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.

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Montessori Elementary Material: Sort of a Review

Here is a list of all required Montessori reading for the various AMI training centers around North America.

Of these books, you will see that many are required reading for both primary and elementary; some are just for elementary. Of the elementary required books, the one I find the absolute most practical for us homeschooling moms is The Advanced Montessori Method Volume 2: The Montessori Elementary Material.

Yes, I tout those theory albums to no end - because even with all the reading out there, every single AMI Montessori trainee must still compile a theory album for each level. Why? Because the theory album is so crucial.

But it is not the only piece of the puzzle. Coupled with the theory album is reading the words of Maria Montessori herself.

While a full set of albums with complete album pages (presentations) is still a necessity, this book helps to put those presentations in a "practical light". The Advanced Montessori Method Volume 2 provides a *fantastic* transition from primary to elementary, outlining an almost seamless transition from the use of the AMI primary albums into the use of the AMI elementary albums.

It outlines the main materials used in the following areas:

  • Language: The main thrust of the lower and upper elementary materials is described here. Word Study, Parts of Speech, Sentence Analysis, Word Classification.
  • Reading: Mechanical process; Analysis. It even includes a section on "reading aloud" - how the child is given a set of booklets (the text for some of the booklets is included!) to read to himself, and only when he is ready, he reads aloud with gusto and confidence. If a child has been in the primary Montessori with AMI albums, these booklets are actually quite appropriate for kindergarten as well as the 1st grade. The subject of the first book is "Children's House", thus implying kindergarten.
  • Mathematics and Geometry: the transitional materials from primary into lower elementary; as well as some upper elementary. It is important to note that the area of mathematics was fleshed out much more after the original publication of this book, when Mario joined his mother in this work. Thus mathematics is one area I say, "Focus on the transition from primary into elementary with this book; then you will be much more confident to apply the album pages from the full elementary mathematics and geometry albums."
  • Drawing: Art is an important part of human life and of education. It is a direct fundamental need of humans - under the title of "veritas." It has a fantastic, to-the-point chapter on getting the basics of artwork covered.
  • Music and Metrics: These two chapters help the "untrained Montessorian" and even the trained ones (!) to really understand the basic foundation of the music area.
This book is straight-forward, yet rather conversational in nature. I love the tone of this book over anything that came out of my AMI training ;)

Almost the best aspect of this book is the inclusions of materials - contents of booklets, contents of the grammar boxes (via a translator, so modified for English usage), and more.

If I could only choose ONE book to go along with a full set of elementary albums (including theory!), THIS book would be IT!

And the best part!? If you are willing to read it on a screen, you can get the original publication for FREE.
(The Clio version of this books appears to have been drastically modified - I could be wrong, so someone please let me know if they have the new Clio version and can compare to this free online version to see if they are the same - I would SO appreciate it!)

I personally own the 1973 Schocken version - a complete re-print of the Google archived version, minus the first photo and a list of included photos. All other photos are included.

Now, The Advanced Montessori Method is also very good; it reads more as the theory, background, philosophy... where Volume 2 is the more practical materials-application.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Patterns in Homeschooling

Over our years of using the Montessori approach both in schools and in our homeschooling, we have found some patterns emerging:

We always start our "new school year" with the Church's new liturgical year - the first Sunday of Advent (4 Sundays before Christmas). This is a time of new beginnings and lends itself well (for us) to the avoidance of burn-out that others experience much more strongly. We also school year-round, so we have natural rhythms and breaks that allow us to take advantage of various opportunities without compromising the integrity of our homeschooling.


Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego? (Board Game)Thanksgiving and into Christmas and January precipitates a season of "games" - board games, dice games, card games. We always re-institute our "game-night" which we fall away from in the summer time. Strategy, logic, etc. A recent discovery at our favorite kids' game store (Once Upon a Child) yielded up "Where in the United States is Carmen San Diego?" - and suddenly Legoboy actually *cares* about learning US geography and history ;) He gets a kick out of the time-traveling agents!

By February, we are back to a LOT more hand-work such as crafting, crochet, weaving, and the like.

