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.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Small Home Montessori - Elementary - What we're doing



The space:
We have an 850 square foot apartment with a large bathroom and a tiny kitchen. Yeah, they could have shifted that space!

Legoboy has the smaller of the two bedrooms (less than 1/3 of less than 1/2 the apartment); I have the master bedroom (the full third end of the apartment (including the walk-in closet).

History:
We had primary set up in Legoboy's bedroom; his clothes went to my closet (on a lower rack on wheels; he has the bottom half of the dresser which is also in the closet). There was a small couch in his room for his bed. I removed the closet doors to extend the space, placing the map cabinet in the closet, with shelving above and behind it.

We even had the bells in there:
IKEA shelf (no longer sell that particular one :( ) on side
placed on top of a coffee table
Sensorial materials below.
The mess above is stuff I swapped up/down. 

My bedroom was/is the library (umpteen shelves), sewing room, and holds my bed. The tops of the bookcases and the shelves in the closet are "storage", which right now equates to empty boxes because we have been trying to move into a house for the last 6+ years.

The hallway had a rack with science supplies; the lower cupboards in the kitchen contained items for Legoboy's use (practical life, dishes, etc.). The bathroom has the art easel and 2 sets of drawers of art supplies.

As we entered elementary, we were slowing adding and replacing the primary materials, but then moved our whole set-up to the local school building to offer a Montessori homeschool co-op, which last some time. We brought materials back and forth as needed; not ideal, but allowed us to have some space at home to get through some other projects. Now we have had to move everything back home and, well, we've just not fully set up. We get out what we need, when we need it. Much less than ideal (less visual options as reminders) but now we are in upper elementary, we need the materials less and less anyway.


So what have we done for elementary?
The classroom sized charts and other large flat items are in the living room closet.

Side by side shelving in Legoboy's room allows us to store items while allowing him to keep his couch-bed, desk and plethora of bookcases.
I can't find the photo of this room off-hand. I will add it if I remember to do so before this posts goes live ;)


Science supplies are in a kitchen cupboard. The hallway has been replaced with the keyboard and our huge 5-gallon bucket of coconut oil. Looking closely you can see we have two maps on the wall (a world map and a US cloth map made by Legoboy with a print from Joann Fabric); two space posters; a globe; art/writing supplies in the far back corner. And this area connects his bedroom, my bedroom, the bathroom and kitchen; I am standing in the living room to take the photo. And the dictionary because he was "hiding" it from me - the whole thing about hiding stuff in plain sight. Yep.



I keep thinking it is all temporary as we look for a rental (you'd have to know the area to understand why this is taking forever), but reality is, he's 10 now. Yes I want to offer a co-op of sorts when we move into a house, but he himself is coming to the end of most of these materials anyway. My heart is breaking and joyful at the same time - that tug of not wanting him to grow up yet, but seeing the wonderful young man he is becoming. :)


But all these materials? 
I totally GET the folks who consider the multiplicity of materials compared to living a simple lifestyle. Not wanting our children to live an indulgenced lifestyle where they get all these expensive (or time-consuming materials) all to themselves. Or to have a tightly filled home when Montessori herself promoted simplicity, beauty in sparsity. My home right now is not the ideal. But it is not Montessori materials cluttering it up. It is all of my own unfinished projects. It continues to improve and I love every inch of free space and time we have as projects finish up; it is a long uphill battle from clingy to clutter-FREE. Montessori HELPED! ;)


My balance to those concerns that I also share?
The joy in sharing these materials with others in one fashion or another certainly goes a long way. We have these blessings, we share them. With local children via co-op and tutoring, with the blogging world, with other homeschool parents wanting to do Montessori at home.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Montessori Elementary Art Album

Montessori Elementary Art Album
http://gardenoffrancis.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=27_24&products_id=274


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 every.single.day 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:
http://keysoftheuniverse.com/albums/ (click on the title of the Art album)

The art album is packaged with the music album here:
http://keysoftheuniverse.com/elementary/course/view.php?id=71
with Online Support (access to discussion community, downloadable materials, resource sharing, etc.) here:
http://keysoftheuniverse.com/elementary/course/view.php?id=65

Or individually at Garden of Francis:
to print or download: http://gardenoffrancis.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=27_24&products_id=274
to download: http://gardenoffrancis.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=27_24&products_id=268