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, March 29, 2014

Work Journals as Homeschool Proof

The Real Question:
If the only requirements are "equivalent subjects to the local schools" (the state will not define the word "equivalent" - to give homeschoolers more rights) and "attendance of 180 days per school year" (the state, for the same reason above, will not define "attendance" or "school year" - each private school and homeschool can define their own school year, their own attendance, and their own equivalency to local school subjects) starting at age 7 until the child graduates (the state fully supports a parent-issued diploma based on the parent's own graduation requirements) ---- what is the best way to document those requirements while only providing the minimum. Each of these things must be shown upon request.

Solution 1: a list of numbers 1-180 - checked for each day of attendance, noting the "school year" only
(because even a marked calendar actually gives the days/dates of attendance - as the work journal idea presented below --- too much information)
It is pretty obvious if a child can have a generic conversation on the same topics the local kids would study - so that one is a verbal proof.

Solution 2:  same as above, but not even noting the school year other than the child's grade level? Or is that too much too?

How can we document attendance without giving more than "attendance"?

I am seriously looking for ideas here! I appreciate the 3 private e-mails I received, but the question wasn't really addressed, which is why I post this second update ;)

I am pondering my post below. But I am keeping it up - for the sake of conversation - of working out the best plan for those who Montessori homeschool - or even unschool.

Clarification --- Three families in my state that I know of have been visited by DCS in the last 2 months. Each family uses some form of Montessori - and all had a work journal of the basic type that has the date and the name of the work done (not necessarily *what* that work is - such as "bead chain 9" - no description of what it is). With lawyers in place, meetings in their homes with the DCS person, the one thing they each shared with me that they appreciated having (so they didn't have to do anything else) was having that work journal to show *that* schoolwork was done on that day. No way could the DCS person know what the work done even was (and legally couldn't even ask). Apparently one of the lawyers involved also homeschools - and they were ok with the sharing of the basic work journal.

MBT has fantastic comments below - regarding NOT giving more than requested. The trouble in our state is, "what shows what is requested?" Yes, I appreciate the lack of definition of attendance, but how do you show proof of something that has no definition? Each family has to figure out how to do that and NOT provide more than necessary. These families made a particular choice and it worked well for them. Some families just print out a calendar and write the letter "S" on each day school was done. In our family, we school every single day of the week. Pick up any calendar and those are our school days. I wonder if a DCS agent would believe me. But there's my son's attendance record. Every - single - day - of - the - year.

Maybe I am putting this out there so someone else can answer the question for me. What evidence is the bare minimum for showing attendance in a state that doesn't define attendance, but requires 180 days of it - and no other legislation on homeschooling? Is a basic work journal too much? Certainly can be questioned less. How much does this depend on the definition of attendance? A calendar marking school days isn't in the definition either. And that is where the real conundrum lies - for me.

The original post: 

Let's pretend you live in a state that only requires attendance in school for 180 days - but the state won't define attendance for private school (and considers homeschools to be private schools).

Portfolios are great; community testimonial that your child is brilliant is great.

But you know what makes life SO MUCH EASIER when someone knocks on the door to question your child's absence from school (presence at home during school hours) ?

Hand them the child's DATED work journal. The contents (style, lay-out) don't matter, but the dates do.

Let me say - it is SO much easier to SAVE those, keep them in ONE place (not hidden somewhere in the piles of papers and boxes of papers that a certain Lego-loving Fiend likes to collect) - then it is to go back and use a calendar to note that school was done on enough days to count for 180.

Do you realize how questionable that looks!? But a work journal, obviously written in different handwriting styles on different days with different writing utensils - so much more believable.

Reality-check: 180 days is half the calendar year. We have school on some level or another every, single, day. 365 days a year. Even Sundays are music (Traditional Latin Mass choir or Novus Ordo chants); Latin with a bit of Greek thrown in; community service (altar serving); history (personal Bible study looking at the historical development); logic (the games we play together later in the day) and literature (Once Upon a Time lovers in this household - and we are always going back and discussing the original tales included in the series as well as the Disney versions - and many times other versions - compare/contrast, discuss the moral implications, changes through time according to culture, what components are the same in all versions because of universal truths, etc.).

