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.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Planning for our 2014-15 School Year

I've been busy trying to put together a general lesson plan for each week of the coming school year. Sean will be entering 6th grade. 

I'm using the Montessori Upper El curriculum I found at last year. It covers 4,5,6 grade, and I feel that it has given me everything I need to make sure we are on track.  I will go over the general idea of why we need a lesson plan, and discuss the freedoms he will have within the parameters of those lesson plans. Last year he did a work plan every day, and we will continue to do that, but I will require certain subjects to be done more days than others.

Here's what we will be doing this year:     
Language, History, Math, Science, Physics, Reading, Geography, Biology, Botany, Writing, Drama/Storytelling/Music/Art, and current event study.

 We will be using Montessori grammar symbols, going deeper with the parts of speech, and some online sentence diagramming for Language.                                                                                   
For History, I use Passage of Time A Textbook for ICSE History and Civics. It's a series of books from India, so there is quite a bit of focus on that part of the world, but I find that it gives a LOT of what we need. I just skip over what we don't need right now. Last year I bought Passage of Time 6, which covers first humans through ancient civilizations. We're finishing up Greece, Rome and ancient Native Americans before we dive into the 1,000A.D to 1865 that I have planned for the coming school year. I will combine some of Passage of Time 7 and 8 for this work. (And there will still be some left for Middle School work-yay!) I hope to take him on a field trip to a Medieval village near where we live, and he will have the opportunity to do some research projects of his choosing. We could possibly be visiting some of the US sites we study, if our plans pan out.

Math will be a fluid, ever-changing journey,  at least in the beginning. Our private instructor, who is Montessori trained and awesome, has a different work schedule starting in September and can't help us this year. So I will follow the Upper El curriculum, but I will pull from various resources. I'll look for presentations from albums that I have, and one resource that I'm looking at seriously is Khan Academy. 

Science is overlapping botany and biology, and we will use a lot of Montessori 3-part cards and booklets. We will begin with animal and plant cells and move through to human physiology for biology and plant life for botany, but we will look for some science experiments that require the math we will be using. I hope he will also be attending our local YMCA camp for homeschool days once a month.

Reading is going to include a lot of choice within parameters. I will be reading aloud, and I'm hoping to encourage him to choose books from a list included with the curriculum, which will enhance his understanding of history, science, and the other subjects. I also want him to read for pleasure, but we shall see. He hasn't been very excited about reading chapter books.

Geography/ Physics will be a lot of hands-on projects, beginning with simple machines and moving to more complex ideas. We will be looking at old maps of the world, comparing them to current ones, making maps, and using them to track our route on one of our trips.

For writing I will have him do journal entries, reports and projects. We will explore all of the various types of writing, including newspaper ;-) (I used to be a reporter.)

He is already taking piano lessons, and we will focus in on drama for a while. I've already got us scheduled for plays at the Seattle Children's Theatre, and I plan to have him write about what he liked and learned during those performances. I'll be looking for some storytelling resources in our area (something easy to come by in the South, but I haven't seen a lot of it here) and I hope our local art alliance will offer free homeschool art classes again. 

I have ordered Time for Kids to keep him informed on current events, and I will have him read some newspaper articles. He will be asked to choose one topic from a source to discuss. And we will study which sources are true journalistic sources, and trustworthy, and why.

When I look at this list it looks like a lot. I've done a rough draft and I'll be refining it, but this is the general outline. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Break of Sorts

We're taking a little break from school until July 16.
We've worked hard. I've done research,  printed, laminated, organized, purchased, purged, scheduled, encouraged, pleaded, inspired, and read until my eyeballs were ready to pop out of my head.

I've spent hours thinking. Thinking of ways to spark interest in subjects, ways to encourage Sean to read, or write, or see something in a new way. (I've spent way too much time worrying.)

Sean has worked so hard on cursive, been diligent with his piano practice, worked on math, done research on science and physics, and branched out on his own with some history research on the French-Indian War. He has demonstrated a knowledge of timelines and of how everything in the world is related or connected in some way.

He has happily worked on learning about the elements, inner workings of Earth, and understanding the solar system. He did lots of his own work, including a written report on the 10 deadliest spiders, which he presented to the family. He did a science experiment with tangerines to see which one would rot the fastest.

