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.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Friday, September 9, 2016

Fractions Videos !!!

The fractions videos are finally being uploaded - I truly thought they were already up!

Here is a teaser!

This is from the fractions chapter in the elementary Montessori mathematics album - for Keys of the Universe that is "chapter 5".

All the others are available at Keys of the Universe!

And hopefully I will get caught up posting all my draft posts from... APRIL !? Ouch. We have had 2 boys come and go (to their permanent home), 2 older girls move in, then 2 little siblings move in. Addressing foster kids in the public school system. Family vacations.

And all the reality of how the Montessori approach is SO suited to the meet the needs of children with special needs and coming from traumatic situations.

I am in love with the Montessori approach more and more every single day. Even more so the days I don't approach things in this respectful, needs-based way - and go the way of the world - and everything literally falls apart.

More to come!


How many times was that!? 

I'm hungry! 

Cuz we can't be serious ;)

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." 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Snake Game Videos!!!

Montessori Snake Game videos are now posted at Keys of the Universe. 

For the elementary negative snake game, see the usual place for videos - on the course site ( in Mathematics. For right now, the snake game is the only video in chapter 9 (the others will follow!).

For the addition snake game and the subtraction snake game, please see the discussion community itself - I have posted both videos in both the primary level section (where all the primary videos will be) and in the elementary section in a pinned post under mathematics. While this work is primarily for 5-6 year olds in the primary environment, some lower elementary children can still benefit from it, especially as a build-up to the elementary negative snake game.

There are no videos for the following snake games, because they are redundant - already included in the other snake games!!!

  • Negative Snake Game (that has 5 boxes)
  • Multiplication Snake Game (already included as a verification stage within the Addition Snake Game)

Some of our cutest snake game bloopers: 

Other videos and samples are being added at our family business's Vimeo page



Rolling the mat: 

Leaving Runescape: 

Awkward Box Lids: 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Montessori Essentials Course

Montessori Essentials Course for all Montessori adults! 
       Montessori Homeschoolers
       Montessori Classroom Assistants
       Catechesis of the Good Shepherd *assistants*
June 6 8a-5p
Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception
Lafayette, Indiana

Learn the basics of Montessori that apply to all environments, along with the following:
  • History of Montessori
  • Exercises of Practical Life - preliminary skills, care of the environment, care of self and more
  • Grace and Courtesy lessons
  • Walking on the Line
  • Silence Game/Activity
  • Basic art lessons

$50 for the day (evening-before lodging available only as space permits)

NB: This Montessori Essentials course is one-day of a full 10-day course on the religious potential of children aged 2.5 through their 6th year. While the focus of the whole course is on the religious potential of the child as seen through a Montessori whole-child perspective, this first day will primarily focus on the universal aspects of the Montessori approach to life; thus anyone of any faith background who wants to utilize or learn more about the Montessori approach will benefit.

If you are interested in the full Catechesis of the Good Shepherd course, please see the post 3, 2, 1, Atrium at Seeking the Plan of God.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Nature in Montessori Education

Nature experiences are at the foundation of a full Montessori education, but it isn't blatantly obvious. Some people like to "combine" Montessori with Charlotte Mason to incorporate those nature lessons - but they are already included!

SO many of the Montessori experiences anticipate a child has already had real life experience with plants and animals - trees and insects - soil and air and rain - and all else.

Then the follow-ups to much of the biology work at both primary and elementary is to "go out and find these things for yourselves".

Art experiences include learning how to draw what you see. Grace and courtesy lessons on various outdoor skills. So much more.

So we take our real life experiences, have key Montessori experiences to organize those experiences, then go back to real life experience to apply those key experiences.

There must be provision for the child to have contact with nature; to understand and appreciate the order, the harmony and the beauty in nature.
“It is also necessary for his psychical development to place the soul of the child in contact with creation, in order that he may lay up for himself treasure from the directly educating forces of living nature.” 
The Secret of Childhood - Dr. Maria Montessori 

Even so, reality is that many of us grew up in a world that was only just realizing that we must maintain a connection to the natural world in order to live to our fullest potential.

