thoughts

Montessori Monday~ Baking as School Work!

Today was….umm…interesting! Bunny was tired and cranky. She didnt want to work and anything she did start, quickly ended with tears and yelling. *sigh*. She did manage to get some math problems done and some reading, but I dont know that it was productive in anyway. I asked her to choose a work and she wouldnt. So I told her if she couldnt choose a work, I would choose one for her to do. She wouldnt choose, so I pulled out the division board (Which she loved the other day). It was not good. Have you ever felt that moment where work was done, but under such resistance that it was probably a waste of time? Well today with Bunny that is how it went. Pup thankfully did great work while this was all going on! At lunch time (Bunny was still working), Pup and I made pancakes! She helped measure, mix, and sprinkle sprinkles on them while they baked! Let’s just say she LOVED it! 🙂 I always have such a hard time working cooking time in with dinner. But maybe lunch would be a good way to get some kitchen time in together. Those little moments seem to mean the most to them.

 
Bunny didnt finally recover her normal happy self! In fact this afternoon, she wanted to cook too. She asked if she could make her own bread. She wanted to create her own recipe to make one small loaf of bread. We talked for a moment about what she would put into it. She suggested water and flour. I asked if it would need salt or sugar. She said yes and that she wanted to let it rise. I asked her what she could add to make it rise and she said yeast. So I gave her the go ahead. She got everything out and I told her that she needed to add the yeast to warm water so that it would rise better. She added everything in, mix it, kneaded it, and let it rise! She decided to make a round loaf instead of putting in a pan! It was still cooling at bead time, so we are having bread for breakfast! She was SO PROUD of it!
 

 
 
 After she finished making it, was in a really great mood! In fact she started to clean things in the house afterwards! It was amazing to see that deep contentment that Maria Montessori talks about when a child finished meaningful work. It has me thinking not only about cooking more together, but also about finding and having some practical life in the classroom for Bunny to do. I have been seeing a need for it for a while, but today really confirmed it. She seems to feel better, work harder, and stay more focused when she does things like that. So I am on a mission. A mission to cook more with the girls and to make some practical life work for Bunny!
 
All of you homeschoolers out there weigh in! Have you found that sometimes book work just doesnt cut it, and the simple moments prove more educational?
There is a TON more great Montessori posts over at the Montessori Monday Link up! Stop by there and Happy Schooling! :)

A New Year and Another Blogiversary!



Well Happy Happy New Year to all of you! 2012 is over and 2013 is here and I just cant wait to see hat it brings! Not only is it a new year, it is also my second anniversary of this blog! Yikes! I cant believe that we have been here for two years! So many memories, new achievements, and great new friends have been recorded in the posts here! I have loved every second of it and I want to thank you all my dear readers for all the love, them comments, and the faithful following that you all give me! Each of you is a blessing! Thank you all so much! If it werent for all of you, this blog would not be what it is today!

Now, I dont know about you, but with each new year I feel this urge to really set myself up to be the best I can be during this year! I want to make sure that my plans are set, my goals are realistic, and that my whole family can benefit from these ideas! I also like to look back and see what went right and what should be a bit different. This year has been very good to everyone here. We all learned alot, we played together, created things, and got closer to God. I didnt loose any weight, but I did get a treadmill to help me do that. We did spend more time together, but I think that there is alot I can do to be better at that. It was a good year. So for the new year my goals are similar to last year’s: take time to play with my girls, keep learning together, and of course loose weight. 😉 But there are some other things that I really feel like God is asking me to do this year too. One of those things is to live the liturgy of the church year. There are some really beautiful celebrations and some really amazing saints that we remember all through the year. My girls dont know very many of these and the things they do know seem like a negative thing since they often HAVE to go to church. So this year we are going to make these days real celebration and fun days. My plan is to try and do one each month with the girls (this will also help with my goal to spend more time playing)! I want them to find joy and fun in the heritage of our faith. Faith is a living thing and I want them to feel that!
Another thing that I want to do more of is make things. Make gifts, make our food, and grow our own veggies this summer. We have alot of random food allergies here and there are alot of things that I am realizing it would be better for me to make. Some of those things are tomato sauce, beef stock, and even granola. Does it take more time, OH YES! But I think that the payoff is going to worth it. Plus, it seems like I eat less when it is homemade and that will help with weight loss!
Our virtue for the year seems a little less clear, but I think that maybe it is Piety. There is a great value to being close to God daily and I really want to make sure that this is an integral part of my kids childhood. Plus as they get older I want to be sure that they are really ready to receive the sacraments. Bunny will be making her first communion in May 2014, and I want to be sure that she is ready deep in her heart. It is a huge moment in her life and I dont think we can start too soon deepening that relationship with God. So there you have it! My plan in a small way for the new year! There is lot of things we want to do and things we want to accomplish, but it all boils down to trying have the best family life we can possibly have! I wish all the same for you too! Happy New Year!

