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, May 25, 2013

A bit of post-atrium fun

What we do after atrium on beautiful sunny days:
Please note - the photos may be redundant, but he is NOT intentionally making a silly face or hiding his face - he actually WANTED his photo taken - and I had to take the opportunity while I could!!!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Blue Belt!!

(tiny break while Legoboy finishes writing the next post)

So proud of Legoboy!

While he didn't ENTIRELY pass his belt test, they did still give him the blue belt with a white tape on the end; he re-did the last few requirements the following week and had the tape removed; he handled it rather maturely, while obviously visible disappointed in himself that he didn't get a "full" blue belt at the test day itself. He knew he'd not practiced well enough - and the requirements to perfection get stiffer as belt rank increases. It was a very good lesson!

The difference between full belt and tape? He can't learn the new stuff for the NEXT belt until he gets the tape off. He's there now (full belt!) and so relieved. The instructor even went out of his way to pick him up and take him to class (and return him) on a day that Legoboy was available to attend but I was not available to transport him. (please note: the instructor is one of our neighbors, so this isn't as strange as it sounds)

The belt test itself:

Beforehand - still a purple belt

got the new belt - but covered it up ;) 
turning to bow to the audience of parents

a close-up cuz he just so handsome!!

all that color!

the gentleman who tested him

the instructor - the "master"
(interesting placement of weapons in the back there....)

the master who likes to have fun ;)
(not knowing the weapons already did it, hahaha!)

Leading a portion of a class during the week afterward; and helping with a transfer student who is also a blue belt (not all schools have precisely the same requirements for each colored belt - black belts are all the same though; so Legoboy was asked to transition the boy into the requirements at this school).

helping the new blue belt (transferring in)

leading the kicking portion of basics

note that the other current-student blue belt is quite a bit older ;) 

So what's the deal with the uniforms you ask?

The white uniform is the usual uniform for all tae-kwon-do students at this school. The black uniform is used for those people on STORM Team (Special Team Of Role Models) - for those who are at least green belt (about a year in, if testing is done as quickly as possible) and under age 18. It is a team that has higher standards even than TKD; requirements about participating in demonstrations, attending tournaments each year, maintaining higher grades than the usual TKD kids, and other such requirements. At THIS school, if you are under age 18, you can only learn a weapon BEFORE black belt, IF you are on STORM team. Legoboy was the first one to join the team under age 12, and with more children around his age just coming on to the team, they set up a "Junior" STORM team, with similar but not as stringent requirements. They wear blue t-shirts under their uniform; regular STORM team wears red t-shirts.
(Legoboy's expectations are closer to that of the regular STORM team, since he was on the team for 6 months before the other children came up as the ONLY Junior STORM team member -- just how the enrollments worked for those couple of years).

Black belts (when not on STORM team) usually have the white uniform but it has black trim on it; black or white pants.

Any t-shirt is allowed underneath (including no t-shirt), but I don't like exposed chests, so the household rule is to keep it covered in public and white goes along nicely with the white uniform.

Short answer - haha! ;)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Botany: Herb Growing

We have decided this year to forego vegetables and fruits (except for our refuse-to-die tomato plants) and see what we can do with an indoor herb garden. We are combining our herb studies with Herb Fairies (opens up once a year in the early spring - sign up for their newsletter to get an announcement next April), other courses from, my previous health-related studies and the book that started it all: A Kids Herb Book for children of all ages.

Our other Herb posts:
Biology Studies for 2013
Initial post that started the herb studies
Healing Herbs - using grocery store items
A review of Kidzerbs: A Kid's Garden Kit for Growing Medicinal Plants (coming soon)

Other posts labeled as Botany on Montessori Trails

Legoboy takes over the post from here:
(he needed some prompts, so I typed in the questions for him)

What is growing: 

  • Calendula
  • Flax
  • Borage
  • Johnny jump-up
  • Yarrow 
  • Fennel
  • Marshmallow
  • Poppy
  • Basil
  • Love-in-the-mist
  • Dandelion and
  • Chamleomile

What is not yet growing:

  • Plaintain
  • Mullein
  • Licorice
  • Lemon Balm
  • Catnip

Why did you start this garden? 
Because I thought it would be fun to grow herbs ourselves (note from Mama: fresh herbs have different uses from dried herbs; and store-bought can be SO expensive). Because I can do with my Mama. 

