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.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Latest Doings

So much for our blogging plans! LIFE happened!

You could say we have been unschooling for the last few weeks. He has been learning a lot, experiencing a lot - just not from a pre-recorded curriculum or textbook.

Some images from the last few weeks.

At the end of February my maternal grandmother passed away. I was numb for a while and losing my memory - seriously. You could say something earth-shattering to me and 3 minutes later I wouldn't have any idea that you even had been in my presence a few minutes earlier, let alone speaking to me - yes it was that bad.

Then I had an intense week-long formation course for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which brought me out of the funk, and got me started on planning a "Montessori Essentials" course for everyone - homeschoolers, teachers, assistants, CGS catechists, whoever and everybody! ----- but I still have moments I just break down. Memory skills are not quite where they used to be but that week in March helped kick it back into gear!

Before heading to Michigan and being dumped on with FEET of snow, we ate lunch outside one day. We didn't eat outside, even where we are, until many weeks later:

I was just about to publish this post when I found this image on Legoboy's phone. I didn't realize we got any pictures of Grandma's funeral (his great-grandma). Inserting here since it was the start of the time period covered in this post.
And there it is - a flood of tears - and such painful regret I didn't preserve the rose from her bouquet. I still have it and plan to get some resin to make a paper-weight - but I should have done it when the rose was still more moist than it is now. I didn't even hang it... I'm sorry, Grandma.

That same weekend he helped his other great-grandma shovel her back porch. That was an undertaking! 2 days later, everything melted for the above-shown burial.

Legoboy spent a week at school in April. And celebrated his birthday and confirmation anniversary this month.

And we are doubling our household size!

 He knows well how to sleep in the car. ;)

NEVER too old for Easter baskets! Or Easter egg hunts (had one at the church - can't find the photo!)

My big boy helping with the grocery shopping. He normally only gets by himself what will fit in a basket, but he got some fresh donuts in a long flat box that he didn't want to tip. So thoughtful! ?? ;) hehe

At the museum center's science exploration area. Directing a laser beam with mirrors to turn on some classical music. He played with a few configurations over the course of an hour, with varying assistance from other children who came and went no more than 5 minutes at a time, usually less than 3.

There are a LOT of pictures here with a red and black shirt - he DOES change his clothes. Just not as often as a normal child. He has two of these shirts and his out-growing them, so wearing them as much as possible. There are no more shirts in this style in his size or larger - at least that we can find. Next shopping trip, he will pick out some short-sleeve t-shirts, I will buy some ivory and some black fabric that is like what is on these shirts and sew it on the t-shirts ---- make some more!

We decided we wanted these type of coolers for get-togethers - hoping to find them online cheaper than at our local Kroger. Legoboy asked me to post this to remind me to do so ;)

 Helping out with the Little Kickers class (generally small anyway - but only 1 this time around!).

Putting together two bunk beds (a total of 4 beds: each bunk bed as a queen mattress on the bottom and a twin mattress on top) AND a loft bed (ostensibly to place over the twin bed seen below - but we've since rearranged all over again). Total of 6 beds on the second floor.

 Continuing on with STORM team and regular taekwondo classes.

Marching with the Chinese:

Taekwondo Tournament:

Weekly Level 3 Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Atrium:

He joined Swagbucks (with my permission and guidance) and on this particular day had more Swagbucks than I'd ever had to that date. In the between time, I have totally surpassed him ;) We COULD pick up more gift cards now, but I like to save them for the first of the next month - one $25 gift card at a discount once a month (2200 Swagbucks instead of 2500). I like the discounts - they make the Swagbucks go further.

Affiliate link: Want to join under him?
Or want to join under me? 
If you join under one of us, we get 10% of most of the swagbucks you earn for life (some are excluded from the referral bonus)

Grandma got him a desk and told him to pick out all the accessories he wanted. He chose a small fish tank. 1) that was all he asked for (I prompted him to request a chair too!) and 2) we didn't check the size - it is much larger than anticipated. We might put a REAL fish in it! He put in the bit of aquarium gravel I had on hand already and put him some toy plants and fish he already had on hand. It IS a nice fountain! He hasn't yet decided if it will go to his room or keep it somewhere with sunlight and put real fish in it.

