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.

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. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Negative Snake Game - Signed Numbers - Upper Elementary

He wanted to build a snake that would definitely be negative - gray - and deep negative - lots of gray.

So he did. 

But see - he is actually just slightly beyond this work. He is 10, but started this work in lower elementary - he was just ready (LOVE that about Montessori ;) ). He needed (and requested) review before we move into operations with signed numbers (negative numbers) and it has been a while since he has worked with the negative snake game. (see disclaimer regarding the name of this material at the end of this post).

Thus, being this work is not a challenge for him, he MADE it a challenge. Instead of bringing down two bead bars at a time and doing this work based on math facts and number lines, he found various patterns:
  • all positives/negatives that cancel each other out - eradicate and move on
  • grouping together a series of negatives, getting one answer (such as negative 38), then grouping together some positives and balancing it out
  • groups of beads (3-bar and 4-bar in positives, eradicate those with a negative 7-bar
  • verified by finding all those matches again, grabbing them in matching groups rather than aligning one positive and one negative - definitely a sign he's beyond the work ;) 

Well, hey, he's using his math facts ;)

When he wrote the work on paper, before beginning to change the color of the snake, he grouped together each "set" of positive and negative bars, writing -16 for a -4, -7, -5; then writing +12 for +9, +3; etc. 

His idea:
use the underside of the boxes for the bead stairs.
Glue felt underneath the boxes, he says. 

Final answer. 

I started to sort the bars to actually match;
then realized, better to show what Legoboy actually does ;) 

So the final value of the snake is the positive (colored beads) matched against the negative beads;
what is leftover from either side should match what the snake turned into. 

He did this whole process with two snakes - which is a lot. One long snake is usually sufficient - providing a worksheet full of math facts, but he very clearly stated he wanted practice, he wanted good photo ops (to him, these are fantastic photos ;) ), and he wanted to prove his smarts. He said that. Goof.
(Again, I emphasize: ONE long snake is sufficient for one day. Really.)

***Disclaimer: My AMI albums have the following snake games:
1) Addition Snake Game - primary
2) Subtraction Snake Game - primary
(children can review these in lower elementary)
3) Negative Snake Game - later lower elementary or early upper elementary; other signed numbers work can come later

I have heard of other snake games, but these all seem to be one of the following:
1) an extension of one of the snake games listed above
2) a form of verification on one of the snake games listed above
3) unnecessary for most children
4) another NAME for one of the snake games listed above (I have seen the subtraction snake game for the primary level called the "negative snake game" - which makes no sense, because we are subtracting at that point, not "adding negative numbers")

Link to Montessori Nugget on Snake Game names

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Montessori Guide Cards - Mathematics and Geometry

Legoboy has been busy-busy-busy.

He is an awesome reviewer (read: nitty-picky, tedious, tough audience to please) - as he has combed through the mathematics guide cards I have been developing while adding illustrations to, editing and clarifying points in the elementary Montessori mathematics album. One chapter at a time and it is getting done! Yay!

These guide cards are to be used for follow-up work. I moved away from calling them Montessori task cards or Montessori work cards as others have similar items listed... because these ones do NOT provide specific math problems to solve, instead focusing on "select several addition fraction problems to solve. Write them on your paper, use the materials to solve, and note your answers." Or "select several division problems with a zero in the middle of the 3-digit divisor". In this way, the child is still working on specific skills but is not limited by an outside authority.

There is so much flexibility with these cards - the adult can add a card with some sample problems (one of the fraction cards requires it, to keep the initial work within the scope of the material), add cards or notes to utilize specific pages in other resources; the child himself can add these ideas, or add questions to research, ideas for research, note favorite areas of study, etc. Legoboy has come up with some ideas - and my 3 adult reviewers have as well.

Geometry is done - as one complete file only (not divided by chapters).

Mathematics is half-done (through chapter 6) but those who purchase the entire set or the later chapters today, will receive them as I get my final reviews back from (darling!) Legoboy --- there is only so much he can do with some of it, because he is only just starting some of the later chapters, so this last part will go even quicker. By this time next week, all chapters will be done.

They print out with 2 cards on a page - cut in half - plenty of room for adding further ideas or illustrations as needed.

Legoboy really-really-really wants me to point out that an individual child could use these for recording SOME work (not bigger work and not items that need graph paper - but some work).

Garden of Francis - Keys of the Universe Elementary Montessori Downloadable and Printables

Note: if you have paid for access to Keys of the Universe online support, you have a 75% discount code to use ;)

Other subjects are upcoming! Geography, Music, Biology, Language, History

Friday, April 11, 2014

School Days - Botany, EPL, Language, Geography/History

We have been so way-laid from our plans these last few months as you will see with our botany studies... but I feel like we have utilized this season of Lent to really freshen up and clear out. So now, we can focus on things we love to do :)

Practical Life: 
Legoboy got right onto his morning chores, clearing up corners that he'd not quite done just properly the last few days. He even vacuumed (an extra). He must think it's almost time for his birthday ;) Actually, he has really begun to appreciate having a clean home where he can spread out his Lego projects and still find everything.

