Thursday, September 17, 2009

School Day

Confession time. I am up for an award, "Slacker Montessori Mom of the Year." The one week the school room was supposed to be closed for "reorganization" turned into three. We had our first day back in today.

There is a lot of good that came of it. For example, the furniture is reorganized, the materials are reorganized, and I vacuumed up about 100 creepy spiders that moved in over the summer. I am much, much closer to being up-to-date on having all the materials needed to get through the next several months (I am still procrastinating on geography). Me Too has started in on the "official" Montessori sequence of materials. I also completely emptied my supply closet, organized it by subject, and made an inventory list.

As always, I put out too much for the first day. The good news is that the boys seemed to be used to me doing that and only chose about 1/3 of the things I put out.

Me Too started with cylinder block three. I put in new shelves for our larger sensorial materials. I think it made a big difference that Me Too could really see the cylinder blocks on the new shelf. They fit in the old shoe shelves just fine, but were difficult to see. You can see from this photo that he had trouble with the task at first.

Kal-El zeroed in on a new practical life work. We have a learn-to-dress doll with removable clothes. I filled a basket with the clothes, a bucket of simple clothespins, and a clothesline with beads on the end (thank you Chasing Cheerios!).

The sequence of work was as follows:
  • hang the clothesline
  • hang the clothes "to dry" on the clothesline
  • remove the clothes from the line and return them to the basket
  • return the clothesline to the basket
  • dress "Jake" so he can go to the skate park
  • undress "Jake" so he can return to the shelf

Future extensions I have planned include:
  • increasing the difficulty of the clothespins (first to mini-clothespins, then to regular)
  • eventually washing the clothes in some Woolite and really hanging them to dry
  • eventually folding the clothes when we return them to the basket).

I plan to hide some coins to Jake's pockets tonight to encourage Kal-El to do the buttons on the pockets. If you are in the market for a learn-to-dress doll I will warn you that at 3.5 this is a very challenging task for Kal-El. Jake is not particularly easy to dress.

Me Too spent a lot of time hammering while Kal-El and I were dressing and undressing Jake. This activity has been rotated on and off of his shelves for a year. Today was the first time he actually hammered any of the pegs all the way through. (Usually he just bangs on them with no apparent goal in mind.) Once he realized he could do it he proceeded to do all of the pegs. It turns out he knows all of his colors. I didn't realize this until he shouted "I did the [insert color] one!" in between each peg.

Kal-El gave Me Too a presentation on pouring dry beans. He did a decent job of presenting too!

Pouring was by far Me Too's favorite activity ever. He was soooo proud. He liked to say "two hands" in-between every pour. He said "oh no! What happened?" whenever he would spill. And then, "I clean it up!"

I couldn't begin to tell you how many times he repeated this activity. It was nearly enough times for Kal-El to do all of his language work while he was at it.

Last year Kal-El learned all of the basic phonetic sounds of the letters in the alphabet. He also did all of the sandpaper letters (capital), beginning sound sorts, and capital/lowercase matching. The motions of the sandpaper letters didn't really seem to sink in. I have decided to start this Fall by greatly extending his sandpaper letter work a la My Montessori Journey.

First I demonstrated tracing one of today's sandpaper letters three times. Then Kal-El tried it. If he did it incorrectly I showed him again and had him try it again. Next I introduced the salt tray and he made the letter in salt. He worked with the salt tray for a while, choosing different sandpaper letters and trying to trace them in salt.

I need to spend some time on this with him without Me Too around to distract us. Kal-El needs a lot of re-demonstration right now. He is right-handed and tends to pick up the sandpaper letter with his right hand and therefore start tracing with his left. Then he switches to the salt tray and traces with his right and somehow draws the letter backwards. As long as I quietly say "other hand" when he gets off track he seems fine and all the letters come out forwards.

We reinforced the order of the strokes with our "Handwriting Without Tears" materials. He was able to do this independently and even put the pieces together in the right order (they are numbered on the cards)

Unfortunately, I thought until yesterday that I had both uppercase and lowercase H.W.T. pieces/cards and I just have uppercase. It will be a couple of days before the lowercase arrive.

Next, Kal-El matched the uppercase and lowercase sandpaper letters on his mat.
Finally he did most of a sound sort using objects instead of pictures for the first time (in ages). We had the same old problem we have always had. Halfway through the sound sort Kal-El decided to play with the objects instead. I told him he had to complete the task before he could make up stories. He chose to put the material away instead.