Why is it indoors? Why not on the balcony? 
Because of snow and hail in the winter. Because we have neighbors who smoke and we don't want that yuckiness in our food and medicine plants. And because I spill water and the neighbors below don't like it. 

What is your favorite herb right now? 
Plaintain and Lemon Balm

What are you going to do with these herbs to keep them growing? 
Water them and add more soil when needed. We are buying some flower pots and some clear small storage tubs for transferring next week. 

What are you going to DO with ALL these herbs? 
Plaintain for if I got devil’s club thorns (note from Mom - it's in Herb Fairies but I don't know if we have that here??), or make syrup for coughs and sore throats and when I'm hungry. 
Marshmallow for coughs and sore throats.
Chamomile for bedtime tea.

Why did you choose these herbs? 
Because these are the herbs in the Kids Herb book and some came in the Kidzherb kit which we bought because it had many of the herbs we wanted. When we ordered seeds, we didn't know what would be included in the Herb Fairies series. Now we have more than we wanted, but not all that we would like. 

Our indoor garden:

seeds won't grow without soil.
we added soil. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why Citric Acid?

This week: a series of blog posts by Legoboy himself. :) 

Legoboy recently did a research project. 'Project' is a term used somewhat loosely in Montessori - in this case, he had a question, he looked up information and he reported his results. For the project portion, he is reporting his results here:


Question: Why does citric acid and white vinegar clean off more than baking soda and any kind of vinegar?

Observation: Our toilet, faucets and drains have been building up calcium deposits and Mama uses borax, washing soda, baking soda and vinegar in combinations. I think they look clean but she says they're not. The toilet did have a lot of black and gray in it.

Last week, Mama soaked the toilet in citric acid (she uses it to make dishwasher soap) and white vinegar and closed it up tight. We went out to lunch and I had to use the bathroom at the restaurant because she said I couldn't use the bathroom at home until that evening.

When we opened the toilet, chunks of calcium were floating in the water. I had a choice to clean up my room or scrub the toilet. I am happy I had a choice, because the toilet was gross to look at. A few minutes later Mama asked me to come see the toilet. It was white! She showed me that as she flushed the toilet while cleaning it, chunks were falling off under the rim. I saw them. She wasn't even scrubbing. I thought maybe I should have cleaned the toilet instead of my room. She was done first. I told her it was all the particles in the air inside the toilet that pulled the calcium.

The next day, I could only use the kitchen sink because she cleaned the bathtub and the bathroom sink. This time I helped to sprinkle the citric acid, spray with vinegar and sprinkle some more citric acid. But it didn't work. I had used our bottle that has apple cider vinegar and Mama said that only white vinegar works. I filled my other spray bottle with white vinegar and just sprayed all the citric acid. It worked! Everything is sparkling now!

On Saturday morning, we set up the kitchen sink the same. I remembered to take pictures. They are in this blog post. When we came home from visiting with Aunt Sarah (my godmother) at her bridal shower, we took turns wiping down the kitchen sinks and I took more pictures that are also here.

I asked my mama why the baking soda and vinegar we usually use didn't get the crusty stuff off, or even the brown spots around the bathroom faucet that aren't there anymore because of the citric acid. She told me I could use the internet to find out.

