Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mittens for Koalas, a Change of Plan

Once we signed up on the IFAW website as mitten makers for the Koalas who have been injured in the bushfires, I received notice that the call for mittens was so successful that they have way more than enough.

And postage to Australia from the U. S. is so expensive, they are encouraging anyone outside of Australia to donate money instead.

Our homeschool group met today, and although some of the parents had ideas for other service projects, the kids didn't express enthusiasm. So, for now, I'm leaving it as it is.

I want whatever Sean does as a service project to be something he is passionate about. I'm content to wait.

Where to put all of that Montessori stuff

I've hemmed and hawed over what to do about the homeschool materials situation. I really don't have that many Montessori materials, but I do have a lot of homeschool stuff. And maybe I have more materials than I realize, but I didn't want the materials to take over my house.

We don't have any extra rooms here, and our most comfortable space to work is the living room. So I've had a small shelf with materials and books for Sean, and another one with extra albums and supplies for later, and a couple of those large plastic bins with the rest.

Those bins house all of the things we aren't currently using, but probably will at some point. I have my laminator and my paper cutter in there. I also have some extra books and paper, and some composition books, which we use for anything that requires paper. I learned quickly that I couldn't stand loose papers and the mess of them. The only loose papers we have are printed work plans, which he dates, and fills in with the specific work he is doing. He punches holes in those and puts them into a notebook.

At first those bins were upstairs, in our office, but it was such a pain to keep going back up to retrieve something that I decided to just move them downstairs and stack them beside our small shelf.

That shelf is a cube shelf with 9 cubbies. It's nice. On the top I have the geometry cabinet, a globe and a vase with a stem and flowers made from colorful cloth. I had assigned a subject for each cubbie, and one for pens, markers, pencils and pencil sharpener. But this cubbie shelf just wasn't enough.

I found myself ready to present something, or Sean asking for something, and the materials were not readily available. I had to dig through the bins to try to find it. Not ideal. I also had extra materials on another shelf, which holds some books and some DVDs. All of that stuff was willy-nilly because there wasn't enough space to organize it by subject. So frustrating.

Last week I went to Target and bought a couple of magazine boxes, and baskets in a variety of sizes, thinking that would solve my problem. It didn't. There wasn't enough room for the baskets.

As I said, I didn't want this stuff to take over the living room. I didn't want the school things to be front and center when a guest walked into our home. But I just didn't see another way, so I went for it.

I bought three shelf units at IKEA. I got the Besta shelves, and I'm happy with them. They look nice, they match the color of our cubbie shelf, and they were pretty easy to put together. Plus the shelves are adjustable. These provide us with lots of shelf space. I didn't use all of the shelves, because some of our books and materials are tall. We now have 10 shelves, plus the cube shelf with 9 spaces.

I've put some things out, and I want to keep it all easy to access for Sean and myself. I'm still deciding on the arrangement of materials.

And as much as I would love to get rid of the bins, those are still full. Ugh.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Mittens for Koalas

I was browsing Facebook today and saw a Washington Post story about Koalas that have been injured in bush fires in Australia.

The images were heart wrenching.

I showed the story to Sean, and asked if he thought it would be a good idea to help. It's pretty easy, all we need to do is make some little mittens for them. I explained that it is their paws that are burned badly, and they have to keep healing salve on them, and keep them covered with cotton mittens. These are tree-dwelling, tree-hugging animals, so having healthy paws is essential to their lives.
He wanted help, so I suggested that I could put a call out to our little homeschool group that meets at our house on Thursdays for free-play time.

I emailed the group to see if any of those moms might have a sewing machine, because mine isn't in working order, and explained the idea. I asked the moms to talk to their children to be sure they would want to participate. (None of them use Montessori, but they are pretty Montessori inclined and just don't realize it ;-))

I got a quick response from a mom who does have a sewing machine, and can bring it to our next play day. I'm looking around for old T-shirts and old sheets, which the IFAW site says are perfect for this project. The material must be 100 precent cotton. I can only imagine the pain the poor animals are experiencing.

The mittens will be distributed by IFAW to wildlife caregivers, and vets who treat the burned Koalas.

I've been looking for a service project that would resonate with Sean, and this seems to be the one. I think I will print out color photos from the story to have on display as they work, so they are focused on why their work is so important.

My hope is that this will be a child-led project with minimal adult interference. They are all old enough to use scissors, and a sewing machine.

I'll post more on this subject next week, after we meet on Thursday. In the meantime, if you have a group, or are part of a Montessori school setting, we hope you will consider this as a project. If you cannot commit to the sewing, raising money to donate would be a good idea as well.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Montessori Day

The day before Thanksgiving was a little crazed. I was busy getting things ready for the holiday, and wasn't so sure we would get around to doing school.

Sean announced that his friend was out of school "because tomorrow is Thanksgiving", and asked if it was a hanging out kind of day for us. I didn't really want to say it was a day off, in case I had a few minutes to give a lesson, or we found time to do something. So instead I said it was a "go at your own pace" kind of day. That's every day around here, but I've never said it that way, I guess.

I returned to my work of cleaning and prepping, and wasn't really paying a lot of attention to what he was doing. I knew he wasn't in front of the TV, because it was off. I needed him to help me move a piece of furniture, and when I called out for him he said, "I'm doing math right now."

He did a full work plan, and when I realized he was really working I knew I should make time to give him something new to work with, so I presented some Latin root words that afternoon.

I love this method of teaching and learning. I know that only fellow Montessori homeschooling moms and Montessori teachers will understand how great I felt knowing that he had worked all day as if I wasn't there.