What is your goal for the new year? 

Hands are a gift!

 
 
“The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.”
 Maria Montessori

Today I was in our Atrium working with the kids. As always it was a true experience and I love watching everyone work, think, and even pray! With all the different kids, there is always something or someone doing something that is amazing to watch. To watch God stirring their little souls and revealing his love to them is a gift for me! You can see it in their art work, in their prayers, and in what they happen to “mention”. During our closing prayer, we were all thanking God for all the wonderful things we have. One little girl, who is two, thanked God for her hands. This really struck me today. She was thanking God for things that we take from granted every moment of everyday. Hands. You never even think about them, unless there was a problem with them, yet what would we do without them? We couldn’t learn as well, do things as well, or express ourselves as well! What a gift those hands are! Another thing that Maria Montessori discovered was that those hand are the one thing that children use to bring ideas and knowledge into their minds. They pray with their hands, learn with their hands, and become who they are with their hands! So I really can think of a better thing to thank God for! What do you think? What a great, and often overlooked gift! Thank you God for my hands.

 

“The human hand allows the mind to reveal itself.”
 Maria Montessori

Convergence Insufficiency

I took Bunny to the eye doctor the other day because I was really concerned about the way she was trying to see things while trying read. She was squinting alot, holding the book very close to her face, and she was just mixing things up that I know she knows. This led us both to be very frustrated. I had a few people bring up a vision problems as something that maybe wrong and I thought I should check it out.

Last week, Bunny realized that her addition math board had patterns and this excited her! She spent a lot of time doing all of the addition problems and finding all the patterns!



The Doctor told us she has a vision problem called Convergence Insufficiency. This is something affects alot of kids. Some numbers put it at about 13%! It is often misdiagnosed at dyslexia or ADHD because it appears that the child lacks focus and cant seem to figure out how to read. The problem it seems is not they they dont know how to, they just cant see well. The eyes will naturally move together a bit in order to read or do things up close. This allows you to bring things into focus. However, with kids who have CI like Bunny, the eyes dont move together correctly. This will cause them to see double, to have bad headaches, the words can fracture or appear broken, they get tired, squint or rub their eyes lot, and other similar things. It makes it really hard for them to read and when the print is small, they often cant distinguish between smaller words. Bunny told me that when she tries to read a paragraph the words get swirly! So this is what we are learning to deal with here and the only option for recovery is therapy. In-office therapy with home therapy is the best method.



However, the options here so far as I can find a few and very expensive. So my night have been filled with research of different exercises we can do at home to help her start to correct this issue. So we are reading in small spurts, our school days are going need plenty of breaks so her eyes dont become fatigued making her head hurt or frustrate her. I can see where having more practical life work for her to do in between more reading and writing work will be very helpful. I knew know where those random screaming fits came from and why reading is something she has such a hard time with. It makes alot of sense, but it is also going to be a hard challenge for her and for me as we move forward. If anyone has any information that would be helpful with this, I would love the tips! And if you dont have any ideas, I would love to have some prayers or positive thoughts as we walk this path together! So if you wondered where I have been and why I have not been at this space alot lately, this is why! 🙂 Research takes a lot of time! The pictures in this post are random work from today and from later last week! I will end this post with a book Bunny wrote all by herself today! Knowing now how hard this can be, I am even more proud then ever! I hope you are all having a wonderful week! Happy Schooling!



Montessori Monday~ A New Plan of Action!