Nature education - just BEing in nature - being comfortable in nature - knowing what to "do" or not do (this one is more important!) - just doesn't come naturally for us anymore.How can we pass what we don't have?

Thus we need guidance.

Some of the resources used in my family or by those I know - or that I recently found at our local museum center that I really appreciated the portions I saw - couple with a spiral sketchbook and a basic set of nice colored pencils and off you go!

The Kids' Nature Book has a week represented across a two-page spread with daily simple activities. Simple activities - gets to the point. A list of generic items to always have on hand is at the front of the book; index, additional resources and additional information are all found at the end. 

Some reviews on Amazon state there are some irrelevant evolution notes - use them or set them aside as you like. I didn't find them problematic to adjust for personal beliefs (children aren't reading this book - the adult is).

This one is great for someone who just wants to be told what to do without needing a whole lot of preparation or fore-knowledge. I wish I'd had it when my son was smaller and our time was limited, even given I grew up on almost 20 acres of land, woods, ponds, fields, gardens, and animals. As it is, I am getting it for use with my foster children.

Perfect for any age beginner - I will be using with toddler and preschoolers mostly, but also school age children. Just as a loose guide to ensuring we are doing something with nature every single day.

The pages I have seen in The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook one I really liked. This one is for elementary children to use themselves. There are some pages to fill in, but they give a website to print out additional pages as needed.
(I now own it - the reviews on Amazon about printing mistakes must have been corrected in the meantime because our copy is *perfection* - LOVE this book!)

I will use this with elementary children; while including younger children in some of the activities at least on a verbal level (or artistic!).

This book is similar to The Kids' Nature Book in that it follows the year (modify if you are in a different climatic area), with activities suggested by month and season. Before the first month section though, there is a whole section on observing the cycle of the moon and other cycles of the sky such as seasons, caring for nature properly, quick drawing lessons, and the like - these portions should be interwoven with the monthly sections (which provide about 14-16 pages per month).

My Nature Book is another one I like for elementary and older children. It is set up to BE a journal - done in any order, with pages for drawings, pages for lists, pages to note "first hike" and "what would you do" scenarios. It is thinner than the workook so more portable. This is one to really get the children connecting with their inner selves. My plan is to provide a copy of this book to each of my children; then go through it myself to create a list of activities and opportunities that I then ensure we do - activities such as hiking, opportunities to just be outside for no particular reason but to be there.

This journal and activity book is more "free form" though it gives guidance on each page - nothing stands out as needing to be done in order or at a particular time of year.

This one we had - and mostly used. It was tough though - part of it is that this is an adult-read book with adult-led activities (at least to get started). Not for the feint of heart, but not overly advanced and technical either. Let's go with "upper-intermediate" level on this one. Of the activities we did in this book, we loved them all. Of the ones we didn't do - many we came to later via a different route or we never found to be our "thing".

You could say this focuses more on "art" than on pure nature exploration. Art and nature go hand in hand of course!

I have sold off our copy; I am considering re-purchasing it for the sake of the foster children; but first I would like to work through the above two books and see where that takes us.

As I pull up the list of activities in this book, I see that it was written by a Waldorf teacher. Perhaps that is part of the combined appeal and the mis-match for me. The components of Waldorf that match with Montessori (nature, key experiences) and the components of Waldorf that don't fit with observed child development (I won't list those things here). Short story: this book would be great for those with Waldorf leanings!

