Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stepping back

Sean loves to bake, and he especially loves to operate our mixer.
Here he is making chocolate chip cookies. I spooned them out and baked them, because he was too busy doing other things. They were "mouth watering good," he said.
Our Christmas season has been full. He has done a little bit of work, but most of December has been packed with activities and my deadlines.
I'm struggling with how to make this whole homeschool thing work, yet not completely kill myself in the process. I've decided I have to slow down, step back, and not put so much pressure on myself. That's first. Then I have to honestly evaluate if this is working for us.
I work very hard. Some weeks are just crazy, and it seems I'm at the computer almost 24-7. It is difficult for him because I can't give him the attention he wants. Then he starts getting distracted, making his way to the toy room, or bringing something into the work area.
Just when I start to think it isn't working, and internally I'm having a conversation with myself about what is best for both of us, and how I might not be giving him what he needs, it's like he's reading my mind.
Today he asked a question about when Jesus was born, and was it before the dinosaurs. I started to review with him what the first life forms were, and he proceeded to fill in the blanks of how the universe was formed, how the amoeba was the first life, and we had to have plants before dinosaurs so they would have something to eat, and people weren't on earth with dinosaurs, because they came after, etc.
And I thought, "What 7 yo in a public school knows that?" Maybe there are some, but I doubt they are getting it at school.
So we just keep doing what we do, and I keep hoping that I'm doing the right thing.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Read a book, and another, and another

This must be Sean's sensitive period for reading. He is devouring books since he realized he can read the various levels of "I can Read" books. We went to the library for a Gingerbread House activity today and while we waited for it to begin he shopped for books. He read one while we waited, and seems to want more and more. He has always loved books, but says that is his favorite work now. It is sometimes hard to do, but if he pronounces a word wrong, I don't correct him. I wait to see if he figures it out on his own. He almost always does. And as I listen to him read, I learn which words we need to work on. Such as the tough ones in our language that have silent letters in them. Straight, weight, slight, physics, etc.

At the local library, our favorite place these days.

We had a lot of fun during the Gingerbread House making activity. It was all Sean's design, I was the apprentice, helping spackle the frosting onto various pieces of candy. Sean wanted a window upstairs, a front door to match, and pillars at the front. We got a bunch of books while we were there too.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Real life lesson

I don't have a picture to go with this post, though I did have my camera. Space was tight and opportunities for photos were low.
Sean and I spent the morning at our local food bank helping stock the shelves. We are fortunate to have a food bank here, because the assumption is that there are no poor people living here. Some people from our church started the F.I.S.H. Food Bank in our town some years ago. We saw today that it is filled to the brim with donations, and is serving the people in need.
There was a bit of drama at the place, and for that I am sorry. I was saddened by an exchange that I overheard there between two workers. I plan to talk to some people at church about it, in hopes that something can be done to help with the problem. I think there are some people still involved, but I don't think the director goes to our church.
Anyway, one of the newspapers I freelance for was helping out today, so we signed up.
I saw that they can definitely use some help, and if it works out, maybe Sean and I will start going there on Fridays to help out. (If the atmosphere is better next time we go)
Sean helped put a few things on shelves, but mostly talked with one of the older gentlemen there about Star Wars while I put things away.
I was surprised to see all sorts of things on the shelves, from soap and cat litter to pet food and clothing, draperies and dish detergent.
Sean understood why we were there. I think this is something we will just put on our calendar and make a weekly activity.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Operation Christmas Child

I've been trying to model civic responsibility and giving. It is a challenge when the household budget is tight and some months it is more than tight.
I also have been waiting for the time when Sean would reach an age of understanding. He can now relate to children his own age, look at his toy room and see that he has been very blessed with friends and relatives who give. He can also see that he has more than enough of everything, and through studying other cultures, knows there are children who have nothing.
We are Christians, and he knows that as Christians we care about people, all people.
I offered him the opportunity to shop for a child in another country, and give what could be the only gifts they will ever receive. He was excited about it, so I gave him $5 to shop with and we headed to Target. He carefully chose some gifts and I had some of the Happy Meal toys, etc. in my closet. I like to keep any extras on hand as gifts.
We wrapped the box, and he filled it with all of the toys and some candy. We included a Christmas card and picture of him. He asked who would get the box, and I said there was no way to know exactly. He wants it to go to South America.
So in typical Marsha fashion, we made it to the drop-off spot on deadline day.
He was very excited to take the box in. He normally doesn't like his picture taken, so I asked if I could take a picture of him at the drop-off, and he agreed. Even reminded me when we got inside as he was about to hand the box over to the lady working there.
We have another service project planned for the first week of December.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More freebies

