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.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Elementary Montessori Videos - and Foster Care

I have dropped from the blogging world for a while now. We've been busy!

The elementary Montessori homeshool videos are finally being posted - little by little! I have the first set of videos posted to the Keys of the Universe course site. I am NOT happy with the quality, but it comes down to getting them out there and moving forward; or being so perfectionistic (my typical personality trait) that they NEVER get posted. Well, that and my son can't decide if he is a Dalek, a Muppet, or a Human Boy. ;)



We (I say "we" because Legoboy attended 2 days of it with me) attended a math workshop with Michael Waski, the author of the Montessori Algebra for the Adolescent album. Oh LOVED IT!

And, last but certainly not least - we are officially opening our home to foster care. Oh what am I getting myself into!? I have been confident of the choice right up to getting my fingerprints taken - the moment I received the letter saying my fingerprints are in the clear, I started on the "what if" scenarios.

All the more umph to get those videos posted and ensure that Legoboy's education is on firm ground.



As part of his own foster care journey, Legoboy has been taking a few online-only courses through the American Red Cross. A family adult and pediatric first aid/cpr course - and a babysitting course.

The babysitting course: Though he will never be babysitting a foster child or ever left alone with them, we both agreed it was good for him to understand the type of basic care a young child needs. He has been around young children and even done some babysitting, but this is all going to be so much more intense and personal - and longer-term. The course is also providing him some activity ideas - things he can do with the younger children, to guide his interactions with them.

Together we did the Bloodborne Pathogens course - a requirement for me and good knowledge for him.

Then we went in to do the in-person portion of my own CPR/First Aid/AED course - the one that the state is paying for? I managed to do the online portion despite all the changes since the last time I was fully certified and multiple computer issues. Drove an hour and a half (check the map next time, seriously) for a 2 hour class... I had what was going to become a bad cold coming on and was a bit grouchy from the long drive... and it turns out the lady running it also does the in-person babysitting courses (used to working with 11 year olds), two participants didn't show up, so she invited Legoboy to practice on the dummies as well. He did better than the rest of us! No certificate since he didn't sign up and I still didn't think to ask what the minimum age is. The fact he has essentially done the whole certification process successfully (with or without a certificate), made it all worth it!

I do believe that all children should know some basic first aid and have some basic emergency skills: basic self-defense, safety awareness, how to cleanse and bandage a wound, when to call 911, how to check if someone even needs 911, that sort of thing.

Moving into adolescence, a part of their biology studies should definitely include a more full-blown CPR and First Aid study; childcare/babysitting/basic child development (regardless of babysitting or younger siblings - this just helps them to know where they came from and incites respect for all people); routine experiences with both active and inactive elderly; and basic home remedies for common non-life-threatening ailments. These are basic life skills that much of our society has forgotten.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Grammar Boxes in Action

Montessori Grammar boxes in action in a home setting - no particular order :)

Our original storage: Each filer box contents in an envelope; all envelopes stored in a larger envelope. Command cards and any additional exercises in their own envelopes (commands cards are paperclipped into smaller groups inside the envelope). All envelopes stored in a mail holder or small basket next to the grammar box. Takes up FAR less space ;)
Would prefer plastic pouches. 

Introducing grammar box 2 - before introducing the name of the part of speech. 

Symbolizing with the grammar symbols. Not a color match because the cards are different colors! 

Legos come in handy. 

And we take a creative break ;) 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Longevity of Montessori: Mathematics

The Montessori approach meets the needs of children where they are at - both collectively and individually. Therefore, it is an approach that meets the needs of ALL children. The only limitation is the preparedness of the adult to meet those needs ;)

A recent post at introduces this concept as it applies to primary (3-6) and elementary (6-12). Montessori is Developmental

Even in our material,

Let's look at math specifically - just some highlights: 

With infants and toddlers, we do a lot of natural one-to-one correspondence. Few toys, each that belongs in a particular place. Matching activities in sizes, shapes, colors. Helping to set the meal-table using a diagram of what goes where.

