Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Friday, April 11, 2014

School Days - Botany, EPL, Language, Geography/History

We have been so way-laid from our plans these last few months as you will see with our botany studies... but I feel like we have utilized this season of Lent to really freshen up and clear out. So now, we can focus on things we love to do :)

Practical Life: 
Legoboy got right onto his morning chores, clearing up corners that he'd not quite done just properly the last few days. He even vacuumed (an extra). He must think it's almost time for his birthday ;) Actually, he has really begun to appreciate having a clean home where he can spread out his Lego projects and still find everything.

He arranged the prayer table a new way - with only a week to go until the start of Holy Week, he wants to be ready for some planning he has been doing for the Triduum. He lit the candles for prayer time and replace the old with new.

I wanted to replant our herbs in October or November, start the seedlings then, so that they could benefit from our south-facing balcony window through the winter and be strong hardy plants by now.
All of our herbs except marshmallow did NOT make the full cycle of life from our last planting. :(

Yeah. Um. Or not. Here it is April - we finally got them in.

According to our plans from last time, we made some changes:

  • use a seed starter within the egg cartons
  • make holes in the bottom of the cartons for the roots to not have to through so much thickness of cardboard (even soaked, many of the roots worked their way between the layers of cardboard, but not all the way OUT --- even after watering only the soil to attract the roots to the soil. 
  • place the egg cartons in the seedling planters immediately (well, they now have holes in them after all)
  • place directly in a warm window (we don't get as much direct sunlight right now, but a friend has a sun-lamp to loan us if needed)
  • use this blue rack that has been making the rounds (we've used it for home stuff, Montessori stuff, in an atrium, in a Montessori co-op, in Legoboy's bedroom, and now into the living room stacked tall and narrow) --- it really helps all the plants reach the light, uses vertical space and not our entire floor space or play area. 
After getting this all squared away, Legoboy wanted to listen to some of the Herb Fairy stories again (Herb Fairies is currently offering a free herb cookbook and will soon open up their yearly Herb Fairy adventures ---- we are SO NOT into "fairies" and the like in our home, but we love this learning adventure!). We chose the one about roses today. Oh! All the things that a rose plant can help with! And the candy from the fruit! (actually you can make candy from the petals too, but the story didn't share that part - which means there is SO much more to learn about all the herbs we've been studying!). So we listened while I worked on tracing figures for a Garden of Francis order and Legoboy built some Lego structures. 

Practical Life Moment (as if herbs aren't practical ;) ) --- he went down to check the mail....
And we got our package from a Mountain Rose Herbs giveaway - I love winning giveaways!!! In this giveaway, we received a package of dried herbs: marshmallow root, chicory root, astragalus root powder, milk thistle seed, and burdock root --- all of which go along quite nicely with this month's Herbal Roots Zine which is on chicory. Many times, we can't do all of the recipes because we don't have the ingredients on hand. No excuse this time ;) So when we get to actually reading the Zine next week, we'll have what we need. Yay!

Our herbal studies have really gone deep. I blame Montessori on that. I can't imagine having time or energy to explore the options and make any basic herb-learning selection if we used any other curriculum. Using Montessori, this IS our botany studies (after the basic lessons). I know I gush about that freedom of time we have - but it is SO true! We worked out a plan today to choose one day a week to be our herb day - it could be reading the Zine and doing some of the activities, doing activities or watching videos from the various newsletters we are signed up for (Learning Herbs, Herbal Roots Zine, are the two that come to mind right away), doing or creating something from the kids herbal books he has, doing a recipe from the Mountain Rose Herbs catalogs (because they have recipes in there --- teas, foods, medicines, candies, you name it!).

We are taking a short break from the Montessori lessons while I create the follow-up cards for the upper elementary portions - I want him to work on these sections from the beginning, rather than what he's been doing (reviewing the lower elementary follow-up cards for typos and logic).