While we really hit the botany album HARD every single spring, we typically start the basic presentations and experiments again every Christmas-time. We have a south-facing balcony, with sliding glass doors; thus we have a very sunny living room in the winter time as long as it's not too cloudy. When it is cloudy, we still have a rather light living room space because the sun is still in that direction! The situation of our building on a hill allows the sun to rise in our window, shine all day, and set in our window. Can't beat that! This arrangement allows us to work on those "experiments" (this year, we are adding a lot more that he came up with himself or that were found in various books) in more focused isolation; then in the spring-time we can work on the main things we want to grow. Admittedly, our indoor tomatoes grow better in the winter-time than our summer outdoors ones - just because of the sun!

We tend to work on school more intensely on the bad weather days - super-hot and no fun to be outside; or super-cold/windy and I refuse to drive anywhere. These are the days we get the most school work done (and the days I get the most business work done!).

While we "plan" to do school 6 days a week, just to keep up the routine, in the end, we really "officially" do school more like 3 days a week. School gets done on those other days because there are certain projects that count as school or are extensions to previous presentations. I guess I say it's a school day if *I* have done something with him directly or have checked something off of a list. But he does school-related projects every day of the week. When we sit down every week or two weeks to go over the current work-plan, and set up the next week or two weeks' worth, we always find areas that we no longer have to "plan" because he already moved into those areas.

Autumn is our time for food preparation and looking at those home-making skills that every child learn. So we have the canning and the freezing of the jams, sauces, meats, etc. The food preparation and baking continues well into the winter time.

Summer-time is the time for him to get out his "boy-books" - carving walking-sticks, tracking weather patterns, cooking with the sun, preparing foods for long hikes and long camping trips. Legoboy has not yet been on a long camping trip, but he's been making sure he's ready!

Advent and Lent are always times for a focused study of our faith, though we have atrium and other studies throughout the year. This Advent we studied a Jesse Tree sequence in-depth. Lent 2012 we did an in-depth Psalms study.

School-work and other projects have a much higher intensity of work, completion rate and satisfaction rate when our home is de-cluttered and organized. Always. Every time.

Advent and Lent, as well as mid-summer seem to be our seasonal times to clean up and ship out. Transitioning from one time of year to another and we want to be prepared.

Daily Lego time. He *needs* daily Lego time ;)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Schooling Posts Return in January

I am putting this up early to stop myself from scheduling any posts during the Christmas Triduum - at least academic ones ;)

You'll be busy with your families anyway! And you might have some time to catch up on past blog posts!

During this time, I might post some of our other Montessori-inspired activities. We'll see!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Telling Time - Reading Clocks - Montessori Style

Telling time is one area of Montessori that throws me. And going to both AMI primary and AMI elementary training didn't really help rid of me of my annoyance in this area! ;)

In primary, we were told it was elementary work - talk about time in general; talk about the clock; have a calendar; etc. but no formal presentation and I don't think clock-work is mentioned anywhere in my AMI primary albums at all. It's elementary work right?

Well, I get on to elementary and while they have a presentation for the parts of the clock and a tiny bit more, we were told to presume that primary children had already had this work!


Anyhow, I am happy to share all of my work with YOU all. I developed this work based on experiments and observation with my tutoring children and my own son. What I have here is suitable for children who can recognize numbers. I do not claim this is the perfect and the only way to teach time; I am only saying it worked for us. There are SO MANY great and wonderful activities available for various ages - what I find is that some are more "key" than others - so I present the keys, and let the children show me where they want to go with it. I know they have the foundation and the framework and the tools to do their own decorating ;)
(vanitas - a fundamental human need and a human tendency towards perfecting oneself and one's environment by personalizing it).

12/15/2014: UPDATE: I have been told by many that this is too simplistic - not enough "work" here for the children. I counter with "Is it not enough work for the child - or is it not enough work for YOU?" We want to focus on the keys - so the children have time/space to explore AND have something to discover. Most children don't need every single step outlined for them - if they do and they are typically developing children, then they have been accustomed to having everything handed to them, with little room for personal thoughts of their own. I don't say that to judge or be cruel, but to point out a reality: that children take advantage of their human tendency for exploration when they are given the opportunity - and if they no longer have this tendency EVER, something happened TO them. To not have an interest in a particular subject, that is fine and normal - if it is truly a key experience, they will come back to it.

Thus we focus on the KEYS to exploration and discovery; providing real life key experiences, then the follow-ups either happen or we introduce them in bits later. Do everything with time all at once, the child will later say, "Oh I've learned all about that topic, I am done now." rather than coming back to it again and again and again as we actually want them to do.

