Sunday, May 23, 2010

What we do in the 6-9 plane

Our school year has been one of ups and downs, twists and turns. The public system here doesn't dismiss for summer until June 18, I think. We don't follow that, and plan to just keep doing what we do year-round.
This is going to be a year-in-review type post with information on the materials I bought, downloaded, cut, colored or otherwise made; what we used and didn't use and why, and a very honest and revealing look at our homeschool journey. This is in no way a comprehensive day-to-day breakdown, and includes a fraction of the things Sean worked with and things we did together. It's an overview of sorts, and I probably have left out some of the materials, though to me it looks like a ton of stuff.
The list of things I bought or made with a mark beside to indicate * we used this or ^ we didn't use it:
folders*(one for his completed written type work, tons for me)
Notebooks* (for me)
Colored pencils * (gone through probably at least 3 packs of them now)
tracing paper*
watercolor paper*
watercolor paints* (a birthday gift)
Wood geometric solids (not Montessori, but from Learning Resources) *
Simple sentence tabletop pocket chart ^
Stamp game *
Newcomb curriculum^
Timeline of man *
Box of beads *
Lisa Nolan Curriculum * to some extent, abandoned after about first month or so
small wooden number cards 1-9000 * (Adena)
teen boards * (only for the first couple of months)
Time box (puzzle and clock stamp for learning clock time)^ Learned to tell time just before it arrived.
moteaco albums downloaded * to some extent
Control continent maps * (Adena)
maps of the world (downloaded onto cardstock)*
grammar symbols (wood)* (Adena)
cursive sandpaper letters (lower case)*
Solar System floor puzzle* (Borders Books)
movable alphabet (downloaded onto cardstock)^ 
beginning sounds cards*
Homeschool folder on my desktop-I used some of this, but I collect this stuff for later also
All angles sort
Capitalization command cards
Comma activity
Continents nomenclature
decimal fraction board
crafts projects folder
fraction charts
fraction division tickets
geography 6-9
geometry stick box contents
Homeschool RCW 
India nomenclature cards
Mr. Q Life Science
making simple sentences
Math 1 album
Math 2 album
Medgar Evars bio
MLK Day poem
moon phases
Oceania map
Oceans booklet
Oceans control chart
Oceans nomenclature
parts of leaf
parts of sailboat
passage to abstraction document
phases of moon chart
plant cell booklet upper el
plant cell structure upper el
poetry basket poems
presentation of 6-9 program
punctuation command cards
resources for new homeschoolers
science scope and sequence
sightword list
skip counting
South American animals
spelling cards
spiders lesson
Teacher Book Bag Animal Classification Kit
Three period lesson
Timeline humans
timeline of scripts
triangle sort
unit division board
verb advanced
volcano booklet
Whitney Young bio
Work cycle
World biomes
writing paper Canada elem
written question game
zoology animal stories
ABC shoebox science songs
art resources and web sites
daily workplan
elementary student spelling
great musical lessons
higher order thinking chart
interdisciplinary conference
Laws Made map
shoebox science lima bean trials
upper elementary needs 2
upper elementary needs
weekly schedule
cursive tracing letters

THREE PART CARDS (all either downloaded or given to us)
Solar System *
Parts of the earth*
Land Forms *
Water Forms *
Artists *
Geometry - line, solid, point, plane *
triangle, pentagon, hexagon, etc. *
Types of triangles *
Pumpkin life cycle* (first month or two)
Calendar* (used for first three months or so)
compound words ^
verb tense exercise (from Montessori for Everyone)^haven't used it yet
A trip across Canada ^ Haven't used it yet, maybe next year. It isn't Montessori, I got it from another blogger.
postcards from around the world and the U.S. (we will continue to use these for years)*
Farm (Fisher Price barn and animals w/ some other animals and parts of other farms)*
Mac's Field Guide to Northwest Coastal Invertebrates * (got this free at a livable fair last year)
Continent cards, includes people, music, food, animals* (only used these a little bit, wasn't interested) bought one set from ebay, downloaded the others.
Music from the library to go along with continent studies*
We play lots of games in the car, usually rhyming games, grammar games (can you give me a noun that rhymes with the word....) Sometimes math games, multiplying, adding and subtracting.
I have many folders filled with printouts for me to reference, including the state standards for our state and some homeschooling articles.
Michael Olaff's Introduction to the Elementary Class Years
Moteaco History 6-9
Moteaco Math
Moteaco Language
Moteaco geometry
Moteaco biology plant
moteaco biology animal