He asks me to note: we need to get a BIG aquarium for the living room yet. Yes, my son, I know. I keep putting it off. The perfectionist in me - I really want to enjoy the BIG moment and not have it be "just another a thing on my list to do". ;)

Celebrated his birthday with our first official "date". Once we have foster children in our home, my plan is for us to take a date once a month and do something just us. I'll do something special with the fosters too. Cheesecake factory! YUMMY!

 Celebrated his birthday with a great party with awesome friends - afterward he has a fire on the backporch with his Godfather.
Snuggling with his Godfather while setting up a game.
 More snuggling and playing!
And attending Mass the next day. Yes, with the Godfather ;)

Leaving for his "first day of (non-Montessori) school".

THIS AWESOME DOUBLE RAINBOW surprised us one day on the way home from tae-kwon-do. Competed with his instructor (drives the same route home) to get the better photos.

It doesn't show in the pictures, but when we got home, the sky looked orange - like Storybrook Underworld Sky Orange. Once Upon A Time fans will understand ;)

Another morning on the way to school.

Putting together two cribs. We may not need them right away; but they are in place!

Celebrating a friend's First Holy Communion! The cupcakes are just the snacks at the party.

BONFIRE! This one was just us. Got rid of some garbage boxes. May have set a box on fire that was sitting to the side (a distance away) because the wind kept picking up and the fire was that big and there were lots of flames floating up and away... I knew it was going to happen.
 We even melted some small holes in our picnic blanket. OOPS.

He hates washing his hair. But he chose not to comb it before it dried. And he slept on it.

 So he asked for a trim. Not too bad being only my second time with the buzzers; and only first time using them with some idea of even WHAT I was doing ;)

Meeting his new brothers and showing them the piano. He keeps up with practicing about 50% of the time, but his lessons the last 2 months have been sporadic. Between our schedule and his teacher getting married and spring break!

At long last - assembling the desk Grandma got him for his birthday/Christmas - it has been sitting in our kitchen since the day of (or day before?) his birthday party. It will be nice to have that space again!

 Hiding under his desk working on the back pieces (he has it turned so when you come to the door, he is facing you - he had to make some decisions of which pieces to leave off so that he can access behind the desk - since there really is NO space to walk around the other side! I think he may want to turn it around at some point.

However, the nice thing about this desk's construction, is easy to turn pieces inside each cupboard on either side, remove the top, then the cupboards are easy to carry around. Overall, it is heavy, but in those three main pieces, we CAN get it out of that room without sawing it apart ;)

He wanted to do it all himself! I helped with a door on one of the sides (the hinges were tricky - fancy kind of hardware he's never experienced - I did one, he did the other, now he knows ;) ). I held things for him, brought him the pieces as he requested them, and otherwise kept running off to do other stuff - after sitting there 15 minutes doing nothing and he gave me some random small task to make me feel useful. I was appreciating just watching! But alas, other work to do too!

Like putting together my own chair (he got the same one for his desk) for my sewing corner. Thank you Mom! It is amazing how little thing make me so happy! It's just perfect! Fits perfect, slides perfect, so comfy, supports my back; I can sit on it, lean back AND sew at the same time. It's not bulky and hard to move like the dining chair I did have there AND now I can leave the dining chair at the dining table. What novelty!

We also made an IKEA trip for more step stools (out of stock) and dining room table chairs that stack (we only have 3 wood ones that coordinate, so we got some black and white stackables to adjust seating quickly and easily) - we chose the Adde chairs which you'll see in an upcoming post. We almost got their bunk beds but went with alternates from Amazon - shipped TO me rather than me transporting heavy and long boxes and honestly, the metal feels more sturdy than the wood. Maybe I'm just being weird. I normally love wood everything!

We picked more IKEA Rast nightstands - because I can never seem to have enough of them! That is another post too! They are SO multi-functional. In fact, I think I have one started in draft format.