Yeah, even Sundays count as school ;) And that's just what we do every Sunday - let alone what we do on only some Sundays (cooking to take food to others in need; art projects of a wide variety).

So, we have 180 days covered in less than the first 6 months of each year.

Of late, I have NOT been as adamant about the work journal as I should be; he does keep a notebook with study ideas, project ideas, he does have his work plan (his organization of the ideas in his head, the requirements he has to meet to attain the goals he has set for himself, and our family projects) and he works from that to move forward with his own work. He does not track dates these days. He should.

So there you have it. Bad idea on my part to not track anything (I don't even have a calendar printed out with "s" on it for every day). We'd need credible proof of 180 days of schooling this school year and last - and a not-quite-10-year-old reading and holding intellectual conversations on high school level literature, doing typical middle school math, pseudo-expert on Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Ancient Israel, running his own small business on Etsy ---- not proof enough of adequate homeschooling.

Not when it is only attendance that counts.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Upper Elementary in AMI

Upper Elementary in AMI

Every once in a while I hear that AMI does not "seem to have much for the 9-12 year old." I have to admit I am perplexed by that statement. As a mother of an almost 10 year old boy who is in the middle of upper elementary right now and "started" elementary a bit "early"... well, he's still pretty busy. On the one hand, I am entirely amazed at what we have accomplished, but we also started elementary at 5 1/2 (giving us more time) and he's an only child of a single mom who runs two businesses from her home and off/on has part-time work outside the home (read that as: lots of free time to avoid school work and play with Legos instead). On the other hand, now the DEEP work is part and parcel of our everyday lives, I can't imagine adding anything MORE to what we do ;)

Here is what I see when I look at AMI albums compared to other albums, in no particular order:

  • AMI albums have a general presumption that a child has done all or most of the work in the primary albums. 
    • A child not coming primary IS given remediation sections in mathematics and language to "bridge" into elementary without that previous background. These DO NOT repeat the primary albums, nor do they take as long. A normally developing 6 year old starting elementary Montessori can anticipate being less than a "year behind" his peers by the 3rd year of elementary, and likely not even that much. I say "behind" in quotes, because no child is truly behind - he is where he is and we work with the child in that place (this is what following the child means - following his NEEDS).
    • I personally strongly encourage use of the sensorial album with new elementary children; utilizing the presentations as "challenges" rather than presented work. It generally takes less than a month of daily sensorial activities to lay a strong foundation (while doing other subject areas of interest/need). But that is just my personal experience speaking.
  • In general, AMI has fewer materials, with more use of the same material in a variety of ways, going deeper with the one material rather than spreading out to more materials.
  • AMI lays the foundation and expectation for a child to go deeper with his work, ask his own questions, seek out answers and collaborate with others. There are cues along the way, begun in primary and continued throughout elementary - we do not provide all the child's math problems for example, but provide prompts of the sort of math problems to create on his own - we can monitor his work and prompt areas that need attention.
  • Upper elementary (ages 9-12) does not entirely repeat 6-9 - but all concepts are reviewed. Since personal research is encouraged from the get-go, by the time a child is in upper elementary, he should really be going much deeper with his work. Review concepts in history, for example, and most if not all upper elementary students should be delving into their own personal study of local national history, state/province history, and another area of choice (generally children have an area of history they flourish in - GO with it).
  • AMI does NOT bog a child down or remove his imagination, creativity, or passion for learning by dictating every single study he does. AMI provides keys - a foundation and a framework - then provides guides for following particular interests (Goings Outs, history question charts, reading great literature and delving into the language used, music experiences with the tone bars, economic geography, etc.). If a particular child or family has a particular interest or value, there is now time to follow that particular pursuit because you do not have 6 hours of schoolwork dictated to you for every day of upper elementary.
  • AMI does not utilize some materials in lower elementary that WERE used in primary, that some other albums say are still necessary at lower elementary (some of these items, such as the small bead frame, are not even used in AMI remedial mathematics at the elementary level - yet it is a "crucial" material in other elementary albums --- all those concepts can be covered with the large bead frame and NOT slow a child down) ---- thus beginning to go deeper, sooner and freeing up time/effort at the upper end of the age spectrum, when children in the well-run AMI schools DO get into algebra in 6th grade (not ALL children do! even at the best top-notch schools - again, we follow the child --- but here is another point: many children do NOT get to all the presentations in the math album and have more to do as they enter the adolescent plane of development.... so how can there not be enough in math?)
  • I can ALMOST see the concern in language - there is less "dictated" - there are less "direct lessons". This is a benefit to the child if they have done most or all of the official lessons in the language album before getting to upper elementary. Now they can explore IDEAS, delve into speech, debate, drama, writing papers in one style, then re-writing in another style for comparison ---- hitting on all those extensions of the early album pages that they weren't ready for in lower elementary or didn't have time for (because of all the personal research they were doing).
In summary, AMI is so RICH with the actual keys and with the individual paths of the children, that the only thing I can fathom in trying to understand "there's just not much there for an upper elementary child" is that "there is just not much there for an upper elementary child's parent to directly teach (if all the "lower elementary" work is done)". If all the lower elementary isn't done - well, there is what an upper elementary child can jump into, have fun and explore!