Answer: Citric Acid comes from citrus fruits and likes to grip onto gunk, then the white vinegar rinses it away. Baking soda is a base not an acid and it reacts with the vinegar to bubble up and pull some gunk off - it likes to blow things apart. I don't understand the ph stuff but Mama says I will soon. White vinegar is also an acid with a ph of 2.4. Apple cider vinegar isn't the same ph (4.25-5) so is almost neutral. So calcium particles break apart easier in two acids, not something neutral and not a  base. I thought acids burned my skin. They do when I eat a clementine and the juice gets into a cut. Ouch!

Mama cleaned it with baking soda and vinegar first
to make sure it was clean the usual way

Friday, May 17, 2013

States of Matter: Coconut and Other Oils - Extended Uses

For those of you doing the Story of God With No Hands - here is another follow-up/extension (could be first year, second year, or ANY year) ----

My son asked about the melting points of oils - we make soap with various oils and fats, so this was something he had experience with. Some are solid at room temp and need to be heated; some are liquid already, but go solid in the fridge; and others stay liquid even in the fridge but not in the freezer....

The components of his first oil solid/liquid experiment:

some of them...
taken before we invested in the
big bucket of coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • coconut oil
  • sunflower oil
  • safflower oil
  • soybean oil (typical generic "vegetable oil" found in grocery stores; my opinion is reserved)
  • canola oil
  • peanut oil
  • lard
  • tallow
  • suet
  • blubber
  • duck fat
  • (these last ones - it is amazing what you can get when you call up the butcher at the local grocery store and ask for buckets and fat!)

I won't reveal his results, but I will say that he created a graph for each one; then created a second graph with the solidifying temps in order from lowest to highest. While graphing doesn't seem "explicit" in the AMI elementary Montessori albums, it is there for the economic geography, and should come in naturally in all sorts of extensions and follow-ups! (if it doesn't, introduce a place where it CAN be added ;) ). 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Fundamental Human Needs - the Twilight Zone

Rabbit trails.... and my dark side ;)

We have found Montessori in The Twilight Zone!

Legoboy and I play a browser-based history game and since it is still in development, as we complete each stage, we have to wait for the next "age" to be added... But the game-makers want us to keep playing, so they have these quest rotations that, once you've hit the "end" several times and had to wait, become very routine and familiar. Repetitive. Because while you're waiting for the next age to be added, you get the same 7 quests, over. and over. and over. and over.

What keeps them from being boring is that I call them The Twilight Zone quests. Especially the one with the jester having nightmares - it really fits the theme!

So I was chanting that theme today and Legoboy finally asked what this Twilight Zone thing is about. First we looked up the theme song and a few tidbits on YouTube, but he didn't "get" it - that it's downright creepy because it's JUST. SO. REAL! He didn't believe me. Typical child - he has to experience it to believe it. Do NOT take Mother's word for it - Mother's Day or not. (yes, today is Mother's Day as I type this).

We found a few description pages about the series - specifically listing the themes addressed by the series and sharing that even people who didn't like the show have episodes that just stick with them. Because of all those issues addressed....

I have a few that stuck! That's what happens when you are in college full-time, on winter break with an 8 month old nursing baby, staying at your mother's fiance's house for the Christmas break, it's New Year's Eve, no-one is home and there is a Twilight Zone marathon. Oh, and for all intents and purposes, you're snowed in. In the middle of NOWHERE (no cell phone signal - egads!) with the nearest available neighbor who knows how far away. Yep. I watched all. night. long. I think I watched every single one. A few times through. Yikes.

I couldn't get to sleep after the first one ;)

Flash-forward 8 1/2 years.

I just had to let him watch an episode. The first episode of season 1 is so perfect! It addresses the issue of loneliness - isolation - the fundamental need of people. And in a manner that is not inappropriate for upper elementary children. I know a few episodes I won't let him watch yet (ahem - a doll; a little girl (he actually saw a 30 second blip on YouTube and requested NOT to see the one with the little girl); the airplane creature - which episode is the alien one? that one was fun!). ;)

"You see, we can feed the stomach with concentrates. We can supply microfilm for reading, recreation - even movies of a sort. We can pump oxygen in and waste material out. But there's one thing we can't simulate that's a very basic need. Man's hunger for companionship. The barrier of loneliness - that's one thing we haven't licked yet. 