 And finally, we have been creeping along with the Keys of the Universe elementary math videos. A sample here, along with posting ALL of the snake game videos for primary AND elementary:

Friday, April 15, 2016

Foster Care: Preparations for the Bio Children

This post has been written throughout the past week. A couple of Montessori points to highlight:

  • Montessori focuses on a prepared environment, a prepared child and a prepared adult - this post is focuses on the prepared environment and the prepared child. 
  • Montessori prepares children for social situations, culture and life through Grace and Courtesy lessons. In a sense, this was a week-long grace & courtesy lesson. 

Pictures haven't been taken. I'll tried to add a photo from Tuesday if I can find it (he hid it from me ;) ).

This week, Legoboy has been attending school. The primary purpose is for him to have a shared experience of "school" - an understanding of the life of other children living with us.

Most of his friends and all of his school-age cousins attend school - and he sees both the benefits and drawbacks from that perspective. He appreciates the benefits of homeschooling and doesn't want to change that.

But that perspective is very different from LIVING it. Given a week isn't entirely living the lifestyle either - it is a small taste.

We're not looking to change this part of his life, just expand horizons. There are enough changes on the horizon as it is!

Past school experiences include but are not limited to the following:
  • Montessori school - including before/after care - 10 hours/day, 5 days/week. One full school year
  • Variety of summer camps - some all fun - some a mix of "school" and fun. 
  • Montessori school 3 days/week for half a year
  • Various Montessori schools for a day, a week, a month at a time while I subbed. 
  • Non-Montessori preschool that is normally 3 half-days - he attended "full days" or two classes each day but we ate lunch together
  • He has never attended a school where he had to sit in a desk, though he has had some experiences of being limited in movement and work choices. 
  • He attends 2 classes a week (one afternoon a week) at the local public middle school - but still no desks ;) 

He knows that he has options that school-attending children don't have - and he appreciates those. But when we have school children in our home who need to be in bed by a particular time and he gets to stay up, I want him to choose for himself to quietly tuck himself into the library until the other children are in bed, so that he isn't rubbing his privilege in their faces. 

No, he isn't attending the public school - too tedious to enroll for just a week. To visit for a day was feasible, but we were looking at the reality of balancing homework, ongoing days of early to bed and early to rise, keeping up with normal activities (so he can understand why we sometimes have limit a child's choices on activities).
He is attending the local parish school for the week. They have multi-age classes (2 grades per class); homemade lunches (not one child has ever complained about the truly delicious food) and he knows most of the students in his class! We're not going for a "see how awful school is" kind of experience (some people have suggested that is my intention! ummmmm, NO!????)

But neither is it a "we're giving up on homeschooling" or "we're giving up Montessori" or "I can't stand my child anymore" or "the schools do it all better than I do".

It is a shared experience to gain a new deeper perspective on another valid lifestyle choice. Plain and simple. 

Sunday evening: 

Reality-check: take a bath!? I have to wear socks tomorrow? and put on a clean shirt!? Wait, what!? And if I don't get the bath in on time, I miss Once Upon A Time.

Yep. Get moving.

In the end, he missed Once Upon A Time; had a hard time getting to sleep; and didn't want to share evening blessings. 

I had set his alarm on his phone and set it near him. He got up. ;) I made breakfast, he gathered lunch money, a notebook and some writing utensils, charged up his phone so he could keep it in his bag (on silent) so the teacher/principal would have emergency contact information, and waited for his ride.

I forgot to get a picture!!!! 

I do not like getting up this early in the morning. I will have to do with foster children but I won't always have to deal with his anti-morning-ness.

I take that back: I routinely wake up this early or earlier. But I don't *have* to do anything at a particular time at this hour. So I can get little things done, prepare for the day, morning private prayer, clear out e-mails or Facebook, get started on another stage of a particular Garden of Francis order, just sit on the back porch to watch the sunrise and the horses.... or otherwise mentally prepare for the day. For ME I need a lot of mental preparation - I don't do well just jumping and going and thinking on the fly. 

