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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Montessori Math - Word Problems - Option: Zaccaro's Challenge Math

Legoboy and I received our copy of Upper Elementary Challenge Math two days ago and all I can say as I go through it is YES! Yes, yes yes yes yes yes!

As I suggest in the comments on my first post on the Challenge Math series, I find that for typically developing Montessori children, we can add 1-2 years to Mr. Zaccaro's age suggestions. These books were designed for gifted children and they tie in wonderfully with our math and geometry experiences.

This book says grades 3-5 - and I say YES! Adding two years puts it at Montessori "grades" 5-7 (misnomer there but bear with me ;) ). My son is "5th grade" and I would say he is just about ready for this book, the first levels of each chapter. I have a few more reviews I would like him to do in the first book (Primary Grade Challenge Math) before we dive into this one; if we hadn't been waylaid by other life events, he would be entirely ready for this book.

Now the difference between Upper Elementary and Primary Grade? There are additional problem sets (3-8 pages of them!) before even getting to the "levels". Both books have the same levels - Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 and Einstein. Primary Grade did not have the additional problem sets though and at times I feel like there are not "enough" word problems... to the point I re-wrote a few (just a few in the end) with different numbers, just for more practice. This book fills it ALL in. If I had known what was coming, I would have let it go and just enjoyed the Primary Grade Challenge Math for what it is, holding out for Upper Elementary Challenge Math.

Well now I know. And I love it.

I could see this book carrying us through the rest of elementary and getting us started in adolescence. Then moving into the original Challenge Math book. At the time we started Primary Grade, the next step available was Challenge Math - so this Upper Elementary Challenge Math fits a nice little transition stage perfectly!

I LIKED math growing up - because I always knew there was something more there - I picked up pieces of it here and there, but mostly missed the boat.

This is ONE EXCITED Montessori Mama - I get to do all of this too!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Real Cost of Montessori Training

Costs of Montessori Trainings --- Only my personal experience:

Primary Montessori Training - 1 academic year format - 1:00-5:30 every week day:

  • $9000 - training center itself - in the form of a 1.76-3.8% variable rate loan
  • $1000 - Rental truck to move across country, including gas
  • $3000 - ultimate out-of-pocket cost for 9 months of full-day childcare after state assistance kicked in (Montessori school)
  • $300 - incidentals (paper, ink, binders, etc.)
  • can't measure - the cost of closing a profitable in-home childcare, working part-time (3-5 hours a morning as an aide with hours added as the year went on) only in the last 7 months (the original aide was a single woman, not a mother, responsible, also in the training with me - she continually called me to sub for her the morning that the weekly assignments were due since hers weren't done; when she finally put in two weeks notice because she couldn't work and do the training, the directress/guide wanted to hire me, but the school board wondered how a single MOTHER could manage to work and go to school if a single WOMAN couldn't; they ultimately hired me and more hours were slowly added because I COULD do it.)
  • Not included: expenses we would have had anyway (food, etc.). Although food costs went up because I was purchasing bulk food and receiving money from the Federal Food Program for the daycare I had; now we were on our own and buying in smaller quantities - the prices goes up per person.

Elementary Montessori Training - 3 summer format - 8-hours each day:

  • $9000 - training center itself - in the form of a graduate loan through Loyola in Maryland - 6.8%
  • $20,000 - graduate credit at Loyola towards a Master's in Education-Montessori - in the form of same graduate loan - 6.8%
  • $5,250 - housing for all summers combined
  • $750 - materials available on-site at a steep discount (or unavailable elsewhere)
  • $400 - incidentals (paper, ink, binders, etc.) - cost went up due to twice as much paper, and they wanted it re-printed a few more times.
  • $900 - summer camp cost for the weeks my son was with me
  • Not included: two weekend seminars (I did not attend); travel expenses between training center, where my son was a portion of each summer and where we live/d, other living expenses we would have had anyway.
  • can't measure: time away from my son. With primary we were together every day, if not every hour of the day. With elementary, he went to family for weeks at a time. 
  • also can't measure: the emotional impact of the severe discrimination faced as a practicing/believing Christian (and a Catholic to boot!), a homeschooler (egads) and a woman who can get things done without whining about everyone else in the room (about 1/3 the group was constantly picking on everyone else). The constant re-writes of album pages because I kept Christian statements in the stories where they said "you can modify this to suit your own beliefs" - well, I am a Christian, so I will "modify" by keeping the Christian statements, thank you. Nope, that was apparently the wrong thing to do. And the constant apologies for the Christianity of Montessori were beyond just rolling one's eyes and ignoring it - it was downright cruel to Maria Montessori. Another training center may have been more respectful. (all those re-writes, and they couldn't catch actual safety typos - like typing the wrong chemical name for a demonstration).
I ended up sick during both trainings. In primary, our heat was accidentally "swiffered up", drying out my lungs in those few hours before we figured out what was going on, ended up in a severe coughing spell for weeks that caused me to almost pass out, cough up blood, and the doctors couldn't do anything. A friend gave me an old-fashioned humidifier and voila! Two days later I was fine. No amounts of boiling water on the stove took care of it as well as that cold-water humidifier.