Well after all of my questions last week and all of your amazing advice, I think I have a plan of action that is going to give our school room the focus it so desperately need! We started today and Bunny really did a great job with more structure! She even was able to choose a research thing to look into! Pup didnt fare so well, but I think that she needs to start understanding her boundaries when its school time (its time to work and she needs to stay in the school room). Anyway, I made a skeleton plan for the next 6 weeks. My hope is that this allows me to know what is coming up next and what we need to do from which album, while offering enough wiggle room to explore other things. It takes alot of pressure off of trying to make sure that we are getting it all in within the research work. I think that I may have underestimated our ability to get things done, so this list may need to be explained in the last couple of weeks of my plan.The plan ends us right at the beginning of December, so that will let us have a break for all the fun of holiday planning! 🙂 Here is what we are going to be up to!

Math:
Bunny:
Finger charts (daily, we need to do remedial work badly)
Snake Games (if interested)
Equivalency of Fractions
Addition of Fractions

Pup:
Sandpaper Numbers
Number rod work

Language:
Grammar (Adjective and Verb)
Grammar Farm
Word Study (compound words, prefixes and suffixes)
Mechanics (capital letters, period and sentence)
Daily Reading Practice
Writing work (I think I may have her start a journal)
Metal Insets to practice pencil control

Pup:
Sound games
Sandpaper letters
Sand tray
Metal insets

Geometry
Finish Polygon work
Angles Study

Pup:
Intro to shapes (using the metal insets since I dont have a geometry cabinet)
Geometric solids

Geography
Composition of the Earth
Formation of Mountains
Sun and Earth (space, if we get to it)

Pup:
Same as Bunny, but using the Primary Albums

Great Lessons
Finish lesson 4 and 5
Redo God With No Hands

Science:
Start the Physical Science album from Karen Tyler. Bunny never did it, so I will do it with them both and Bunny and I can explore it deeper.

Music
Sensorial Bell Work
Notation (If we get to it)

So there you have it! Like I said this is our plan for now. Bunny and I are going to sit down together each morning and write out a work plan. This worked really well today, so I have a great hope that is will appeal to her very organized personality. Today her work was:
 adjective/ noun family,
grammar farm,
reading,
writing,
finger charts,
state of matter presentation,
Grain Study (she asked to add this because this is what she wanted to learn about)

And we did it all! She had a good time, there was no major crying fits from her, and she was happy! Hooray! After she finished the traditional work, she wanted to see what kinds of grains would turn into flour when it is ground. We looked at some of the books we had about early humans and saw how they first ground grains a long time ago. So she asked if she could explore it with the mortal and pestle we have. I told her sure. She tried dried beans, corn, and oats. The oats were easiest and she spent an hour grinding them up into flour and sifting out the hard bits. She wants to do more tomorrow to make bread. Today she ended up with about a half a cup of flour!

 
Pup and I had a harder time today. I think that she needs more science work. She really loved the matter tray and I think she would love to start learning more about things like that. She really seems done with any practical life trays I put together. I’ not sure what I can find for her. I am thinking maybe a whisking work for a new interest. She is also really interested in sounds. I think that we need to start working on sandpaper letters. But today she was having none of it! I think that I failed to explain her the expectation of the classroom. So maybe tomorrow I will do that and see if it is better. However, she really is doing well! She did alot of work! One thing we do need to work on is the pencil grip! She really doesnt like me helping her try it differently and she really is holding badly. Anyone have a good thought on that? Here is what she has done!
 
I made a sensitizing finger tips tray for her to do. She liked it!

 
So there you have it! It was a great day and I think the plan is really offering us a much needed structure! We are going to try it again tomorrow! I know that it is going help me keep things going forward and take some of the floundering feeling out of it! If you want to see more Montessori work in actions, then be sure to stop by the Montessori Monday link up! There is always great stuff and great bloggers there! Happy Schooling everyone! And thanks so much for your support and help!
 


