Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Update on Geometry Sticks

We have started the Keys of the Universe Geometry album, and so far, so good.

A lot of it was just review in the beginning, but it led to some great work.

Going over the concepts of Congruent, Equivalent and Similar led to looking at our fraction circles. We don't have any metal insets, or metal anything here, so I have to improvise with some of the ways I present these concepts. Luckily he's had access to these things in a classroom before, so my information is just one more way of looking at it.

The fraction circles were a way for him to explore equivalency, and he used two 1/2 circles.
While he had those out, he started fitting other fractions into those halves. He's done this work before, but it was fun to explore it again. He made notes in his math composition book to indicate how many 1/10s can fit into 1/2. He traced the 1/2 and then traced 1/10s inside of it and labeled it. Then he did the same with 1/8s. I asked if it would work with 1/7, and he said no, and then we tried 1/5s, but that didn't work either. When he had the 1/2s finished, I asked, "So, if four 1/8s will fit into 1/2, how many will fit into one whole. Of course this was easy work for him, but I was happy to review it and see where he is with fractions. (Who needs tests?)

Then he asked if there was division with fractions, because he's been working on long division for a while now. He likes it, and still seems to want to keep going with it.  I can see that he is still working through the steps for long division and needs my assistance sometimes. He sees all of the numbers and starts to get confused. I'm trying to find a better way to explain it, but haven't found anything yet that will isolate just the numbers he needs to focus on at that moment. I encourage him to cover up whatever he isn't using, but it is difficult. He has worked with the tubes, but I can't justify spending the money on them. I don't think we would use them for very long anyway.

We've worked with word problems, so he understands the concept of division, it's just setting it up on the paper and working through it a step at a time with all of those numbers on the page that are getting him tripped up sometimes. I want him to get used to doing this, because when he gets deeper into algebra I don't want the string of numbers and setting up those problems to be overwhelming.

But I digress.

Once he was finished working with the fractions, we moved on to Geometry Sticks. At first he was resistant, and claimed we had done that work before. We had never done it before, but he remembered it from school.

I started at the beginning anyway, and followed the album. By the time I had constructed a few polygons, he was starting to become more receptive to the idea. He clearly understood what a polygon is, and I asked him to construct one. He wanted to use as many sticks as possible.

I kept saying, "Oh, I don't know. Do you think this will work?" He insisted that it would. When he got to the last piece, and he probably used about a dozen sticks in various sizes, he had to zig and zag them to get a closed end.

We ended with the quadrilateral.

Next we will explore the Triangle, and talk about how it is the shape that constructs.

Monday, February 16, 2015

More materials--Geometry Sticks

My view of materials has changed a bit over the years.

I seem to waver back and forth-- get as many materials as I can afford, or just forget it and improvise with something around the house. Some of the materials we have don't get used much, and that disappoints me. I have spent a lot of money on some of them, and others I've found a a great discount. Either way, it's not free.

I tend to hang onto them, because I never know when it will suddenly interest him.

I'm also feeling a little nostalgic, because I know we are going further away from materials now, and next school year we will officially be Middle Schooling it.

So, I'm always excited for the materials to arrive, and hope that Sean will choose to work with them. That is definitely the case with the Geometry Stick material.

I've had my eye on it for more than a year, but there were always other things that we needed more. I finally placed my order, and I'm so glad that I did.

I recently purchased the Keys of the Universe Geometry album, and as I read through it I saw that the stick material is used throughout the album.

We haven't started the album yet, but plan to do so this week.

Sean is very agreeable and open to working with some of the materials I'm presenting, so I'm crossing my fingers that he will love the Geometry Sticks and the lessons in the album.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Things I Love About Homeschool: Recess

A Montessori teacher friend of mine, Meag, has started on a new path, and will welcome her first class of children to her Nature School in the fall.

I was invited to her home last weekend, and we had such a great time catching up and chatting about her new plans, and how she decided on opening her own school.

It sounds so amazing, and almost makes me wish I had a little one to send to her school. It's an outdoor, Spanish emersion school for pre-school and Kindergarten. The children will be outside the entire time. She became a Cedarsong certified Forest Kindergarten teacher, and I can't wait to see her school grow.

As we dined over a delicious lunch she had prepared, we discussed was how things are going for me with homeschooling. I shared with her how important I believe unstructured play is for all children. It's partly why I've been hosting the play group that meets at our house once a week ranges in age from 8 to 12. It started out as a structured environmental outdoor day camp, but when the camp ended I invited participants to continue to meet here for play day.

If my child were in a regular school, he would be in middle school, and what I've heard is that there isn't recess for middle school. They have PE classes, but not unstructured free time.

I think it's a real shame. I don't expect kids in that age range (11-14) to want to play the same way that children in elementary school do, but I believe unstructured play and free time are so important to our psyche.

It's just one of the many reasons I love to homeschool. I can provide my child with plenty of time to explore outside whenever he wants to do so, or we can go out for a hike, or just take a small break to spend time with the dogs, cats, or chickens. Being outside gives us a chance to process what we've been working on, get some fresh air, and relax and have fun.

Homeschool is so awesome!

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