Monday, September 14, 2009

Tutorial: Sandpaper Letters / Numerals

Not having a lot of room, and not having a lot of money I was forced to economize this project. So I've decided to use both sides of these boards. If you wish to make a full set of each alphabet, you'll need twice as many pieces as I used. (this method isn't ideal for beginning learners since there is more chance for confusion, however, my homeschooler already knows the print letters and fully grasps the differences. When it comes time to teach the other 2, I'll be right there to help guide them)
Alphabet - 26 5"x5": 2 - 4 sets
Digraphs - 16 5"x7": 1 - 2 sets
Numerals - 10 5"x5": you'll only need one set of these
-I used 1/4 inch thick "Sand-a-ply" which is probably a brand name. It is just plywood with 2 good sides covered in a soft wood that is already roughly sanded but is also easy to sand. You can buy balsa or bass wood from the craft store but it will be more expensive overall.
-Sandpaper 220 and 300 grit
-Craft paint (pink, blue & green +4 other colors if you are doing 2 sided) and painting supplies
-Wood glue
-Sand, I would have preferred white but all I found was "sand" colored. It came from the craft dept in a bottle
-A surface to apply the sand on, I used a tray
-Light acrylic spay sealer

-Use your favorite method to cut the wood - mine involved Hubs' best friend who happened to be visiting and had nothing to do while Hubs was at work :)
But he used our table saw and electric miter saw

-Sand the sides and edges of the wood. Since it should be rough sanded a 220 grit should be enough. On the particular kind of wood I used, it stayed a little "fuzzy", but don't worry, this will be resolved later. 180 is a rougher grit, so if your wood isn't pre-sanded or is a harder wood, use that.
-Paint the wood in the Montessori colors you choose. There are different examples out there, ultimately I chose Apple Barrel Valentine Pink for consonants, Apple Barrel Carolina Blue for vowels and Apple Barrel Spring Green for digraphs.
- Sand again with 220 -300 grit. If you didn't see any fuzz or raised grain before, you will after you've painted.
-Retouch any spots that need it after sanding
-Have you chosen your font? Learning Curve and Penmanship Print are my favorites. But in the end I just free-handed it based on these.
-Draw a faint pencil line of your letter.

-Go over the line with wood glue

-Pour the sand over the glue, be generous what ever doesn't stick will fall into the tray and can be reused.

-Let it sit for a few minutes then shake it off on the tray.
-Allow at least a day for the glue to cure then continue.
* Go to the last step if you're making individual sets

-On the opposite side repeat the steps
-I recommend choosing the most different letters and to turn the wood upside down to limit confusion. Which ever way you choose, make sure they're all the same relative orientation.
-Also, Pick 4 additional colors of paint (or paint pen, or alcohol based marker).
-For 1 set: Line up one of the cases, ie all lower-case cursive lined up correctly and paint the top end (the 1/4 inch thick part)
-Paint each of the other sides a different color so that when they are in the tray it is easy and clear to see that they are aligned properly
-For the second set, make sure you use a different combination of colors so it isn't easy to mix up the sets if children will have access to both. Ideally, use 8 colors. If you're a crafter, you've probably got that many ;)

-After the glue has cured, spray with light coat of acrylic spray, not enough to impede the sanded texture but enough to help keep it clean in case the finger "sensitizing" didn't happen first.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

