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, December 28, 2013

Change of Routine - Teaching Full-Time - Child-care

I don't usually announce when I am taking a subbing position, but this year, and this position, things are different.
  • We have a good routine going, despite having a crazy-busy life. It's going to be put on hold. 
  • I have a goal of keeping this blog updated at least twice weekly with either historical happenings (as I go through older photos and scrapbook items) or current AMI Montessori elementary homeschooling - what it looks like for those of you either at this age already or getting there. I really want to keep that going. 
  • Projects are closing up - slowly - around our home; and I am slowly cycling around to what needed to be done years ago. Using resources wisely. I really want to keep that going to. 
  • I think it is fair to give you a heads-up, so if YOU are in the situation I will be in for the next month (working full time and Montessori homeschooling), you'll have some inspiration - and I'm sure a strong dose of "what not to do" as I hope to be humble enough to share our failures as well as our successes. 
  • Thus, this upcoming experience may be of some benefit to others. 

Many of you know that I routinely sub for Montessori schools; I also pick up babysitting here and there (I want to have a daycare in my home again - perhaps if/when we move again!); tutoring on short and long term basis; random projects for random people; run two website-based businesses from home; and homeschool my son.
And 5 days a week in the atrium. 

It sounds like more than it really feels like - and maybe I'm not really looking at the full reality. Admittedly, avoiding the picture of "full reality" is probably what keeps me with a smile in my heart when I snuggle with my son at the end of a long day. 

So - our blog will take a bit of a turn this coming month - focusing on what Montessori elementary homeschooling looks like when the child is with different people each day of the week and mom is working OUTside the home, full-time --- in a Montessori school no less. 

First decision - Enrollment, Childcare, AKA: "what-to-do-with-the-child-during-work-hours": 
I thought about enrolling him for the month; I did that when I was long-term sub as an aide in the upper elementary classroom at this school several years back (he was primary at the time) - he attended 3-4 days a week and went with a babysitter in our hometown 1-2 days a week; I paid a pro-rated daily tuition for him and we still did some homeschooling (not much because it is a Catholic Montessori and he was really getting everything he needed) ---- hmmmm - that could be a blog post too. Homeschooling when child attends part-time Montessori..... not many people in that situation, but could provide some creative ideas for others in somewhat related situations. 

  1. that was primary, now he's in elementary - more long-term projects, group dynamics (be there for a bit then pull him out again - I don't mind the starting in the middle of the year as much as I do the pulling him out mid-year after only a month (could be slightly longer). 
  2. that was the start of the year - this is right after winter break - sure the kids are likely be starting on some new things, but there is still a LOT of tie-over from pre-holidays
  3. money. I'll be honest. I want to keep as much of it as possible. The principal is being generous in paying me a bit more than the typical daily rate for subs to help with gas (it's a drive for me) and childcare. It's not that I'll be keeping the money really anyway - I have school debt to pay off yet - I've considered setting up an anonymous blog with some details there, count-down style - to help others in serious debt, because I'm not comfortable sharing that stuff associated with my name, etc. I know I've come up with some creative solutions though - I know because friends/family/acquaintances come to me for advice ;) But the debts aren't paid off yet. The local lady who does the sitting doesn't charge much; local homeschool families I could trade some tutoring or Garden of Francis materials for childcare... Gotta love bartering. ;) 
  4. he does have speech therapy (in a town the opposite direction from the school) - I do not want to pull him out. That year he was in primary at this school, we just didn't start up speech therapy until afterward (the school couldn't offer him services even though he was enrolled, because we were out-of-state residents - we still are). Now he's in speech, I don't want to pull him out. But it means re-scheduling for another time and finding someone who can take him. 
  5. And it was part-time - if I send him to upper elementary, it really needs to be the same hours the other children are there. 
  6. Primary is about individual development; elementary is about community development - a weekly atrium is fine because it is long-term; other part-time activities are fine as long as they are consistent; but in/out of a full-day classroom just isn't appropriate for any child or the group dynamics - it's just not consistent. They couldn't make proper plans - the upper elementary children really think long-term. 
So I am looking at childcare options for him. We have a fall-back sitter I know we can call. But my first choice is for him to be with someone with whom I can barter services - such a person is also likely to be in any of a variety of frames of mind that will correlate better with our desire to continue homeschooling through this month. Time with Godfather, time with close family friends, time with homeschool families (they don't have to teach him, just give him a corner with his books or he can teach their kids how to build fancy things with Legos - or their older children can show him a thing or two ;) ).