If a child has done ALL of the suggested work for the lower elementary child, here is a generic (not near as detailed as it could be) run-down of the work for an upper elementary child:
(please keep in mind that most children will not get to all suggested topics in lower elementary, because their interests and needs are elsewhere; some will delve into upper elementary topics earlier, but will need to get the other topics later)
(music is not included here - follow the child entirely on this one)


Chapter I: Creation of the Earth/Idea of the Universe
God with No Hands - experiments - follow-ups
Additional Creation stories
Composition of the Earth
Further Details of the Composition of the Earth (stages)
Formation of the Mountains

Chapter II: Nature of the Elements
Further States of Matter
Different Ways of Combining
Separation, Saturation, Super-saturation
Attraction and Gravity
Extensions of all of the above

Chapter III: The Sun and the Earth
Time Zone Chart
Tilt of the Axis: Solstice, etc
Seasons and the Two Tropics: terminology from tilt

Chapter IV: The Work of Air
Review entire chapter; cover anything missed; select follow-ups to research

Chapter V: The Work of Water
The River
The Rains - Erosion
Ocean Waves
Spread of Vegetation
People in Different Zones

Chapter VI: Human Geography
Human Geography (Economy)
Overview of Local Government
Study of Natural Resources - Introductions
What is Produced and Where
Study of Consumption
Study of Consumption - Follow-Up (extensive)
Comparison of Production and Consumption
Imports and Exports:
Volume of World Trade
World Commerce
FINAL NOTES: Children should be studying in areas of interest (astronomy, physics, geology, etc.) Topics of less interest will be covered in middle/high school.


Biology – Botany and Zoology
Botany Experiments and Exploration
Story Material
Dissection of Animals

Biology: Classification
Kingdom Vegetalia: Classification
Familes: Continuing Classification
Geneaology of the Plant
Tree of Classification:
Kingdom Animalia: Classification

Biology: Ecology
Ecosystems - variety


Chapter I: History of Language
The Story of Communication in Signs
The History of Written Language
The History of Spoken Language