In elementary, I was bit by either a tic or a spider - severe bulls-eye rash that wrapped around my leg. The doctor gave me a strong antibiotic for it - that I ended up sensitive to. Unable to focus while on it, severely motion sick (threw up several times on the way to the training center from the place we were staying), and unable to eat well within the first few hours of taking the twice daily dose. I had tiny windows of opportunity to get something in that would stay down. Finished the 10-day run and am hoping it wasn't a tic, so I don't have to worry about Lyme's Disease (so far, so good!).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

We're Home

12:57. Waiting for Legoboy to collect the mail (our local post office isn't forwarding all appropriate mail...). We've finished cleaning, walked out, closed up. I am looking up at the balcony and thinking "I don't miss this place." EVERY other time we've moved, as we pack, I start to think that I will miss the afternoon sunlight, or the pleasant aroma of the lilac trees, or whatever it is about this particular place I just love. Several years ago, we were going to move from here to Milwaukee, and I was definitely in that mindset. I would miss the southern sun through the winter.

But this move. Nope. Nothing. The one place I have lived the longest continuously my entire life - 6 years, 2 months to the day from the moment I signed the lease on this apartment to the moment I saw the inside of the house we live in now, and told the new landlady I want it. 4 days later I was cleaning with a friend; 5 days later I was moving our first load of stuff in.

The difference? All those other moves I was moving to something better, for one reason or another, but there would be drawbacks. So it always balanced out. This time? Everything is better. Not perfect (I want to own our own property with at least 3 times the acreage - run a small Montessori farm school). But EVERYTHING is better. No drawbacks (I guess the overall higher electricity bill and the double-rent for two weeks and having to do some of our own maintenance don't really count as drawbacks ;) ). We have a LARGE yard - about an acre, in the shape of a capital T. The neighbor on one side has a decent size yard in between (OUR part of the yard, no less); the other neighbor is the landlord's father and he has tall plants growing along his fence (privacy) and there is a driveway between our house and the fence (leading to the pole barn), with his drive on the other side. Yes, our landlord will use that driveway (the pole barn is theirs) - but he is mowing the lawn - way cool.
There is a decent size garden already. We'll make it bigger in the springtime. A GARDEN!
And apple trees. Edible apples on my own property! We picked a few, and the landlord picks more to sell along the roadside. We can have what we like from the trees of course.
We have maple trees too. Not sure how many (limited time to look) - perhaps enough for a quart of syrup? Just for the fun of it? Maybe! We'll find out.

We have a full basement. Divided into two rooms. One room will be for woodcutting (finally in my OWN HOME! No more driving half hour to a (dear!) friend's house to woodcut. Now I can cut 2 minutes at a time if needed - much more efficiency with Garden of Francis orders!

The other room has an OLD deep freeze (won't be using it - much too big for us) and an old refrigerator (might use it for storing some stuff, but stuff that is mostly canned/sealed already). We are looking forward to purchasing a smaller chest freezer before month's end.