If a different person/family could take him each day of the week, that would actually be fantastic - he could get the benefits from each family without me thinking we're becoming a burden. And if someone ends up sick or otherwise can't take him, that still leaves 4 other people who might be willing to take him an extra day just that one week.

And this is where I have to be somewhat flexible unless I want to get up at 4 every morning to get him to the right place --- e.g. one family might take him overnight one night a week in order to watch him the next day. They won't take him until later at night, so I'll still be with him the usual hours - we just won't be together overnight. It's one night a week - yes, my mommy-heartstrings are pulled, but it's temporary. We've done the overnight thing before and we have a great relationship - a few overnights won't destroy us.

This next point is less about me being flexible and more about me being both realistic and focused on "life" - I have no problem with families watching my son and taking him places - running typical errands, going to the library, visiting their Grandma/Grandpa - whatever. That's life! He needs to see real life - one of the many reasons we homeschool. I used to care for children in my family daycare that expected that we would never go anywhere or do anything outside of my little property - yet I offered a 24/7 service, so I needed to get groceries at some point; we loved going to the park; the local libraries (we were blessed with 2!) had fantastic children's programs and nice children's sections - of course we would be getting out and about - but it would all be family-oriented. So I am good with my son experiencing that with others - even when it means being in the car all day - he's with people who care for him, keep him safe, and live a real life.


Please pray that it all works out. Things are looking good, but I have a couple of days yet to fill in.

Next dilemmas - a blog post each?  
  • Changing our schedule/routine - this really only affects our clock schedule because only speech is affected. This one will be hard. I am SO a night-owl - I don't sleep any more than a typical person, but we typically have a routine shifted a few hours later than others (or maybe we're many hours ahead of everyone else ;) teehee)
  • Food-planning - packed lunches; dinners.... breakfast.... snacks.... Yep. I have a solution. But I have to get it into place! 
  • where do the Montessori presentations fit in? and the follow-up work? upper elementary is a different cookie, but he does have some lower elementary review he needs (because we're at home and not in a school)
  • when do I get to be home???? I'm SO a domestic female ;) I want my home to be a sanctuary - and we all know that being home for limited time allows messes to build up without allowing time for clean-up ---- so how do I keep my home a sanctuary regardless of the time spent there? 
  • when do we snuggle???? And typical outside-home activities - how do we adjust these to accommodate caregivers, family time and child-needs? 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Small Home Montessori: Impressionistic Charts Storage - UPDATE

The original post on the Impressionistic Chart Storage in our home.

I have had this over-the-toilet unit since Legoboy was a baby:
Sample at Amazon (not an affiliate link) - I bought ours locally
haha! yeah right we have that much space around our toilet! 

At the time, I did not want to put baby locks on everything - I had a swing gate at the kitchen door and a variety of outlet covers (mostly ones that could allow things to be plugged in but still locked - child couldn't pull the cord from the wall either).

For daycare licensing purposes I did need a safety handle on the pantry door (because I had to keep the cleaning chemicals below the food - despite that most of the cleaning chemicals WERE food such as baking soda, vinegar and cornstarch... I digress).

When it comes to safety equipment, that is all we had. Our lower drawers/cupboards contained only child-safe items; lower cupboards in the bathroom held cloth diapers, mom's cloth items, towels and washcloths, cup of extra tooth brushes, and toilet paper. All else was stored in the cabinet or on the shelf shown above. It was high enough for daycare licensing, but I still kept "attractive and somewhat dangerous" in baskets on the shelves to minimize attention.

Times have changed. I now have few consistent young visitors to our home - and for them I can close the bathroom door, keep them in arms, or mom is with them.

