Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Montessori Elementary Art Album

Montessori Elementary Art Album

What this Montessori Elementary Art album is NOT:

It is not an album with every possible art experience your child could possibly ever have.

  1. This is an AMI-style album - therefore Keys-Based - meaning it provides the essentials - what every child should have exposure to in order to lay a strong foundation for his personal interests and for any local educational requirements.
  2. All art forms are represented in one manner or another - keys-based. We get to the point.
  3. An album of such magnitude, would need to be multiple volumes and be very inexpensive; it would also make things very difficult for locating what are the key experiences.
  4. If you have a child whose aptitude is art, start with this album to provide that solid foundation - make sure all avenues are introduced; then you will find other resources suitable to your child's particular interest.
  5. Don't have a child whose interest is art? Utilize this album to provide exposure to all the possibilities, so that when they come to those moments in life when some form of creative expression is needed, they have basic tools to get the job done without belaboring the point. 
This album is NOT "Advanced Practical Life":

  1. Practical life exercises are included because these lay the foundation for art skills; and the primary AMI practical life album does include preliminary art experiences.
  2. This album expands on the ART, not the practical life (remembering that art is practical life).
  3. Practical life in primary becomes the geography album in elementary - experiments, exploring the world (these are also present in language arts and other subjects). 
  4. An advanced practical life album would be a list of skills needed at the elementary level - not enough to be a full album.
  5. So for those looking for an advanced practical life album - sorry! This goes a different direction: Art.
  6. For those thinking this IS Advanced Practical Life and not enough art: see the first point above. This DOES provide the art experiences your child needs at elementary.
This album is NOT intended for Primary:

  1. There is some work in here that would work for the primary child; but this album is set up to provide the elementary child any "missed" primary level experiences and move forward quickly from there.
  2. Looking for art at the primary level? Utilize the Primary Exercises of Practical Life album (art section), as well as the various art experiences found in the sensorial, math and language primary albums. The art needed at primary is all there in the primary albums already. 
This Montessori Art Album is NOT a set of classroom activities that the whole class or even a small group do all together.

  1. Montessori is about individual development.
  2. Montessori is about keys for each individual child.
  3. Montessori provides individualized experiences for the children in using the keys of this world (and of this universe) to find their own place in the Cosmic Plan.
  4. Thus we provide experiences in this art album to help the child learn to utilize the various tools of art: paintbrushes to colored pencils, paints to clay, artists' lives and work to the key elements of art.

So what IS this Montessori Elementary Art album?

A keys-based approach to laying a strong foundation of art skills for the elementary child in preparation for further art experiences based on their own interests and educational requirements.

Montessori art is about having the keys you need to create anything you want to do. This album gives you the basic affordable tools you need to do that. There are suggestions for further work, such as calligraphy, without direct instructional album pages - why? Because some of those skills require tools that come with a particular set of instructions for those tools. And something like calligraphy is included with the elementary LANGUAGE album ;) Woodworking and wood carving mentioned, but it is best to 1) find an expert and 2) use the instructions with the tools you acquire. All the safety concerns should be presented by someone who knows exactly what he or she is doing, whether a parent or someone else; not by a well-intentioned parent who has never cut wood before either. Use this opportunity to learn alongside your child! 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Biology: Health and Dissections

One of Legoboy's August plans is to finish his study of human anatomy health (or come close to finishing). 

He selected the book "My Temple of the Holy Spirit" as his core resource, with "Blood and Guts" for follow-up. He is also using two anatomy "coloring books" (high school level) to read and color in as he learns about each area of the body. 

We added a couple of books on the development of unborn children to cover reproduction. 

This past week, he has been studying the brain, the sense organs and circulation as interest and focus strikes him. This morning (of the day I write this), he and I had a conversation about these topics, as something of an oral exam. He had his choice of styles of presentation of information to me: write about each area, create something in the area to show what he has learned, chat with me about it, or pick another adult with whom to chat. He chose chatting with Mama ;) Can't complain there! ;) 

As part of the brain topic, we looked at a model we had on hand; he identified the parts and function of what he knew and we looked up the rest. 

Repeated for the heart. We just happened to have both of these on hand. Not planned what-so-ever. 

But then he said, "Didn't we purchase a cow's eye from Home Science Tools?"

Why yes, Son, yes we did. 

Removing some of the fat. 