Seasonal activities and crafts include:
Leaf Banners
Wheat Weaving
Leaf Crowns
Nature's People

Caring for the Birds and Squirrels
Star Windows
Snow Scenes
Finger Knitting
Yarn Dolls

Round Wind Wands
Dish Gardens
Butterfly Pop-Up Cards
May Baskets
Pressed Flower Cards

Shooting Star Streamer Balls
Walnut Boats
Parachute People
Paper Birds
Moving Pictures

We actually have many more in our home. Dangerous Book for Boys; Tin Cups and Tinder; A Kids Herb Book; My Nature Book - and who knows what else is hiding in our library ;) - A Classroom Without Walls - Deepening Children's Connections with Nature

The current plan in our family:

  • I create a list of pre-planned activities to ensure we actually do them somewhat routinely. 
  • Use The Kids' Nature Book as an activity we do each day. 
  • Each elementary and older child receives a copy of My Nature Book and The Nature Connection - the journal for their own use to have a dedicated weekly time to their private use (more if they want it) and the workbook for family activities with their personal follow-up. About 4 pages a week. 
  • So at least two dedicated "longer" times in nature each week (ideally daily) - once for private time and once for family time; with a short time each and every day for sure. 

Whatever you do, take the key experiences and get outside to apply them!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Foster Care and Montessori: Human Needs

Montessori has identified a specific set of human needs and tendencies - through her anthropological studies and through careful observation of many children and adults around the world across socio-economic levels, mental abilities and cultures.

Check those links for more details. In summary, the human needs are the following:

The five (5) physical needs of human beings include 
  • sufficient food
  • appropriate clothing
  • shelter
  • defense
  • transportation

The four (4) spiritual needs human beings include 
  • love
  • arts/music
  • vanitas (to improve and embellish one’s environment)
  • religion

And the human tendencies that aid in fulfilling those needs are the following:

  • exploration
  • orientation 
  • order
  • communication
  • to know/to reason
  • abstraction
  • imagination
  • the mathematical mind
  • work
  • repetition
  • exactness
  • activity
  • manipulation 
  • self-perfection
Each human need and tendency has historical implications, as well as cultural, modern, practical, educational, spiritual and physical implications. 

Let's look at just the needs for a few moments:
sufficient food, appropriate clothing, shelter, defense, transportation, love, arts/music, vanitas (to improve and embellish one’s environment), religion

And what do you suppose we learned in the last of our resource parent trainings?

The human needs - and how they pertain to a foster child.

We were given an exercise - consider the 9 needs that they listed, fill out a form with information for each one of them as it is fulfilled in our own lives. Separate the sections of the form so that all 9 are a separate piece of paper.

Now, the instructor comes around with a recycle bin - give up 3 or he will take from you of his own choice!

How do you feel? Angry, frustrated, confused... Lost.

Give up 3 more - quick! Here he comes! He'll take the three he chooses!

Now you have 3 remaining. Lost.

Now two more!? Might as well take them all - depression, giving up, suicide (if this were real) - you've taken everything from me, what does the rest matter now? Nothing is precious. Nothing is truly mine. I have lost everything....

Information/Knowledge, Significant Person, Group. Meaningful Role, Means of Support or being provided for, Source of Joy, System of Values, History, Place

sufficient food, appropriate clothing, shelter, defense, transportation, love, arts/music, vanitas (to improve and embellish one’s environment), religion

It doesn't matter how you organize them, quantify them, define them --- they are fundamental human needs that can be recognized anywhere we actually pay attention. And how can anyone live a healthy fulfilled life without ALL of them?

Information/Knowledge: defense, transportation
Significant Person: love
Group: love, defense, religion
Meaningful Role: love, religion
Means of Support: sufficient food, appropriate clothing
Source of Joy: arts/music
System of Values: religion
History: religion, love (in this sense, history is about having a purpose in one's life)
Place: shelter, vanitas

Children will do what they need to do to get these fulfilled - or cut themselves off from them so they don't get hurt again. This is why children act out - even in trying to push people away and hurt people. They just want to fulfill their own lives - out of pain or love, their tendencies will get them there.