He arranged the prayer table a new way - with only a week to go until the start of Holy Week, he wants to be ready for some planning he has been doing for the Triduum. He lit the candles for prayer time and replace the old with new.

I wanted to replant our herbs in October or November, start the seedlings then, so that they could benefit from our south-facing balcony window through the winter and be strong hardy plants by now.
All of our herbs except marshmallow did NOT make the full cycle of life from our last planting. :(

Yeah. Um. Or not. Here it is April - we finally got them in.

According to our plans from last time, we made some changes:

  • use a seed starter within the egg cartons
  • make holes in the bottom of the cartons for the roots to not have to through so much thickness of cardboard (even soaked, many of the roots worked their way between the layers of cardboard, but not all the way OUT --- even after watering only the soil to attract the roots to the soil. 
  • place the egg cartons in the seedling planters immediately (well, they now have holes in them after all)
  • place directly in a warm window (we don't get as much direct sunlight right now, but a friend has a sun-lamp to loan us if needed)
  • use this blue rack that has been making the rounds (we've used it for home stuff, Montessori stuff, in an atrium, in a Montessori co-op, in Legoboy's bedroom, and now into the living room stacked tall and narrow) --- it really helps all the plants reach the light, uses vertical space and not our entire floor space or play area. 
After getting this all squared away, Legoboy wanted to listen to some of the Herb Fairy stories again (Herb Fairies is currently offering a free herb cookbook and will soon open up their yearly Herb Fairy adventures ---- we are SO NOT into "fairies" and the like in our home, but we love this learning adventure!). We chose the one about roses today. Oh! All the things that a rose plant can help with! And the candy from the fruit! (actually you can make candy from the petals too, but the story didn't share that part - which means there is SO much more to learn about all the herbs we've been studying!). So we listened while I worked on tracing figures for a Garden of Francis order and Legoboy built some Lego structures. 

Practical Life Moment (as if herbs aren't practical ;) ) --- he went down to check the mail....
And we got our package from a Mountain Rose Herbs giveaway - I love winning giveaways!!! In this giveaway, we received a package of dried herbs: marshmallow root, chicory root, astragalus root powder, milk thistle seed, and burdock root --- all of which go along quite nicely with this month's Herbal Roots Zine which is on chicory. Many times, we can't do all of the recipes because we don't have the ingredients on hand. No excuse this time ;) So when we get to actually reading the Zine next week, we'll have what we need. Yay!

Our herbal studies have really gone deep. I blame Montessori on that. I can't imagine having time or energy to explore the options and make any basic herb-learning selection if we used any other curriculum. Using Montessori, this IS our botany studies (after the basic lessons). I know I gush about that freedom of time we have - but it is SO true! We worked out a plan today to choose one day a week to be our herb day - it could be reading the Zine and doing some of the activities, doing activities or watching videos from the various newsletters we are signed up for (Learning Herbs, Herbal Roots Zine, are the two that come to mind right away), doing or creating something from the kids herbal books he has, doing a recipe from the Mountain Rose Herbs catalogs (because they have recipes in there --- teas, foods, medicines, candies, you name it!).

We are taking a short break from the Montessori lessons while I create the follow-up cards for the upper elementary portions - I want him to work on these sections from the beginning, rather than what he's been doing (reviewing the lower elementary follow-up cards for typos and logic).

We played Act Your Wage again today and discussed some variations to try out next time. I'll post how all that goes ;)

I then assigned him some real life word problems of a sort, using our home finances as the foundation. It is amazing the insights he comes up with by "handing over" the finances to him. Not that he is really doing our home finances, but allowing him real life participation in real numbers and real situations, he sometimes comes up with ideas or asks just the right question to get me thinking of something better. And he finds the applicable Scripture passages when it comes to certain situations as well. He is the one to coin the phrase I have used a lot frequently: "the wife is to increase what the husband provides for the family". Well, that is perhaps a topic for our Catholic Hearts blog, but it ties in so well with our Montessori studies of real life, real experiences, inter-connecting all areas of school and life.

With these word problems, he has been looking at basic interest rates, savings rates, expenses, ways to expand our budget, etc. Utilizing both math skills, as well as logic, problem solving and ethics.

As an upper elementary student he is really delving into exploring the various beliefs about the origins of the earth and the early history of humankind. Last year, he explored various creation myths from around the world; he wants to get that book again from the library - I will post about when we do because it is recommended in the elementary Montessori albums and he wants to create some sort of analysis of the similarities amongst each one, as well as the differences - then see what those differences have to do with the culture the story came from.

Today he read a chapter from a book he has on Creation vs. Evolution.

We finally had our discussion on what a debate is, how it works, no winners/losers yet how we can analyze a person's evidence as well as the presentation of that evidence. Look at the questions still unanswered and how many debates prompt people to do their own research.
All of this ties into his earth origins studies, because of the recent Nye/Ham debate (the link is creation perspective but I am short on time and can't find a link without a "bias") - we own the DVD - I watched part of it online but didn't have time to finish. We'll be watching the debate soon, tracking the evidence each one puts forth and see how well each one does in responding to the other.