First Weekly Round Up

Really, my intention was to post something everyday, but this is my real life and that just doesn't happen. So I finally sat down and typed out what we did this week!
The bulk of our concentrated homeschool lessons take place on Mon, Wed, Fri when both the younger kids are in preschool. Monday was out due to the holiday.
The other days we worked on (in order of how I happen to remember it): Copy work from How Many Teeth- which also served as one of our reading lesson books, continued to study the human body and 5 senses. Talked about family relations and terms. We solidified memorization of our address- verbal and written, drew a family tree graph, reading practice with an opposites puzzle, journal work, drawing and coloring, sticker activity workbook, review of cursive letters we've already worked on, discussion of neighborhoods & community workers such as police officers and firefighters, when and how to call 911, beading, sorting, patterning, rhyming, days of the week, baric tablets, lacing, 3 part classification cards - um I'm drawing a blank so perhaps that was all!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Given the many different theories on homeschool curriculum, and the fact that I consider our homeschool to be eclectic, I had a lot of choices for making our overall lesson plan. I decided I'd consult with an expert - AT. I figured she knows best which way of learning and planning gets her excited. Together we determined that we'd start with her as a subject and keep expanding from there. I would set the overall lessons for the day but she gets to pick her work when she wants to. And that's it; pretty simple. Today for instance, she did copy work (a Charlotte Mason idea) from How Many Teeth, a favorite topic of hers that falls in with the "about my body" category, the she wanted to do color sequencing and patterning with beads, and right now she is doing a Priddy Books sticker activity book. The concepts within it are pretty easy for her, but she gets practice with concentrating, problem solving and fine motor skills - all of which she needs to work on. Throughout the day, we'll have discussions about the supporting roles neighbors, friends, neighborhoods and towns play in our everyday lives. Possibly also reasons for creating towns.

There is leeway in my lesson plan to account for her varying interests and frankly, for her moods. I don't really talk about the Montessori materials in this plan, as that is one of the things that we don't plan. Our use of the Montessori materials is 95% child led. Like in a classroom, I remind her of the presence of certain materials, but in general she decides when and what, or not. Here is the initial time-line outline I devised.

1. First Middle Last name
2. Birth date
3. Street address, Town name
4. Family
5. Neighbors / friends
6. Neighborhood / town
7. City (we live in a suburb of a large city so I'm using that opportunity to separate concepts)
8. State
9. Country
10. Continent
11. Earth
12. Solar system
13. Galaxy
14. Universe

If you'd like an expanded version of this outline, with some of the specifics under each heading, you can download our Homeschool Lesson Plan Outline

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Montessori Checklist

I'm glad my Montessori Skills Checklist has been downloaded so many times - it's not a ton, but more than I expected. I'd love to hear from you if it has been helpful!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First week plus some

Although we've been unschooling for quite some time, last Friday AT and I had our first one-on-one-sit-down-and-learn session in a long time. I didn't take photos because my camera is full and I haven't had access to Hubs' computer to download them. And I've had a way busy week followed by 3 days in bed sick, anyway....
My plan is to start with her and get bigger until we're at the universe level adding in lessons and projects as they're appropriate. In that vein, we worked on writing her name in print and cursive and remembering how to spell our 8 letter last name. We've done self portrait type art projects. Talked about body parts and functions.
For Montessori activities I've presented cylinder blocks, the pink tower, the brown stair, numerical rods and Montessori materials 3 part cards. She's also done various sorting, beading, tracing, and practical life activities.
I think that's pretty good for 2 alone sessions, one of which was conducted almost entirely from the couch! And one session with her little brother present. Tuesdays and Thursdays AK will be here too so those days don't always go as planned. Today, we're just reading a book about bodies and then I'm going to trace their whole bodies (I"ll do GR's when she gets home) and have her draw in some of her organs. I'll probably have to to another one so she can draw clothes and accessories!
Time to rescue the matchbox cars from behind the couch for the umpteenth time and then rest my poor head a bit!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What I'm up to

Still cutting laminate and writing tutorials to go with some of my projects. Tonight I did a 6 part series for making Constructive Triangles. Probably starting in 2 weeks to give me time to take, edit, post, and insert the photos. And now it's time for BED!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Record Keeping

I've mentioned My Montessori Journey before, when I was making some language materials. She just made a post about how she keeps records in her classroom and asked what her readers do. I thought I'd share my check list with you. I based it on David Gettman's book Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-fives. This list will take you farther than that though because he described more than that in his book.
You can download my Montessori Skills Checklist.
I use it by marking a "P" for presented, "L" for learning when I see the child working on it and finally a "M" for mastered when the child can do the skill with little to no error.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Practical life and school organization all in one

I happened to find a book shelf that was formerly in a used book store. The wood was good, but it wasn't all that stable and the baseboard caused a gap between the shelf and the wall. So I decided to turn it into a book case. I added a simple, though not pretty, hardboard back using my electric stapler. Since some of the staples were still a little raised, I decided to call in some help.