Fall Nature Tray and Lots of Questions

Today was all sunny this morning, so we were off on a leaf collecting walk! I have been wanting to dip some leaves in beeswax and today I thought  would be the perfect day! It was! The girls loved picking out the prettiest leaves and walking around our neighborhood. When we got home they glued some of their leaves on paper in different designs while I dipped them in beeswax! They turned out super well and very pretty! They are the perfect addition to our nature tray! I have moved our nature tray into our living room and it is nice to see all the little things that we have picked up on our walks! This is the first time the girls are actually putting things on it! In case you dont know what a nature tray, it basically is a tray that the children (or the teacher) will add natural objects that are either found or collected for observation. The tray sits on a tray and the child is free to observe, clean, match, touch, and just explore what is there. It is a great hands on way for the kids to connect with nature! I love having magnifying glasses available in case there is something that needs to be observed more closely! I know that some other things that I have seen in other nature tray are nature guild books, three part cards, and sometime an aquarium for any little critters that come to visit! I am hoping that as the seasons change we can change the tray too. I would love to see lots of pretty things out from nature accessible for them! My dream is to find an old typeset tray and use it for our things and then sort them by color! I like a beautiful natural rainbow! I think that it is easy for me to forget that nature is everywhere and even a walk around out neighborhood can be a source of natural discovery! Sometimes my girls will find things just playing in our backyard and I love that they are so drawn to nature and can find it everywhere! How do your kids play, explore, and discover nature?

 
Now the questions I am talking about are all my own! I am really questioning the quality of the work that is being done here. If you have any thoughts on this I would love some input! I really love the great lessons and I love the way everything goes together, but I feel like I am grasping for straws trying to figure this out! Bunny has a lot of interests, and we are learning new things, but I feel like these things are sporadic and disconnected. We talk about electricity, conifer trees, rocks, horses, and now Helen Keller. None of the work is connected and I feel like we should have a longer term project or some way to direct things better. But I really have no idea how to do this without telling her what to do. Plus her inability to read and write well makes it harder to have her work independently. I want to have things all connected, but I feel like we have to move forward with the albums. But I think she loves the album work and I have a hard time figuring out how to give her regular presentation and still have time to do research and still have time for Pup. Poor Pup has been a little left out since I have been so busy with Bunny’s work and she is ready for more, but I just dont have time unless Bunny works more on her own! So what to do? I want to do so much more and I think we are going to need to put in more time, but I also need to keep other things going too like cleaning, cooking, and all the other mommy thing! What do you do? How long do you school and how do you deal with more then one age level? Again, if you have an idea, please share! 🙂 I hope you are all having a great start to the week! I am linking up to Montessori Monday, so be sure to stop by there for more Montessori fun! Happy Schooling!


Schooling in the Dark

Well..it wasnt really in the dark, but the electricity went out first thing this morning. I wasnt sure if we were going to do any school work today since we do our work in the basement and without lights its just a black hole! So, we improvised! School work was relocated to our playroom! It worked out pretty well. For Bunny I grabbed the fraction circles, and the geometry sticks. For Pup I grabbed some practical life trays and cylinder blocks! We have been really busy this week and that combined with the cold I caught the other day, we really havent gotten to any school work. So this was our day! I presented the next geometry work and the next fraction work! Bunny loved them and worked for a really long time! She is really understanding the fraction work and I know I she is going to keep running with it! I think we will be doing alot with them in the near future! She also LOVES the geometry sticks! We worked on building different shapes from the geometry cabinet (I dont have the cabinet, but I have the cards so we used those to learn some of the names). She didnt love trying to learn the names, but she enjoyed the challenge of trying to build them! 🙂

 
After that, we played go fetch with the fractions. I wrote a fraction on our chalk board and she went a got it for me! She did a perfect job and was almost board with it! So I asked her to pick some pieces out and then write the fraction she got. She thought that was fun and did a lot of silly ones like 3/3.  So we reviewed the numerator and denominator and then moved on to the next presentation! Bunny and I talked about equivalency! We worked together to figure out which fraction families could replace each other. For example, 1/2, is the same as 2/4, 3/6, 4/8, and 5/10. She loved this so much! I think we will do it again and I want to encourage her make some fraction books, and the other extensions in my albums!
 