Removing the cornea

Removing the cornea

Cutting the eye in half (separating into posterior and anterior portions)

examining his collections
and generally looking handsome

specimens collected for examination under a microscope the next day
(stored in a ziplock bag overnight)

Removing the tapetum

beyond the instructions:
let's cut in half laterally!
He wanted to see the layers behind the eyeball

there they are

any one more, just in case you wanted to see it again ;) 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Upper Elementary Montessori - New work journal and work plan

Work Journal - really it's nothing new, a bit more detail in some areas, a bit less in others. We are simply looking for a record of general time spent. Questions and thoughts now go into their own notebooks rather than in here, though sometimes things pop up in here too.
Just to have a cute photo
for the upper elementary montessori
work plan post ;) 
So we use a spiral notebook; note the date, then list general times spent on general studies/activities. We might have 2 days on a page; or it might be a full page for 1 day.

Work Plan - we are going full-monthly now. Legoboy has his plans and we still have the remainder of the albums.
Truly, as we moved into upper elementary (click that link for a related post), I thought the remainder of the albums would be done rather quickly. Nope! What has happened is that I am presenting FAR less. He receives a new presentation and has two courses of action:

  1. Runs with it. Uses it. Practices it. Builds a small (or large) study around it.
  2. "Gets it." Then returns to his other small or large studies he is doing, integrating the new presentation wherever is appropriate.
I am even MORE grateful that we didn't go with more detailed upper elementary albums. As schools start up in my area, I am continually asked "so when do you start school again?" When I say, "We never stop learning," most people are appalled (thinking of textbooks for 4-8 hours all.year.round). Nope! We have keys-based Montessori albums that require us to live life to its fullest ;) 

So we are still meeting each week to go over the schedule for the week (I don't mean school schedule - I mean our family schedule: tae-kwon-do, church events, Mass times, events at the Legostore, anything scheduled with friends or family (lots of pool parties lately!)). We then go over the non-scheduled things that need to be done this week.

By "go over" - this means we discuss it. I don't dictate "here are the things that need to be done" (unless there IS something that needs to be done, but honestly he tells ME those things even when I already know). We have our routine of what we discuss and he runs with it. He'll come up with things that should/could be done, or share an insight on how something could be done, etc.

For example, 2 weeks ago, he suggested we attend the early morning Mass at St. Martin so that we can work on the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd sacristy items at St. Paul on the way back, followed by St. John's which is also on the way back, saving a short trip of gas. His actual motive however, was to assure some time in the schedule to play a new game: Settlers of Catan. Well, ok, I can handle that ;)

So we now have a list of monthly goals or "themes" with our weekly conversation of what will be accomplished in each given week. If he feels he needs more time to accomplish a goal, we can discuss and I will support or nix an extension. I want him to learn to meet deadlines, but at 10, Legoboy should not be up until midnight or 3am finishing projects just to meet a deadline either.

As the mother and head of the household, I do have final say on all decisions, but I cherish these moments of discussing age-appropriate experiences with my son, allowing (encouraging!) him to be part of the thought-process behind life's little and large decisions; thereby knowing that when he is an adult and fully responsible for himself, I know that I have equipped him with all that I can including my prayers and my trusting him to God.

There are a good number of anti-Montessori adults who want to emphasize adult control and adult direction to the point of denying that God has given our children any capabilities of their own. Thus, they hold on too tight until it is time to release the child to the world, then they are devastated by the results when the now-adult child looks to find another authority to "listen to" because he or she is incapable of making one's own decisions. These children spend their 20s (sometimes longer) getting their lives straightened out, when they could spend that time living a wonderful life by having learned all those adult life skills in tiny increments as growing children.
(end soapbox ;) )

August themes/plans:

  • My Temple of the Holy Spirit health study (Catholic-based, but could be done by any Christian denomination)
    • Study each topic in this book, adding desired activities from Blood and Guts; coloring pictures in two anatomy coloring books (the two we have are high school level, really)
    • Dissections where appropriate
  • Finish up My Pet Store Math (a Charlotte Mason offering) - we had to take a break from this a while back. He would like to finish it up.
  • Work of Water: create the river model by himself
  • Catch up on astronomy newsletters and spend at least 1 night a week outside under the stars
  • Come close to finishing Mystery of History (because of his love for ancient history, volume 1 has taken FOREVER to do! This is fine because
    1. he has the Great Lessons, thus the overview of Cosmic Education;
    2. he has taken each (or almost every) short lesson and done some further follow-up work beyond selecting at least one of the included activities (usually more), creating the timeline cards and creating a Wall of Fame in a notebook of his own);
    3. this is the only volume we plan to do. As Catholics, there are 2 specific locations that brought up some interesting discussion for us. Volumes 2 and 3 veer from how we understand the revelation of God. We'll have those discussions, just not with any particular history textbook. 
  • Review work with decimal fractions. He has had some minor trouble with decimal places with the Pet Store Math - mostly in understanding when/why we don't need extra zeroes after a final decimal, unless we have something like 90 cents. And he wants to finish reviewing that material/section for me for the math album.
  • Further music presentations. We have stalled on these, not because we don't LOVE them but because of time and space. He has been playing the piano but no real lessons. We'll look into picking up lessons next month, but our goal this month is to get the tone bars set up again and proceed forward with those album pages.
That's it! Think block scheduling, with lots of real life connecting it all.