~Air Force General Where is Everybody? 1959

Our minds are so great, that all of human history and knowledge, even 60 years after the creation of this episode, have made limited progress in understanding the depth of the human psyche.

Yet look at how much Montessori observed and acted upon... that NO current research has debunked or contradicted or even mildly called into question... not one thing! Careful observation, seeking to rid oneself of all bias - and she provided us with SO MUCH.

I feel so humble in passing this work on to others.

And The Twilight Zone only emphasizes the point.


Legoboy had our first conversation about psychology where we knew that is what we were discussing and we even used the word. His response:
That IS creepy.

Not just the show we watched, which he admitted about 5 minutes before the end was finally making him think hard, but the fact that there is SO MUCH to the human mind that can be illuminated or exploited depending on the hands of the person holding it. He's off pondering as I type....

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Biology - Coconut Oil

Stemming from our biology studies - botany in particular, Legoboy has fallen in love with coconut oil. Well, maybe not that extreme, but he sure does have an appreciation for it!

For someone who doesn't like coconut, fresh or dry, he was really hesitant to try the oil - so was I because I don't like coconut flavor either! The "expeller-pressed" version of the organic coconut oil does it for both of us. We have even purchased fresh coconut and done the whole "milk" thing and fresh coconut from the shell... didn't cut it. I am so happy there is a healthy, organic option without the flavor!

Note: I am not into "miracle" foods; instead I am interested (and cultivating in my son an interest) in eating wholesome variety of natural foods to maintain health; and use those same foods in different proportions for other needs: health ailments, body cleansing, household cleansing. We don't need man-made chemicals or processed "food" to live in the modern age! We just need hygiene and we can return to many of our ancient roots in a much more life-fulfilling manner! 

Uses for coconut oil as listed by Legoboy, with my explanations:

  • 2nd coolest use for coconut oil: weather gauge. Check the glass jar we store small quantities in for quick access; if it is solid, wear warmer clothes; if it is liquid, wear lighter-weight clothing; if it is solid on bottom and liquid on top, better layer! ;) 
  • cooking (we use refined, so there is NO coconut flavor) - used for sauteeing, stir-frying, baking (in place of other vegetable oils) - Legoboy notes that Mama makes really good eggs on hashbrowns, but the use of coconut oil instead of olive oil makes them even better!
  • moisturizing dry spots - he used to have eczema and still has occasional dry spots in the same locations. (note: over-use of coconut oil is actually drying)
  • soap-making - it makes VERY HARD bars of soap with decent lather and moisturizing. I make the soap and he serves as guard with the buckets of water and vinegar in case of lye spillage. Once the soap is done, he grates it to mix with other soaps (olive oil is the other top seller for our family business; 100% olive oil; 100% coconut; varying blends of those two; sometimes we'll do lard or other vegetable oils for customers; Legoboy wants me to note that our laundry soap for our personal use is made from odds and ends of left-over bars or the scrapings from the molds); we could make the blends from the start, but it is easier on both of us to do batches of one-fat/oil and re-mix. 
  • deodorant - for those who want a rub-on deodorant like store-bought (mix 1 part each of cornstarch, baking soda and coconut oil; fill an old deodorant container)
  • mix with smoothies for a smooth texture
  • chapstick
  • taken internally as well as rubbed just inside the nose can improve allergy symptoms (we're testing this one!)
  • Additional uses at Wellness Mama
  • Additional uses at Tropical Traditions
  • in gallon size, it is not only affordable per ounce, but a little boy gets to use the really heavy metal tool to open the lid! Next time they have free shipping we are ordering the 5 gallon bucket - we go through it SO fast with all that just we do with it! 
1 gallon from Tropical Traditions -
sign up for their newsletter and be ready to order
when Free Shipping comes along.
WELL worth the wait!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


He has the screen-name Legoboy for a reason ;)

A series of images of some of his recent work - that yes, I let count as school work if he can tie it into his other studies ;)

Riders of Rohan

Battling Ram and Siege Tower

Multiplication Checkerboard


Fundamental Needs Cards - Heat (and cooling!)

