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.