Tuesday, November 18, 2008

only one child making progress

My middle child, who will be 3 in a matter of days, has a problem. I believe she has always had this problem but for M it is making for bad times.
She will say she wants something, repeatedly. Knowing the history, I will say are you sure you want that and not b, c, or d? "Yes, I want that!" She gets it and moments later "I DON'T WANT THAT!" For somethings it's not a big deal, for food it's "you'll have to eat that before I give you anything different", but with M it is a real problem. She will pick a work and then decide she doesn't want to do it but REFUSE to put it away. She will even take out all the pieces, like today with environment matching cards, and then refuse to do the work, which has to be done before she could put it away anyhow. I'm at a loss for how to deal with this. Any suggestions? (she asks her 2 or 3 readers)


No, that's not actually nonsense. If you read my previous post, you'd know. We made AT's "book of letter sounds lower case cursive". I didn't follow what My Montessori Journey does and make an individual book for each set, but one book for the whole alphabet. I let AT pick the cover color, so it's pink. She remembered most letters after just a few tries but it took her a few days to really remember the g sound. A big motivator for her practicing was getting to take photos to put in her book. She had to learn all 4 sounds before she could take pix and she had to come up with the items too. 2 per sound. There was some coaching when she said she didn't know any words that started with a certain sound, like "there's something that starts with "buh" that you sleep on". I try to not put a pronounced "uh" sound on the letters when I say them, but I don't know another way to phonectically spell them! She chose: rock, rope, apple, ant, monkey, moth, flower, foot, book, bat, gun (It was the first thing she said and I tried to get her to pick something else but it was a nerf gun and she said "but we don't touch guns because it's mean to gun people"), grape, igloo, icky, tooth, treat. I used a couple of clip arts from MS word, otherwise it's our photos.
I used my second pick cursive font for the individual letters she glues in and for the name below each photo. Just so she's exposed to cursive in that form ie without lines.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Modified Red Word Drawers

In my last post, I mentioned I was modifying the "Red Word Drawers". I am trying to find a way to share with you my MS Word document. So far, all I've seen is importing things to google docs and then linking it. That's all well and good, except it changes the document quite a bit. So just for the heck of it, I'm linking you to one of the pages. It only slightly resembles what I will actually be doing. Further, if you do not have the font I used on your computer, I don't know what the text will look like.

tried scribd.com it doesn't read the font so it shows the vertical line character before the words which in the script font is the character for the beginning stroke of the letters. But it shows the pix and clip art so... here it is.

trying box.net, see this
added: seems to be hosted by scribd so that's no help

Thursday, November 13, 2008

cursive letters begin

I have noticed that my eldest, nearly 5, doesn't understand the difference between the little spaces between block letters and the big spaces between the words. An M teacher once told me that this is why they teach kids to read in cursive. Now, I don't know if this is just at that school or if it is a M.M. precept, but I liked the theory.

I haven't started sandpaper letters yet because even at $26-35 each set, it is enough to give me pause at this time. However, making them is an unknown for money and a huge time investment. I have printed out 2.5 inch tall cursive, lower-case, letters in pink/blue and put a bead of glue on them, but she isn't interested in tracing them with her fingers at this time. She also isn't interested in writing them, but this seems to be because she's not getting it perfect on the first or second try. It's the same with many of the block letters. When she was 2, she picked up on how to write several block letters on her own so I suppose she thinks they should all be so easy.

I've gone back and forth on whether to forge ahead with block letters since she knows all of their names or to introduce cursive. When I decided on cursive, I went all over and back on what font to use. The letter shapes I like the best come in a pre-lined font like in a typical kindergarten writing tablet. (in a close second is this one) I've decided to go with it anyway, because as another MHS'er pointed out, the lines give the child a point of reference so they can better understand the way to write the letter - when they are ready. Then there is still the color method. I've seen it done both ways, but I'm going with pink consonants and blue vowels. The order of the letters also changes per reference, but usually they say pick 3 letters that have different shapes and sounds in each group. I'm going another way. I'm following what My Montessori Journey does, mostly. And this is largely due to the materials she has shared on her blog. Her letters are grouped so they follow the above rules but also so simple words can be formed with them. You can see her post on this here. AT is definitely ready to read, at least a little, so I really liked MMJ's method. We've introduced all the red letters and I feel she has mastered the first 4. Tomorrow we will solidify all 8 and the next day we will work on "Red Word Drawers". Aside from the fact that I'm going to do them like 3 part cards, I did change the sheets a little. I put in the cursive font and did the pink/blue thing. In hers, the word colors correspond to the "color drawer" and in mine the border around the cards does. I also changed a couple of the photos and added 2 words. I'm really excited and I think AT is too.