And I needed the shelf somewhere else:

This shelf fit perfectly (I had to disassemble portions of it to get it to fit under the upper shelf in the closet, but once in, it fits perfectly) and is currently the only place I can safely store the long division with racks and tubes. The charts fit perfectly underneath it - almost like they were made for each other! The bonus is I can now use that space between the charts and the upper shelf much more efficiently. While I am still trying to be cautious what I bring home permanently (from our rented co-op) - to only bring home what we'll use - now I have found a bit more space I didn't know I had!

One bummer: our blue lamp we use for the sun still doesn't fit. I'll get it figured out.

In the bathroom, I was able to place a very low shelf in the corner that held all the things I thought I still needed this tall shelf for (and it has empty space! AND my bathroom looks so much more spacious now!!!). We're obviously far from cloth-diapering at this point and we've gone even more food-based and all-natural with our cleaners, etc. that we just don't have as much as "stuff" in the kitchen and bathroom anymore. Plus in this apartment we do have a small bathroom closet to hold towels and washcloths and art supplies.

I remember having every nook and cranny crammed in with nothing but STUFF. I wish I'd known then what I know now! But it's a journey, that's for sure! And we're not entirely where we want to be just yet.

Hm. Perhaps a photo of our bathroom is in order. Only because this bathroom is actually larger than most and it is the primary place to do artwork. Sounds strange? I'll get photos ;)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Blogging Holidays and Craftiness

I was recently asked why, despite my son's craftiness and the fact that I do nothing except make-make-make-make things (ok, I sleep sometimes too ;) ) - why don't I have an AMI-inspired crafty-type post around the holidays - to show how it's done in AMI.

I had to actually think about this response. It's not that we don't do crafts; it's not that AMI doesn't do crafts; it is this:

I have chosen to blog here, on Montessori Trails, about our AMI Montessori Elementary homeschooling, as well as our past experiences in infancy and toddler (only partly AMI) and primary (AMI to the core when at home).

There are so many fantastic Montessori homeschoolers and schools out there sharing their Montessori-inspirations, I just don't feel the need to do so.

I had a hard time in my early Montessori-at-home/pre-training days sifting the "core" from the "peripherals that are great for particular families or situations but may not be so great for my household". And this was me coming into it with a LOT of experience in schools, but without any formal training. The albums I could access didn't correspond with what I saw on the blogosphere either. I had some arrogance and pride, but I think (?) I can safely say that I was humble enough to realize that reading every Montessori book, working in schools and reading lots of blogs did NOT make me an expert. It made me confused. Today there are so many available resources that with the right savvy and the right personality (there are many of you out there!) you can certainly cut to the core and "get it" - but self-trained true understanding wasn't even remotely a possibility when I began.

I don't want to continue that confusion about what is "Montessori" and what is "Montessori-inspired" and what is "just plain too much fun to leave out of your family's childhoods even though it's not labeled Montessori". We do a LOT of that kind of stuff around here (want to know how to make 3,934 styles of paper airplanes - ask Legoboy - but I'm not posting it on Montessori Trails ;) ). Above all else, I love sharing what happens when we present the "core" or "keys" and follow the child's interests, allowing the child to truly be responsible for his own work as per core Montessori practice - I share the results of our writing experiences with my son's first paper for an outside-of-home requirement - or how we managed to study astronomy by starting with an ancient history study (that we started because of Legoboy's desire to "read through history" after working with the core Montessori history presentations).

I want to show off the "core" and YOU decide what to modify or add in for YOUR family. That is my goal anyway.

Some facts:
  • As homeschoolers we have more time with our children - we're going to do more crafts, projects, etc. We're going to live life together in a way that Montessori schools can't. We are going to do a LOT together as a family
  • But even one AMI school will be different from another AMI school - not in the core materials, but in the culture of the children attending. 
  • Homeschools or schools - we each have our own paths and interests
  • Present the CORE - then work with the interests and the particular children before you. 
  • Elementary Montessori does utilize many resources beyond the albums - but the specific resources required are dictated by the child's particular needs, not an album page.  