And the BRAND NEW washing machine I just purchased. I have never purchased one before; I made a list of the features I wanted. No agitator being pretty close to the top (no, it IS at the top). Well, that happens to get pricey. Do I "deserve" a new washing machine? No. And certainly not the more expensive one. Many people have pointed out some facts to me though:

  • I never purchase something that isn't really good value for the money invested.
  • I make things last by properly caring for them.
  • I tend to make my own repairs. (I am loving that the landlord/landlady actually prefer I do any minor repairs myself - this is some odd inner need of mine - to care for my own stuff, to feel creative in that way, to exercise stewardship over my surroundings). I make things LAST. 
  • I have been handwashing my laundry (and sometimes taking loads to a friend's house, perhaps once every 4-6 months) for 5 years now. And personal laundry cannot be washed in anyone else's machine because of the residue build-up, that even with my homemade, no harsh chemicals still gives me uncomfortable rashes. Sorry Mom and Grandma - your machines too! And I KNOW those are clean! Our apartment machines were just awful - and we had to pay for them. NO THANK YOU.
  • I am not yet getting a dryer. We'll hang dry a while longer. A chest freezer is a more useful and wise investment of our money next, and after that we need to build up savings and pay down debts again. So I'm not looking to "spoil" myself. Simply utilize my money and time wisely.
This house has 3 bedrooms and a den/office. The living room is a hair smaller than our apartment living room, but in the apartment a portion was used up by our dining room table. Now - the den/office is a dining room (with a small sewing room at one end ;) ). I have a dining room! No more eating in the living room!!!!!

( just a little excited there )

Then the small bedroom on the main floor, next to the DINING ROOM, is the..... LIBRARY. Half of my bedroom has been the library - now it is a room of its own. And we'll have a good deal of the school supplies in there, using the closet for our main storage of items we use routinely (holiday decor and the like). Both of these rooms (indeed the whole ground floor) is a mess right now because we were waiting for the carpeting to go in upstairs. Yeah. Upstairs. I'd be fine with a ranch-style house and a basement, but somehow this feels more like "home" with the upstairs. LOTS of closet space, one large bedroom, one smaller bedroom, one LARGE closet with a light already in it (now "Legoboy's cave" - he has his Legos in there already), and a large landing for the keyboard, music shelf and a shelf along the rails for the games (doubling as protection against falling through the rails and my fear of heights ;) ).

We are potentially looking to do foster care, so haven't yet decided on the arrangement of the bedrooms. Firstly, the small bedroom will have the bed and be set up as something of a guest room. We'll sleep on the main floor for a little while longer while waiting for the gas furnace to be installed (within the next week, but then we'll wait a bit longer to conserve the gas bill while....)..... I also want to get through the sewing projects I have, so want to use the large room to spread out a bit. Get through all of that, creating a variety of items to sell at local craft shows and on Etsy (I have a LOT of fabric I don't use routinely enough and it just needs to GO), as well as a few other crafty projects. Get all those things done and sold, while going through the foster care preparation process.

By the time we finish all of that up, we'll be ready to sleep upstairs, but also make decisions regarding possibly my own sleeping quarters and Legoboy's - that provides the appropriate balance for him and for any potential foster children.

Our kitchen has light; our bathroom has light - all rooms here have windows (except Legoboy's cave - and he is happy with that). Our apartment had no windows in the kitchen and bathroom; the bathroom was HUGE (way too huge) and our kitchen was tiny (smaller than the bathroom....). The stove here has a light and a window - yeah, I missed that. ;) Weird little things like that, that just make a place more COMFORTABLE. The kitchen here is so much bigger; I could have a small table in there, but I am putting in a long narrow table to have more counter space instead. You know - since we have a DINING room and all ;) The bathroom is SO much smaller, but you know what? I am totally cool with that. It is functional and cute (needs a new sink - but we'll address that in a few months), and still has space for a bathroom shelf to hold our towels and such. It has what it needs AND has that thick frosted glass for a beautiful natural light (I can actually keep a plant in there - it will have enough light!). Yep. All good.

So - issues will come up - but this is the first move I have made in a long time that is truly an upward movement. And the first move ever that has no lingering wishes or something I will miss from the last place. As I looked up at the balcony, I realized, "We have been trying to LIVE in that apartment - for 6 years - and now we can finally LIVE without trying." Pure joy.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Astronomy from NASA

For those of you waiting for my to have things unpacked enough to start showing off all the cool things I LOVE about our new home ;) here is a neat NASA astronomy unit to download and utilize in our schools and homeschools:

Eyes on the Solar System

Tell me what YOU think of it!