Related to this: -She understands, at least to some degree, that cursive and print are different ways of doing the same thing so that hasn't been a problem... when we did the "cursive sounds" she said "Oh, that's a cursive "a" because "a" says "ah"" - Today was the first time, that I know, that she looked at cursive words as words. I titled her letter book (more on that later) and asked her to point out the words and she did that easily. She even recognized her name, but she couldn't point out any of the other individual letters. A trade off for the ability to recognize the words that I wasn't expecting. I'm going to finish with cursive anyway as I'm hoping that the pink/blue/pink of the words will help to clarify this for her. - When I was writing on her book I started off like a real title and made a "B" then I decided to change it since we're working on lower-case. I erased it, thought I made a funky "b" and erased again. She said to me "That's OK, Mommy, I don't do it perfect either." I LIKE that she sees me mess up, not get upset and try again, and again until I get it right. I've never been 100% on the M.M. idea that the teacher has to be perfect at all times so the kids see nothing but perfection. For the first presentation, sure, for an activity that the child is physically capable of doing perfect, probably, but for my sensitive souled child, seeing me mess up my writing lifted a huge weight she put on her own shoulders.

**Note added 2/20/09. Hmm, wonder where she gets this from?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nomenclature card credits

I am working on making more nomenclature cards - a full post will come later - but as I'm adding things I want to give credit to the flickr users I'm using from:

YES! Paste

I'm mixed on the YES! paste.
First and foremost it didn't wrinkle the paper so that is a big plus for it.

2nd, it easily washed out the the china bristle brush I used to put it on. When using it, I thought I had surely ruined the brush.

3rd it worked better than the glue stick in terms of not drying before I got the paper down - mostly. I had to re-glue about half of the first section (6 cards worth) I did where I put the paste on the paper. And I had to fix 5-7 individual cards of the 40+ that I did. And the next morning 2 more had pulled up a little in the center. However, that is way better than the glue stick.

4th, I could see it beading up on the slick surface of the cereal boxes and I could flake off the overrun from the box. I'm not sure how they'll really hold up, hopefully the mod podge will help. (this also leaves me dubious on their claim to be suitable for glass, metal and the like)

5th, after I already used it, I looked on-line for instructions for dry time and found several reviews of it that said that after as few as 5 years, the paste began to yellow and then turn brown, ruining what ever it was used on. I'm pretty sure the brown will easily bleed through the printer paper so I'm now doubtful if they will last long enough for the baby to use them when he's old enough.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Making Classified Picture Cards

Like many other Montessori Home Schoolers, budget is a big issue in our house, especially now. Something that is big in M is classified pictures. These come in a couple of forms but, I'm working on 3-part cards and environment matching - at least this is what I've come to call them from others' work, it may not be a true M name. To save money I'm making them myself, with some help (YAY Becca and Brea!). Some MHS simply print them and laminate them, however, my kids are really rough on things so I didn't think that would be sturdy enough plus I don't have the funds to invest in all that lamination. I'm sure overall it isn't very expensive but the intial cost for supplies is several meals worth and at the moment, that's very important to keep in mind. So I'm gluing the printer paper to heavy card and then putting Mod Podge over it. Here are some things I've learned from my experience, yours may be different...

1. Cereal boxes make great "free" cardstock. The "free" depends on who bought the cereal in the first place! Tip: don't use boxes that came in direct contact with the food as there may be some invisible food residue that may cause problems later on.
2. I chose to attach the paper to the printed side of the boxes so the backs would be plain rather than a point of interest to the kids. You can see through the white parts of the paper somewhat, but I'm not personally too concerned about that.
3. Glue sticks dry very fast, often faster than we could get the paper stuck down. I had to go back later and redo all the edges with mod podge and a paint brush.
4. Glossy mod podge leaves a surface that is slicker and in theory easier to clean if they get smudgy. There are brush streaks in mine but I'm OK with it - now.
5.On my inkjet printer, some of the ink colors run. Blue in particular will smear all over your picture, into the whites, on the brush and onto the next card you do.