Concerned about doing math with clocks? The elementary mathematics album includes work with non-decimal bases so the math is easily done there; also the history album and geometry album get into circles, degrees, history of Babylon, clocks, etc.
(note: that non-decimal base presentation? has no materials - at least no new materials (it uses the decanomial bead bars and the bead cabinet squares and cubes --- and a VERY easily hand-drawn chart)

(end update)

We start with this clock:
Open/Close doors for the digital time
Digital time corresponds to the analog time
Analog hands actually coordinate with one another
ANGST 1: it only counts by 5s in the digital
ANGST 2: it is a 24 hour clock (13:00 for 1:00 PM)
Neither angst are deal-breakers
1) the children get the main concept here
and apply the details elsewhere
2) perfect way to teach that the day is 24 hours -
which is a PM and AM elementary presentation anyway!

Another bonus about that clock? The hour hand coordinates with the hour numbers in color; the minute hand with the minute, which brings me to my first MAIN KEY:
  • I tell the children, "The hour is shorter and reaches for the big number that is closer; the minute hand is longer and stretching BEHIND those big numbers to the little numbers in the back - THAT is where we get the numbers for each hand."
  • Without this piece, the rest doesn't make any sense or doesn't really matter; they really need to know to which numbers each hand is pointing. So don't move on until they get that concept. 
Now, it is ideal if a child can count by 5 when they start this work, so they have an easier grasp of things, however the fact is that time moves in minutes of 1, not in 5s. We do NOT get those groups of five FROM the big numbers! Those big numbers indicate the hours! They just happen to share the same arrow direction with the 5 minute marks! ;)
(1/14/12: Yes, it is neat to see those bead bars of 5 - and it helps count up by 5 faster; it's one of those keys that if it works for you, do it! If not, it's ok too! I have had children totally boggled by the use of the bead bar there because then they think it can never be 7:23 for example; most children understand it just fine without the beads!)

then I added this material - it was a bust.
The hands don't coordinate, so it is NOT a worthwhile investment
of time OR money, unless you have 6-9 year olds who are copying
the big yellow clock shown above.
I could see it being a useful tool for some children,
as an intermediary between this and writing their own clocks.
I personally wouldn't purchase it again. 

These cards are incremented in 15 minutes.
Buy two sets - cut out the clock faces from one set
and mount on white index cards (getting rid of the color). 

The backs of the card show the digital time
and the time in written words. VERY handy!
the children match the digital time to the clock face
then turn it over to see if they were right!
And the color coordination is only noticed when checking,
therefore it is not a crutch.
These could be cut into 2 pieces - digital and language.

In the back you see the paper clock I created
(the hands are not shown here for some reason)
the children used this to move the hands around.
It didn't work so hot.
I replaced it with a blank paper clock face onto which
the children added numbers, lines and arrows.

 I created 3-part cards for all the 5 minutes  and
a selection of the minutes (like 7:23) and
presented them in varying stages (not all at once).
Just printed clock faces on paper and marked
them all out by hand.
I WILL NEVER do that again!
It was far too tedious.
Either do it on the computer, or find a download! 

I later added in this stamp - better than printing!
This thing is SO MULTI-PURPOSE!
And the children can write their own times, copying
from the plastic clock above - or from a real clock!
Elementary children can use it in their work journals. 

All stored in a cute little basket! 

For the primary age, nothing more is really needed. There are plenty of great supplemental activities, such as a timeline of one's day, card matching and card grading games, and the like. But not every child likes or needs these.

For both ages (primary and elementary), be sure to include proper time-related terminology in your conversations and interactions. Don't be like me and tell your child that you'll be done in 5 minutes when you know it will be half an hour! ;) He'll start thinking that "Five minutes is a LONG time, Mama!"

And therein lies the second crucial key to telling time: USING it.

TIP: Start with analog and move to digital - it is easy to make the transition that direction; if you switch directions, you will have an uphill battle on your hands. Convinced we should only go digital? Then it will be that much harder to understand the historical telling of time and all those doors of discovery that are thereby opened, such as culture, number bases, astronomy, angle measurements ;) Sure, some of that is still present, but keeping the round clock-face is a huge sensorial foundation for this later work.

