Friday, May 8, 2009

School Day

The big attraction today was this new nuts and bolts set:

It has seven bolts in gradually increasing sizes that go into seven appropriately-sized holes and are held together with seven appropriately-sized bolts.  In the catalogues this material looked like a single board on a stand with holes for the bolts.  In actuality it is two boards.  One of the boards is permanently attached to the stand, the other is removeable.  What I don't know is whether there are two boards just so the child feels like they are "bolting something together" or if the removeable board is there so you can make the task easier by using only the permanently mounted board.  I was surprised at how short the bolts are.  I don't know if this a quality issue or the way it always is, but some of the bolts are so short they barely stick out at all and it is very difficult to acheive enough purchase to put the nut on. In this case, removing the extra board would make the task easier.  If anyone knows the answer to this, I'd appreciate it if you would clue me in.

As Kal-El loves building things under any circumstance, therefore it was not surprising to me that he worked with this for an hour.  This task used a lot of skills. 

  • He learned the terminology for nut and bolt.  
  • He had to figure out which bolt went into which hole and then, of course, which nut went with each bolt.  It was obvious that the knobbed cylinders had done much to prepare him for this task.  
  • He had to learn that all the bolts went in from the back side so the nuts could go on in the front.  
  • He had to learn to hold on to the head of the bolt to keep it from turning when he put on the nut.  It also reinforced "righty-tighty, lefty-loosey" which would be a much more
  •  helpful expression if I had ever bothered to teach him right from left. 

I am also excited about being able to extend this task in the future by introducing a set of seven of the appropriately-sized wrenches.  This (the nuts and bolts set) would be an easy material to make.  I happened to pick it up for $5.  We are not so well-supplied in the Daddy's workshop that we would have the makings for this lying around so I don't know if I could have made it for that price, never mind the time I saved.  We are equipped with wrenches however, so I wouldn't be buying those seperately or anything.

I had originally purchased this material with Me Too in mind.  I knew Kal-El would want to work with it too, but I thought it would be more Me Too's level.  Once I saw the material in person and saw how small the smallest nut was (maybe a quarter-inch across) I knew right away Me Too wouldn't have the dexterity to do this yet.  So, while Kal-El was busy working on the nuts and bolts while singing the words "building things...building things..." to the tune of Jingle Bells Me Too worked on various tasks including the tongs and pom-poms.

Me Too is in the "what's this/that" stage right now.  He has caught on to the fact that everything has a name a la Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan and could easily spend all day asking what things are, hearing and repeating their names.  So, much of his tonging work involved picking up a pom-pom, bringing it to me, asking what it was every time (I figured he meant color since he knew they were all pom-poms), repeating it, and then putting it on the egg tray.

Next, he was obsessed with the snap frame.  This task is too hard for him, but he got a lot of satifaction out of unsnapping the frame.  He sat on my lap for a good twenty minutes repeatedly unsnapping the frame and then saying "help me!"  I lined up the snaps and then he "pressed" on them to hear them snap.  He doesn't have anywhere near the appropriate amount of finger strength yet to actually snap them together.  I subversively helped by pushing with him.

Finally, Me Too proved that despite everyone encouraging Mommy to let him have a go at the pink tower he's just not ready.  The problem is that he hasn't mastered the concept of "largest" and "smallest" yet.

It is important to Kal-El that he is building something useful when he is building.  He hates those little brackets that come with every little kids toolkit that you are just supposed to just bolt to the toolbox or tool bench itself.  He always asks "but what is it?" and winds up walking away frustrated.  Along those lines he had to ask "but what is it" about the nuts and bolts set.  He ultimately decided it was a bridge and set about accessorizing it with items from his transportation sort.  The cars and trains drove over the bridge, the airplans flew over the bridge, and the boats motored under the bridge.

As with any truly fun discovery, it would be negligent not to include your little brother:

Kal-El completed this color-matching puzzle for the first time today.  The boys don't seem to like it much I think because the pieces don't stay together very well.  He powered through it completely independently.  My favorite part was how he talked himself through every step.  "This alligator is green so it goes with this green piece right here..."

I am very excited to report that he finally asked to be shown the sandpaper letters that have been on the shelf for a couple of weeks.  I gave one of my most silent presentations ever and could really see the magic that results from saying as little as possible.  Each time he pulled a new letter out of the box he identified it and I asked "would you like to see how to trace this letter?"  I am by nature a chatty teacher so I bit my tongue to keep from saying "first you trace down the left side of the A, then down the right side, then across the middle from left to right."  I just showed him and I was amazed at how he remembered the order and direction to trace and got it right every time.  If I had been yappy he probably would have been distracted by all the words and wouldn't have picked it up.  