Fundamental Needs Cards - Defense

Lord of the Rings - Fellowship of the Ring

Incomplete Nineveh (needs towers yet)

Riders of Rohan

(movable) Siege tower - attacking the castle

(meant to be) Incomplete Tower of Babel

Monday, May 13, 2013

Botany leads to Chemistry leads to Anatomy!

One direction our Herb studies have gone is into healing - medicines from our very food and even from our weeds!

During our Supermarket Herbalism E-Course (7 days, totally free, less than 5 minutes a day, truly all typical grocery items), we learned some great things that garlic can do for your body. Legoboy just LOVES the fact that the chopped-up garlic soaked in olive oil creates a fantastic oil to be rubbed onto one's toes for overnight. No cough! And the congestion has all but cleared up. And he gets his toes rubbed every night ;)
(he has spring allergies and this has been a life-saver! and NO allergy meds needed yet!)

That led to questions about what components in the foods cause the various responses. How is it that the essential garlic particles are diffused into the olive oil; then the olive oil, along with those wonderful components (particles) are soaked upwards through our bodies where the garlic takes up residence in one's lungs (endocrine system) - thus cleaning out the airway passages. In the meantime, we explored the reactions of soaking garlic in other substances - what would happen - sometimes a physical reaction, sometimes a chemical reaction. Which are safe to consume and which not? Of the safe ones, what are the options for taking it? (chopped up garlic in olive oil can make a great salad dressing! and if you like vinaigrettes then soak some chopped up garlic in the vinegar type of your preference)

We just had to take a look at the insides of the body to check out the respiratory system.

Not our favorite book due to lack of detail; but
interesting with the pop-ups - it's the one he used several
years ago to first learn about the body.
he keeps it on hand for the 3-d ;)
there are so many wonderful options out there!

Side-tidbits learned: 
we are still working on several
vitamin e bottles of capsules
NOTE: just buy in liquid form
and use an eyedropper ;)
  • when you eat a lot of garlic and can't brush/clean it out of your mouth? it's because it is in your lungs, where it should be. 
  • we always use vitamin e added to basic lotion as an insect repellent. Our studies above recalled this fact to his mind and Legoboy asked me, "What else does vitamin E do?" It helps with healthy nails and hair, which are the same thing - the particles are just re-arranged. He didn't believe me. 
  • I then pointed out that diamonds and coal and our bodies are made of the same stuff - carbon - just with the particles arranged in different manners. He didn't believe me. 
  • We then pulled out the crystals he'd previously made of alum - white powder as far as he is concerned, but forms crystals. He finally believed me!
  • DOING is a better way of learning than lecturing ;) 

Now, I've hit on things kind of lightly here - mostly because, to give you more details, I would have had to chronicle every tidbit as it happened, and that would be a LONG blog post (or series of blog posts) that would show what happened only here in our home, not necessarily a "program" of study (program being pre-planned). We simply worked through the biology elementary Montessori album and took off on rabbit trails (extensions). ;) Thus, here are some of the highlights of where it could go!

We had long conversations, explored the books we have, used the internet (especially, but others as well), culled a friend's 5 acres of land, visited the library some, scheduled a visit with a local herbalist... and otherwise really took a lot of time with this. We followed my own interests as well as Legoboy's interests and had a lot of fun along the way. Some days, not much happened; other days it was our sole focus. (past tense! haha! We're still in the middle of all this!)