 
While Bunny was working, Pup and I did some fun games with the cylinder blocks. I know that she likes them, but since they were presented early on, she really loosed a little interest because she thinks there is nothing new to do! So I pulled out some extensions for her to play with! The first thing we did was add the nomenclature that goes with the block, thick, thin, tall, short, etc. She really loves the idea of the different words and loved pulling the cylinders out and using the words to describe them! After we did that for a bit, I put two blocks together for her to work with! She liked that too! She told me that she really wanted to sit and make some discoveries! So we sat looked. I started to pull out a couple of the cylinders and lined them up. Pup thought that was the coolest idea ever and finished what I started. She told me it was a great discovery! 😉
 

 
She did a lot of other little thing too! She asked that I take pictures for her, so I will make sure to post them all! She likes to sit and look at the blog sometimes! I think that it makes her happy to see pictures of what she has done and what we do as a family!
 

 
So that this what we did while there was no power in the house today! On a side note, the girls had a great time watching the repair men climb the pole in the back yard to fix the problem. While they were working, Bunny wanted to know what electricity was, how much of it there was, how does it get in the wires, etc. I wasnt feeling well enough for a trip to the library to help her with the questions, so I guess I will try to get there tomorrow! It looks like maybe we will be learning about that!
 
What is always amazing to me is how kids will find something that is interesting to them and then will learn whatever they can about it, no matter what you do! The things Maria Montessori observed so long ago are still things that are observable today! Kids have an inner drive to learn and they want to do it! They are curious about life, how it work, and what happens! Just like the early humans, kids are using the unique gifts given to humans to learn, grow, and find new ways to do things!It is amazing to think that thousands, even millions of year have not changed the intelligence, the love, and the creativity of man! Kids are no different! They are born ready to learn, grow, and use their gifts.  All you need to do it prepare a place for them to find the information. The thing is that this place doesnt need to look like a Montessori classroom, it just needs to work for you and your kids. The beauty is that you work with them to find the best way! Then the learning that happens can go as deep as you let it!  So here is to learning! Happy Schooling Everyone!
 


Learning is Living

 
 


I have been full of thoughts of what to do with my dear first grader who doesnt read well and who seems to get very upset easily during lessons. The other day, I pulled out a program to help the reading. It is one i have seen used with great success and I thought that if I adapted it, it would work well. The first step that is recommended for the teacher to do is give a spelling test with words that grow in complexity so that you can accurately gauge what the child knows and where to start. I knew without a doubt that would be too much for her. So I thought I would do a sounds test. Easy right. So I said each letter sound from the Montessori sandpaper letters (double letters too). Then I did what every teacher in the world has done, corrected the work with a red pencil. Let’s just say Bunny now hates red pencils! I told her that she did really well. In fact she remembered more then I thought she would! She did wonderful job and I told her, but it wasnt enough. There were tears. So what should I do? Talk to her of course! I asked her what was up and why she was crying alot and she told me that she just thought that she should be able to just do things right the first time. So when things arent perfect, she feels like crying and like she couldnt do it. Hmmm….this is interesting. I always knew that she was a bit of perfectionist, but this was the first time I have herd her verbalize it. This is something that really we need to think about. I need to be extremely careful about how I talk to her about her work and how I bring attention to her mistakes. I am going to admit here that I tend to just say, “No. That’s wrong. We need to fix it.” I know that this is not the most Montessori way of doing things, but it is what I do. If she really has issues with feeling like she cant do it, I have been making it worse. This is a horrible thought for me, but one I need to face and change. So what do I? I have read about alot of people who have tried to unschool, or to let go of all the school expectations and it is really hard to do, and I was homeschooled! So obviously we have a few things to work on. *Sigh*. I really love the Montessori method, and I love that everything is child led, but is hard to trust the method! I feel like Bunny should be reading, like she should be doing math each day, like we need a plan. But it is not what child led is all about. So when I talked to Bunny I asked her what she wanted to do and how I could help her, and she told me she just wants to write. She said that she wants to write about things, to write stories, to just write. So I am thinking that we keep researching and learn with that. Maybe I have her write some copywork type things to help with spelling and handwriting. Maybe I have story problems to help with math. We will write. And I will prepare the environment. Make sure that there is pretty writing materials, to have enough things available for her to research when she wants to, to have little booklets for her to write in. But other then that, I am at a bit of a loss. I mean how do I make this work? Do any of you know? How to do you remain true to the method when the child isnt where she “should” be? I mean who are we kidding, this method is hard. Not in theory. In theory its simple, follow the child. But following the child when they arent reading when you think they should be, to follow when all they want to do is write, to follow when all the math that gets done is a few problems that are yelled out in the car on the way to somewhere else. I suppose that this is real learning. Learning is Living. It isnt supposed to be a static it is supposed to be fluid, all inclusive, Cosmic! I want to do this, but it requires I let go of what I think should happen. I need to follow, not lead. I apologize for my random thoughts and insecurities! 🙂 I just need to spill them out sometimes and this is where they land! It seems so easy to do with other people’s kids, but it is hard with my own kids because I dont want to leave something out and fail them. Thanks so much for reading this LONG post! If you have thoughts, I would love to hear them! Happy Schooling Everyone!