To remedy the running I tried:
1. Clear acrylic spray. Naturally I didn't think of doing one or 2 cards, I tried a whole "spray box" full. a)The acrylic makes the paper translucent so you can clearly see through it b)it reacted with the mod podge that was on the edges, making it sticky and stippled looking.
2. Krylon Spray Fixative - an old can that didn't spray so I have no results for you
3. Aerosol Hairspray- which my architecture professor said was the same as spray fix at a much cheaper cost. I've never done a direct comparison. a) it also saturates the paper and can cause some running even if left flat, but especially if you hang the paper to dry. b)it takes a while for the paper to completely dry (I'm typing while waiting for mine to dry, sheet by sheet) and 2 light dotty coats is better than one that gets the whole thing covered c) after spraying, wipe the surface of your work space - mine is covered with wax paper - because some ink from the saturation will bleed through and then dot the next paper. d) If you spray the paper before you glue it to the card stock: once totally dry, the paper will return to its original translusence. If you spray the paper after it is gluesticked to the card stock, it will be slightly more translucent than original but less than if you spray acrylic onto gluesticked paper. e) the ink may still come off a little but mostly on your mod podge brush and not smeared all over your work.

Now my papers seem to be dry so I'm trying YES! Paste, bought on sale, instead of glue sticks which don't work well or mod podge/white glue because those would make the paper wrinkle up and YES! isn't supposed to. I'll let you know...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Still going

I'm not as disciplined as I would like and we do not as yet have a real schedule. I am still working on all the things I said I was working on. Only, I've found very reasonable sets online for scent and tasting bottles, (I'll update this post later with the link) so I'll probably just buy those instead of collecting containers. I've got a cabinet with things however, the eldest is quite bored with them but doesn't want more challenging work. She's not willing to go through work books a page at a time so she can learn things incrementally like they're set up for. I'm not sure what I'm going to do.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Plodding along

We're plodding along with school. More along the lines of stereotypical "unschooling", although this is not my aim. It is my natural tendency, but I would like to be slightly more structured. I started a cabinet for M. materials. At the moment it contains, trays and mats, knobbed puzzles, pouring mat'ls, lid/containers, sorting mat'ls, tweezers and tongs, graduated nesting/stacking blocks (our sub for pink tower), spindles, and unfinished work. I'm in the process of making scent and sound cylinders, 3 part cards, florwer arranging, shell identifying, sandpaper letters, constructive triangles, fabric texture activity, maybe others that I'm not thinking about. With all of these I'm stuck on some small detail that I can't accomplish for one reason or another. Even typing about this is difficult to accomplish - everyone including my husband has some demand on my every minute. It's very draining. And off topic. I'm just frustrated.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Although I have actually started things, I'm feeling overwhelmed. I don't know how to turn the house into a classroom as far as materials are concerned. But then, I have that kind of problem with my life / house in general. I'm also really good at starting things and not so good at finishing them. I'm worried this endeavor will succumb to that habit. Feeling overwhelmed is the start of it. Lack of organization is the main reason for feeling overwhelmed.
I have been doing little lessons here and there with the kids, mainly the girls, even though I haven't been able to post here so often as I planned. I haven't studied much on the baby level Montessori so I don't know if what I do with AK qualifies. Mostly just talking to him constantly and describing everything. This is your shirt, a blue shirt. - Do you want up? Up high - those type things.
Anyway, I can't seem to pull it together enough to do a full session yet. Access to materials is kinda key to that and we don't have it. Correction, I haven't made it. We'll see. I am really interested, in theory, in home school, but I don't know if I've got what it takes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Long Blog Absence

I haven't posted in quite some time, but I haven't been attending to the internet as much in general for the past few weeks. The main reasons for this are being way more busy than usual and/or being sick. Another area that has seen a major time investment is reading. I finally got my turn with the good Montessori books from my library. A few of them weren't very helpful to me, unfortunately they were the ones I read first. Others may find them helpful so I won't mention them here so as to not bias you. However, I have also found a few to be greatly helpful. Those are Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years by Elizabeth G. Hainstock, How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin and the one I'm reading now, Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-Fives by David Gettman.

I'm also continuing to make materials. Today, 2 of my friends, who will be joining us on occasion, came and helped me assemble some 3 part cards and some environment matching cards. After some investigation and trial and error, I decided to mount the print-outs (mainly from montessorimaterials.org) onto the printed side of cereal boxes. I don't really have the monetary resources to laminate everything and it is still pretty flimsy when laminated. The current style of index card is barely thicker than regular paper so that didn't work either. This is how I came to cereal boxes. I put them on the printed side so the backs would be as plain as possible.