He and I also enjoy our quiet evenings together - snuggling while reading, watching our few tv shows, or I am working and he is leaning against me reading or playing a game. We enjoy going to bed when our bodies are ready, not according to a clock. It IS hard to for both of us to fall asleep on a clock. I remember lying in bed wide awake until at least well past 11pm every night, when my bedtime was 8 or 8:30. It did not matter how tired I had been that morning, how much I had dragged through the day, didn't get a nap or anything - by evening I was *awake*. They say you can train yourself out of that.

Um, I spent 13 years attending public school, with early mornings the entire time through. I NEVER got used to it; I never adjusted. Actually did a bit better in high school, because I could stay up later; I still dragged through my days but I had been doing that anyway when going to bed at 8pm, so I at least got a few more productive hours in!

No - I much prefer a lifestyle that respects the fluctuating needs of our bodies, therefore our souls. I was always moody in school - well? Wonder why ;) 

Plus for following for our own rhythm that maximizes our strengths and uses our weaknesses to strengthen us! 

Moving on with the morning. I didn't use the bathroom or immediately wash the dishes, because I knew I could do those things when he left. If I worked outside the home and left at the same time he did, I would be rushing around to do all of that, trying to do things in the bathroom at the same time, etc. So not really spending time together. When we are home together during the day, I use the bathroom when I need to; and do dishes when he gets started on schoolwork. So neither plus nor minus here, when it comes to ME staying home and him either going to school or staying at home. 

And now here it is 11:00, I've not done anything I anticipated doing this morning. YIKES!

It IS so nice to have a few quiet minutes, that slip into a few quiet hours..... ;) hehe

Not really.

He got a ride home we had an afternoon snack together. This is nice. Until this session at the YMCA, he has been in a strengthening and conditioning class at 3:30, so that could have meant a pick-up from school with snack in the car while driving to the Y. He lucked out in the timing of dropping the S&C class the week he is at school. Told me about his day; I had to ask some guided questions at times.

Lunch was good, he wasn't sure when to pay for it, lots of upstairs/downstairs, the music teacher didn't seem to know he was there but he did hear her yell for the first time ever (we are friends with her), didn't play outside since it was raining, and he doesn't remember doing any math (for the record, I didn't ask him about math! He just said that.). Oh, and he forgot to give G's monster truck back that was left at our house on Saturday (G being the younger sibling in the family that is driving him to school this week). 

Then we got ready to go the grocery store and the Y for his taekwondo classes. No homework today. 

Minus for the fact that we have really think about dinner timing. I'll have to address this with foster children anyway, so in that sense it will be a family change anyway. No more coming home after taekwondo to finish preparing dinner and eating at 9pm when children need to be in bed for school the next day! 

We picked up some groceries, went to TKD (oops! no uniform!), came home for dinner and catching up on Once Upon A Time. He also worked on a craft kit he got for his birthday - he couldn't finish it, because he needed to get his evening responsibilities done (cleaning certain areas of the home, brushing his teeth, preparing items for the next morning) and get into bed. He went to bed much later than I would have preferred. 


He got up with his alarm fine, but stumbled around a bit. Tried to play a few minutes on an online game he plays and work on his craft kit - while eating breakfast and "hey! socialize with my mom while you're together!".

His comment as his ride came (a few minutes late and we discussed the reality that NO, he couldn't use that extra time to work on the craft kit because he didn't know when he would have to put it away, then it would be left out for the day and when we have foster kids there are no promises it will still be waiting for him when he gets home!) ---- "No wonder boys get diagnosed with ADD and ADHD when they go to school. There is no time for a kid actually FOCUS on anything!" He said it tongue-in-cheek, but I see it as one of those deep insights he has from time to time. 

And I am again trying to use the time WITH him to be with him - so what would normally be cleaned up by now, ISN'T. But if I have limited time with him, I don't want to be cleaning up the kitchen while he is here. Yes, we could do it together, but he had other things he needed to get ready. 

We did have a bit of a whininess when I tried to get a good picture without tongue sticking out - the thought crossed my mind "Ah! It will be nice and quiet when he leaves!" Then I remembered - oh yeah, then the whininess will never be addressed.... Hm. 