We can also give the language of numbers (counting), and children love language at this age, so most do pick up on counting numbers, although they typically skip a few numbers or repeat a few sequences ;)

Primary Mathematics:
While we don't typically start math in primary until around age 4, we begin with a few materials that extend into primary mathematics as well as into use at elementary and adolescence. Sensorial and Mathematics materials are both noted here:
  • Red rods - extend into the number rods 
  • All the groups of ten we have extend into the decimal system
  • Pink Tower and Brown Stair can be used in geometry at elementary
  • Binomial Cube and Trinomial Cube (elementary and adolescence)
  • Geometry Cabinet and Solids (elementary)
  • Golden beads (elementary and adolescence)
  • Bead Cabinet and contents (elementary and portions in adolescence)
  • Snake games (if you purchase the negative snake game, it includes all you need for primary as well as elementary and adolescence)
  • Decanomial bead bar box (elementary and adolescence)
  • Stamp game (elementary and adolescence)
  • Short Division with Racks and Tubes becomes Long Division with Racks and Tubes (elementary)

Common Threads: 
  • Place value color-coding remains consistent throughout all levels - into the checkerboards that are the visualization of the multiplication process, the bank game (just numbered cards, no beads), and more.
  • The bead cabinet colors also remain consistent through all levels - even into the solid wood blocks of the cubing material that is used in elementary and adolescence. 

Additional posts of interest:

Toddler Exercises of Practical Life

All Montessori Trails posts on Mathematics

Mathematics Logic Game from Wff'n Proof

Review post on Adolescent Algebra Album

And that, dear friends, is today's show ;) 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Getting Started with Elementary Montessori Homeschooling - 10 Steps