Just found a new place for 3-part cards, booklets, and more!! Much more!  Go to ETC is a non-profit organization, and I just downloaded 3-part cards, etc. on almost 18 different subjects for FREE. These cards are beautiful, high quality photos. Getting to the download part was a bit tricky for me. I clicked on add to cart before I realized you have to click on the title of the item to get to the area for the free download.
So load up my Montessori friends. And for those of you who aren't yet certain about Montessori, take a look at those cards. Specifically, take a look at the planets chart, and the leaf cards. Beautiful.
This site also offers a lot of books or albums for teaching specific subjects, and it also lets you take a peek inside these books before you buy.
Check it out. Let me know what you find, and what you think.

South America is where it's at

Sean is very interested in South America. We read a book about Venezuela that we got from the library, and in that book Oscar D'Leon was mentioned. I suggested we could look for his music at the library as well, and Sean said, "Let's look on  iTunes." So we found him on iTunes, Sean was very into that music, and we have one of his CDs on order at our local library. He loves snakes, and one of the books is about the Fer-de-lance snake, which lives in parts of South American.
He has been exploring a book about world cultures, and seems to be heavily interested in all things culture, history and geography right now.
This week, I very informally read to him about the history of numbers. One of the pieces of information talks about how the Egyptians alternated from left to right on one line as they wrote numbers, then from right to left on the next, in the same way they would plow their fields. I found it fascinating, because Sean tends to do that as well. Until late in his third year at Montessori he did this, and still sometimes will start to do it.
For a while he also wanted to write right to left instead of left to right, and read the right page first in a book. My mom used to say he would do well to learn the Urdu language, which is written right to left.
While some would likely see this as a problem, I find it interesting and wonder why he would find that to be a natural way of doing it. He used to write his numbers across a page, and when he got to the end, he would just drop down to the end of the second line and start writing backwards, until he reached the end, and then drop down and go left to right again, like this:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
15 14 13 12 11 10
16 17 18 19 20
and so on.
He does it the way the rest of us do it now, but he asked for a grid paper one day last week, and said he wanted to write numbers. He began to do it again.  It must still be a way that is comfortable to him...
I'm not worried about it, I just find it interesting.
Has anyone else encountered this with their children, or children in their classrooms?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The rain is here

We put together the weather station on Monday and set it out where we could watch it as the wind whipped up and the rain came. It doesn't tell us the wind speed, but it has these cool anemometer cups that spin like mad when the wind blows, and a wind vane. And it has a compass, a thermometer, and a tube that catches the rain so we can measure rainfall.
Sean went out today to take a look, and we had almost 3 inches of rain since Monday.

Last week we went for a playdate at the Children's Museum. They had free first Friday, and we even found a free parking spot - Yay! We met some other homeschool families there and had a good time. There were great exhibits that focused on two Trickster Tales from our region. They had beautiful costumes for the kids to wear, and even had a light board where they could trace figures from the books to make their own little book. He had a great time doing that.
Sean said his favorite thing was the shopping game. It was a game that gave the player 10 acorns, and a list of items to buy. The goal was to have enough left over to either put into savings or buy something you wanted.
It gave me an idea to come up with a board game for him here at home. I've been looking for games that encourage working together toward a common goal, but I think it could be neat to make one. Instead of just a savings account and items to purchase that we really want, I thought it would be nice to have some charities to choose from also.
Since he is learning more and more about money, we could use real dollar and cents amounts, but keep it simple.
This week he has been looking in the snake books to find more snakes that live in Africa. Library books are due this week, then we move on to the next continent.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Africa, oh Africa