My assistant came for the day, so I had no excuse: work. ;)


Came home with a stack of papers. Some done yesterday, most done today - graded and sent home. Academically, everything is lower than I thought he class was working at, but then I remember: this isn't Montessori with the hands-on manipulations at the younger ages. Math isn't just too bad, but the reading comprehension is SO - DULL. The answers he gave were accurate as far as I am concerned, but weren't what was being looked for. But then one thing he answered "whatever" (not the correct answer) and she wrote "ok" next to it and he got 100 on that paper. Huh!?

Side-note: the school is influenced by Common Core despite our state not embracing it. I won't open that can of worms right now.

He chose to forget how to do long division notation, but he did write a short story about how to leave school. It ends with throwing a party ;)

His SPD (over-hearing and trouble sorting what is important to listen to) showed through on some of the work - he didn't start some assessments they were doing (practice standardized tests) and he waited patiently to begin even though the teacher already said to begin; so he didn't "begin" until the warning time. Given the shortened length of time, he did pretty well!
NOTE: I did not report the SPD to the teacher or the principal. Another teacher knows, as well as some of the "specials" teachers, but they probably didn't think to say anything. I am fine with that. This is reality - we can't get through life on free passes just because we have a label. When things need to be addressed, they will be.

He did get nixed for not capitalizing. He hates capitalizing. He knows WHEN to do it, just doesn't care to do so. I appreciate someone else harping on it for once ;) 

We ended up spending the evening at home. His ride to TKD wasn't able to make it; the back-up couldn't do it; and I wasn't going anywhere myself. So he had a nice quiet evening snuggling, reading and helping me pack two GoF orders. 

When asked, later in the evening, his thoughts so far on the week, he said, "Sitting in a desk hurts!" We discussed the fact that at home he could sit at the computer or sit on the couch (or perched on top of his punching/kicking stand) for hours and be ok - the difference though is that he is doing what is fulfilling to him at that moment, getting all of his responsibilities fulfilled while having lots of time to go deep at the moments that work for his mental and physical readiness. AND those things are soft, not hard. ;)

"But if you had to attend school routinely, what do you think?"

Legoboy: "Let's not go there."

At least share with me some of the benefits - some of the perks:
"Lunch is nice. Can I help pack up this order when the polyurethane is done drying?"


I didn't get out of bed until he was ready to leave. I stayed up way too late. Clearly my own life will change with foster children here, even if Legoboy still continues homeschooling and if we don't have school-agers - children will be up in the middle of the night, wake at different hours. But I am trying to get through some major projects, now, while I can.

So we missed out on our time together.

Today is normally our crazy-busy day, so it is was nice to stay home and relax a bit longer than usual (relax! ha! note all those major projects I mentioned - then a friend needed to borrow our keyboard for a funeral service...)

However, he came in the door and shouted "HUG!" I called out "painting!" to let him know where I was, and we proceeded to play Marco Polo with "hug" and "painting" until we were fully wrapped around each other. Yeah... that was nice!

We had some downtime (no classes at the middle school today, no strengthening/conditioning) before taekwondo, so we just sat next to each other worked on the computer. We both needed quiet down-time, no talking.

We talked in the car though!

Now I am sitting outside of taekwondo typing this up, thinking "Dur! I forgot to plan for dinner AGAIN!" Yes, I have menus set up (not finished) for when we have more children, but this micromanaging planning for just the two of us? it's for the birds.

I'm hungry. He's probably hungry (although he did eat 4 hotdogs (leftover from his birthday party this past weekend) while snuggling in front of the computer....).

One thing I remember from our other forays into full-time school: home studies and projects just don't happen when you live by someone else's schedule. It has to be scheduled with other people for it to happen. We all need downtime and take it when we can! I actually did have a few things I was hoping to do with him this week - here it is Wednesday and nothing has been touched, piano hasn't been practiced, and, well, I'll stop complaining.... ;)


He had set the alarm an hour early so he could watch The Force Awakens that he had started the night before. I stayed in bed. Seriously. By the time I got up, he had gotten himself breakfast and had texted with a friend at school about their recess plans (the same kid he texts with to make plans outside of school, so this is a neutral to the "yes/no" school debate that others are trying to wage ;) ).