AMI just isn't SHARED online as much. And AMI is SO beautiful! Thus my aim with my internet presence is to share the core of Montessori. The essential. At Montessori Trails, I strive to share our home experience focused more on the specifically AMI Montessori so as to minimize the confusion I experienced of "what is core and what is for this family?" You've seen I post about other topics, but I find these other topics directly relate to the core Montessori experience of utilizing keys, respect, and cosmic education. 
  • Montessori Nuggets: Core AMI Montessori tidbits found here
  • Keys of the Universe: information site for AMI Elementary albums available for purchase
  • Keys of the World: AMI Primary albums available for purchase as well as "re-organized" albums focusing on specific topics for those who just want a very focused experience on a particular topic
  • Montessori Station: Sharing of core-Montessori-friendly resources
  • Genesis Montessori: For those teaching with a 6-day creation focus

Really want to see what all we do in our Montessori-influenced home? 
  • Hearts in Wonderland: My son has a blog here where I try to post some of his creations from time to time (I have a serious back-log)
  • Seeking the Plan of God: Our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd adventures can be found here along with home/faith adventures related to core CGS themes. 
  • Catholic Hearts Domestic Church: Random Catholic and frugal-living posts (as well as some of our non-HFCS recipes) - some duplicates from Seeking the Plan of God - my first blog so the early posts are of mixed topics. 

Just for random fun sharing: 

As I type this, Legoboy is lounging on the couch with his umpteenth reading of Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling - he is waiting to use the computer to research the presence of a particular set of Lego building instructions before he goes off to create his own set of instructions - he doesn't want to replicate but do something different. This is an appropriate use of technology in upper elementary, although his time is still limited to "enough time to accomplish the goal, working steadily" - no by-the-clock time limit, but Mommy can nix the screen at any time if the work is not diligent.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Review Post: Kingdoms of Life Connected

I have the current edition as of December 2013: 2nd printing, published in 2008/9
Kingdoms of Life Connected: A Teachers Guide to the Tree of Life
I own the pdf version;
purchased for my own use

Short story: I cannot highly recommend this resource. I can recommend it with much trepidation and with several caveats - as a potentially useful resource for an older discerning student (adolescence and above).

This resource is not appropriate for elementary Montessori students except those who are keenly interested in the subject matter at hand.

If you have a focus on Biblical-based Creation, this is NOT the resource for you at all. It is clearly an evolution resource, with no qualms about pointing out the outdated beliefs of Creationism. There is simply too much modification work to be done, to really be of value (unless you receive a copy for free - even then, the modification work is heavy). Could you gain some tidbits? Probably; not worth spending the money for the tidbits though.

Short-short story: I find this book at odds with the Montessori approach to scientific classification at the primary and elementary ages.

The author presents a great lay-out and makes an earnest attempt to "update" the Montessori scientific classification materials. There are so many examples of snubbing what has been previously given to the children that it leaves a bad taste about the rest of her words, accurate words or otherwise - it leaves me questioning her rather strong bias. If the information could be presented without the strong emphasis on anything but the information in this book being "outdated", implying that children have been harmed in the process of their past learning - and without the accompanying emphasis that "we don't have a final system in place but we have to teach the children something so we're going to give them something that is based on what they can't observe and that is changing very quickly in the scientific world, so we'll go with this one which will ALSO be outdated very soon" - well, that just doesn't sit well with Montessori - so if she could leave out the very strong statements to these affects, I could work with the remaining information much more easily. Except that elementary need to work with what they can observe. Molecular levels need to be saved for strong interest and middle/high school.

Thus this resource is simply a mis-match of content and age, if the bias is left out.

There are a few places where she lists old names with new names, which is oh-so-helpful for those of us genuinely trying to "update"; I think this information can likely be found elsewhere though.

From chapter 1 - some quotes - italics and parentheses are mine:
Classifications with fewer than five kingdoms belong in the history of science, not in current studies.
(ignoring that for the young children first presented with these concepts in a Montessori setting, 5 Kingdoms is getting too detailed - instead we focus on "plants and animals" and slowly build from there as the child is ready to explore how Kingdom Vegetalia has been replaced with 4 other, more accurate Kingdoms --- we need to leave children room to explore, pointing them in the right direction and providing the materials - by giving them too much, too soon, we risk (and very likely are guilty of!) filling them with information rather than exploring with them. Best to start with plants and animals, add in fungi upon interest (typically before 1st grade), then the other two in middle to upper elementary)

What changes have recently been made in the kingdoms and phyla? 
Changes are part of classification. They reflect the dynamic nature of science. Students need to learn terms that they will encounter in current encyclopedias and juvenile literature, not obscure or obsolete labels. Here are some suggestions for changes in lessons on classification. At the same time, older publications may have useful information about organisms, and it helps to know something about previous identities of organisms.
(So do the children need to know the obscure and obsolete labels or not? The auther is not clear.)