So Sean's plan in studying the seven continents was to begin with the African continent, and in typical "follow the child" fashion, we started with Africa.
Here are a few of the things we've done so far.
I bought some maps way back (feels like a year ago now, but only a couple of months ago really) and he has traced the African continent and labeled it.
We watched "Born Free," which I LOVED as a kid and he totally enjoyed as well. And at the end he yelled out, "This was a true story!"
We went to the library and checked out a bunch of books on Africa.
I bought a CD online for a great deal called, "Acoustic Africa." This CD was available in his Primary room at the Montessori school and he mentioned it often. I was happy to find it. He frequently chooses it for the CD player.
His interest now is with snakes and as he reads his snake books from the library we find out where there homes are, and some are found in Africa.
Here's where this turns a corner.
I bought a set of African continent cards through an eBay seller. This pack includes pictures of kids, animals, instruments, landmarks, etc. They're nice. Not laminated, not three-part cards either which bothers me now, but nice.
Sean couldn't give a rip. He hasn't shown the slightest interest in these cards, except when he was listening to the CD. I had all of the cards on the floor and he recognized one of the instruments as one that was used in a song on the CD.
I have been printing and cutting like mad, and let me just say, I have a JOB and I WORK and at some point the clicking and downloading and printing and cutting just gets to me. So I decided it was worth it to buy a few things.
It would have cost me $100, and I almost did it. I know NUTS. Luckily I decided to sample them by starting with the African cards.
Maybe other kids love these things. Not Sean. He just doesn't have any interest in them.
I'm going to try one last African continent work this week before we move on. I printed out all of the flags of Africa, but I am going to make them into three part cards and see if he goes for it. If not, I'll just put it all in the box and have it for next year. Maybe he'll suddenly have interest.
His taste seems much more sophisticated. He wants to plan a trip to Africa. He believes that would be a good idea. And of course I do too.
South America is next, he says. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Oooh, what is this?"

This was a day of creative geometry - mostly. I brought out the isoscelese triangles that I printed out sometime last month. Sean had gone into another room and came back to find the triangles on the floor. "Oooh, what is this?" he said. I said, "Let's see."
He created a figure out of them and said to me and an imaginary audience, "would you like to raise your hand if you have a question about this?"
I raised my hand and asked some questions. Turns out the figure was a robot, that could transform, so the triangles that were the feet could flip and instead of having the point, could have the short side down, etc.
I started to feel that pang of, "This is not what the material should be used for," however, I didn't have a real plan for the use. I wanted him to explore with them, find things he could make with them, and how certain things wouldn't work with them. So I let him go, and he seemed so satisfied with his work and interested in using them that I decided it was best to encourage him to continue.
I asked the question, "What shape are they?" He said "Triangle." I asked what type of triangle, and that led to looking at some types of triangles and finding that they were isoscelese. (I have these in three-part cards, along with the other shapes, hexagon, etc.)
He decided this robot should have a friend, so he took our change jar and used coins to create a figure with a head, arms, and legs.
He is mesmerized by money these days. He loves to handle the coins.
Yesterday he used the jar of change to count by 5s, 10s, 1s, etc. and he has learned how many quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies it takes to make $1. On that project, I was completely out of the picture because I was on deadline and working. He periodically reported to me his conclusions, "We have 100 pennies, so we've got a dollar!" or "There's 100 cents in dimes, there's a dollar," and I would ask, "So how many 10s does it take to make 100?"
We went through the "ai" words today, which he pretty much breezed through. I have them printed and cut out into little cards. I will present a different work with those that will include the symbols for the parts of speech, which I hope will reinforce the learning of the "ai" sound, and take it a step up in the spiral of learning and incorporate grammar.  He loves playing our word game. I'll say, "Can you give me a noun that rhymes wiiiiith....__?" It is his favorite game. We play that one in the car. We also change it up and use verbs.
He is very interested in cursive letters. I have those in a moveable alphabet, but they are just cardstock. I still have to get a suitable box for those too. I think I will try to find them larger, or try to make my own, so he can continue to trace with his finger.
Snakes and other reptiles and spiders, frogs, etc. are still the main research topic. His reading is improving, but he still enjoys recognizing the snakes from the pictures in the books. He can tell if a snake is a Python, a Boa, or a Viper, etc. by looking at it. He sometimes asks to get on the computer to do some research. I stand with him by the chair as he searches Google, and Youtube to see videos and pictures of snakes. Yesterday he wanted to look at Green Tree Pythons. He typed in "pithon," and then caught himself and said, "wait, that's not right," and deleted it and spelled it correctly. I don't correct him unless he asks me.
Probably not the typical spelling word on the first grade spelling test list, but there you go.
And I find it interesting, because Google will bring up a page with a suggestion of, "did you mean..." with a correct spelling. Not sure what Maria would say about it, but I think Google has an interesting way of gently correcting in a sort of self-correcting way. I'm sure some would argue it also would not encourage kids to get it right because Google will just do it for you. So far, I don't see it that way.
I did realize that though he loves books, and enjoys reading, we don't really have "readers," for him-- those children's books for early readers, etc.
We just recently started getting Easy Readers from the library. I wanted to see what level he is at according to their standards - i.e. Level 1 K-1st grade, etc.
He is easily reading Level 2, in some of the books. We got a couple of Level 3 just to see, because I like to have tiny bit below level, at level and above level so he can see where he is and where he wants to be.
I feel like I'm always at least a couple of steps behind. I'm trying hard to let him lead, but I have days of panic and guilt thinking he, and especially I, haven't done enough.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