We did science experiments to go along with the 5 great lessons on liquid and solid.
We tested how long it would take a plastic object to sink in water, oil and syrup.
We made a volcano with baking soda
We've searched for snakes and grasshoppers in the yard, done some bird watching and have had a number of "pet" spiders. 
Cakes, cookies, brownies and breakfast, we did a lot of cooking
He now pulls his sheets off each Monday and knows how to start the washing machine and the dryer.
We've had lots of opportunities to play outside and at the park, took trips to the zoo and over to friends' homes, and spent time in the cherry tree in the back yard.
We visited the Reptile Zoo, the Children's Museum and the zoo and made many visits to our local beach.
We also saw the play, "Peter Pan" in Seattle at the Children's Theatre and saw the Puget Sound Revels at Christmas.
The Nitty Gritty of Homeschool
I use a lot of combinations of real life experiences with moteaco albums and just following my child to know what he has already mastered and what the next step is. We don't follow any curriculum in particular, and I know that doesn't help very much, especially when you're looking for a curriculum to follow and need advice from someone who's been there. 

I was completely lost at first because I felt like I was one of the few out here doing elementary Montessori at home. There isn't anyone in our community following Montessori at all, so we are the odd ones in our homeschool group. I wanted a curriculum that would tell me exactly what to do and then what to do after that was finished, something to guide me through. I realized I didn't need it. With the Elizabeth Hainstock book on the elementary years I was able to move through it, and the most helpful thing has been my son. He knows what he knows and what he doesn't, and he knows what he's ready to work with and what he isn't.

For me the challenge is math, because I'm not good at math. I'm already starting to have a semi panic about the higher level math, but maybe I'll actually learn math along with my child and "get it" this time around. 

At the beginning of this year we started with the five great lessons and worked our way through them for about the first two months or so. It helped us focus and get our footing. Unfortunately, I work from home and can't always do "school," every day. I feel guilty a LOT. I sometimes wonder if I should just send him to school because in my head I think school is supposed to be an all-day thing.

But when I start to get serious about that plan, I read an email or hear some comment in passing that illustrates the ridiculousness of the public system. And my heart knows that learning is continuous, and he demonstrates that he is learning and doing fine. It's really just my insecurities boiling up to the surface.

I am a natural worrier, so I worry that emotionally I'm not doing him the greatest good. I spend a lot of time working, and we do school hit and miss. There isn't a lot of routine, except that every day he gets up, does his make-the-bed, get-clothes-on, eat-breakfast routine and when he begins to work he tells me what the date is. We talk a little bit about the month and what is happening in our lives in relation to the date. That's about it, then he's free to choose a work.  A lot of days I suggest two choices he could choose, and usually he chooses something totally different.

I admit that I get frustrated because he seems to need a lot of direction. It isn't something I expected when we embarked on this journey. I thought if I had a beautiful shelf filled with interesting and pretty materials he would choose one, work on it for an hour or so, methodically replace it on the shelf and choose another.

If you have a child that works like that on his/her own with no one else in the room consider yourself more than blessed. I constantly have to check to be sure he is actually working. Most days he isn't. Yet he is learning and he's smart and loves to learn new things. 

He loves to get books from the library and compare things in each book, the way the information is presented, and whether the information is helpful to him. He admitted yesterday that he likes to look for information on the Internet, but it is sometimes not correct. He gave an example of the banded sea crate, and online it was called the banded snake.