We are not covering other subjects this month either because we naturally do them and don't have any particular plans/goals (growing and using herbs; prayer/faith studies (we are prepping the atriums for classes to start this September); or because he has goals for those areas in September or October. These later months aren't fully planned, but he set up a page for each to move things over that won't fit for the month of August. Organizational planning skills ;)    

So what did we spend today? Discussing the brain, the eye and the heart (topics of his own interest) - then doing a dissection on a cow's eye (post to come later this week!) - all of his own accord, on a deeper level than if I'd required it, but still with my requirement that he learn it thoroughly and all related ethics. I shared that information with a woman who thought I was crazy to not have starting/ending dates for school - she is a retired nurse and she insists he is doing high school level work (with the terminology he used to explain to her what he did today, yep, maybe it IS high school level work. He's 10. What does that say about high school offerings? Of course, I did the same work in college...).

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Montessori Elementary Art Album - Now Ready!

Legoboy has been helping me in a BIG way of late...

Not only has he been taking photographs, learning to edit them, and all that photography entails, he has been bringing me food while I sit on the couch working and provides a series of snuggles and kisses to keep me focused and motivated.

And testing everything out for me, for you, for your children.

Ok, so anyone on Facebook the last 2 days knows that I was LOOKING for distractions. Sometimes when something is on the to-do list for a LONG time, it kind of takes over. The to-do list needs that item on it, it cannot, will not, never will budge - even an inch.

Thus, it was physically painful to do one hour's worth of work to finish up the Elementary Montessori Art Album for my wonderfully patient Keys of the Universe participants - it only took me 14 hours.

All day, our last full vacation day at Grandma and Papa's to boot. I thought that would be enough motivation to finish that last hour's work before the boys woke up.

Nope. So much for vacation (for the record, I don't know how to take a vacation, just to be clear).

But at long last.

Here it is!!!!

The e-mail announcement that just went out:

I am so excited to share a new addition to the Keys of the Universe Album set - the art album is ready! It includes slightly modified presentations from the primary albums (EPL, Language, Sensorial) with additional album pages, skills and notes for the elementary child. What key skills lay the foundation for a strong elementary experience that allows for creativity and self-expression at all ages, especially in adolescence (Margaret Homfray noted in one of her lectures the necessity of teaching basic handskills to the younger children, so that they are not "learning" a new basic skill during the emotional adolescent years, when all they should be focusing on is expressing themselves with those basic skills.

Table of contents is here: (click on the title of the Art album)

The art album is packaged with the music album here:
with Online Support (access to discussion community, downloadable materials, resource sharing, etc.) here:

Or individually at Garden of Francis:
to print or download:
to download:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Weather Studies - Attention versus Interest

Workbooks in Montessori? Egads!

Some history:
Years ago, my mother gave my son a "workbook" with the Sesame Street character Elmo. The book went through quantities of 1-10, colors and probably a few other concepts I can't remember. At age 3, Legoboy loved it. He was "doing school" as he had seen many of my daycare children doing their homework - mostly he just colored it in. A year later, he picked it up again and carefully filled out each page, only occasionally asking me for clarification on the instructions (yet insisting he couldn't read, rather insisting he was just "figuring it out from the pictures" - ok, maybe. Doubtful.).

When my elementary trainers found out my son was using a workbook (let's forget the part where they know I am a devout Catholic, I intended to homeschool him, and all the things they did NOT know about our home lifestyle (attachment parenting, Montessori materials at home even when he attended a Montessori school - yeah, I was the black sheep of the training already ;) ) ---- there were no uncertain terms about the damage I was doing to my son. My response: he enjoys it, he learned all that information from real life experiences so this was just consolidation, and it was a gift meaning it is not something I intentionally purchased nor intended to use on a regular basis. NOT going to hurt him!

The response: arsenic is deadly in small portions.

I just raised my eyebrow and smiled that mom-smile-of-death that says "Don't even go there."

History part 2: See this post on how we utilize the local educational expectations (public school standards) in our home - namely the age-equivalent of 3rd and 6th grades.

