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.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Online Presence

Keeping it Real
(was scheduled for the 21st, then I wanted to post about the economic geography stamps, so I've rescheduled this for the 26th).

A recent visitor to (apparently) all of my websites/blogs noted something interesting:

With the exception of Garden of Francis (which uses a minimal amount of stock photography), I use absolutely NO stock photos. All of the photography is either genuinely my own, came with the blog template (such as this one with the geese in the background), or is utilized from NASA's site (with proper permissions given/received).

Yes, that is MY son (Legoboy!) walking down that lane of trees at Grandma and Papa's home in the right side-bar of this blog.

Yes, that is me and my son enjoying dessert at (his great-)grandmother's 90th birthday party in my "profile" picture seen in various places (like the bottom of this blog in the footer above the flags).

I kind of noticed this "lack of stock" before - and I've had friends and web developers tell me I "need more photos of children" on my various sites, because it makes people feel cozier, more comfortable.

Well.... I do have photos of children - but 1) minimal 2) appropriately located 3) NO names. I do NOT have photos of children on any sites I am "selling" something (except my son, with me).

Contrary to efficient marketing practices? Perhaps. But I'm honest. I am not going to use a child to sell you something that doesn't stand on its own as useful for you.

And I want my sites to be "real" to ME. If I can't be real to myself, how can I be real with you?

There IS something off-putting (for me) when I visit a site that has a lot of stock photography - or minimal stock photography, but that's all they have - especially when I've seen some of it before or something similar. Interestingly enough, one popular Montessori album website has a particular stock photo up that actually VERY closely resembles a photo that came up on my Garden of Francis error page recently when the server was down. WE-IRD!  (no, the error page was not linking to anything Montessori related - it was simply putting up a rotation of education-related stock photos - and the photo was different enough to know it didn't COME from the other site - they are obviously both stock photos).

It is also off-putting to be on a Montessori album website and have only stock imagery - not even photos of Montessori materials or children in a Montessori classroom - but truly, stock photos that have nothing to do with Montessori.

I'd rather be on a site with no photos, than know that all the images I am looking at are "generic". Alternate, sub-reality or some such description comes to mind.

With that said, a couple of my sites could definitely use MORE images - just real ones ;) My sites are far from perfect!

Monday, February 24, 2014

"School Days" postings....

MBT keeps catching me ;)

I'm always sad that you don't do "school days" posts from your house. 

Why don't I? I've been asking myself a similar questions for a couple of years now. I'll post on projects, I'll post on studies, and I did do something of a sample day a while back (wow! Just pulled it up - it's from 2 years ago this month! and it was nothing 'special' but it was typical).

But really, looking at the previous post..... that's our days. We're pretty relaxed about specifics, but rigid about expectations - I expect the concepts to be mastered while balancing the reality of my son's needs. I run two businesses out of my home, teach in the atrium 5 days a week, tutor ever-changing groups of children; he has tae-kwon-do, his Lego projects and his books and games that he wants to get to, so he gets his chores done, works on his school projects mixed in with his other personal projects - and it all just sort of happens. Not always on MY time table (how many times it is 11 at night and I wanted to give a new presentation that day and need to hold off another day? Yeah, that has happened many more times than I care to admit), but when the presentation happens, it is always the "right" time.

Summary??? We just don't have "school time" - it is all mixed into our entire day. If I give a new presentation at 9 in the morning or 9 at night, is just based on our very-similar-to-unschooling approach. I have the responsibility to give him the keys; he has the responsibility to learn those keys, assure his "local educational requirements" (for this year: MY requirements) are covered; then he has the freedom to follow his interests along with the corresponding responsibility TO follow his interests, go deeper - and not just "slack off".

We have a routine, rather than a schedule.

There is one major difference between now and 3 years ago: at upper elementary, it is almost ALL projects now. Or studies of some sort. Less "new presentation on a specific skill" and more "develop the use of this skill previously learned". 

From 1st year of lower elementary -
life and school are "one"
Interestingly enough - without the Montessori materials
becoming "toys", they are part of our every-moment lives
For example in math: doing more difficult and/or more practical life mathematics problems, creating notebooks of the Primary Challenge Math (review post coming soon), working on his Pet Store math project (took a LONG hiatus when the computer holding that file fried - just pulled it off the hard drive last week).... We do have math presentations yet to do - in several chapters, but I know the reality is, I present the keys, we find a real life application for it and we review the concepts as needed. If we finish before adolescence, great (I think we will....); if we don't, there IS some wiggle room. Even if we continue to review concepts and go deeper, I fully anticipate we will have begun every topic/presentation before adolescence.