Chapter II: Grammar and Syntax
Compound Words - Conversations
Additional Grammar Symbols
Verbs - Simple Tense: Present
Verbs - Simple Tense: Past
Verbs - Auxiliary Verbs
Verbs - Simple Tense: Future
Verbs - The Perfect Tenses
Verbs - The Infinitive and Moods
Verbs - Negative Form of the Verb
LA: Simple Sent w Extensions - box 2
LA: Simple Sent w Extensions - on paper
LA: Verbal & Nominal Predicates (linking verbs)
Elliptical Sentences
Order of Sentences
Voice of the Verb
Voice of the Verb - Dictation
Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
Compound Sentences
Complex Sentences - Adjective Clauses
Complex Sentences - Adverbial Clauses
Complex Sentences - Noun Clauses - Direct
Complex Sentences - Noun Clauses - Indirect
Complex Sentences - Noun Clauses - Subject
Complex Sentences: Degrees of Dependence

Chapter III: Written Language
Written Language Part I & 2
Historical Investigation
Variety of paper
Exploration of grammar books
The Content of Children’s Work
Factual Writing - Various forms
Imaginative Writing - Various forms
Research and Note-Taking

Chapter IV: Spoken Language
Poetry Reading
Dialogue 2: Interviews

Chapter V: Literature
Introduction to Literature
Linguistic writing research
History of English Literature - research
Book of Kells
Songs and Verse
Hymn of Caedman
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
American Literature
include selections in the classroom
studies of authors and lives
Children’s Literature
older literature selections (pre 1900s)
1900s literature selections
Children’s Literature in the United States
Read and listen to books
Biographies of authors
Goings Out related to literature
Other explorations

Chapter VI: Style


Group Division
Group Division & Word Problems

Decimal Fractions
Relative Size of Terms/Numbers
Division of a Decimal Fraction by a Decimal Fraction
Leading to Abstraction of Multiplication of Decimal Fractions
Division of a Decimal Fraction on Paper

Squaring and Cubing
Squaring with a Hierarchical Value: stages
Pass From One Cube to Another
Cubing a Binomial
Cubing a Trinomial
Cubing a Quadrinomial
Cubing a Trinomial having Numerical Value
The Story of the Three Kings
Cubing a Number with Decimal Value
Square Roots
Square Roots - Abstraction stages
Special Cases - stages
Square Roots: review process and rules
Cube Roots
Cube Roots: Review concept and rule

Other Topics
Signed Numbers: Negative Snake Game
Signed Numbers: Operations (stages)
Powers of 2
Powers of 3: Full work
Powers of 2 and 3: Combined
Powers of 10
Operations Using Exponential Notation
Expanded Power Notation - Intro and Operations
Word Problems
Non-Decimal Bases: Intro and Operations
Conversion of Number Bases
Balancing an Equation using operations
Solve for Unknown: Operations
Algebra Word Problems
Solve for Two Unknowns
All stages in upper elementary typically


I. Introduction to Geometry
Various Geometry Stories from History
II. Congruency, Similarity, Equivalency I
Review all concepts in Upper Elementary
IX. Equivalency III
Equivalency with Iron Material: stages
Euclid’s Plate
X. Area
Concept of Area
Deriving Formulae with the Yellow Material: stages
Deriving Formulae with the Iron Material: stages
XI. Circle I
The Circle Nomenclature
Relationship Between Lines and Circumferences
Relationships Between Two Circumferences
XII. Circle II
Area of a Circle (stages)
Relationship Between the Apothem and Side of a Plane Figure
XIII. Solid Geometry
Concept of Volume
Equivalence as Related to Solid Figures
Three Important Dimensions
Equivalence Between Prisms with Various Bases
Derivation of the Formula
Solids of Rotation
Volume of the Pyramid
Volume of the Cylinder and Cone
Lateral and Total Surface Area of Solids

FINAL NOTES: Use 6th year to review and consolidate all concepts


The Coming of Life Story with Timeline
The Black Strip
Fundamental Needs of Human Beings – Charts --- some portions start in year 4
History Question Charts
Three Phases of History
Second Timeline of Human Beings
Migration Charts
Four River Civilizations
New World Civilizations
Timeline of Civilizations
Timelines for Memorization
American History (National History)
Personal Timeline
BC-AD Timeline