It's a dirty word for homeschoolers I've come to learn. They resent the mention of it, insist that their homeschooled kids are actually better socialized than their away-from-home-schooled counterparts, and readily provide an array of examples to prove it.
Myself, I see the benefits of a child learning alongside peers. Of course I believe it should be in an accredited Montessori school, because it offers so many opportunities for a true socialization. It is one of the elements I wish I could somehow provide for Sean here, and one that I believe he misses too. He often talks about his friends at school, and his teachers there. And at this age, they are collaborative learners. I love that about the Montessori elementary classroom, because collaboration is a natural part of it.
We are trying hard to find others to socialize with, and we attended a homeschool group meeting today. We've only been formally homeschooling for a little more than a month now, but it is tough when you believe the method of education you're using is the best one for your child and yet no one else is using it.
It presents challenges, because their ideas of things to incorporate, such any sort of co-op instruction are opposite of how my child learns and how I want him to learn.
I notice there are a lot of claims: such as how much their children know, how their children are advanced, and even ahead of other homeschooled kids. I know that for a lot of people it is really important to believe they have a gifted or advanced child. It feeds that need to be "better" than others. And we are all proud of our children.
I just want my child to be happy, and love to learn. I want him to grow up knowing we live in a diverse world, and I want him to know how to interact with all types of people, and be tolerant of all types of people.
So today was a part of the curriculum called "socialization." (That is a joke really, because we don't  have a set curriculum.) We socialized for about an hour. Then we went to the grocery store in the city, and that is where the learning took place today.
"There are a lot of people speaking a lot of different languages," he said as we pushed the cart through the isles.
We saw Muslim women with a little baby girl wearing the Muslim head scarf. We saw rich people, poor people, and lots of different types of food. We read labels to compare the amounts of sugar in each cereal, and opted for the plain Cheerios, though he really wanted Fruity Cheerios.
We loaded our groceries into the car and were happy to come back to our peaceful home.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Late harvest

Sean attended a summer camp this year. Not sure we will do it again, but that's another story for another post.
There was a bit of gardening and composting at camp, and Sean has loved gardening since he was really tiny. I think I have a picture of him with a watering can before he turned 2 years old.
Sean brought home four tiny plants from camp this summer, which we planted in our little garden. He didn't remember what they were, and I couldn't tell by looking at them. A couple of months ago we realized two of them were chard. I had never eaten chard so I had to do some research to see what to do with it.
It has been raining for days, some days constantly, and in a downpour. Sean mentioned the chard last night, and we decided if it wasn't raining today it would be a good day to harvest. Now for deciding how to eat it...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Some extra change and a few tips