In language, he is "done" with the album, but needs some review with the sentence analysis work (mostly so I can check materials I am developing, but also for his own review), he reads and studies literature to no end, and he is increasing his depth of writing skills, he is practicing calligraphy --- but the official lessons are "done". He does need to get into a book discussion group of some sort (think "Junior Great Books" style would be perfect!). We'll continue to review the Great Lesson there. He is also doing Cover Story and writing some of his own creations.

In history, he is still going deeper and deeper with ancient history (LOVES IT!) and slowly plugging his way through US History (a huge bore for him - this has been a LONG process). He has also been going deeper with the history work in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium, getting more into typological studies, History of Israel and more. At least this work is pulling him more and more into closer-to-modern times. We'll get there... right? ;)  He is technically "done" with this album as well - but review presentations and going deeper with particular topics are always a necessary thing, even in the classroom. Now is the time for his own personal studies and interests.

In music, we are definitely "behind" --- too much else going on. NEED to get those tone bars set up at home! But he continues with the piano (slowly - he is mostly self-taught, so it's taking time), loves to sing, we analyze music, he loves classical music, and all things Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies.

Biology - we're still going strong on the herbs. We're in need of doing the more complex scientific classification material; otherwise we've done the album a couple of times and will cycle through it again, going into deeper studies - with full-on animal dissections, using the microscope, and....

finishing up remaining suggested experiments/demonstrations in the biology and geography albums. We could probably work on some more memorization of things like state capitals, but we play a lot of geography games. And we do have some economic geography and a few presentations remaining in each of the chapters (except the first 2?) but honestly - not just very much "new" here - what is left is review and going deeper.

Geometry - we DO need to finish up the last couple of chapters. We just kind of stopped at one point. Interest is there - my own time is not. Area and volume concepts need to be thoroughly reviewed and solidified - all else is there.

Wow. Did I just say all that? He'd be in 1st year upper elementary at a Montessori school right now. With 2 more years to go after this one.

We are right now living exactly what I've been saying in all sorts of places: the AMI albums have allowed us to learn the keys, explore personal interests, have time for real life and relationships with other people, without having to worry about "getting it all in". Sure, there are areas I feel behind in - but I know the depth we've gone to, the amount of time Legoboy has spent in productive personal pursuits - and I'm not worried about it. I thought I was, but now I write all of this out - I'm not.

Non-AMI albums tend to have so much "more", but I'm not convinced they encourage the depth, the personal interest or the true follow-up work --- and I've seen so many families who could benefit from continued Montessori go elsewhere because they were either 1) overwhelmed with the number of presentations/materials or 2) underwhelmed at the response of the children.
And a recent survey of sections such as "human geography" (which includes economic geography) demonstrates that what is truly meaningful to the children to build up cosmic education and "peace education" - just isn't there in other albums. No wonder people keep asking me about the peace education components - I don't have them, because they are all deeply integrated into all of the albums I have.

The math album is HUGE and goes so much deeper than any other Montessori album - the concern there always seems to be on "fitting it all in". There is wiggle room, but again, if we are focusing on the keys, encouraging the children to go deep, create their own problems (with structured guidance from the adult), then they are truly mastering the concepts and CAN move forward at their own pace. If they finish before adolescence, great; otherwise, there is some time.

My son has had time for so many academic personal studies outside the Montessori albums, because he was given the keys, expected to master them, then set free to just BE himself.

To reiterate a point from above, because it is so often missed: I expect mastery of skills presented - and I expect that Legoboy will follow his interests and go deep with this studies. It is an inherent expectation, that when not present, does allow the children to fall into shallow work and never really reaching their own potentials. I expect it (in my words AND my actions), I assure the tools are available to make it happen and get out of the way when needed. :)

You know - part of this unschooling-feel is our school space. We don't have a school room or a school space. We have a home. We have an 850 square foot apartment with a library in my bedroom, sewing, tons of felt, wood-storage (the wood-cutting happens elsewhere), garden in the living room, school materials throughout every --- single -- room (Sh!! Our dissection specimens are in one of our kitchen cupboards - NOT anywhere near food, I promise), Legos (oh dear! do we HAVE Legos), art supplies, books everywhere. And yet, only the bedrooms are "cluttered" - the other rooms are just "full". My living room floor I keep clear. I need space somewhere to just breathe! I will post a "school-home" tour soon ;)

I WANT a dedicated room for school materials, even if we use it for other stuff too - just one place to display all things school. I sometimes wonder if I were ever granted such a gift, would I even utilize it as such - because we DO see all things we do as life-education. Maybe I don't want to change. I say I do. I think I do. But maybe... I don't?