Other than that, I've been going to various stores looking for supplies and gathering things. I still don't know how I'm going to do the classroom set-up or where I'm going to keep things. I'll let you know when I figure it out.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Water Cycle - 1

I'm not sure how to classify this project, general science, I guess.
Taking a rare opportunity of rain on a warm day without thunder/lightning, the girls played outside with their umbrellas (and without, too). (yes, we stopped the painting project in the middle, but went back to it - this was an opportunity we'd been waiting for)
This is our exchange:
Where is the rain coming from? 2yo-up in the sky 4yo-from the clouds
How does rain get in the clouds? 2yo-I don't know, how? 4yo-from the sea
Yes, from the sea and lots of other places like right here at our house. How does the water get in the clouds from the sea? 4yo-it splashes so high it gets stuck in the clouds
Well, I'm not sure water can splash quite that high. But the sun makes the water evaporate - What does evaporate mean? --- It is when the hot sun makes the water get into little tiny bits and it floats up to the clouds, kind of like steam but not so hot.
follow up a few minutes later: How does water get from the sea into the clouds? 4yo-the sun makes it little and carries it up.
follow up a few minutes later, the wind blew their pictures over, despite tape: The tape isn't working very well because it is so humid out now. What does it mean when I say it is humid outside? --- It means the air is a little wet because of evaporation. What is evaporation? 4yo-when water goes up to the clouds.

I'd been doing things like this before, is this a "Montessori way"? Feed back would be great!

Land and Water

The girls are doing a land and water related art project so I'm stepping away for a minute to post another resource. Amber Carvan has a lovely website/newsletter that she puts out chronicling her own families arts and crafts. Each newsletter has a theme, such as "bees" or "pirates", which is useful when your kids are into something particular or to have as part of a "lesson" (Why do I have such a hard time remembering Montessori terms?)

As for us: Each girl has a piece of blue paper and a piece of brown paper. We talked about properties of land and water, which paper meant which & why, what lives on land and what lives in water, now the girls are stamping items on each paper and painting "pictures" of other things in the appropriate habitat.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tearing Paper

AT's handwork for today was tearing paper in straight lines
We happened to have some scrap paper that was unintentionally printed with a MS Excel document that was outlined.
AT had 3 sheets
Sheet 2: She was told to tear out the rectangle any way she wanted to. After some results that she didn't find satisfactory, she did actually try to fold the paper but didn't fold it on the line, but didn't attempt to tear it.
Sheet 2: I demonstrated how to get the fold where you want it, how to make a soft fold and a hard fold and how to tear on the fold. The hard fold was difficult for her and I had to guide her uncooperative hands for most of it.
Sheet 3: She was instructed to make another hard fold. Then I put a small amount of water in a dish and demonstrated wetting the tip of my finger and running it along a fold and then tearing it. She was quite happy with this method and was very successful.
Sheet 4: Yes, I only gave her 3 sheets. After I photo-ed the first sheets, she got another and leaving it flat, wet her finger and outlined the rectangle. She liked this method best. See, I told you she was true Montessori material! (Please excuse the Proud Momma moment- haha)

Another Resource

I haven't really looked at this site too much due to time constraints of today. However, on first glance it seems like it is a good resource so I will post about it here and put it in the sidebar if I do indeed find it useful. I'm not sure what the actual name of the company is Livable Learning or JMJ Publishing. There is a section on Montessori Education as well as other information.

All Day...

All day today, with a few breaks and routine childcare/household duties, I have been downloading items from montessorimaterials.org I spent a crazy amount of time doing this. I sat down prepared with several blank CD's to fill up with the lessons I found here. It all amounted to slightly less than 60mb - less than 1/10th of a CD! I did skip a few things, but very few. I'm surprised, but I think happy that the new folder is so small. Montessori Materials has a wide range of activities, cards, lesson plans, etc. Some of the material is great, some of it is fine and some of it falls into the category of "don't look a gift horse in the mouth". Perhaps I could do better, perhaps not, most likely I will not have the time to find out. Everything actually offered on the site is free to use for yourself, posted by other Montessori Guides (parents and/or teachers?) There is also a links list of things that may or may not be free. As a "dot org" website, it is non-profit and runs with minimal cost on donations.

While the baby naps...

we usually do an art project - embarrassingly simple ones - and then have some sort of quiet time.
Today, however, we are having a Practical Life lesson. Apparently, I have become the "Step-Mother" to 2 Cinderellas who are scrubbing the floor. They love "playing" in the water, squishing the sponges in different ways, and even the scrubbing action! Dried up green bean "skin" from the baby's dinner last night? "Watch me make it misappear!"
GR just poked her head up over the dining table where I'm sitting and said, "I'm almost done Step-Mother. Hey! Puters are not in Cinderwedda's story!" Oops, guess I'd better go!

Good info

While I have found a lot of great information from many sources, I haven't found anything resembling a curriculum. (Not saying there aren't plenty of them out there, I just haven't come across them, partly because I didn't know what to call it) Until today! I was looking for templates for constructive triangles and found this Montessori AMI Primary Guide
I've just glanced through it, but it seems to be pretty thorough!