For introductory study, it will be better for them to define plants as organisms that are adapted to life on land.
(yet many children have direct experience with aquatic 'plants' (algae are not plants, they are protists) --- fish tanks... If she is striving for greater accuracy in teaching an evolutionary hypothesis (yes, she says the arrangement taught is only an hypothesis), and is upset about the present/past Montessori experience of scientific classification, then let's keep these definitions accurate too!)

This part, I am ok with:
Should we use kingdoms to classify life?
Kingdoms classify whole organisms. Children who are able to perceive the characteristics of whole organisms, but not yet able to think abstractly about cells and molecules are likely to be most engaged when they are working with kingdoms. They can learn that there are three “true” kingdoms (fungi, animals, and plants), and two “kingdoms” that we group together for convenience (prokaryotes and protists).
(we are saying here that we can indeed start with what children can observe (fungi, animals, plants) --- and move into the prokaryotes and protists which are less easily observed (these are not going to be a typical lower elementary study - and almost never a primary study)).

The straight information on observable characteristics is great. The activities contained in the book that could be perfect for elementary and middle school students are readily found in other resources on the same topic. Nice to have in one place? Yes.

In the end, the biggest factors for me relate to the BIG picture being presented:
  • too hypothetical - while I agree that we need to teach children what we have available even if the information is changing as new discoveries are made ---- there is TOO much hypothesis here that is CONSTANTLY changing - links between the different forms of life
  • the children can't "see" it - boh because of the hypothetical nature and the reality that the children can't go back in the past - when they look at a set of organisms, Kingdoms of Life Connected will lead to children believing that they can't trust their own sense of observation, but instead must be fed information by someone else before they can do any real work with classification. Rather the Montessori way is to provide "keys" and encourage the children to explore, to come to their own conclusions, to discuss and share and perhaps change their conclusions - but ultimately learning to trust in their own powers of observation and intuition as well as collaboration with others. I see the "direct teaching" happening far more heavily on the front-end here, in contrast to the Montessori way of exploration first.

Thus even as an evolution-based resource, I CANNOT recommend this resource at the elementary level. Perhaps at adolescence and/or high school. 

A more useful reference for biological studies that does not get into creation OR evolution (minus the potential of the last chapter), but simply what children can observe with their own eyes:
The World of Biology by John Hudson Tiner
(I have neither read, reviewed nor utilized any of his other books)
Good basic information on each kingdom - easily understandable. Combine with some good living books and videos and real life experiences.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Continent Folders - Primary Montessori

Continent Folders? You're thinking, "You mean Continent Boxes, right?"

Nope. I mean Continent Folders.
They actually also go by "Montessori cultural folders" as well. Either name is accurate and neither name fully describes them!

These were originally going to be our Montessori Continent Boxes.
Now they are toy boxes. 
I like the idea of the continent boxes (cultural boxes) - and I had even bought a set of stackable drawers to use for just such purpose, before I went to AMI Primary Montessori training. We could still use them as continent/cultural boxes, but I never really found the need for them in my household. Instead I re-purposed them to hold Legoboy's small toys: small animals, train tracks, cars, small scenery pieces, etc. He still uses them, but now has them reorganized according to his own (internalized, elementary-level, crazy-from-the-outside) organization.

Ultimately, I went with what I received in Montessori training. Folders. The continent/cultural folders spark discussion, they promote interest... and then we can pull out the objects we have around the environment which the child is surrounded by for further discussion and experiences: books in the reading area, artifacts used as decoration around the environment (also used for polishing, dusting, flower-arranging, etc.), games to play with friends and family, etc. The objects and experiences are throughout life, rather than kept together in one box. The child is surrounded by cultural objects rather than having them boxed up. The child can go into the environment and gather appropriate objects for this study.