He rushed out the door carrying individual items, not in a backpack, though he had the backpack too. Turns out he dropped his phone in the front yard. I found it a bit after 5pm in the evening.

By the time he got home, we had a quick snack of all-fruit popsicles, chocolate bar, and cheese slices (yeah, I know - weird combination) and it was time to head out to atrium. Except we didn't know who the transportation would be since he couldn't find his phone.

He also told me that the internet stuff was fine because I was online while watching the travel channel. We had internet, cable and phone installed last week and we quickly discovered that whenever we turned the cable box on, our wireless would go to limited --- but ethernet wasn't working at all ("limited" as well). AND the guys didn't tell me phone number!

So what Legoboy wasn't aware of is that I had been on the phone yesterday setting up an appointment for them to come fix things - and that we had set a time for this morning! So they have been and gone today, installed a fiber-optic cable from across the street to our property, fixed everything, re-ran the wires and gave us an outside router with an indoor basement battery thing (I don't get it all). Exciting stuff. And he missed it. He just looked at me. Then ran out the door because his ride was here.

He is now off to atrium. We'll see what he says when he gets back - hanging out with some friends afterward too.


He woke up on time; but got lost in the dining room. ;) He was supposed to be picked up at 7:35 but I called to him at 7:42 to get his shoes on. Yeah, normal before-school kid stuff! Good thing his ride was running late!

He had gym today and was looking forward to it. They played wiffle ball and some relay back/forth running. He just gave me a look while describing it. It seems he wasn't too impressed. Given it was one opportunity out of 36 gym classes through the year (once a week for each of the 36 weeks in a school year). He calculated that math himself as well as the length of time and figured out he spends more time in TKD in one month than they do in gym class for the entire year; and his participation in other physical activities. I reminded him that many of the students ALSO participate in outside-of-school activities in addition to the school. He then made some phone calls and placed some texts - his own informal survey.

He decided that my argument didn't hold enough water ;)

Of course we also had this conversation after I was half hour late picking him up. My ONE time to transport him and he had to text me 5 times to get my attention! Oops!


So our primary goal and all of the top ten and then some reasons for this experience relate to a common experience - understanding the school life of any school-age foster children we have in the future. True understanding, if somewhat limited (a week, not a year, not two years --- but not a day either!).

Mission accomplished. Legoboy had some interesting insights through the week: ADHD diagnoses, running late, waiting for others, being in a basically all-new place with new rules and Mama's hand out of the whole mix, and more.

In other areas - we did have a few people *really* excited that he was doing that, that it would be SO good for him in gaining social skills, make him appreciate school and want to attend full-time, etc.

While I am *open* to the possibility, reality is - homeschool is best for *our* family and *our* particular needs. I don't need to list here all (or ANY!) of the reasons.

I appreciate that good schools are available if and when they are needed or will better meet the needs of my family.

However, I saw significant reduction in attention span, despite his 12 years of background in long attention span. The pattern indicated that he will probably pick back up just fine, but any more time in school could do some serious damage. I am very much not cool with that.

He asked around about typical homework load at this particular school. Not as much as the local public school BUT added on to school time? He can still cover all of the academics in less than 1/3 of the total school/homework time-block and have time to interact with people of all ages, all levels of society, various professionals and employments - and spending time in nature on top of all those noted hours in TKD, strengthening & conditioning, swimming, boys club and more.

Regarding socialization: 
From all reports received he got along well enough with everyone; kept himself busy during the times the other students were practicing for their upcoming standardized test; asked questions at the appropriate time; waited in line when appropriate; you know - all those "socialization" skills that homeschoolers don't know about ;) (tongue-in-cheek! obviously he knows these things!). He was patient with the younger ones; joked a bit more (than his classmates) with the older kids - but that is balanced with behavior and special needs of other students who have their own mix of social skills and personalities.

In other words, he didn't stand out ;)

Regarding attending full-time: 
I asked him, "Do you want to sign up full-time starting next week or next year?" His response: "I am good homeschooling through high school; I liked lunch though - you should make better lunches!"

Better lunches.

Got it.


Legoboy: "And I didn't get enough hugs through the week. We'll have to spend the weekend making it up for it. Just not enough hugs."