We played Act Your Wage again today and discussed some variations to try out next time. I'll post how all that goes ;)

I then assigned him some real life word problems of a sort, using our home finances as the foundation. It is amazing the insights he comes up with by "handing over" the finances to him. Not that he is really doing our home finances, but allowing him real life participation in real numbers and real situations, he sometimes comes up with ideas or asks just the right question to get me thinking of something better. And he finds the applicable Scripture passages when it comes to certain situations as well. He is the one to coin the phrase I have used a lot frequently: "the wife is to increase what the husband provides for the family". Well, that is perhaps a topic for our Catholic Hearts blog, but it ties in so well with our Montessori studies of real life, real experiences, inter-connecting all areas of school and life.

With these word problems, he has been looking at basic interest rates, savings rates, expenses, ways to expand our budget, etc. Utilizing both math skills, as well as logic, problem solving and ethics.

As an upper elementary student he is really delving into exploring the various beliefs about the origins of the earth and the early history of humankind. Last year, he explored various creation myths from around the world; he wants to get that book again from the library - I will post about when we do because it is recommended in the elementary Montessori albums and he wants to create some sort of analysis of the similarities amongst each one, as well as the differences - then see what those differences have to do with the culture the story came from.

Today he read a chapter from a book he has on Creation vs. Evolution.

We finally had our discussion on what a debate is, how it works, no winners/losers yet how we can analyze a person's evidence as well as the presentation of that evidence. Look at the questions still unanswered and how many debates prompt people to do their own research.
All of this ties into his earth origins studies, because of the recent Nye/Ham debate (the link is creation perspective but I am short on time and can't find a link without a "bias") - we own the DVD - I watched part of it online but didn't have time to finish. We'll be watching the debate soon, tracking the evidence each one puts forth and see how well each one does in responding to the other.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Happy Birthday Legoboy!

The Goof ;)

Decorating his door for his party

Birthday Strawberry Angel Food Cake
(instead of shortcake - and it's whole wheat flour)

His favorite gift - no surprise ;) 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Personal Finances and Montessori

It is never too early for a child to experience the reality of finances - indeed, the sooner they experience this very real aspect of most modern cultures, the more comfortable they are maintaining their value systems with it and the more likely they are to be creative throughout life in various economic situations.

Montessori does not specifically address "here is an album page about personal finances" - what DO we have in primary Montessori and elementary Montessori?

  • decimal fractions - with extensions to include local currency
  • language nomenclature - on monetary units
  • economic geography - studying the trades and interactions of current times (can be extended to historical and imaginative cultures as well)
  • story problems/word problems using money and goods exchanges
  • Goings Out - using real money and real exchanges in real every-day life. Planning purchases, planning errands, looking at gas prices and driving routes, reality of putting too many miles on the car needlessly, shopping around for the best balance of price and quality for services needed or desired, etc. Just living real life - and involving all family members. 

Doesn't sound like much, but it lays a strong foundation for each family to take those skills and experiences and proceed forward with their own value system in their own family unit. 

What have we incorporated into our Montessori experience to get into finances? 

Financial Peace Jr. - just the kit; we did not use the storybooks ourselves, but did borrow a couple from a friend. They are good for very young children; they did not go over very well with Legoboy at age 7 and 8. He said, "Yeah, I got that already." I felt it was pretty simplistic for Legoboy personally, because he'd been doing the envelope system of give/spend/save using upcycled parmesan cheese containers, since he was about 3. However, I do think the stories were good reinforcement of the lessons we'd been naturally experiencing his whole life. Ages 3-12 - I like it, but wish it had "more" for the 7-12 children who have had these lessons earlier on. I looked into the high school program he has, but it is more than what we need for a 10 year old boy. 

Your Business Math (Charlotte Mason style) - We wrote about the start of Legoboy's pet store here. This has been a great use of percentages, taxes, etc. We've been taking it slowly - and have a few months to go yet. Taking it slower than anticipated has actually benefited us because he can go back to his Montessori lessons, go deeper, then come back to this with new insight. He's even gone back and reviewed a couple of past months to see, "What could I have done different?" or "Oh! Now I see how that part works!"