Projects that Inspire Resposibility

Today we got a chance to head out to a fair in our area! I love fairs, the food is yummy, the animals are fun to see, and there are all kinds of things to do. The fair was a very integral part of my husband’s life as he was growing up, so I always think its fun to see what he did each summer as a kid. As we looked at the different fair projects and animals that were there, I thought that this is something that is such a great concept! A child takes the responsibility to learn in depth about something that interest them, and then they complete the project with dedication. When the project is finished, they then come to the fair to present their project to judges and their peers. The projects are as varied as the kids that do them. You can take an animal, you can sew something, cook something, paint something, grow something, learn about something, etc. The possibilities are really amazing. This reminded me so much of what Maria Montessori said in Childhood to Adolescence. She talked about the benefits of the scouting movement for a child. She said that when a teacher took a child out into nature, it was good for them but they dont get to freely try out what they learn. When a child is in scouting,they learn what they need to know to do something, then they go and try it on their own. This gives them the chance to fail, master it, or adapt what they know to make it work out. I think that 4H is much the same way. A child chooses a project and follows it through to the end on their own. They are given the information and left to use it to finish the project! I love this idea! It is so child led and great a teaching the responsibility that a child needs to know as an adult. Not to mention, you get to go to fair and that is always fun! 😉 Today it was only about fun, but maybe someday we will be there for more! 🙂



Any Thoughts?????

I have a question to throw out at you….well a couple actually. I was hoping to write a couple of Montessori unit plans that will help you make the themes and trays for every subject area. I figured that I have done a lot of the work (and so have some other amazing bloggers who want to help with this) and I want to share it with you. Each unit, will have ideas for Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language, Science, Geography, Art/ Music, and even some book suggestions. This is still a work in progress and I have some things to do for it, but I wanted to know if anyone would be interested in buying these units. I was thinking of selling them for around $9 each. There should be enough in each unit to use for a month (just like I do in my classroom).
Another thing that I really want to do, is start an awesome Linky Party! If my long time readers remember, I tried to write a Taking Time Tuesday Post each week in the fall. That kinda fell apart,but  want to bring it to life again by letting all of you share your weekly fun too! The goal is to do one thing a week that you may not normally do. Maybe you cook with your 3 year old, or read a mountain of books, or have a cool party! Whatever you took time to do this week with your family! It seems to me, that the good moments get lost easily, especially when you have a rough week. This linky party is here to help us remember and hold on to the good moments! Mark your calenders! The plan is to launch it next Tuesday and I would love to have you all party with me!
As for what we have been up to today, well….my Mom got a puppy!!!! Awwwww! Not just any puppy, one of the puppies from my in laws house (the same ones Pup was holding on Sunday)! She was so cute and actually loved all the kids at my moms house! I was so surprised that she seemed to fit right in so fast! Perfect! 🙂

Isnt she a sweetie?
The other things that happened today was that Bunny’s best friend was in a play at church! So of course we all headed over there for that! It was so sweet to hear them all singing and they did an amazing job! Bunny was asked if she wanted to be in it next year and she still gave a definite no! She really like to watch shows, but not be in them!

So there we have it! Lots of fun and new ideas floating about here! PLEASE let me know what you think of my ideas (Yes I am begging for your input)! I hope you are enjoying the last bits of summer! 🙂 Happy Schooling!

githens@mailxu.com scotland-josphine@mailxu.com