More soon!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

On Tuesday a truck pulled up to my house and delivered these:

Inside were 25 other packages

I haven't opened them all but everything seems to have been wrapped with care

More soon, and it has to do with the book case in the background

Saturday, August 15, 2009

43 yards

of laminated material.
I've been working on this little by little.

And I do mean that, here's a shot of my Razr phone for scale. There are hundreds of these little things - lots of 3 part cards, plus, the "shapes in real life" set that has over 200 pieces alone.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Preparing for the new school year

-Trying to make cohesive "unit lessons" out of the scramble in my brain
-Cutting 43 yards of laminated materials: Found a local store that has occasional 1/2 off 1st 30 yards
-Trying to come up with solutions to the problems I encountered while making materials last year
-Still waiting on my order from Adena
-Lucky to have found a shelf for materials, but where to put it?
-Waiting on preschool to start so I can have some of my thoughts to myself

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I said "Montessori" not "Momtellsittome"

After Mrs. Timemanagement taught me what a Montessori homeschooler does (duh all homeschoolers are Montessori - NOT!) (yeah, what era did I come up in?), I was provided the opportunity to speak my side. Not because of anything directly related to the conference, but because the AJC had a reporter there, who was in that class, sitting in front of me, and because that speaker irritated me. (If you, the reporter, do happen to check in on this blog, forgive me. I can picture you, I picture you telling me your name, and even your ID tag, but I cannot picture your name. Please let me know) I asked her to please remember that not everyone homeschools for religious reasons, not everyone purchases a set curriculum and text books, some of us make our own and are on very small budgets. She seemed interested to hear from someone outside the parameters covered by the Expo. Hopefully she will look into that more and find fodder for the future. Maybe she'll write an article that can reach more parents who are searching for something different for their family but aren't of either the strict scheduler or extreme unschooler varieties. Plus, it's OK if they don't despise the public school system.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Southeastern Homeschool Expo

The last 2 days I attended the Southeastern Homeschool Expo. My opinion afterward is mixed. I got bits of good information here and there but there was a lot that wasn't useful to me. Before I go further, let me just emphasize that last word there: ME. I'm sure it's very helpful to a lot of people. I overheard parts of excited conversations and many of the booths were doing brisk business.
I was aware before going that there were no Montessori vendors nor any Montessori speakers. I went to hear the speakers on organization, lap books, Math-U-See, art and creativity. I also wanted to see what the vendors had that I could use to supplement or substitute for my mainly Montessori approach. For instance, Math-U-See is often used by Montessori homeschoolers, but I didn't know much about it, so I found that class to be very helpful. Others were not so helpful because, as I discovered, they were not titled / described very accurately. Perhaps I would have avoided them if the description were better.
There were some varying opinions on technique, in one organization class the speaker said (paraphrase) "Please don't make your older kids, especially the girls, into Little Mama. If your kids are doing your job, then you need to reassess." While in a time management class the speaker had her kids doing all the cooking, some of the household management, some of the teaching and even some of the dicipline. Both valid views but obviously a person can only find one or the other helpful - although I personally didn't find either of those workshops helpful.
Speaking of the time management workshop... talk about a reminder of reasons to be thankful for your friends and family - let's recreate what happened there:
Speaker: Since we have limited time, I'd like to know a little about you, where you're at; what you need; what you're hoping to learn.
2 other ladies speak up.
I raise my hand and mention / admit Montessori for the first time
Me: I'm just starting out and I'm coming at this from a slightly different angle. I'm mostly doing Montessori and
Speaker: If you're homeschooling then of course you're doing Montessori. {with a slight head shake and a half-roll of the eyes}
Me: Well, no not really, Montessori is child led but what I'm hoping to learn is how to manage school time so I can ensure we cover all the subjects during the week.
[side note: this can be an issue for unit study and lap bookers as well so even in other non-rigid curriculua, you can still get off track]
Speaker: Yeah, sure, of course.
So, what did Mrs. Timemanagement, who is of course using the Montessori method, teach us? That she's had a schedule ready for her children from the time before the first was born, which didn't include child cued feeding as she never nursed at night; that their days are scheduled from 6:30am to 7pm when the children start to go to bed, to 9pm when she goes to bed; that all the kids at least start out on the same subject as eachother everyday; that they follow a pre-planned, purchased curriculum of textbooks and workbooks; that she chooses what they work on; that they use spanking as a punishment if a child repeats a behavior that they have been told 1 time wasn't acceptable. That's all well and good if it works for her, but it is decidedly not Montessori.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Starting Homeschool

