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 17, 2012

Etymology - and Dictionaries

Our family has not yet found the all-time personal favorite in etymological dictionaries, but that does not slow the love of learning the origin of words!

Just ask any boy to study the history of the word 'toilet' - he'll be so disappointed (but have fun along the way!). Or what about calling it a 'john'? In this area, we can actually let our boys have a bit of "potty-talk" and work it out of their systems!

Then connect those words to modern usage in a variety of languages: toilet in our language; eau de toilette in the French. The French call the bathroom a WC (water closet - an English phrase - but why "water closet" to begin with?) while the British use a French term.... I'm not giving any more hints ;)

Amazon Affiliate Link to Etymological Dictionaries

A quick glance at that list reveals MANY options. You can even study Hebrew etymology in the Bible (fascinating even for non-Christians - what does the Bible really say?).

The best bet for finding one your family or classroom will like and use is to go to a bookstore and actually flip through them. Look for words you may have concerns regarding, especially considering lower elementary children. What will entice your children?

In the end, you may find yourself purchasing 2 or 3 to provide a variety of viewpoints and styles, or even ages.

What are you looking for?

  • usability
  • readability
  • suitable maturity level (some are meant for adults; some are actually intended for immature older people)
  • balanced viewpoint
  • provides language origin (and trace if the word jumped through languages), part of speech, and description
  • illustrations are less important, but nice to have for certain clarifications
  • cite their sources (sadly, many are missing this - so one wonders if the book can be trusted - remember, we want the children to go to original sources as much as possible, so they need to see the trail back to the source whenever possible)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

AMI Albums - Framework vs. Every Detail

I am asked a LOT why AMI albums don't seem to have as much information as, let's say, the NAMC albums. And why would I choose the "stripped-down" version for our homeschool when my son obviously craves to learn SO MUCH.

All those impressionistic charts - and timelines
Well.... admittedly, it was not at first a conscious decision. However, I can say this: my sons craves to learn so much because *I* do not give him every detail. Because our albums are *not* the only source of information. He cannot learn all that he wants or need from me - and he doesn't even need me (or my albums) to tell him what to study next and at what age. If I knew back when, what I know now, I would saved so much headache reviewing other albums!

Mathematics and Language are closer to what people expect with lots of details. Language does not include "writing assignments" as much as guidance on setting up an environment (both physical and psychological) that integrates writing into all components of the child's day and provides guidelines for what to look for at which ages. I love the follow-up on one album page to write a paragraph in active voice, then re-write it in passive voice. But that is a follow-up - not the main presentation - and should be an inspiration to the child, not a mundane exercise.

History and Geography though - these are frameworks - and they continue to cycle back around on each other so that new studies are done every year, prompted by the child's interconnected interests and the adults continued presentations of "tidbits" here and there to spurn that interest on. I give the presentations, using an enticing voice; then I provide the necessary materials for repetition, exploration and research, and away soars my son's imagination! He ends up learning everything this is set up as "required" in other Montessori albums, with the complete freedom to go DEEP.

He is years ahead on some topics; right on par on some; and "behind" the guidelines in others.

And that is exactly where he needs to be right NOW! :)

Provide the right environment, provide the right support, and don't waste a child's time with something that he is likely to study on his own next month, but with the benefit of it being connected with his own most recent studies.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Montessori Astronomy

Something you do not hear me say often at all: "In today's world, we have some needs that are different from Montessori's time and AMI has yet to fully catch up in this regard." (that is the FIRST time I have publicly said those words!). I do not speak here of calculators in the classroom, or computers, or technology at all - at least directly. I do speak of a preparation for particular studies which Montessori said nothing about - because she had no idea that such a short time after her death, human beings would actually LEAVE the planet Earth, even walk on the moon itself. The race to the moon began after her death.

Astronomy is supposed to be part of the AMI elementary Montessori geography album - but honestly, I don't see it. The tiny bit where it actually could be introduced - it was removed! (not by Montessori) There is a chart that shows the planets in their orbits that used to be part of the Story of God with no Hands. It was removed to focus on other details; however the chart is still available for when the children are doing follow-ups with the story or they hear the story again and begin to ask questions about the other planets.
(UPDATE to clarify: If you are sitting there in an AMI training, you will pick up on the nuances where astronomy comes in - what I state here is about separating myself from that training and seeing what is *actually* present in the albums as they stand. So I can use these albums and "get to" astronomy by following the various interests of the children, because I am trained; the albums alone don't "get there".).

But I never got around to actually doing that planets chart with my son - he found astronomy another way: through HISTORY. He was studying the Ancient Egyptians (including a bit on their form of worship and understanding about how the sun moves through the sky), which led to studying their interactions with other cultures, such as the Ancient Greeks and the Ancient Romans, which led to discovering a real beautiful book (whose title escapes me!) about gods, goddesses and... constellations. He was HOOKED.

So we have read through portions of H.A. Rey's books on astronomy (yes, that is the Curious George author!); we looked at the night sky, the day sky; got out the Target dollar flashcards on astronomy; pulled out the cheap-o telescope that came with our original cheap-o microscope (that both worked great! go figure!); signed up for the Classical Astronomy newsletter (free, but now defunct); and got in on the first and only few issues of the Celestial Almanack. We did pull in a curriculum to use, but we used it as "story-time" and developed our own follow-up activities (many of which matched the suggested activities anyway): Signs and Seasons. We also purchased from the same company the sun-shades so we could safely view the sun during daytime hours, a comic book style book on time and astronomy, and their book Moonfinder which is gorgeous!
Not an affiliate link -
just a book we love :) 

What I appreciate about this curriculum is that the author speaks to real people who live in a real time and place; not writing just to write. And he focuses on what the children can experience for themselves: viewing the night and day sky with the naked eye, or at most with a pair of binoculars. Studying the sky in a way that our ancestors would have; connecting us with the first people to look at the stars and wonder; to piece together the patterns and establish what we now knows as time, rhythms, seasons. From these we have mathematics, history, geometry, languages, and more. True Cosmic Education.

Thus inspired, I began piecing together a Montessori astronomy study, that should not become the be-all-end-all in Montessori astronomy, but be a framework of keys to provide the children.

I am still fine-tuning it - to be sure it is a framework, that it provides the keys needed by the children of today who may have a father on the space station, or an uncle on the upcoming manned mission to Mars. Perhaps one of our children will be setting up a colony on the moon or even on Mars.

AMI albums provide keys. A beautiful framework. Nothing peripheral; so that the children can go in any direction they need to, with all tools accessible to them, and the adults are neither hindered by bulky album presentations nor hinder the children's work with handing over too much information.

While AMI albums do not address astronomy at all at the primary level, I do think it totally appropriate to introduce the phases of the moon (see the Moonfinder book!) and some of the basic constellations - as well as the rhthyms of day and night, seasons, weather patterns - these things are important because they happen to the children - they are things the child can see and experience.

I personally would not suggest discussing planets with a primary child, because it's just that: discussion. They can't SEE the planets (at least in any way different to them from seeing a star - they all look like stars to them).

But at elementary we can get into the beautiful details!