Flash forward to the present-day:
Legoboy finds out that the local public school kids know something about weather studies - a topic that has never drawn his interest. This past week, however, it drew his *attention* - and in the Montessori-world, that is close enough to interest, with a slightly different response.

See, he tells me, "Just the facts, please. Basically, I just want to have a conversation. Can we do something along the lines of a lightunit?"
(yes Legoboy uses the word "basically" at the start of many sentences - all drawn out - baaaasssiklyyy)

Oh - and what is a lightunit? Close family friends of ours utilize a curriculum from Christian Light Publishers. Each subject for each year is broken down into 10 workbooks, that they call lightunits. We have utilized components here and there over the years; for several months, due to personal circumstances, we had to get away from the directly Montessori materials for a while, during a time it was less easy for him to plan out his own studies to work on away from home - so we used specific topics of lightunits to fill in the gaps. And then, not every lesson, not every page within a lesson, and not always every question on a page.

Lightunits are designed to be as child-independent as possible. MANY people tell me, "see it's just like Montessori." Ummmm. That's not Montessori at all, actually; Montessori has a connection between real-life, face to face human beings sharing information and experiences, then the child planning his own follow-up studies in cooperation with the adult who guides his work and assures that proper hands-on real life experiences are available to meet the needs of the particular child before him, something no published step-by-step curriculum can replicate. (but by then, the person who thinks CLE and Montessori are alike is already off doing something else)

While thorough, and the CLE curriculum does trust that a child can learn more abstract concepts if presented properly at a younger age - therefore a curriculum I feel is much more age-appropriate than most - let's just say there was utter relief to come back home to using the Montessori albums full-time.

On to Weather:
Well, we happened to have some of the science lightunits boxed up - and sure enough, in the level 4 set was a lightunit on nothing more perfect than "Weather." The demonstrations within use very basic at-home materials (absolutely nothing fancy until you need the thermometer with Celsius and Fahrenheit (can be two separate thermometers, but they need to measure down into cold temps as well as warmer temps - but our home thermometers that go that high are for cooking - and our cold temp ones aren't aligned well enough for the activity that needs it --- so I printed a chart to cover that part).

And I have to admit. There is something comforting on the part of the adult to hand a child a workbook and say "do such and such pages" (I've not actually had to say to him, since this was his choice); check it when he's done; light conversation and move on. It's so easy. And I don't have materials to prepare, I can DO anything else but sit with him to show him how things work.

But 1) no human connection.
2) I'm not with him - might as well send him to school.
3) If he hasn't truly learned it, I'll spend MORE time working with him - or he'll spend MORE time in remediation than if he'd learned it well, with the proper real-life experience to begin with.
4) Definitely better to go with the Montessori materials and presentations - sure, the child might get the concept quickly, but the child's time is not wasted, true mastery is achieved and you have time for doing "attention vs interest" things via workbook ;)

In my mind, I believe he has learned the material. But has he really? He's not extending the knowledge any further than using the vocabulary words appropriately (look at all that precipitation!), like he would with his other studies.

But again - this was an "attention to" a topic, not an "interest in". His goals seem accomplished; the upcoming public school standard on weather will be fulfilled. And perhaps he will come back around to it and do his own thing later. He has the keys he needs (via the elementary Montessori geography album - work of air, work of water, sun and earth...).

I think I am reticent about this because 1) his typical studies are intense and deep and there are clear signs he is really getting it.
2) while I trust the information in the book, it was just ONE source of information - and we are much more of primary source people here, utilizing a wide variety of resources when primary sources are harder to obtain or understand.

But I will force myself to let this one go.

  • Legoboy set a goal; 
  • he found suitable resources to meet that goal; 
  • and he achieved his goal. 

So yeah. We did a workbook. Well, HE did a workbook. I guess I see it as more of a study guide. Since it is one teeny tiny component of a much larger homeschool and life and experience, he knows that should he have true interest, he can always delve deeper.

How would I have responded if this were a true interest? At this age (10), it's not even so much MY response as my SUPPORT:

  • Look to the related key album pages for some review, specifically with weather in mind
  • Library trip for books and other resources they have
  • Netflix, educational websites for interesting videos
  • Noted the weather throughout a day, from one day to the next, start noting patterns including temperatures, barometer readings, etc. 
  • Watch weather reports on the news
  • Read through weather websites: is useful
  • Through all of that, different types of severe weather would have come up - probably inciting some type of interest in a particular form: hurricanes or tornadoes or the like. Study them - watch StormChasers, etc.
  • Somewhere in all of that, we probably would have come up with some good demonstrations or even experiments to try out. We'd then check for materials and try them out. 
  • Etc.