Elementary Work: 
The Story of Clocks and Calendars
This author has some great
books just perfect for the
elementary Montessori crowd!
  • Word problems with time
  • Exploring timelines, BC/AD, centuries, decades, millenia
  • Explore how different cultures and for different purposes tracked the passage of time. 
  • Many other resources listed here at Living Math
  • our favorite book that spurred a LOT of cosmic education interests? The Story of Clocks and Calendars: Marking a Millenium by Betsy Maestro
  • Encourage further exploration based on interests; but also provide rich quality materials within the environment. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Primary Reading - Phonetic and Phonogram Command Cards

In elementary, we get into a certain amount of command cards for the children to work through various language presentations, biology and geography experiments and a bit more.

But it all starts in primary!

When the children are learning to read, there are two places in which we introduce command cards.

The phonetic command cards are short phrases with commands. The child reads the commands to himself (we don't ask the child to read out loud - but he can if he wants to), and then perform the action. The performance of the proper action is the sign that the child has decoded the reading!

By this time, the child has had the movable alphabet, can write out decently with it; has been reading phonetic words and matching them with objects (phonetic object box) and has MAYBE read a couple of books with a word and a picture matched together. From the first day of the phonetic object box, it might be a matter of hours or it might be a week until the child gets to do some of the command cards. It is NOT a slow tedious process!

Some people have downloads available for one word commands - these could be great as an introduction, but are unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. "Jump". Ok. That could be part of other language work. We want them to "run and jump"! "Run and stop"! "Hug mama"! This is REAL reading!

The bonus? They get to do SOME things for which they don't ordinarily have permission - run INSIDE!?
Yes! But only if you READ it first! (the phonetic command here is "run and stop" - the word "inside" would be in the phonogram version).

Shortly thereafter (hours? days? no more than a couple of weeks unless you have a child with special learning needs), the phonogram object box is introduced with the phonogram alphabet; then the shadowbox - and within a couple more hours or days: the PHONOGRAM COMMANDS!

Now, they can "Jump up and down" - they can "kiss mommy six times" and other assorted tasks :)

Have FUN with these!

Elementary children just learning to read? Having two baskets - one for phonetic and one for phonogram - making it a game that last just a few minutes each day and yes the children will start reading quickly!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Decimal Fractions - Introduction - Lego Style!

Legoboy figured out that if you're ok with "girly" pink LEGOs, you could easily make this material entirely yourself!

The day I presented the introduction to him, I needed a crown for the unit bead. He was more than happy to oblige! This crown came from the Kingdoms Lego sets.

The Unit is the KING of the decimal system.
Everything centers around him.
I bet he's a toddler ;) hehehe

Materials for this work: 
  • Decimal Fraction board - printable onto a couple sheets of cardstock and attached - or both mounted onto posterboard. Montessori Homeschooling has it for free, or it is available other places for free or purchase. (I recommend this set of 2 files from this site; ask me about the other files) - EASY
  • decimal colored beads - pull them from the long division work (racks and tubes; test tubes) - just a few as these are not used often - EASY
  • 1 cm cubes in blue, red, green, light blue, light pink, and light green - this is where the Legos come in! Use the 1x1 bricks! EASY if Legos; medium difficulty if needing to paint/stain them. Just buy a bunch to toss into a plastic bag with some paint or stain - shake around - scoop out with a tiny wire colander or even just a fork - lay out on wax paper to dry. ;) 
  • white number cards for the decimal numbers, that when placed on the board the 0 fits in the units place; the decimal point is on the line; the next digit is in the tenths column and so on, with each digit in its appropriate column. The font colored according to its category. MEDIUM difficulty - if you buy the board and the numbers together you're set; otherwise, perhaps someone could develop an easy download for the board AND the numbers so they coordinate!
  • You will also need the gray number cards from the Bank Game (elementary Bank Game - the one with only cards) - EASY
  • For one part of the introduction you'll want the white decimal cards from the Bank Game as well - EASY
  • and finally several black hole punches to use as decimal points - EASY
  • There is one candelabra that could be made on the spot - a wonderful art extension for the children to then re-create on their own, because yours won't be all pretty and fancy! (wink-wink, hint-hint - do not make it pretty and fancy) - EASY-MEDIUM
  • For later work, you will want some skittles - pull from the stamp game or the long division work - or draw a skittle on a piece of paper! EASY!

So you see - once you get to this work, the only new material is the board itself, a few black hole punches, its own number cards, and the cubes. None of these are tricky to make!