LATER UPDATE (just this paragraph) - these materials seem so SIMPLISTIC and many people have told me "no, the cultural/continent boxes are a much better idea because it is all 3-d; some pictures can be added there too." That is your choice. Here are some points to consider to ensure a full Montessori balance/experience:
  • are you providing keys? so that your child can explore and have something to discover for his own self? 
  • do you still have some cultural objects around the environment that your child can discover and say, "Oh! this is the Eiffel Tower from France! We have a picture of this in our Europe culture folder!" And it is something they can polish, clean, draw, etc. thus part of the environment around the child. 
  • the continent/cultural folders are also intended to incite conversation and story-telling (these are extensions on the album page)
I personally decided that this one material, the Montessori cultural folders, allowed me to provide ALL of the above, with fewer actual objects from the get-go --- we could explore culture and continents and countries without spending hours/days/weeks/months/years collecting objects before even getting started. We could get started with the images, then discover all the cultural items already around our home! For me, my time is precious and I chose not to spend it on deciding which continent box to place a polar bear in (polar bears are present in Asia, Europe and North America by the way - and I have photos of each kind of polar bear in their proper continent - so much easier to find pictures than objects - and cheaper ;) -- then we have a few polar bears around and we discuss what all continents they belong on). 

At the time I created these cultural folders, I was just coming off a $5/month Montessori materials budget (I upped the budget a bit for during the training course - I spent what was needed, but also strove to minimize expenses - I think with lamination (paid at the training center), folders, colors, pencils, colored paper (most of which I had on hand already but a few things I purchased), donated magazines, I MAYBE spent $4 on the entire set - if that. I also pooled resources with other trainees, which helped. Time: 4 hours, plus 1/2 hour gathering items, 1/2 hour cleaning up ----- 5 hours. 


Image traced on with a print-out of the continent
or with the world puzzle map pieces
Colored in.
Displayed in an elevated rack
The images inside the cultural continent folders contain a variety of images from that continent - mounted on appropriate colored paper or cardstock, with a brief description on the back. They are intended to spark conversation and questions - leading to further studies as the children get older. This work can start at age 3 after they have worked with the world puzzle map and we want to share information on each continent. There are animals represented, people from various cultures on that continent, photos of food and national dress, etc. Our images all came from National Geographic magazines, but cut-up books could be used, images printed from the internet, etc.

The continent folders then sub-divide into a variety of topics (not photographed here) - these can be smaller packets or pouches, or even a book on the topic (that's what we did - just read books, watched videos, or had real-life experiences with the sub-topics).

This work is found in the Spoken Language section of the AMI Language album.

The continent folders photographed here I had made for training and then used them at home with Legoboy. I was marked down for them because I didn't use all lowercase letters (since these are for such young children - younger Montessori children will write in all lower-case to start, then move to capitals at age 5 and 6, without the use of sandpaper letters). Technically I could have left them unlabeled altogether and not been marked down at all.

Disclaimer though: My son has a hard time "caring" about capital letters anymore (despite starting to write with capital block letters) - so I do not regret having this material available to him with proper capitalization. At least he KNOWS where the capital letters go.

How was this particular set of cultural folders made? 
It is a set of file folders - 1 file folder for each continent (in this set) - I chose to keep the tabs all in one place, but could have alternated them (the original plan was that the sub-sets would have tabs in different locations, so the children re-sort them easily based on the tab location). I used packing tape to close up the sides; then covered it in color construction paper (wish I'd used cardstock because construction paper fades) just over the folds. Laminated the whole thing (had to slit the lamination to re-open the pouch).

If I were to do it again, I think I would prefer to use contact paper - only because the contact paper could wrap around the sides more securely. Or use colored pocket folders (now that pink and white are more easily found than when I was in primary training) and laminate those for sturdiness.

I always thought Legoboy would add to these picture sets in elementary - that was/is his typical thing. For some reason, he didn't; instead he delved into cultural studies, loves reading books and watching videos - he can talk to you about different things when he is interested - and he loves to learn about other cultures. But he has never sought to add to the images. Just when I think I have him pegged ;)

Continent folders can be an alternate to the bulkier continent boxes - or can be an addition to them. I highly recommend having multi-cultural items around your home - not just in the boxes. Alternate what is out at various times so that items can rotate into the box and out to the environment. I personally prefer to have an image of someone using the chop-sticks, with a quick description on the back, have a conversation with my child - then he "discovers" we have chopsticks in the kitchen where they would actually be used (instead of as an artifact in the box) - perhaps because I conveniently left them where he would find them (hehe - that's called strewing - homeschool moms get good at that) - and then we pull up a YouTube video to show us how to USE them. It just feels more real to me.