Friday, August 22, 2008

If I could

get some energy from somewhere, I would go to super-wal-mart and get some supplies. None-the-less, we played "mystery bag" as our sensorial project this morning. AT did very well, she got everything right each time so I'll have to pick harder and harder items. GR got everything right when she got to handle the item and put it in the bag, most right when she only looked at the items and only a few right when she hadn't even seen the items. I don't really know, but I think it is good for a 2 year old. I think they had the most fun when it was their turn to make a mystery bag for me. They were particularly delighted when I was able to tell which peek-a-block they had chosen by feeling and/or sound. I need a few more containers, but a sound guessing game is high on my feasibility list.
NOTE: I'm sure is it incorrect to refer to the things we do as games, but they sure are fun for the kids!

Mystery Bag
a very simple game that helps children connect tangible items with images in their minds
we used a dark colored, king size pillow case
10 or so smallish items that the kids are familiar with
put the items in the bag
using only their hands, the kids guess what is in the bag
can be simple like ball, block, shoe; harder like toy food, or even harder like guessing which dinosaur figure is which

Take a step back

I just rushed headlong into this blog without even thinking of introducing myself! I'm Sarah, a stay at home mom. If I were going back to a former career I guess I'd be an office manager or some other sort of office worker that doesn't have quite so many responsibilities. However, I really don't want to do that. I'm quite happy where I am, even on my grumpy days and even on the days when I just can't seem to get any cooperation out of my kids. If I do need to go back to work in a few years, I'm seriously contemplating the teaching field.
Despite my husband's reservations about putting too much info on the internet, I am going to at least put our names out there, because, frankly, it is too hard to remember to type anything else! On a tangential note, it is a crying shame that we even have to think of such things.
** OK so I'm not using their names anymore, it's a good policy that MANY others have adhered to**
AT, 4
GR, 2
AK, 1
Shortly after AT turned 1, it became quite clear that she was learning way more than I knew I was teaching her. She is also independent and focused.
Obviously Montessori was ideal for her. However, we don't have the $600+ a month that private schools cost. At the time, I really didn't have any idea that you could do it at home. It seemed costly and involved. I sent her to a church play-based pre-school to give her some practice with socializing. I picked the idea back up last fall when I decided that if she didn't get into the public pre-k I would school her at home. The more I looked into it, the more I realized I could do it at home with little cost. There are a ton of great people who are also doing this, who share their knowledge and material making instructions. I am still exploring my online resources and will probably continue to do so for a long time!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Lists, lists and more lists

I almost always start any project with at least one list. Not that I write everything on to the list, or remember to bring the list when I shop, or do everything on the list, or even keep track of where that paper is. I've been thinking about doing this for a long time and now I've finally moved onto the list stage. I've even got a little notebook and everything.
On the first page is a list of the things I believe I should buy first. This includes a little rug, place mat (for table work), and a work tray for each kid. I went to Target the other day, but didn't find anything suitable. Next is the list of Montessori items that I believe are important tools and that I don't believe I can make easily. This includes the pink tower, brown stair, knobbed and knobless cylinder sets. Then I have list of items I think I can make or collect on my own, which is various house hold items, card sets, sandpaper letters, sensory items etc. One day I'll post the lists in some form.
My final list is a loose schedule. In a Montessori school room, everything would always be out for each kid to access it at any time they desire. I have considerably less room to set up and in fact will be spread over the house. Since I have very little ones anyway, I've decided to set times to focus on specific areas of study. We will choose an area and then each child can choose an activity. For instance if we choose language arts then the activities might include a board book or alphabet game for the baby, an alphabet coloring sheet or "A is for Apple" type cards for the toddler, writing practice or a upper&lower case matching game for the 4 year old. Each one can participate in some way in the activity of the others (the baby may only passively participate). It's my way of being the guide as you'd find in the class room- they are still getting to choose what specifically interests them, I'm just planning what area we work on.
The schedule also includes things we're going to do as part of regular life, library, art, parks, grandma's house, etc.
I'll let you know if I finish/use/keep track of these!

Where to Start?

Figuring out exactly where to start has been the hardest thing. There are a lot of resources on-line and some in book form, too. I feel like I need an outline to make sure I'm on the right path, but haven't found anything like that. If you know a place to find it, please share! Lack of that is why I'm starting this blog. I thought that it would help me keep track of what I've done, what I'm doing and what I'd like to do. I also hope that it provides something that helps out someone else. If you're a blogger on a similar path, please contact me I'd love to visit your site too!