Most of what we do is research. He chooses a subject and we go to the library. Yesterday we went to the beach and found many types of shells. Then we went to the library to find books to identify shells and we will spend this week identifying those. We'll also use our Mac's Field Guide for that research.

Today we went to our local farmers market and watched a chef doing a cooking demonstration. The chef was putting oysters on the grill, and in the process of cooking them he found some other small sea creature attached to one of the oysters. Sean helped him do a little bit of cooking and we brought the critter home to see if we can identify it through one of those books we got at the library about sea creatures, or the Mac's guide.

The Stuff
We have colored pencils (came in handy when he was not in the mood to write anything and I would say, "What's your favorite color of the day? That's the color you can choose to write with today.") 
Some of the materials I purchased were not used very much, but I was glad to have them. Things like the teens board gave me a solid indication of where he was in his understanding and we were able to use it for a while and then move on.

I bought the box of beads, and he used those for a good while, then tapered off on the math. He recently picked it back up again, but I can see he is ready for abstract. He doesn't really want to use the beads now (thank goodness I got them at a great price and didn't put a lot of time or money into making them.) He is loving the stamp game right now, but I have to quickly figure out how to use it beyond addition because he's not going to hang out with that for much longer. 

(He wants to try to do math in his head instead of using the materials. We are on our way to another level with math. I have to bone up on it quickly. That is one of the challenges with homeschooling. This child is so interested in everything that I have a difficult time keeping up with him. We use our library regularly and he LOVES it. His favorite thing is books. )

We have the control maps from Adena, because I figured those would serve just fine and if he wanted to we could make cutouts of each continent and country to match to those. It saved a bundle, and they have served the purpose. We have flags for each country that I downloaded online.

I recently purchased the cursive sandpaper letters- lower case. We just started on those, so it's slow. He likes to practice cursive with the Jan Brett cursive printouts. They have a dotted line to follow the formation of the letter and he enjoys them because we have quite a few of the Jan Brett books. I don't think I'll buy the uppercase sandpaper letters, and maybe we'll just use a sand tray to practice the upper case based on the Jan Brett prinouts.

I just bought some things from a school that is closing. They are things I couldn't afford this year, but wanted to have for the shelf. Geometry cabinet, trinomial cube, and a few other things. He moves so fast I might have just wasted my money. If so, I'll post them for sale.

This is a lot of what we do. For some this is way too lax and unstructured. Right now it is the only thing that works for us.
We will continue through the summer, and he is signed up for several educational summer camps. We'll have several breaks for vacations, etc.


  1. Great post. Thanks. I've really been wondering about Montessori elementary level and the Great Lessons. I especially wonder if things are different if you have been doing Montessori for a while, as opposed to starting it on the elementary level. Is that covered in the Hainstock book? I know I will need to get that before we get to that point.

    I get the impression from many blogs that there's a normal up and down cycle like that for most, if not all, homeschool moms (cycling through worrying about whether the kids are learning enough, then remembering how little is learned in public schools). I know I often feel bad for not spending enough 1-on-1 time with Beeper or not giving him enough new material or letting him play legos all the time, then I'll suddenly notice how much he's learned and how much he's changed in the last year, and I realize things will be okay.

    I am really amazed at your son's comparing of resources, both their presentation and accuracy. What a great skill.

    I am kind of hoping that's how my son prefers to learn when we get to elementary level - from reading books. Then I can just let him go for it!

  2. Evenspor,
    Thank you for the comment post. The Hainstock book really focuses on the elementary materials and how to make them and present them.
    I like it, and I like the moteaco albums because they are very clear with nice presentation and FREE.

  3. Thank you so much this gives me a good frame on what to do,
    If you want to get rid of some materials let me know I am in Kirkland.Stephanie

  4. Stephanie,
    Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm glad it was helpful for you. I hope we can get together sometime soon.