We live in a part of the country that is a bit more open to homeschooling, but there are still looks, stares, and the occasional condescending tone of "Oh, is school OUT today?" And when we say we homeschool, there's that, "Ooh. Wow, I couldn't do it."
Recently I went to get my hair cut. I first went to a salon school, because it is so affordable. But the wait was way too long, and they wouldn't let Sean come back and sit with me while I got my hair cut. We went to a different place, at the Mall. I hated the thought of paying that amount, but decided it was worth it. And I've had previous good experiences there.
The girl was probably early, early 20s, and she was really nice. In fact both of the ladies working that day were very nice, and let Sean sit in the vacant chair beside me. He had his book with him, and he was fine. When the conversation turned to school, and I told her we do homeschool, she didn't really react at all.
But when we got to the cash register, she said she was giving me the teacher discount, because hey, I was a teacher too!
I got 20 percent off!
Some days are just good.
Here are some Montessori tips:
I have come across a few more sites that are worth exploring for Montessori materials. has albums, teaching resources, etc. Some of it isn't strictly Montessori as far as I can tell, but as with anything, take what you like and leave the rest. They ask that you contribute, share and collaborate. I don't have a lot of time to make materials, or come up with much, so I don't expect to use it very much either. But for those who have the time and have things to share, I think it's a great idea.
I stumbled upon  For those of us who, for whatever reason, cannot or choose not to homeschool with Montessori, the next best thing is a really good accredited Montessori school. Cost is always a factor. Take a look at They offer scholarships, and I love the idea that more children could benefit from a Montessori education.
I was looking for a way to make a grammar box, and someone in a yahoo group directed me to this. They have polystyrene drawer dividers that I think could do the trick, and they're not very expensive. I haven't bought them yet, so I can't vouch for it yet. is a great resource, as well as the many blogs that are out there. A lot of homeschool Montessori moms post downloadable three-part cards, etc. I'm finding that I get a LOT of stuff through blogs, and I get great ideas too.
I'm always looking for more 3-part cards, and other self-correcting work. I have found a lot of worksheets, etc. but I want to stay away from those as much as possible.
I love the people who can post photos of the kids working, but I find that it is very distracting for Sean. After reading more about Maria Montessori and her observations, it sounds as if what I'm doing is probably best. I help get him going by encouraging him to choose a work, then I get to my own work and try to silently check in once in a while.
We're still struggling with maintaining a work cycle and he still isn't using the materials very much. He prefers to read his reptile books, and he paints a lot. I told the "God with no hands," story in September, and we did some experiments that go along with that on the solid, liquid and gas. Yesterday I told "The Coming of Life," story. We looked at the timeline chart, and when I was finished with the story, I encouraged him to choose a work.
He decided to paint an amoeba.
Ah, those Montessori moments are so SWEET! Makes the whole month for me, and each time I think I'm just not doing this right and worry he isn't gaining anything from homeschool, I see that I'm worrying for nothing.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Godly Play is a hit

 Sean LOVES Godly Play. His comment when I picked him up that first Sunday morning was, "That wasn't long enough. We should stay there for six hours."
I took a peek at the room one day and it is very inviting and warm. I was impressed, and hoped Sean would enjoy it. I kept in mind that if he didn't enjoy it for some reason, we could always choose the regular classroom that is like a traditional school environment.
Looks like it will be Godly Play for this year at least.
Homeschool is going good. I'm learning a lot, as I'm not a Montessori trained teacher. Luckily, when I get a bit too "regular school teacherish," Sean reminds me.
This week he decided to make his own book. I pulled out paper and card stock for him, got the hole punch, etc. He watched for a minute and then said, "Mom, I have to tell you something. This looks more like it's your plan, and this is not what I had in mind. I have my own plan for the book."
Oops. I handed everything over to him and said, "I'm sorry. You are right. You should do this your way."
So he did. I suggested things he COULD do if he chose, such as include a little information about himself as the author.
What he did was similar to some things we've found in books he has gotten from the library that show the life stages of insects, etc. He drew snakes in various lengths to show their life stages.
Friday afternoon I asked him if he felt he had done enough work for the week. He said he didn't really think so, and that was why he was bringing two library books with him to his dad's for the weekend.

I'm reading two Montessori books right now that I wish I had read before. I recommend both.
"Montessori The Science Behind the Genius," by Agneline Stoll Lillard,  and "The Montessori Method," by Maria Montessori.
In my opinion, these are a must for anyone who wants their child to have a good education. Even if someone didn't choose Montessori, it is important to compare it with other educational models. The first title is important because it gives scientific findings that support Montessori's. Some of it is a bit dry for those who aren't really science people, but I find it all fascinating, having a psychology degree. It really is worth reading, even if you skim over some of the dry scientific stuff. It provides great examples of how choice really does lead to better learning, etc. and how a Montessori room is set up. What I've gotten from it so far is a feeling of relief. I was worried I didn't have enough materials for Sean to engage with, but what I'm reading is that the classroom is filled with materials for all age levels, so some children are not using some of the materials, and there are usually 20 + kids in the class, and only one of each material. So the choices are limited by design.
With only one child, I am seeing that one shelf unit with 3 levels is enough, and I will rotate the materials out when I see that he has mastered something or no longer uses it.
Interesting too the way the choice leads to more peace and less aggression.
I'm seeing some things I'm doing right, other things that I do are flawed, so I hope to fix those. I tend to say things like, "You need to do some of each work, so you have to choose some math and some language arts" or whatever the case may be. Instead, I'm seeing that I should say, "When do you plan to complete the language arts lesson. Can you tell me what day you are planning to do that?"
Wish I had known these things when I had my first two children.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Godly Play