Although, my plan last year was to start homeschooling my 3 kids, the eldest in particular, it didn't quite work out like I had envisioned. Some of our lessons and projects did appear here, but the vast majority of them did not. Honestly, I'm jumping into this post without even reading what I wrote previously, so bear with me. AT was going to be in pre-k so I wasn't too stressed about what went awry. We still managed to learn a good deal and she does a lot on her own. Some areas she's beyond kindergarten (or at least at the end of the year level) and others she's coming in right where she's "supposed" to be.
I have the makings of a number of Montessori material going - most of them stalled when I hit some snag or another, as is often the case with me. Sandpaper letters and numerals, fraction circles, flower arranging, 5 senses work, varieties of pouring and transferring, constructive triangles, color cards, 3 part cards and other things to supplement that. I did finally make an order to Adena for items I didn't feel I could make or things that were worth the time and trouble saved to order: both full sets of cylinders, one of the rod sets, brown stair, pink tower, various bead material and some other things I can't recall at the moment.
My younger 2 will be in preschool this year, even though I still don't feel we can fully afford it. I definitely feel like I can't afford to have my attention so divided all day long this year as it's time to officially begin schooling. I will be back here with my projects and links to share. I hope you follow with me, give feedback and maybe even participate either directly or through a little writeup post by me.
Thanks everyone. I'm excited to be back and excited to make the progress I had planned for last year.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Yes, it's been a long time

I just made a post on my other blog about being a perfectionist. I was typing that while the kids ate lunch. In the middle of lunch AT, who is the eldest, decided she'd rather color a coloring book picture. She told me she was adding rain drops so the flower could grow. Then she told me she was drawing roots. We had a "lesson" on roots and photosynthesis. That's about as much schooling as we've done in weeks. Home school is a big area where "perfectionism" shows in me. I am having an incredibly difficult time getting any real, actual lessons done with the 2 youngest ones around. They aren't interested in school so much as interested in being jealous, thus disruptive, that another kid is getting a few minutes of undivided attention.

I did manage to get 88 pages of materials printed, cut and laminated (there was a 1/2 off sale) but I haven't been able to get to cutting them out. I am really disappointed in all this. It takes a lot of work to prepare for home school and I just don't get the time or help from my husband that it takes to do it. I have a wonderful neighbor, who may be the only one who ever reads this, who has offered to help. Here's a confession: I don't accept her help because I want my husband to see me struggling because he's promised time and again to be helpful to me and he's not doing it. Because he's not really helping, I finally got him to agree to ask his dad to help us buy some of the materials. He hasn't done that either. My friend's friend homeschools in a major way. Her advice was: If you're going to do it, it has to be a family decision. Your husband has got to be on board. At first I took this to mean he has to believe in home school, but really, it means he has to be involved, helpful, in order for it to really happen. Even if you have money to buy all the materials, he'd still have to help with the kids so you have lesson planning time. Or, I suppose, make enough money that you can hire a baby sitter every weekend. He's making lots of money so that would be his contribution, I guess.
But in my life, this means I need his time and effort. Which, given the history of our relationship - I've got to accept that it just isn't going to happen. I've either got to figure out how to do it on my own - and not resent him for it. Or give up the idea - and not resent him for it. Do any of you, imaginary friends, have non-supportive partners?