"The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, the children are now working as if I did not exist." ~Maria Montessori

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Searching for an Upper El binomial presentation

We have the binomial and trinomial cubes. Sean has used them since he was in primary, and I distinctly remember him showing me both of them during an Open House when he attended the private school.

But now we are homeschooling for Upper El, and I really wanted to present them algebraically. I'm not Montessori trained, so I watch a lot of Margaret Homfray videos when I can. Before I found her presentation of the binomial cube for primary, which is amazing, I watched a few Youtube videos of others presenting the material. It was confusing, because no one did it the same way.

And while Homfray showed how to present it to the child in primary, and then explained it to the adults in algebraic terms, I didn't think the way she explained it to the adults was the way to present it to a child in Upper El.

So I kept looking. And I got more confused.

Then I just stopped. I gave up, and decided at some point down the road I would stumble upon someone who could help me, or a video that was the correct presentation.

Fast forward a few days, and I was looking for some Montessori cards for the parts of an Atom. I found some at, and while I was there I decided to look at some of their other pdfs to see if there was anything that I could use.

WHAAAAT? There they were. The binomial and trinomial cards, along with instructions.
I've used several times. The cards are affordable, and come as a pdf that you print on your own, and laminate if you choose.

I'm going to practice several times before I present the binomial cube, and I'll be observing to be sure that Sean is ready for the presentation.

No one at has asked me to write this post, nor has the company given me a discount, or anything for free. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Great Day to Work

I bet you can hear me singing, wherever you are. "Alleluia!"

Homeschooling is a journey with highs and lows. Some days go pretty well, others are really not good and include some raised voices, or some defiance and frustration.

Today is Veteran's Day. Sean has had years of Veteran's Day celebrations and assemblies at the public Montessori School, and though we talk about what it means, we don't do anything all that special for Veteran's Day.

While the rest of the school world in this country is on what my son calls an "off day," Sean was not at all upset when I told him we were not on an off day today.

Last year he was very aware of all of his friends' off days. And he has friends in different school districts, so their days off are all different, except holidays like Veteran's Day, of course.  I had a hard time getting him to understand that we couldn't follow every district's schedule because we'd never get any school done.

But last night, when I said we were doing school today because we started school a month late, he was fine with it. He even argued with a friend on the phone saying that unless you're a soldier, you shouldn't have the day off anyway, because all a kid is going to do is play video games all day, and they wouldn't be doing anything to do with Veteran's Day.

So today we did a full day of school.

We have started learning Greek root words and their meanings, and how we use those root words in our own language. I introduced six yesterday, and another six of them today. I will continue until we get through the material I have on Greek root words.

I begin by introducing the root word, and see if he can guess the meaning. A lot of times he can guess. And then I have him find it in the dictionary and read me what the word is and its meaning. If it's an ending root, such as logy, then I encourage him to think of as many words as possible with this in it. We discuss the root of those words, and how their meanings are related to the root word. For instance, ast, aster, astro mean star, stars, outer space. We haven't studied Greek, so we aren't sure, but we discussed how Greeks use plurals, and ast means one star, aster means more than one star, and astro means outer space. He is flying along with this work. It makes me want to introduce another language, but I'm not fluent in any other languages.

We are still finishing up Ancient Greece, but there seems to be one more thing, and then just one more thing that we can research or read about Ancient Greece. We aren't done yet. I plan to use it a little more to go back over the election process.

Another work on our list today was math. We've been doing math since the start of school, but I told the Story of Numbers today, and he was enthralled. I'm pretty sure he has heard this story in school, but I admit I don't think I got to it last year. No matter, he really liked it. It is the last of the Five Great Lessons. I love these stories so much. I got mine from They are AMI based.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Getting Connected

I know I'm preaching to the choir here. We all know the highs and lows of being a homeschool teacher and mom.

What I want to express is how important it is to find your tribe.

I've spent years searching, but have finally made some connections with other homeschooling moms. Most of my connections have been intermittent. I've never created bonds with other homeschool moms, and it isn't their fault.

I'm a complicated introvert mixed with some aspects of an extrovert who needs small groups instead of large ones.

My friendships are few, but meaningful to me.

I've known for a long time that I really needed some people around me who know what it's like to spend each day guiding their own child to the wonders of the world. They don't need to be Montessori homeschoolers, but like-minded is a plus.

In my search for an activity for my son, I've found some great homeschooling moms in my community. I am hosting an outdoors camp at our rural, 7-acre property. Some of the moms are staying to socialize while their kids enjoy the camp.

We have had a great time. We sit at my dining room table sharing stories about our lives, and talking about homeschooling and the joys and not so joyful moments.

Wolf Camp is an outdoor camp for kids that teaches outdoor skills. You can read more about it here.
In organizing the camp I reached out to various homeschool groups and people I know in the park district to publicize it. I decided to require participants to attend all five sessions, hoping this would create some friendships for our kids, and for the moms. The parents can hang out with their children during the camp, or they can drop off, or stay and socialize.
It has been so much fun!

We've started having lunch after camp, with everyone bringing an item. Moms take turns bringing snacks for adult time, and now we are planning meals and everyone is bringing one or more items to contribute. Our first lunch was simple, so I could get a feel for how it might work. We did hotdogs.

It went so well that I suggested a make-your-own pizza party last week. I made dough and sauce, and everyone brought a topping to share. It was a lot of fun to see the different shapes and combinations of the pizzas.

I don't think I realized how much I needed these women. It feels so good to have other moms to talk to, who know what I'm dealing with on a daily basis. I am connected to a lot of Montessori moms through Facebook groups. I don't know what I would do without them. I have only met one of them in person, but the support and knowledge from those women is so important to me.

But there's nothing like having friends to sit at your table.