I am so excited I can barely contain myself. Just a couple of weeks ago I was thinking about our church Sunday school and wishing there was a different way of teaching it. The reason I started thinking was because I received a call asking if I would teach again.  I said no to teaching this year because this is my first year of homeschool teaching and thought I would be overwhelmed. I've been a Sunday school teacher, and followed a curriculum and did what the book said, and it was fine. But after experiencing the Montessori way of learning academics, I wished there could be a Montessori way of learning about Christ and the Bible.
Well, I had no idea!
There is such a thing, and our church is starting Godly Play Sunday School this weekend!!! (There will also be traditional grades Sunday school.)
I am so excited for Sean.
And when I mentioned it to my friend Shane, she said her little boy Jacob-Joshua had been in a Godly Play Sunday school in Germany and she was looking for one here. She tried one in another city that didn't quite get it right, she said. So I think they are going to visit our church soon.
I feel like it is a validation for me in a way, on my decision to Montessori homeschool. Sean's academic and faith education will be based on the same philosophy of learning.
If you want more information about Godly Play check out this site.
Here is a description from our Sunday school letter:
The Godly Play classroom is designed so that children can use and explore everything in it. It is a safe, engaging and loving environment where what children say and do is valued and respected. The walls of the classroom are lined with shelves, each containing baskets of stories made out of beautiful, natural materials. Children are thus surrounded by the biblical story in the classroom.
And this:
During the "work" time children are invited to use the enrichment materials of the classroom to further explore the story. These include books, maps, and art materials, as well as the stories themselves. During this time, besides having fun, the children are linking up the religious language of the story with their own inner understanding, which helps them understand the story and makes it come alive. This makes sense, because in so doing they are entering into relationship with God--opening themselves to grace.

Beautiful words, beautiful work

After our work today, Sean said, "I am a very lucky person, I am so lucky." I agreed, and asked what he thought made him so lucky. He said: "Because I have so much work."
That is what he calls his school lessons, his work. And to be so happy to have work to do is a beautiful thing to me.
We recently received our box of beads. I was quite excited because the possibilities are endless with that box of materials. He already knows the value of each bead bar from his time in school. He decided to pull out a bunch of different bars and give me a math problem. He had a lot of 10 bars, and a few of each of the rest, all the way down to the unit beads.
I turned it into a math problem for him by asking him for help.  He finally realized he was counting by 10s and quickly had that up to 100. Then it got tricky again, until at 120 he realized he was counting by 10s again. But he also had 9 bars, so we weren't counting by 10s anymore. He had to start adding 9 to the numbers, then 8, and we stopped at 325. He cut up little pieces of paper that I called "tickets" to make it fun, and he did the addition and I wrote the number on the tickets to place next to the bars. 
I was surprised at how long he stuck with it. Toward the middle of the work he decided to go to his thinking spot and have me tell him the amount and how much to add to it. So he sat there with no visuals, and it took patience on both our parts to do it that way.

At dinner tonight he said it can be very challenging when you don't have your mom to help, but he thought he could probably do it on his own tomorrow.
We left everything where it was and he will continue the work tomorrow.

Yesterday we went to a Meetup Group of homeschool families. I always hear that homeschooled kids aren't socialized, and even worried about it myself when I first made this decision. That meeting was packed with parents and kids. I don't really think the socialization that takes place in most schools is very healthy anyway. I'll save that rant for another post.
Today we had a play date at the park with Shane (my friend) and Jacob-Joshua. They use the Waldorf curriculum for homeschool.
Sean and Jacob-Joshua had a great time playing for a couple of hours. The weather was perfect, the park was so nice, and I enjoyed the break and some adult conversation with Shane. It was nice to talk about something other than work for a little while.
We were ready to leave and they decided to pose for a goofy-face picture.