Kal-El has known his upper case for a long time because he learned them around the age of 2, before I started studying Montessori.  Instead of ignoring the upper case we've just been introducing the lower case as we go and using them side by side.  Today he identified and traced three upper case letters and laid them out on his mat.  Next he did a sound sort and laid pictures out beneath the letters according to initial sound.  Finally he identified and traced the lower case letters and matched them to the uppercase letters.  His final work looked like this:

Working with him on this kept me pretty occupied and in the meantime Me Too got in a little over his head with the cylinder blocks.  And yes, he insisted on using a yoga mat for his work today.

Despite having them all out, he seemed to only dissassemble and reassemble block number two.

My friend Gigi was right, Kal-El needs to do the brown stair before the red rods.  I should have remedied this situation sooner but have been distracted and will do so before we go into the school room again.  He has been avoiding the red rods like the plague since the first two days they were out.  He did work with them today but constructed a "parking garage" with them.

They worked with a couple other materials, but those are the highlights today.  It's another beautiful day here but after naps our afternoon is wide open.  I didn't feel bad keeping them in for school this morning because I knew we can spend all afternoon and evening outside.

After school they had much needed baths.  Due to the influx of nice weather I spent quite a bit of time today taking the winter clothes out of their wardrobes.


  1. Wow, that was quite a day!

    We have the same nuts and screws material at school. I have never thought about how short the screws are but you are right, they are. All I can say is, no child ever said anything about them! In our minds they came after the easier screwing bolts directly onto screws so those children that didn't have the dexterity to do the fixed screws tended to choose the loose ones.

    If you are going to teach the alphabet in order then it might be better to present it in order rather than backwards! Sorry, it isn't a criticism, you just don't have another teacher in the room giving you a nudge like I do! I think I am right in saying that it is traditional in Montesori schools to teach the child letters out of alphabetical order andin groups. I know Laura over at My Montessori Journey has put her order up. We use a slightly different order but the reasoning behind it is the same. We teach s,a,t,i,n,p as the first group. This is because when the child has internalised the letter sounds and if he is ready to blend there are a lot of real words that can be made by those letters. We use a system called Jolly Phonics alongside the Montessori Materials andn they are very sucessful.

    Please don't take any of this as criticism, I love what you are doing with your boys and I think they are incredibly lucky. At least if I make you annoyed you'll just know you like the way you are doing things and I'll have done you a (tiny) favour!!

  2. Hey Annicles,

    Kal-El has already been through all the letters, lower case and upper case using sort of the same order as on My Montessori Journey. We did all the sounds first and I Spy exercises before doing the sandpaper letters. I don't like her order very much although I tried to use it so I could eventually move on to her word drawers. I think R and F are too hard for kids under 3 to start with because they mispronounce them to begin with. Kal-El's R's still sound like W's. We were stuck on RAMF forEVER until I finally gave up on that word order and moved on. We will be doing the sandpaper letters in groups as well. I figured A B and C were all different enough from one another that they might as well be a group for the day. I certainly won't be putting X, Y, and Z together.

    When he STARTED the sound sort yesterday, the A was in the top left corner of the mat according to the way he was sitting, but then he laid the pictures out under it with a left to right orientation. He kinda worked with the mat in two directions yesterday that's why it looks like that, if you look at where he is sitting you'll see his position is kinda strange. I tried to move him and he got grouchy so I decided to let it go for the day.

    I know it looks strange, but I did plan it out :)

  3. Well see, then you did follow the child and I was fussing unnecessarily!

    Did you ever hear about the way of starting the pink tower using just a few of the blocks? You can either use every other block, or start with the 3 largest to get the idea and build up from there. Some children just don't have a very long sensitive period for the pink tower. My guess though is that you are right and MeToo isn't ready yet. At nursery our youngest childrenare two and a half and they don't generally start working with the sensorial materials until they've done lots of Practical life .

    Thanks for your comments on my blog. It's great to be getting feedback so early in its life!!

  4. Hey! Thanks for the help! Yes, I had heard of that method with the pink tower, I taught it to Kal-El that way. But...I COMPLETELY FORGOT about it with Me Too. Thanks for the reminder!

    I still don't know if he's really ready. I demonstrated it. He was excited to have a turn. He started piling them every which way and when I gently said "which one is the biggest" he gave me a dirty look and completely disregarded me. He doesn't seem to have any interest in putting them into any kind of order, just "building" and we have regular blocks for that. I'll keep you posted :)