Just living it - I have involved Legoboy on some level or another in our family finances from the beginning. Frankly, if this step is all a homeschool family does, GREAT! And it is entirely Montessori: real life, real experiences, real discussions, sharing of the family value system. Perfect! In infancy and toddlerhood, the child sees the transactions happening and the parent can verbalize what is happening - "we need $15 to give to the cashier to purchase this food" or whatever it is. In preschool, children can receive a small allowance (Legoboy started with 3 dimes each week: save, spend, give (church)). It is AMAZING how quickly he caught on. He saw a coloring book he wanted at Target. It was 99 cents plus tax. I told him he had his own money now and he could save up for it. When we got home that day, he asked me to write down how many dimes he would need to buy it. I told him "10" (I'd pay the sales tax to keep things simple for him). He TRACED 10 dimes on a piece of paper; then placed a dime on each circle as he got it (only the spend/save ones - he still gave a dime each week to church). When he had 10 filled in, he asked if we could go back. He talked about it off and on during that time of saving up, but he didn't harp on it, and he didn't ask if we could go back until he had them all. 

When we got there, that particular coloring book was gone, but he found another one at the same price that was suitable and he purchased that one instead. With his own money. I won't say he was "proud of himself" because I didn't get that impression; but he definitely seemed confident in himself, patient (he didn't stare at the chart he'd made for hours on end - just looked once in a while), and he definitely cared for that coloring book. 

At 5, he moved up to 3 quarters a week .Later, I introduced the idea of doing extra work for money. By 7, he didn't get a routine allowance, but he did have opportunities to earn money. Recently, approaching age 10, we discussed the idea that all that he does helps Mom earn money for the household, and yes he should have a share in that, in addition to having his clothing, food and educational needs met. He has always earned his own money for Legos, tae-kwon-do belt tests (I cover the uniforms since this is required "clothing") and tournaments, extra books (though it is interesting to see how much I include under "homeschooling" ;) ), and some other entertainment. Now, we have worked out a daily system with his daily chores and expectations where he doesn't get paid to DO them, but he does have to pay me from that money each day when I have to remind him or the tasks weren't accomplished (thus taking my time away from earning household income, or contributing to the amount of work I have to do to keep the household running - so he's "paying me" for my time spent). 

He really takes true appropriate pride in his work. He even said to me one evening, "I am really happy I have to work for the things I purchase. I like gifts, but if everything was given to me I wouldn't be happy - I'd be lazy and not satisfied with anything. But I know how much work I put into having the things I have. They are really mine because I worked for them." 

Our most recent addition to the personal finances education experiences: 

Act Your Wage - We purchased ours through Homeschool Buyers Co-op (a great place to be if you can control what you purchase - only buy what you would have anyway, just at a discount price!). 
This game is great for the 8+ crowd who have some solid basic financial foundation. There is not a lot of math involved - adding and subtracting - comparing greater than versus less than; doubling the emergency fund size. I have read some reviews that suggest it would be boring for adults; and maybe I see that. For our Montessori elementary and adolescent children though? I recommend it quite strongly! 

This was a slightly early birthday gift for my big 10 year old young man (ack - I did NOT just type that!!! he is getting too old!) - and of course we had to cancel our plans for a couple of hours and play the game, then discuss/critique it and now write this post. 

Indeed, as I think about the parts that others have written low reviews on - and ways to make it more satisfying for adults --- there are so many ways to utilize house rules for easier or harder (use fewer debt cards for younger children; more for older; have some choices built-in; etc.). Modify! 

As I look over the few state standards that contain information on personal finances, look over the college level courses I took in accounting, business management and personal finances.... I truly feel that we have really followed a good path. This game is an excellent step along the way; with a high school level course in basic business management or personal finances (both of which fit right in with the Montessori adolescent model!), I am truly satisfied that my son will leave his adolescent years with a solid foundation. The choices he makes will be his own, but I will have given him all that I can. 

Yay! Some satisfaction as we hit the double digits!