This was a favorite for a little while.
Thanks for coming out to play Shane and Jacob-Joshua. We both had a great time and enjoyed your company very much!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A beautiful thing

Our first few days of home learning proved to be a time of adjustment. As much for me as for Sean. I'm still trying to get the hang of a schedule.
I'm finding that the learning is fluid, and we don't have a set time to end it, but I'm definitely trying to encourage him to work on specific materials at certain times so we are sure to get those fundamental things in the day.
One of the Waldorf ideas I'm incorporating is finger knitting. Though Sean has had plenty of practical life materials at his Montessori school that strengthen the fingers and help hand-eye coordination, it doesn't hurt to continue with some fun work that also helps improve his writing skills.
I missed a great photo op when we went to our local yarn shop. We were out on an errand when Sean spotted the sign for the shop. I hesitated, because the yarn there is quite pricey and very high-end. But he was excited, so I prepared him and said we might not buy anything.
We touched a lot of very nice wool yarns, and I decided wool is what I wanted him to have anyway, so we did buy his choice. The photo op came when he got to wind the yarn into a ball with the machine there. I forgot that my memory card was still in the card reader, so maybe next time.
We watched a video on YouTube about finger knitting, and it was presented by a Waldorf mother/teacher and her son. We tried it, and once Sean started, he couldn't stop. The first thing he made was a short rope, and he decided it was a lizard with a long tail and tongue. He continued with the work last night, and in fact, it was the first thing he did this morning when he woke up. Last night he made a very long rope that he decided was a necklace, and he made me a shorter one to be used as a bracelet.
I am ecstatic. I have gotten so much joy from watching him take such delight in this work, and I love that he is so excited about it. He is thinking of making gifts for the family for Christmas.
I know it is so simple, but he is so proud of himself. To me, that is what it's all about. The fact that it also helps develop his hand muscles for writing is secondary.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First official first day

As with any new experience there will be a period of adjustment, but our first day of home learning went really well. I was very patient, expected some problems that really never arose, and we had a beautiful day of it. Mostly because I was very open and followed his lead.
I'm using past tense here, but the day has not ended for us yet. We still have banana bread to make which will incorporate reading, exploring liquids, and measurements.
Our big adventure was going outside to make observations and record what we saw, heard and felt. Right off we heard a cricket, found it, and Sean spent some time trying to track it down to catch for his bug container.
It alluded us, so we moved on to other things. We found a spider, and we also noted that the leaves are still on the trees, and are still green. Sean climbed the cherry tree looking for snakes, but didn't find any.
Our language lesson came in the form of a Fairy Tale. We talked about Hans Christian Andersen and I told Sean the story of "The Wicked Prince." While I told the story with handmade dolls that I whipped up at the last minute last night, he drew pictures on printing paper to go along with the story.
I know these look really crude, but I purposely made them crude so he could use his imagination. He decided the prince needed a scary face because he was so mean and tried to fight God. The white thing is the angel from the story.

So far, I realize, this isn't looking like a Montessori classroom day. And it wasn't. We practiced drawing straight lines, and curves, and the only Montessori material he used today was a calendar puzzle that I printed, cut up and he arranged in order.
I believe the Montessori idea is behind all of the activity he chose to do today, and to me that is the key to it. Allow the child to choose. Now when he got on the computer and wanted to research lizards, I allowed that, but when he clicked over to Cartoon Network, I said no. Freedom with limits.
As he adjusts to home being a work place as well as play place, I believe he will get busy on the materials.
I'm not big on TV, but we did watch a Mr. Rogers DVD and later he found the Math DVD I got from the library and he popped that in. It's on fractions, but he seemed intrigued by it.
We had to run an errand and be somewhere by 4 p.m. so unfortunately I had to interrupt him during a work he chose.  He cut pieces of paper in various shapes and used colored pencils to color different areas of the shapes. Not sure, but I think he may have been trying to make his own fractions boards.
He's taking a break and playing with his neighbor friend.
I know I will not have time to blog this every day, but hope to hit the highlights each week.
I need to fix dinner, and then do some research for tomorrow. (I also have some work to do for my JOB.) I believe we will begin with the study of North America for our first continent. Sean is fascinated with Corn Snakes, and they hail from my stomping grounds.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A must read article

I just read this article, and read through all of the comments at the bottom. Great lively comments and a great read.
Feel free to leave your comments here to let me know what you think of it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Gearin' up for home learning