Hm. ;)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Montessori Economic Geography Stamps - Now Available!

The Economic Geography Stamps are now available for pre-order at Garden of Francis. (click here)
UPDATE! They are NOW available for sale!!!

Shipping NOW! They will begin shipping out prior to March 1. I am taking pre-orders to see if it is worth purchasing the tackle-boxes and the wood holders in bulk, or just buy a few at a time as I need them.

My son is so excited! 

(ok, I am too!)

I am so happy to be offering these for substantially less than the ONLY other set available anywhere online that I can find - and they correspond with our KotU geography album!

By the way, side-note: if, as we are using them, anyone wants a different stamp image made, the process I'll be using can very easily accommodate this! In fact, after this first batch of these ones, I am going to look into making stamps of other images for other themes.

Montessori Elementary Economic Geography Stamps - corresponding with the Keys of the Universe Montessori Elementary Geography Album chapter on Economic Geography.

Each  polymer (not rubber, but like rubber) stamp image measures 3/4 inch at its widest; mounted on a 1 inch square cube - with the image imprinted on the top of each cube for easy reference.

Select which set you would like: the core set contains 26 images of mineral, plant and animal resources; the supplementary set contains 14 additional images in more specific items.

Each corresponding tackle-box comes with a cardstock print-out of the included images for that set.

CONTENTS CORRESPOND WITH AMI MONTESSORI ELEMENTARY TRAINING ALBUMS. And are most specifically designed for Keys of the Universe albums.

Purchase your own ink pads according to the color designations of your choice (see the elementary Montessori geography album for further details).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

AMI Primary into Elementary

My Boys' Teacher over at What DID We Do All Day? had this to say in a recent post on sentence analysis:

That's one thing I've never liked much about AMI albums.  The primary albums are so relaxed and breezy and "some of this is advanced work and you might not get to it."  Then the elementary albums are all stern business and like "the child should have covered all that in primary."  

She is picking up on this far more than I did - but I also went straight from Primary training (academic year) into Elementary training (multi-summer - so I started elementary a few weeks after graduating from primary, moving across the country in the between-time) --- and the training centers are probably (?) the two geographically closest centers to one another (don't quote me on that!). I don't know if that had anything to do with it, but with the general Montessori culture of that entire area of the country being AMI-flavor because of the wide-spread communities of Montessori that build up around training centers, I think it raises the calibre more than a bit. Also, the city of my elementary training has a large community of AMI public Montessori schools - they have a whole public Montessori school system! So I am sure THAT raises the calibre quite a bit.

Even in primary training, doing my observations (10 locations required, more preferred) and student teaching (2 locations), I did get the sense that "most" children DO indeed finish the primary albums - or come really, really close. Again - culture of the area? Plethora of elementary Montessori options, so the schools are preparing the children more?

Within elementary training, I also picked up on the early elementary work in each area of "what to do if a child comes in without ample primary experience". So for me, the flow was there, regardless if the children had the primary experience or not. And I can easily pick up with the elementary album and modify as needed - but that might be me.

So I got the transition part for every area. And don't personally see the disconnect as much (I'm not saying it's not there - it's just not as clear to me).

In all areas except ONE.

Clock Time.

In primary we were told, "This is an elementary work, but we could do some language exploration with it." In elementary we were told, "This should have been mastered in primary with basic math functions with time to practice now."


I submitted self-designed album pages to the assistant of my primary training course because she said she was looking to put something together - in hopes of collaborating to get some great album pages going. She never did anything with it (she was busy, to give her credit) - and I figured I would get the work in the elementary albums. Then... I didn't.

I have to admit - I felt cheated. But that could be tied into the reality of the training center I was at.
(new post coming on!)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Working-Mom Montessori: Shifting the Clock: This is Painful!

I never quite this post finished - because the title of this post is SO true!

I am naturally a night-owl - I do my best work in the evening hours after most people should be in bed and the world is quiet. I like to use my daytimes for being active and social.