While all this was going on Me Too worked with the pink tower (unsuccessfully) and then with a jars and lids activity that was brand new to him. He found it very challenging.

I also made a sound book for Kal-El to paste sandpaper letters into after he learned each of them. However, because we are doing both lower and uppercase together I had too many letters out today. Combine that with how much I had overestimated his tracing skills. As a result, I decided to simplify to one letter a day and paste them in starting tomorrow. After he has done eight letters we will start word drawers (from My Montessori Journey).

Speaking of putting out too many things. I put out too many sandpaper numbers (1-9). He already can identify all the numbers on sight and has been tracing them with his finger in a book we read at night that has giraffes bent into number shapes. I thought he would breeze through. However, after all that intense sandpaper letters work he put the numbers away right after number one.

Me Too and I worked together on the pink tower (I presented it correctly several times) and made some moderate progress. Then I presented a sorting activity with apples and pumpkins that I didn't get a picture of. He also did the presentation tray of the geometric cabinet and did the trapezoid drawer like a puzzle (independently, I didn't notice he was doing it until I looked up from the red rods I was watching Kal-El do).

The red rods that were so unsuccessful three months ago went very smoothly today. It was tricky because he chose the yoga mat for his second mat. It is sticky which made it difficult to slide the rods into position.

After building it the traditional way, Kal-El invented his own extension.

Believe it or not, some of these activities were chosen multiple times. There are also some things I can't remember and am leaving out. We worked for exactly three hours on the button. A solid Montessori 3-hour work period! Doubly amazing because we have no clock in the school room and I didn't know how long we were in there until we walked out.

As we left Kal-El said "I love you teacher!" I said "I love you student!" Then, of course, Me Too said "I love you teacher..." reminding me that we do call him "Me Too" for a good reason.

Work & Play, Day By Day


  1. Wow you did lots of things! It looks like your kids were ready to go though.

    I think other homeschooling moms would really enjoy reading this post. It would be great if you could come over to my blog and add your link into the Homeschool Highlight Reel!

    Keep up the great work,


  2. Wow! I'm impressed! Here, the preschool students only spend about an hour picking materials from the shelves room in the morning. The daycare students and my son may spend another hour or so in the afternoon, but the afternoon is less structured (I'm around, but not actively supervising or presenting lessons.) If I had the time, the students could probably go another 1/2 hour, but 3 hours would be pushing it!

    I love it when the olders present to the youngers. They both seem to benefit from it.

    I've never purchased HWT because the focus seems to be on uppercase. I'd be interested to hear your assessment on the lowercase letters.

  3. Andie,

    I didn't buy the "whole curriculum" or anything. I bought just the wood pieces off of ebay because I like the idea of it. I bought them when Kal-El was going through a stage when he was trying to make letters out of legos, shoelaces, whatever he could find.

    I let you know what I think of the lowercase letters when the come. Today I printed out their free letter and number formation charts. I am torn between the Montessori ideal of saying as little as necessary and observing that Kal-El does better with little verbal reminders like "big stick, make a hump, little stick" and whispers them as he draws letters. The free charts say things like (such as for lowercase "e") "hit the ball, run the bases, stop." Any opinions?

  4. We use HWOT, but we didn't start until 1st grade with book 1 for handwriting practice as opposed to using the wooden letter pieces. I think the sensorial part of that is more than interesting with the sandpaper letters and the cornmeal or sand writing tray.

    That's just my opinion!

  5. Hi!
    Sounds like you had a great day. I wouldn't worry about the 3 weeks your room looks great and you have already accomplished lots in one day. Besides I would think it would be a lot easier to concentrate with the 100 creepy crawlies gone :)!

  6. Thanks so much for writing in depth about your first day of school. I find it really helpful to know how and what others are doing. I also really like how you have shown the boys not always doing the activities perfectly. It's amazing how focussed they are and it looks like you are doing an amazing job. I'm sure they haven't suffered one bit from delaying your classroom opening. Can't wait to see what you are doing in the upcoming days!

  7. Wow! You rock! I love looking at all the things you're doing with your sons. I can't believe how much work you've put into everything! It shows - your sons look like they're working hard AND having fun! Those capital sandpaper letters are cool, too - I want to find a set of those!

    PS I thought of 2 more ways to try the sand! :)