I ordered a few things from different places, and it all came on the same day.
Some things we won't use right away, but we'll have it for when we do need it.
By the way, there is a sale right now at through Aug. 31. They have tons of stuff at 50 percent off. I ordered one shipment from them a couple of weeks ago, and it came yesterday.  When I realized the sale was about to end I shopped around for a box of beads we need and found they are much more expensive at other suppliers, so I ordered some beads before they jump to more than $100.
I'm researching the history of mathematics so I can tell the story with excitement and enthusiasm, and instill a sense of wonder for Sean. I've never been very fired up about math, so this will be helpful for me. I think I'm going to learn more by teaching than I ever did before.
Last week we had a play date. I met Shane through one of the Internet homeschool groups and she incorporates Montessori into her son's Waldorf curriculum. They are heavy on the Waldorf, and we're going to be heavy on the Montessori with a little bit of Waldorf mixed in. (More on that in another post.)
So JJ has many, many beautiful and wonderful Waldorf-inspired toys, and Sean had a very good time engaging in the imaginative play with him. The boys had a great time playing and the moms had a good time talking about all sorts of things, including homeschool.
Today Sean and I took a trip to the science center. We plan to go another day when we can spend more time there, but honestly I think the Children's Museum offers more interesting exhibits for Sean's age group. The science center is great, but I think older kids enjoy it more. However, it did provide a nice segue into our math lesson next week.
We found this nifty water lifter is credited to Archemedes, the Greek mathematician.      

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Journey Begins

Sean has spent three years in a Montessori classroom, and will be in first grade this year. However, he will be in first grade at home. Though the school he attended offers classes through 9th grade, I can no longer afford to pay tuition, and I know the public school system is in trouble.

Our first day of home learning, as we call it, will be Sept. 2.

I have started gathering Montessori materials, and I am reading everything I can to prepare and create a curriculum.

This blog will include the highlights of our journey, and I plan to post pictures, share links to web sites and also share what is working and what isn't.

After a conversation with a friend the other day, I realized there is a stereotype, an expectation of what a homeschool mother is. I want to note that I am not a stay-at-home mom with a wonderful husband who makes a lot of money, a cat, a dog a white picket fence and the perfect life. I'm about 180 degrees from all of that.

I am a single mom, and I work. I work hard, but I am blessed to work from home. On the rare occasion that I have to go in to the office or do some other activity away from home, I am blessed to have a family member who sometimes sits with Sean. I also have teenagers from church who babysit once in a while. We're real people, and we juggle activities, family time, and we spend a lot of time on the road.

So far, I have signed up for a homeschool Meetup group through Yahoo Meetup groups. I don't know if any of the members use Montessori method, but hope. I have made a connection with some other Montessori homeschool moms through a group called Playgroup6. These are not likely to be face-to-face friends because these people live all over the country. But I'm getting great ideas from their e-mail exchanges, and I find all of them to be very friendly and helpful. I also signed up with another group through e-mail and hope to either find more homeschool families closer to where we live, or post something on craigslist to try to create a group here.

I bought the book, "Teaching Montessori in the Home The School Years," by Elizabeth G. Hainstock. From what I can tell, though the book has a copyright of 1971, it is still relevant as the Montessori materials and curriculum have not changed. I bought this book on ebay, it was very affordable (only $6.95 US) and I believe it will be a wonderful resource.

Other resources include an affordable curriculum at, which provides printable materials and links to other invaluable sites that offer free pdf downloads.

I have found others at This one has so much great information, and just one of the many items on this site that I love is a timeline that begins with 23rd Century B.C. and takes us to the present. It provides complete instructions for creating and presenting the material. This particular piece includes an image of a manger, and uses the birth of Christ as the center of human history.

I'm finding this site to be my favorite so far. There is a large selection of free downloads, and this site also offers printable lesson plans. Of course in Montessori education the child is free to choose from the lesson plan to create their own, so it includes many choices. The free downloads are not part of the lessons listed on the plans, so I am finding myself searching for the materials to fill out the lesson plan.

I have made an e-mail connection with a few Montessori homeschool parents who live pretty far from us, but I hope to set up play dates once in a while--for me really, but Sean will come along too. :-)

I have the blessing of a certified Montessori teacher available whenever I have a question, because Sean's best friend's mom teaches lower elementary (6-9 years) at the school he attended.

Her first piece of advice for us was to buy the stamp game. I found one on ebay for a great deal, and we are waiting for its arrival. I also bought some materials from at quite a reduced price. Some of it was even cheaper than listings on ebay. (Look for more information on this in a later post.)

Here's another site I've read through and I'm certain I will refer to many times,

I'm finding there are quite a few Montessori homeschool parents, but most of them are the under 5s age group.

I truly believe in this method of education, and I've seen it work. Sean has a beautiful love of learning, the confidence that comes with learning on his own, and a compassion for others that I hope to nurture. We will not only focus on the academics, we will be out in our community learning and doing.

We welcome you to follow us,

Marsha and Sean