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.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Finding our Groove

Eight years. That's how long I've been studying and practicing as a Montessori mom, and Montessori homeschool guide. This is my second consecutive year of teaching at home.

And yet I still struggle with trusting that my child will learn without me trying to structure his day. I have weekly lesson plans that I hope will keep me on track to get through the Upper El material this year, but some days are just not productive. Last week we didn't accomplish much on that lesson plan.

However, his process has been successful.

Sean has been immersed in piano practice. The focus and tenacity he has for this work is very inspiring to me. In fact, his focus and tenacity for all of the work he chooses impresses me. He does the same thing with art. He is still very committed to drawing, and does it every day.

I believe his focus is partly thanks to his personality, and partly his Montessori education. Without Montessori I don't believe he would have the patience and stamina to keep with a task in the face of obstacles. He will keep trying until he gets it right, if it's something he has chosen to do. If it's something I've chosen for him, he won't.

I managed to tell the Second Great Lesson last week--The Coming of Life. He likes this story, and still seems fascinated by the knowledge that there are microscopic organisms that have been living on our planet for millions of years, and that everything is working according to its purpose.

He had some great experiences.
We hosted something called "Wolf Camp," at our home for about 10 local homeschooling children. The kids got great instruction in animal tracking, and made use of our property to find some cougar tracks--a little unsettling. (I didn't get pics, but I will next time.)

On Wednesday we went to Nikki's so Sean could hang out with is friend, Paul.

Thursday evening we attended a production of Rikki Tikki Tavi at the Seattle Children's Theater. The subject matter was a little juvenile for him, but he still enjoyed it. I have tickets for every production this season, but this will be the last season for us to attend all of them. Next time I will have to choose only the productions for the older kids.

On Friday he attended a Homeschool session at Camp Seymour. No pictures this time, because I didn't stay for this one. I think he's getting older and needs to learn how to navigate some things on his own. There are new camp counselors this year, and he seemed to have a little difficulty at lunch time with the instructions for getting food, but he came home happy. The activities were rock wall climbing and a tour of the garden. We've done it before, but he loves that climbing wall.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The First Great Lesson and our Star--The Sun

While I was telling the First Great Lesson, Sean anticipated what was coming next. He has heard this story for 8 years, but I know that each time he hears it he hears something new, or makes a new discovery.

This time, I let it sit with him for a day, and then I showed him "Journey to the Stars," a DVD that I got for free from NASA way back when we were homeschooling for first grade. I had never opened it, and decided this was the year to do it. It's all about how our planet was formed, and how the Sun was formed and its relationship to Earth.

I was surprised by how much he already knows about the Sun, and planets, and how they were formed, etc.  The kit came with a teacher packet with suggestions for questions and extensions of learning for different age groups.

In case you are interested, here's a trailer for the show.

Here's the website

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Volcanoes and Earth Science: An Epic Field Trip

We spent a couple of weeks exploring some awesome, scenic, parts of this great corner of the U.S., so our school start date was officially today.

Our trip included Yellowstone, where we explored for three days all of the steaming, bubbling, gurgling, boiling and erupting areas. We saw Old Faithful, of course, and the Grand Geyser, which only erupts every day and a half. Buffalo, ravens, and elk were the main animal sightings, and we saw a huge canyon there, as well as amazing rock formations and beautiful lakes and rivers and waterfalls. Yellowstone, for those who don't know, sits atop a caldera, and we learned a lot about what was going on under our feet. Their website includes a lot of virtual things you can do at home, so in case you're interested, you can learn more here.

We learned that the blue water is super hot!

From there we made our way to Idaho to see Craters of the Moon. It's like visiting another world. It is young, compared to Yellowstone. The landscape at Craters of the Moon is from volcanic activity 2,000 years ago. You can learn more about it here.

Luckily there are paved pathways for exploring this park. 

We spent a day exploring there, and ventured on across to Silver City, Idaho. It's a mining town that became a ghost town that has been revived, but it's still really primitive. No electricity. It's 25 miles off the main highway, and it's not a smooth ride.

Onward, and into Oregon. Our next stop:John Day Oregon to see the John Day Fossil Beds. We stopped off there a few years ago, but weren't really prepared to spend time and vowed we would go back. This time we had the proper attire, and were ready to really explore it. It was still very hot during the day, but this time we came in from the other direction and stopped at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. I could have spent the day there, and they had a nice room for kids to explore fossils, and had a microscope, too. We drove on to the Clarno Unit, where we hiked a short distance, got to see some cool fossils in the rocks, and I got some nice pictures. To learn more about John Day Fossil Beds, click here.
Leaf fossil in a rock on the trail.
Our final stop was Mt. St. Helen's, which was on the way home. By this time the kids were tired, and Sean didn't want to even get out of the car. But I was tired, too, which meant he was getting out of the car to finish this trip, LOL.

Once he was inside the visitor's center he found some interesting things, including a seismograph that records movement you make on the floor beneath it, and one which shows measurements of the current conditions at Mt. St. Helen's. For more information click here.

Seismographs are cool.

Chuck and I had a great time, and I hope the kids both have fond memories of it as they grow up. We experienced new towns, some good food, some interesting people, cool animals, and amazing beauty. They learned a lot, and I brought home a lot of pamphlets and got some Junior Ranger books, and a Junior Paleontologist book for Sean. We've been working in those for a couple of weeks leading up to our first official day of school today.