I can sleep 4-7 hours a night (going to bed at midnight or 3 am), with a half-hour cat nap in mid-afternoon and life is wonderful. Get me up before the sun though - and life ain't so pretty.

I spent the first week SO incredibly fatigued all - day - long. I didn't know how I would get through the whole month. Turns out, a touch of almond oil infused with peppermint oil on each temple and real peppermint oil chapstick (coconut oil with aloe vera and peppermint oil) were all I needed to get rid of the fatigue-headache and help me re-set the sleep/wake rhythm for the time being. NIC!

The children and staff I have worked with this past month have been wonderful - I have offered my services to continue being the main sub for this particular classroom the rest of the year as needed. But hitting the brick wall of fatigue at 7:30 at night is SO not cool.

The nice thing is - I am so incredibly tired, I'm in bed by 9 every night, and am awake shortly before the 6 am alarm to be on the road by 6:30. I have all prepped the night before so mornings are VERY streamlined, involving VERY little (any?) thinking process at all.

This all means, I am sleeping far more than I usually do - and despite all of that, I ended up sick ALL MONTH.

I am fighting against my own natural rhythm and I am surrounded by germs I'm not yet accustomed to. I have had a drink with me that varies by the week: peppermint tea, warm lemonade, or plain water (each option with honey, echinacea, and maple syrup). I spent one week eating almost nothing but garlic to get rid of a painful sinus infection. While all my remedies/precautions helped, they didn't stop everything from hitting me - but they certainly helped me stay on task with the needed energy and focus. I have enjoyed each of the 4 snow days received during the month (ending up in bed, sleeping off illness each time!).

CAVEAT: When I say "past month", I mean to say "January". It turns out I added an additional (almost) full week (one more ice/snow day off - spent at home catching up on all sorts of little things - like washing 4 1/2 weeks worth of laundry. By hand.) of subbing.

In the end, I love every moment of teaching; and I will love every moment of being home again on my own schedule.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Adolescent Algebra - and More

UPDATE 2019: This review is for the original Algebra for the Adolescent. Mike Waski has now published a second version, in two volumes (one for lower and one for older adolescents) and has separated out the Geometry to its own album entirely. Please visit Great Works Inc. to learn about all the resources for adolescent math studies!

The algebra album has new lessons and even more photos than before, from all that I hear. And the first two chapters of the Geometry album? Yep. Spectacular!

Original Post:

At long last, there is an "album" for the adolescent age - at least for mathematics - and OH does it COVER mathematics!
Signed Numbers, Graphing, Lines, Inverse Operations, Inequalities, Exponents, Combining Like Terms, Factoring, Absolute Value, Binomial Theorem, Quadratics, Transformations, Sequences, Functions, Exponential and Logarithmic Functions, Polynomials, Trigonometry, Complex Numbers, Further Work (Matrices, Vectors, Conic Sections), Calculus - ALL get their own chapters!

Then Geometry (a whole section on Euclid) and Arithmetic (one page description of what to do) each get an appendix. 

It is perfect! I love it! I can't wait to delve into it with my son (well, yes, I can, because I don't want him to grow up TOO fast; but I am also SO satisfied we have the perfect resource for the middle school and possibly early high school years).

It arrived via UPS yesterday. Yes, I paid $16 and change for shipping. I didn't feel like contacting them to have them send it media mail. I probably could have driven and picked it up for less, but it saved time. (Edit: 8/20/2019 - Shipping prices are different now with the new website, see links below)

It comes printed on front/back, 3-hole punched, ready for a binder....

Or 2 binders. I didn't want that many pages in one thick binder. So I split it, noting the chapter headings contained in each. It comes with two printed cover pages (presumably a "cover" and a "title" page, so I split those to the binders).

Fully Illustrated!!!

If you are familiar with Montessori math (NAMTA presumes you have training when you purchase this album), you will be able to follow along very quickly; the introduction chapter provides a good outline for how to work through the material with the children - not in linear fashion. There is also a flow chart in the appendix which shows initial presentation (everyone gets one way or another), suggested follow-up presentations (not everyone "needs" - some things the child needs to demonstrate understanding one way or another; some things are entirely optional) and the ultimate key experiences (all children should get to those ones).

If you are new to Montessori math, the wordy introduction might be overwhelming but will be VERY helpful.

The materials list is decent, although it lists chapter number rather than presentation needed for (but, ahem, that is more information than the Keys of the Universe albums provide - only listing the material and not even the chapter or specific album page it is used for. Yes that organization is in progress! ). 