In the end, I see the benefit of both continent boxes and continent folders, and lean towards the cultural/continent folders as my "core" with the boxes as peripheral. Your mileage will vary ;)

Links for additional information on continent/cultural folders: 

This continent folder set doesn't quite match what is in my own AMI albums:

Downloadables of animal images - though still not quite the same description:

One sample of using pocket folders - hers gets to it but my training dictated colored background on the cards (could be an optional feature if you have coding somewhere else so the photos can be re-sorted to their proper folders):

This continent folder set looks really neat actually:

And these cultural folders sound about right too:

Friday, December 6, 2013

Keys of the Universe - Blog Articles

100_1240Keys of the Universe now has an Article section with infrequent updates on topics of interest to the elementary Montessori parent. Take a look!

Keys of the Universe - Articles

Current topics include:

  • Periodic Table of Elements
  • Getting Started with Montessori Homeschooling
  • Wooden Hierarchical Material - Number Cards
  • 8 Principles of Montessori Education
  • Montessori and Common Core
  • Primary Album Supplements for Geography and Sensorial
  • and more as time goes on :) 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Astronomy Review: Signs & Seasons

The following is a copy of the review I posted on an online bookstore website for this resource:

While this book is geared more for middle and high schoolers, my elementary son is already gaining a LOT from it.
I am a Montessori-trained teacher and prefer to avoid most textbooks for many reasons - low quality; lack of correct information; textbooks are usually beyond tertiary sources while primary sources are most appropriate for children's learning; and more.
But this is one textbook we will use again and again. At 8, my son is reading through it with me to gain an overview of astronomy; we combine it with our own personal studies according to his interests and my requirements as his homeschooling mother. We will likely go through it again at age 10-11; then again in middle school - as review and to cull its depth further, as much of the information is quite deep (a typical elementary children would not have the interest my son has in this textbook - but this is an interest of his).
The "average" elementary child will not be ready for this book - but a homeschooled child who is very interested, or a Montessori student, will be quite ready for it - probably around age 9 or so. Even then, it should be re-visited at an older age, because much of it will not be absorbed the first time through. It is THAT rich!
Montessori elementary children with a deep love of all things astronomy will appreciate having this book as a read-together text, coupled with many hands-on experiences (such as looking for the things described in the book, as well as some of the field activities in the back of the book, and following their own interests).
Montessori elementary children with a limited interest in astronomy will prefer to utilize this book in the upper elementary years (ages 9-12).
Definitely useful for middle schoolers of all ages.
I only WISH the public schools I attended would have provided an astronomy class of ANY sort, let alone THIS book. We had blips of astronomy here and there - nothing like this. I took an astronomy course in college and this text would have been the best foundation for that course. I loved it, but was easily overwhelmed.
There is an optional field guide, separate from the text, to flesh it out for high school credit. Do not let the negative review stating this is not a high school textbook throw you off - this book is indeed excellent for high schoolers, but yes if you want a full credit for it you will NEED to flesh it out for the simple fact it is a textbook. NO textbook should be the be-all-end-all in gaining a credit for school - and this textbook is no exception in that regard.
Those who might say this book is not deep enough for high schoolers should consider the importance of spending TIME with the material, doing the field guide suggestions, working with the field journal - and experiencing the annual cycles of astronomy (and sometimes multi-year), while also exploring it within its historical context and development, in such a way that true DEPTH is reached. Not just racing through, taking a test and being done.
Signs and Seasons IS the exception in that it provides a well-balanced, well-laid-out approach to classical astronomy - astronomy without the use of fancy tools (although telescope and binoculars are pointed out as useful in their proper places) --- something all of us should have experienced in our lifetimes.
Black and white (but wonderfully done!) illustrations keep the price of printing to an affordable range so that this book is accessible to many more people.