm preaching to the choir here.  I felt rather daft when I realized I gave the divisibility by prime factors presentation with the wrong focus.  I will use the sixes as an excuse to revisit that topic with a much more impressive trick.

This is what the boys do for fun these days.  Me Too is having a good time.  He is just trying to look serious.

I spent a lot of time returning materials this week.  ETC Montessori must be trying out someone new and I received the wrong materials and had missing materials in a recent order.  The replacement also had wrong materials in it.  The third time was the charm.  They have not made any errors in my past 30 orders or so and their customer service was great.  I called first on Monday.  I had the first replacement by Wednesday.  I called Thursday late afternoon about the second mistake and a had the replacement in my hands 24 hours later.  I hope I have as good of an experience with Kid Advance.  I posted the photo above on my Instagram.  The boys have been enjoying using the box of 250 volume cubes with the Nienhuis "Cube Up" cards.  Virginia, from School en Casa, asked if my cubes were 2 cm as they should be or if they were the wrong size like hers.  It hadn't occurred to me that they would be wrong but sure enough they are 2.45 cm.  That size won't work with the yellow prisms for volume so I really need to call them next.

Each Cube Up card is a puzzle.  The card shows you front, rear, top and left and right side views of a structure built with cubes.  Interior lines indicate when cubes are not in the same plane.  The answer is giving on the back using a top view again but this time indicating how many cubes are in each stack.

Kal-El used nearly every cube to create his own cube up puzzle.

He also made an answer key.  He discovered when he tried to make the "view" pictures that his structure technically wouldn't be buildable because  some of his interior columns are shorter than some exterior columns and the elevation would be visually blocked.  It was a good effort regardless.

I had to start cutting our sentence strip paper longer and taller, longer to accomodate Kal-El's longer sentences and taller so we could start symbolizing the parts of speech above the sentence before they cut it up.  I realized that the ETC materials the boys have been using have technically been calling for this but I hadn't noticed.  

I have been busy prepping materials for the first time in a while.  Kal-El is ready to move on to what some albums refer to as "Advanced Grammar."  KotU doesn't refer to it that way, things are on a continuum not grouped by age or blocked into easy and advanced sections.  However, we used MRD for a lot of our grammar because it matched some hand-me-down materials I was using.  I prefer to buy materials rather than make them when I can and now all of our grammar materials are from ETC.  They don't match the KotU albums but I'd rather figure out to make the pre-made materials work for us than make materials myself that match the albums.  I have a friend who feels absolutely the opposite way, so to each her own.  I will say that Jessica is on to my "bad attitude" when it comes to making materials. So now, if you try to avoid materials making like I do, you can buy many of the materials pre-made from her website (Edited to Add:  I found the links.  Here is a link to all the elementary print-yourself downloads.  Here is the link to the grammar materials pre-printed and laminated.)  

I have a few elementary grammar albums:  KotU, Cultivating Dharma, MRD (vol. 5), Not Your Grandma's Grammar, and Mid-America.  NONE of them match the ETC materials.  The album that would would be the ETC grammar manual but they only sell those as part of their certification courses, so no luck for me.  The topics are all the same among the albums but order of presentation is different in all of them.  Also, ETC, MRD and NYGG all use the "railroad tracks" approach to verb tense rather than the KotU sliding cards. The ETC cards are divided into three different "years" and into seven different "threads."  One could leave out the "years" division and just go by thread and the which thread you do when can be customized as well.  However, to keep things a little easier I've decided to use the ETC order and pull the lessons out of the various albums to match.  The MRD is the easiest to line up.  The NYGG charts match the MRD.  I tend to prefer AMI presentations to AMS presentations though.  So I guess I'll be using ETC's cards in order, figuring out what concept they are teaching via MRD,  using NYGG charts, and KotU and CD presentations to actually present much of the time.  Oddly I find this easier than making materials.  

The boys have moved on to memorizing the flags for Africa and Europe.  This is going very quickly.

Here is some very incorrect work done by Kal-El.  It is an ETC word study drawer for classification.   Clearly he has not memorized the capitals yet.  The ETC classification drawer require either advanced knowledge or some research skills.

Here is the same work after he fixed it.  There is something fishy about this.  All of the cities ARE capitals.  The only thing he was able to leave under cities was Hong Kong. Not only is it unusual to have only one card in a category, but Hong Kong as a choice certainly evoked a long discussion. Try explaining what Hong Kong is to a 10 year old.  And then, after doing so does it make sense to put it in any of these categories?  Maybe that was the point.  Sneaky Montessorians.    

Finally, I'll share a couple of photos I just HAD to take recently.  The first one, above, is a rare rare peaceful moment between two brothers who constantly argue.  I took this from the warmth of my kitchen through the patio doors.  They were peacefully sitting on a snow bank, swords in hand, having a long talk.

I discovered all of Me Too's animals propped on his bed like this.  He often assembles them in this way to be his audience when he practices violin.  When I saw this it occurred to me that any day now when he does this it may be the last time he ever does this (sniff) so I wanted to snap a picture to capture the moment.


  1. Very true we never know when the last time will be! My son has been randomly doing things he used to do when he was younger - so I am getting just a little bit of it back! With pictures! :)

    Just in case you want to add it in - the page for the downloadables at elementary level is here:

    Printable version are found by searching the phrase "Elementary Montessori" along with the main subject name.

    With a new website in the making that won't be so wonky... ;)

  2. Thank you! I was thinking of the pre-printed and laminated option. I found the link on the forum today and have added links for both above.

  3. This post had me cracking up. I laughed out loud at this comment: "Oddly I find this easier than making materials." ah yes...I am toggling between several albums, myself. And, I must say the "bad attitude" about materials is starting to sink in over here, too. I've been at this for a few years, and constant, non-stop material making gets old - real fast! It's no longer about how can I make $10 go as far as I possibly can by making it myself, but more about what ways can I avoid making that material?? And, how can I earn enough money to buy that material next month?? ;)

  4. This post had me cracking up. I laughed out loud at this comment: "Oddly I find this easier than making materials." ah yes...I am toggling between several albums, myself. And, I must say the "bad attitude" about materials is starting to sink in over here, too. I've been at this for a few years, and constant, non-stop material making gets old - real fast! It's no longer about how can I make $10 go as far as I possibly can by making it myself, but more about what ways can I avoid making that material?? And, how can I earn enough money to buy that material next month?? ;)

  5. What are those maps you have the boys putting flags in? I'm intrigued.


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