Getting Started with Elementary Montessori Homeschooling

Useful tips for starting a new classroom or transitioning in new-to-Montessori children as well.
Over the years, there have been numerous blog posts and other articles helping parents get started with Montessori homeschooling; most of these articles are addressed to the primary (ages 3-6) level; a very few to elementary (ages 6-12). None really get to the heart of the matter. Dr. Montessori intensely observed the child and his inner workings, observing what has been there since the moment of creation - and found a way to provide for what she discovered. On the one hand, nothing magical; on the other hand, so profound that it affects our very being - because that is what she observed - the depth of the human soul. Thus Montessori is about so much more than materials and lesson plans (album pages), more than the academics... it gets down deep into the child's being, thus the environment MUST reflect this depth in order to achieve the true fulfillment of the child.
Elementary is compatible with primary, if you have children of both ages in your home; but it is NOT the same. The needs and tendencies are the same, the core response is the same (respect, follow the child), but the outward signs are different. Why? Because the elementary child is now in the second plane of development, which brings about a set of changes. A need for order? Yes! but order has now been internalized and the child no longer feels the need to keep order in his outer environment - now we must be very conscious about keeping our space cleaned up out of respect for the other persons in the environment and not for our own internal development. Among many other examples.
So how do we get started with Montessori homeschooling at the elementary level? What if your child has had no Montessori background or is even approaching the adolescent years. Let's take a look at what remains the same. First some previously posted articles of interest that remain pertinent to our needs in this article - these apply to both primary and elementary, with my elementary additions:
Thoughts to keep in mind as you FOCUS ON THE KEYS: 
    • A set of Montessori albums (manuals, lesson plans) will be your "keys" - your academic teasers to get the children working on their own interests. 
    • The children should be exploring their own interests; and you will need to pull in resources according to those interests.
    • You do NOT need the most expensive manuals with every possible interest included. You want something reasonably-priced with the *keys* so that you have both time and money to do what you need to do with your child's interests.
    • You WANT a theory album to explain all the background in every day applicable terms.
    • The elementary level is OPPOSITE the primary level in the following key ways:
        1. If the child is not yet reading/writing, reading will typically come first. (in primary, writing was first)
        2. We will now provide the BIG picture first; then go back and fill in the details. We will provide that big picture every single year of elementary - so there is plenty of time to come back to it; they don't need to get everything the first year. (in primary, we start with the most basic) - Cosmic Education (everything is inter-connected) - the big picture is told via stories called the Great Lessons. 
        3. It is NOT necessary to finish the primary albums before moving into elementary, if you have AMI (keys) albums that provide for what to do with children who didn't finish or didn't do primary Montessori.
So how do I suggest getting started with elementary Montessori homeschooling?
(these tips are good regardless if you are new to Montessori altogether or are transitioning from primary to elementary or even if your children are nearing or even in adolescence)
  1. Follow the steps in the two articles above - and READ. This is just to get started in laying the foundation. Add in the book Volume 2 of The Advanced Montessori Method (available free online through Google Books) - just the background portions to get a feel for things. Also add in Child of the World from Susan Stephenson. Purchase your core set of albums, or at least the "theory" album. Hint: if the set of albums does not contain theory, it probably won't suit your homeschool needs at this time; these other album options can be added later if you find your child has particular interests. 
  2. Focus on de-cluttering your home. Don't get rid of anything just yet (you'll end up wanting some of that stuff back) - just clear it out of the main living areas. Do get it out of the way - what is the purpose(s) of each room, just have what you need there. You do not need 5 tools to do the same job. You do want your children to have access to the tools they need. Consider placing strong chemicals in a high-up cabinet so that the accessible cabinets contain safe items. Consider replacing your cleaning chemicals with safe substances your children can use with you.
  3. IF you are transitioning from primary, you will be removing a LOT of trays (or keep the trays for your other littles). The elementary child now has things he needs in more logical places. Science experiments are only trays for the teacher demonstration, and when the child goes to the supply shelf to gather his needed supplies. He does NOT need everything laid out for him on a tray anymore. Trays at the elementary age, for the most part, are an insult to his intelligence. Yes, a nice basket of interesting items, requested by the child or presented once in a while by the adult is a great way to entice an interest, but that doesn't look like primary ;)
  4. WITH your children, make any necessary repairs on found items. These practical life skills are HUGE to the foundation of an elementary child's education. And a very strong preparation for a fantastic adolescent experience.
  5. WITH your children, truly clean the house. Same idea with the practical life skills. Use those safe cleaners (white vinegar, baking soda and citric acid go a LONG way; add some washing soda and borax and 99% of your cleaning is done). Use those large muscles and those tiny muscles. CARE about the environment and show them how to do so as well.
  6. On your cleaning breaks: Begin telling the Great Lessons. Just the stories, with the included experiments. You'll pull your supplies from what you have, only buy what you  need for these lessons.
  7. Work on remedial language skills IF needed. 5 minutes at a time, interspersed throughout the day - the needed keys should be in your elementary Montessori language album. The ideal is that a 1st grader can read at what the public schools consider a 3rd grade reading level. By 2nd grade, a Montessori child utilizing KEYS, will be reading at middle/high school level and your only concern from there is keeping up with maturity in regards to topics.
  8. Where do your children's interests lead? Establish the pattern of hearing a story, exploring what we think about it, what entices us, what questions do we have (write those questions down and expect them to find answers, sometimes with your help), what do we want to DO with this new knowledge (write that down too). The children can copy the chart, re-create the charts in another way, repeat experiments, seek out further information on a key point of interest.... If they have more than one idea, write down the other ideas to save for another day. Encourage a point of completion - write down the question and the answer found; draw pictures; collect ideas in a notebook; create a poster; etc. Around this time you will also be starting to work on work plans and journals - as you are comfortable and find the need for accountability, it will come more naturally. Not every story or presentation will lead to self-designed follow-up; be ok with that, but also be encouraging of the child asking questions, going further, and EXPLORING. 
  9. (this step might be a month or more in) With your chosen set of albums, go through the early math lessons to find where your child is. Keep it fun and interesting - let your child show you what they know. Let them know this is what you are doing (show a material, state its purpose and say, "show me what you know, I'll fill in the rest"). Do NOT worry about the age on the album pages when you are starting - just focus on finding where your child is since the sequence is very different from every other math option out there. Begin where needed and move forward from there. Hint: Good elementary math albums include a section on what to do with children who have had no (or limited) primary experience. Do not start a typically developing elementary child in the primary math album.
  10. Getting into the rest of the albums. By now, you should find that you are using most or at least half of the subject albums based on the child's interests (geography, music, biology, history) and the basic skills (math, language, geometry). Add in the remaining subjects when appropriate for your family.
There you have it: 10 Steps to Elementary Montessori Homeschooling.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Changing School Spaces

Well, I'm doing it.

Didn't think I would.
the old living room

It will be an experiment.

Since 2008, my son and I have lived in an 800 square foot apartment (advertised as 850, but I couldn't mever find the other 50 square feet...) - the bathroom was huge, the master bedroom walk-in closet housed clothing for both us and storage of typical storage stuff, it was that big; the kitchen was awful, tiny and dark ---- so you can imagine the rest of the apartment. Just not that much space. And we did Montessori at home, in full. Legoboy had the very small bedroom and for a while we had materials in there (clothes in the master bedroom closet; doors on his closet removed for more space; a small couch as his bed because he fit it). The living room was actually decent size but housed our dining area (kitchen too small to breathe - long, narrow, dark) as well. The master bedroom was a library, sewing room, wood-supplies storage, and eventually I just stopped sleeping in there!
the new basement - a small portion of it ;)
is bigger than our old living room!