LOVE them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Making Montessori Materials: Bead Chain Arrows

I got tired of the paper/cardstock arrows. So thin, they slip around, hard to pick up when the focus should be on counting. They get *lost*.

The file I original used has two of the colors switched; I was able to change them (after I'd already printed the wrong arrows), then ran out of ink so had to wait. One thing leads to another, years have passed and the children are just making their own arrows out of paper for those two colors. I tried to print them again, but lost the modified file and don't have Adobe that lets me modify things anymore (and don't want to pay for it). Yeah. Craziness.

I kept saying I was going to switch to popsicle sticks.

Well, I started making the Keys of the Universe elementary Montessori mathematics videos - and my mission is to work on the corresponding materials as I get to the videos that need them. So there you go - or there I go. A simple project that became a big deal when it sat in my living room for months ;)

This material is indeed very easy.

What do you need?
  • A package of normal size popsicle sticks 
  • A package of tongue depressors
  • White very-fine-tip paint marker (for writing on darker colors)
  • Black very-fine-tip paint marker (for writing on most of the colors)
  • Paint in each of the bead cabinet colors (for "gold", I kept the sticks natural)
  • I also used a gold paint marker to outline the wide stick that represents the cube of the number. 
  • Note: I did not do the initial counting up at the beginning - these ones I will do in cardstock to keep them narrow. Easy enough to replace those for primary use (elementary students don't use them)
TIME: These took less time to make than printing, laminating and cutting the cardstock arrows.... Just saying.

I chose to paint just one end - just on one side at first; but I found it was easier to sort them and use them with the bead chains when the color was on both sides. So the *number* is currently only on one side (could be on both). 

The numbers are written so the arrows are placed below the bead chain; I really could have, should have written them so the numbers are placed on the far side of the bead chain from the child, yet readable. Wasn't thinking much at the time. ;) 

They still work for elementary. Will have to test for primary.

A video from elementary:

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Montessori Homeschool Boy

Our days have been looking more unschoolish as Legoboy gets older. Not just unschoolish - but more "practical". Like making popcorn - daily. ;)

Some previous "Life in the Montessori Homeschool" posts - just a sampling of what Montessori life can look like:

Final Upper Elementary Work Plan

LegoBoy's Doings: June 2015

Montessori Homeschooling Week - February 2015 - this post has the links for each day of the week

A Week in the Life of Legoboy 2014 - this post has the links for each day of the week

A Day in the Life of Legoboy

Elementary - Sample of Our Day - 2012 - towards end of lower elementary

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

REVIEW POST: Montessori House Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers

Montessori House has been on my radar for a while. The author and I are in the same Montessori "team" on Etsy - and I have had to defend her right to utilize the team tag "TeamMontessori" on her albums.

The author has AMI training and has organized her AMI albums for use by parents and teachers. What she offers is authentic - with some caveats. 

I do have fundamental disagreements with a few areas of Montessori House: 
  • The primary - or second half of the first plane of development - ages 2.5-6 is to be kept together. No child progresses perfectly in sync in all areas nor in sync with any other child ever. Thus it makes no sense to split up the albums for ages 2.5-6 into 4 different levels. 
  • Primary only goes through kindergarten - not grade 1. Grade 1 (or first grade) should be the first year of elementary, the child has a different mind (a reasoning mind) and is need of the Great Lessons, not being held back into primary. 
  • The author says on the main website that the primary albums at least are a compilation "of the best exercises and presentations". Well, in one sense, AMI provides the keys, thus the "best" are all of them; so this could mean all of them. But I am not so sure on that, looking over the table of contents. 
  • There are related blogs and newsletters, but none seem to be producing new content of late. What is there is good however! 
  • The groupings of how to purchase which albums is odd configurations as well, which leads to confusion of "what am I suposed to get for which age/experience". But this is minor. 
Still - what is there, should be quality. 

Last week, I finally purchased the infant and toddler binders for my own use. 