GUESS WHAT!? Those expensive wooden squares and cubes we elementary Montessori homeschoolers keep balking at the price for a few small elementary presentations!? And think we might just going to skip? Yeah. They're in here! I am so happy - it means more work with them, more use of a somewhat expensive material - and more fuel for my adamant stance that we don't need "more" materials - we just need to go DEEPER with what we have.
(for the record, I did try to think of cheaper alternatives; in the end, I went with the wooden set from IFIT - I am 100% pleased and I know I can re-sell them if/when the time comes)

Indeed, there are very few new materials, comparatively speaking; most of which can be hand-made, with instructions included; or find relatively easy alternates. 

Other elementary materials include (I'm not promising I am covering it all here - there could be more as I'm just browsing quickly down the list): 
  • Geometry sticks
  • fraction circles
  • bead bars, squares, cubes
  • wooden cubing material (noted above)
  • Powers of 2 and 3 (AMI only includes the power of 2 at elementary; but the power of 3 is available)
  • Second and Third Pythagorean Insets
  • Binomial Cube (my friend! the link here is about the trinomial, but the concepts apply)
  • Checkerboard
  • Pegboard
  • Fourth and Fifth Power Material (not included in AMI KotU albums - other albums may use these???)
  • Special Triangle Box (the box of 12 blue right-angle triangles)
  • Yellow Material (area and volume)
  • Large and Small Solids

  • no page numbers noted in the table of contents. ANNOYING. 
  • needs tabs to find the chapters (because of no page numbers) - easy enough fix. 

This album covers a LOT of ground at just over 800 pages. I could imagine using this material for the equivalent of 7th, 8th AND 9th grades, with possibly some of it being a foundation for additional high school studies - it gets into trigonometry, etc. We may very likely do this album for middle school, then see about placement testing or other testing into/out of high school math courses (or seeing how Life of Fred fits into the whole thing when the time comes - I cannot yet say if there are enough credit-hours here for which courses on a high school transcript - I need more time with it, comparing directly with actual trig coursebooks, for example).
EDIT: after attending his workshop, there are portions here that are solidly high school. This album set goes all the way through. 

I highly recommend picking up this resource when your elementary child is around age 10 - so you can have time to get organized with it ---- the author suggests that some of the work could begin in elementary with a ready-child; and the AMI albums (including KotU) have work that COULD bridge into adolescence. So you'll want some time to get a feel for it and find what path your child will need.

From a Facebook post in 2015:

A tidbit for anyone who owns the Montessori Algebra for the Adolescent album/book by Michael Waski ----
pg 221 has a typo he wants corrected: it should say "multiplication over addition" in the next to last line.

And get this - the algebra tiles that are used a LOT? They can be made out of foam-sheets (not foam board - that would be too thick - just the foam sheets that can easily be cut by hand! Awesome stuff. (the algebra tiles include the "green/gray counters" and "skittles" noted in the album)

Links for it (non-affiliate):
No longer available via NAMTA
Great Work Inc (also has some of the materials available for sale)
Table of Contents

I am writing this review on a snow/ice day with lots and lots and lots to do around our home - so I know I've not covered everything I'd've liked to cover. Please ask any and all questions and I'll respond with what is pertinent to what people want to know :)

Caveat: I cannot answer how this album aligns with following any elementary albums besides the AMI ones, because I have only seen tiny portions of non-AMI upper elementary albums.

6/15/2019: Updating to reflect a longer-term link for purchase and to note: GEOMETRY is now available as well!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Adolescent Algebra-Plus Album

I just bought this with part of my subbing income:

It will arrive in a couple of days.

I'll let you know my follow-up thoughts after this coming weekend.

My initial thoughts based on TOC and several samples:
I like it. It seems to follow quite well on the AMI elementary mathematics album; a 12-13 year old could finish up the end of the AMI elementary album as needed, then move into this album.

I'm not sure there are many illustrations though. I have been able to follow the samples based on my knowledge and experience with the AMI elementary mathematics album.
UPDATE: Plenty of illustrations! Woohoo!

More thoughts to come. Curl up with some warm peppermint tea and my favorite blanket in my cozy chair that I've not seen for a few months now (it's buried - time to resurrect it!).

(for the record, my final thoughts won't be for a few years yet - not until my son finishes it - and he's only just about to be 10 - so it will be a while ;) ).