For 2 1/2 years many of our Montessori materials were at our local parish's old school building - we rented space to run a co-op there.

Then we brought it all back home and I didn't do much sharing with other people, because it was just so impossible to re-integrate with everything else happening in life.

In 2014 - end of September - we finally found a HOUSE to rent in our area. It is amazing how quickly we integrated to house living. We could BREATHE! (figuratively and literally) - and I could vacuum at 11:00 at night when needed (won't be disturbing the neighbors!). Now, I hardly think about the apartments, I have half-forgotten our address, despite living there just over 6 years. It just wasn't living in the way he and I flourish (we have a good friend who lives in the same building - it works for their family - that's awesome)

Our new home: 
We have 3 bedrooms - one large and one small upstairs and 1 "medium" on the main floor. We also have a separate room without a closet or a door that currently serves as our dining room and sewing room. We have a large enough living room, an average size square, sunny kitchen (with a red sink! haha), an entry way, a hallway that looks like Elsa's ice palace, a normal size bathroom (no more keeping our easel in the bathroom!) with those thick stone glass bricks for a "window" - it is SUNNY!

Our upstairs landing holds the keyboard and music supplies; as well as games. The upstairs bedrooms are going to be a girls' room and a boys' room - one of the *many* large closets upstairs is actually large enough to be a small bedroom and is Legoboy's "lego cave".

The basement (we have a basement!) has three sections - the back-section has the heater/a/c, a wood-cutting area, the washing machine, freezer, a shower (?) and under-stair storage. The middle section is Legoboy's taekwondo/workout area with a large front section empty... The far side of the basement had a long very narrow room (about as narrow as our old kitchen, but longer!) with a pantry at one end and the other end I removed the wall to convert an old wood-working area into a painting area.

Our yard - we have a decent size garden, plants on the porch, two driveways; we are getting chickens and bees in the spring; we have a few maples (some died this past winter :( ) for maple syrup.... more plans ;) And we back up to the home of two beautiful chestnut horses!

So the "medium" bedroom on the main floor. My original intentions:

  • closet holds toys
  • set the main portion of the room as a full library
  • child work table
  • school supplies
Extend some school into the rest of the home. 

This has been working just "eh, ok" for the visitors - and I am finding I really want each room to have its specific purpose (could be more than one purpose) and not be moving things all the time (getting toys out for visitors is ok).

I also need a bedroom of my own before I officially open my home to foster children. 

Then I  brought home a TON of my atrium materials - and if I don't want to use the upstairs bedrooms, they need to go somewhere....

So - I have been hemming and hawing about moving the school room downstairs to the basement; keep the library but make it my bedroom too. I really wanted school stuff on the main floor - no going elsewhere for it (out of sight, out of mind). But honestly?

  • My son is 11 - upper elementary and approaching adolescence - he just doesn't use the Montessori materials as often anymore. What he needs, he is quite capable of going to GET. 
  • Starting with foster care, it would be best to have the materials in a special place - this is where I *can* bring out some specific things for the foster children as they get used to being here (and may only be here temporarily anyway), rather than take a chance of having many things destroyed by a child who has gone through severe emotional trauma (I would rather they rip apart books which we can repair together) then cut up Montessori language materials that are harder for a child to help repair without completely replacing (I would want to teach the right example of lasting consequences). 
  • Our visiting co-op/tutoring children are here for a specific purpose anyway. 
  • If we set it up right in the basement, things can be covered when not in use (a good idea anyway, since my son doesn't use them on a daily basis anymore), thus protected from taekwondo use ;) but when we have children over, they can use the softer gymnastics mats to sit on with work mats. 
This allows me to get a futon for the library - a bed for me as-is, a comfy couch for the daytime, a bigger bed for overnight guests (Joshua's godparents!).

So --- 
  • I can have a schoolroom in the open area of the basement, put some things on casters (IKEA sells casters that are already mounted at either end of a support bar!) and close/open up areas according to who is visiting and utilizing the space. 
  • I can have the library as a quiet place; doubling as my sleeping area at night.
  • The living room can mostly remain a living area, bringing out toys when appropriate. 
I have just really enjoyed having an empty space... ;) 

Shelving has been ordered for downstairs; as elementary Montessori videos finish up, I am moving the elementary materials down there.

The futon is in place - needs a cover so it is easier to keep clean.  

I will post more pictures when we are done!