Some of my own Montessori background: 
  • Before I had my son, I had spent many days at a then-local AMI Montessori school - I had no training, I didn't even barely know about Montessori when I first walked in. But I fell in love from the first 5 minutes! (it took 4 1/2 minutes to get used to the idea of "just sit in this chair and observe for a little while to get a feel for the environment here" ;) ). 
  • At that school, I spent most of my time with the infants and toddlers; second-most time in before/after care, third in elementary (6-9 and 9-12 at this school) and lastly in primary (3-6). 
  • I loved every moment - even when I was overwhelmed with confusion about what on earth was happening! Children excited about studying grammar!? Children ready to leave who spend 5 minutes picking well more than half of their "mess" from playing with a friend because that is what is done to be respectful to one another!? Respect!?
  • In the meantime, I have had an awesome son, went to AMI training for primary Montessori (ages 2.5-6) and elementary Montessori (ages 6-12), subbed at a slew of schools, spent more time with infants and toddlers (and all the other ages, including now a limited time with adolescents) - and run an in-home daycare based on Montessori principles. 
No Assistance to Infancy training is on my horizon at this time --- and the resources I have accessed have been much less than stellar (ahem - Montessori from the Start - I will post a review on that book soon - I don't recommend it anymore! I only used to recommend it with caveats.). I did use Montessori from the Start but set aside so much from it - and felt guilty for doing so (more in the upcoming post). 

I have been loving my recent discovery: Susan Stephenson's book The Joyful Child for children ages 0-3. I have a review post coming forth on that one too - I will only say here that my only caveat is the lack of some material descriptions. 

I started to write my own guide based on my own observations, readings, experiences, etc. It would have been awesome; but The Joyful Child takes care of a good deal of what I wanted to put together - and the remaining bits could be gleaned from Montessori from the Start, but still the separation of wheat and chaff was hurting me. 

Thus, I took a chance on the Montessori House Infant and Toddler binders. Spent $80-something after shipping. Then I read some reviews from others in a Facebook group, posted right after I ordered. I was doubting my purchase. Very concerned about the wasted money. There was one good review but she said she didn't want a lot of background/theory (and that portion is needed!). 

My verdict? 

YES! Just enough theory/background to get across the points without being overwhelming and spending hours upon hours of reading. And straight-forward material descriptions. 

And the emphasis on OBSERVATION! Phenomenal! Even places to record dates, notes, reactions, etc! 

Not a downside or a caveat - but just a point of interest: These albums are written pretty much without emotion; there is little in the way of wordy explanations. It is very much "here is the idea, here is why it works, go observe!" Some people may be put off by that, but just read it as a factual document and all is well! 

One issue noted by the Facebook group reviews: a lack of structure, finding some of it "vague and disjointed" - I have that part covered below ;) 

Of course I have my own personal caveats - personal to me, but also from my professional perspective. I thoroughly stand behind the infant album (up to 18 months). In the toddler album (18 months to 2.5 years), here are some of my tips: 
  • page 83: When a child shows interest in letters at this age, Montessori House says to use sandpaper letters, DON'T. That is not the most accurate match for the child's self-construction. When the child is interested in letters and words, be sure you are playing the *sound games* instead. Separately, if a child asks about a word or a letter, give the word or give the letter *sound* (not the name). 
  • The math section: Counting - YES! Making counters out of clay for the fun of it - YES!
    But please don't do sandpaper numbers at this point or do the numbers & counters activity. These come after a child has had the number rods experience later. 
  • For math, keeping going with patterning, oral counting, one to one correspondence and the like. 

Overall, these two Montessori House binders, taken together with Susan Stephenson's lovely, parent-friendly gentle book The Joyful Child, will provide all that you need for an awesome Montessori infant and toddler home experience! What the one lacks, the over fills in! 

These two resources for infancy and toddler - transition readily into Keys of the World for 2.5-6 and Keys of the Universe for ages 6-12.