Present the keys and follow the child (guiding to make sure the path is a healthy one ;) ). Then express such joy when your son brings you these:

but he can tell me the type of leaves; the type of flowers;
what kind of roots they had;
and what kind of seed they came from.
How they are pollinated.
And how they lovely they smell on our kitchen table :) 
Happy Mother's Day!!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Biology Studies

So here we are in the spring time again - and the skies are finally blue! We typically re-start our botany studies in the winter because we have so much sunlight in our south-facing balcony doors - but this winter just dragged on... So we got started on herbs, but didn't get just too far - not far enough.

And it is admission time - we do not follow an academic work plan every single week. We DO meet each week and talk about the upcoming week, what needs to be done, what is scheduled, what we would like to do. About half the weeks of the year we are quite heavy on the academics, about 1/4 of the weeks in a year we have some academics and the rest - we blow off.

Or do we? We're still meeting, we're still planning, we're still working - we just might not be doing specific math skills or specific album pages in ANY subject. But we are still learning, exploring, discovering, and experiencing REAL life. THIS is the reality of Montessori - not how many album pages we worked on in a week, but how deep are we studying? Album pages can be flown through if the right foundation is there, enthusiasm for learning and the right timing.

Thus our last few weeks (since our return from out of state in fact) have been focused on practical life (spring cleaning), closing up school year events (my busiest week of this semester, I had 8 atrium sessions - he assisted in teaching 3 of them; and joined me for 3 others; but we also have other school-year related events), preparation for the next TKD belt test, preparing materials for the atrium, co-op, and homeschool, and getting ready for a new niece and nephew. Oh - and lots and lots of Legos ;)

Legoboy has been busy. I'll have a few blog posts about what he has been doing.

Starting with his herb studies, it has branched out from there. (click that link for the first post about herbs)

A few weeks ago, I posted this message to a couple of yahoo groups - I thought I'd posted it here, but the scheduled time didn't get it up - sorry! It's available next year (sign up now to get the message when it re-opens):

"A few months back, through a rabbit trail style of Montessori elementary, my son fell in love with herbs. I've shared a bit about it before and I have a few blog posts to get up about it... in my free time (haha!).

My son and I discovered this site - - they have a great herb learning game (Wildcraft), which is a bit cheaper in other places, but the BONUSES this site provides are far more than worth the extra cost! All sorts of downloads - my son just loves them (think: a boy who is excited to learn about herbs!).

Only until Saturday, they have opened up their Herb Fairy learning system - they open up once a year, provide monthly stories and activities about specific herbs that correspond with that month (probably most matches northern hemisphere, but you could start it and save them for later if you are in the southern hemisphere).... I'm short on time to list all the benefits, but I wanted to share that if you have children interested in botany and/or herbs, or that might be - and you have $97 for an entire year's curriculum (that comes with a LOT), now is the time.

(note: this is NOT an affiliate link - I'm just sharing this opportunity because of my son's enthusiasm and how *thoroughly* pleased we've been with their materials thus far) "

(note - after the fact - we're on month 3 of this herb learning system and all I can say is "it is WORTH every penny!!!!")

Here are some of Legoboy's botany studies this winter/spring: 

Herbal Remedies
garlic chopped and soaking in olive oil (massage into feet to clear up coughs overnight)
right: onions chopped and simmered in honey - take small amount every 15 minutes
during a sore throat and/or cough
More information at

growing 1-1/2 year old tomato plant in the house; mixed itself with the flowers...
We need to move these out to the balcony, but we're both nervous to separate out the branches. 

Legoboy just had to try to replicate Mama's success in growing mint from seed
(usually not an easy task for anyone; and I have a black thumb)
Results: SUCCESS!
(tip - just cut back your mint stalks and they'll re-sprout from the roots on the stump)

The jungle mess of a 2 1/2 year old tomato plant - still growing (tiny but edible) tomatoes!
This one is housed in Legboy's bedroom - south-facing window.
What was left of the dandelions after making cookies and teas
(see for more information!)

All photos courtesy Legoboy.