The required work that was on our list included ancient civilizations, and he has willingly read the books, and researched those civilizations. We covered the earliest humans, how they settled and became farmers and began the first civilizations. We studied Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China.

We had a conversation about the work we still have to do with ancient civilizations, and we plan to cover Greece and Rome this summer. He suggested we save Native American ancient civilization for September.

Though he doesn't like to write when asked to do it, he did a lot of writing this year. He did descriptive writing, we worked on diagramming simple sentences, and then moved to more complex sentences. He wrote poetry, and he wrote stories from picture prompts, and his own imagination.

Art has been a part of every single day, and his art has become his own. He attended art classes, which gave him instruction on charcoal, pastels, glass beads and how to make a wind chime. He had piano classes, math instruction, chess club, and we spent the fall and early spring doing homeschool classes at our local Camp Seymour. There he learned about water systems, fungi, birds, and dissected a squid. He also did archery and scaled the climbing wall there.

He spent many Wednesdays at the archery range, and took a Parkour class this spring.

We packed a lot into this year.

I didn't realize how much I would enjoy the break until today, when I woke up and realized I could do anything I wanted to do without supervising him to be sure he was doing something school-related. It will be nice to have a few weeks off. But I'm already gathering information and materials for September when we start our full curriculum again.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Getting a Boy to Write, and Read

Sean is not a kid who will typically choose to write. For most of this school year he has been apathetic about reading and writing. He has started some writing projects, and abandoned them. He will do a journal entry if I suggest it, and he will write poetry without my prompting, but story writing isn't usually on his work plan.

Sometimes I can come up with something that will get him excited about writing. Recently I started him on The Nightmare Room, a writing program by R.L. Stine.

In the past he has read some of R.L. Stine's books, and he does enjoy them. When I mentioned that R.L. Stine had a program to help students with writing, he got excited.

(I downloaded it here, in case you are interested.)

To get him to read, well, I've tried and tried. It's hit and miss, and he hasn't read an entire book all year. He reads factual books, about airplanes, or how things work, or about spiders and animals, but I don't think he has ever read to the last page.

I've worried about it and tried to think of ways to encourage him, but nothing seemed to be working. I don't use rewards and punishments because I don't want him to do things for the reward, I want him to do it because of the reward he feels by accomplishing the task, or learning the material. And in the case of books, I want him to enjoy the journey a book can provide.

I started telling him he could choose absolutely anything, a comic book, a magazine, it didn't matter.

But a couple of days ago I woke him up to get ready for the day, and when I went back in his room to check on the progress, he was in bed reading a book.

I didn't say a word about the book, but he told me he had decided to take it easy that day and would be out in a little while. I walked out of his room smiling to myself, knowing that once again he had come to something on his own. And just as he has done in the past with other works and learning, I imagine he will take hold of reading and go for as long as he needs to, and come back to it again when it is time.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Boys Are Failing, And Here's Why

We want them to be girls.

I'm not pointing fingers, because my thumb will be pointing right back at me. We are requiring boys to do things they simply are not built for, and we have expectations for behavior that are completely unfair.

Look at a classroom. Sit still. Be quiet. Don't fidget. Stop tapping. Don't make that noise with your foot. No you may not get up and walk to the book shelf. Now take out your pencil and paper and write an essay about what you did this weekend. What? You didn't finish that essay? It's time for recess. Guess what? Because you didn't finish the essay, and you walked to the window instead of sitting in your chair, you don't get to go to recess. You have to stand against the wall of the building and watch the other children play. (This seems to be a very common form of punishment.)

But if you look at the kids standing, watching other kids play at recess because they are being punished, you will see that most, if not all, of them are boys. Every. Time.

And you will see why this is so ridiculous and needs to stop.

It isn't working, and it isn't fair.

Why do boys throw things, jump from the top stair, slide down a banister, use a baby doll as a weapon, and treat each other like punching bags?

Now I know why. Boys are wired differently than girls.

Chuck and I spent last Saturday at the "Helping Boys Thrive" summit in Edmonds, Washington, learning why boys are this way. The summit was co-hosted by Michael Gurian, a mental health counselor, and Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center-A Place of HOPE. Both of these men have authored numerous books.

I will attempt to share what we learned in the six hours we were there, so this is condensed.

In a nutshell, boys' brains are different than girls' brains. And we don't stop being different once we are grown up.

The difference begins in the womb. This is not something that any of us have any control over whatsoever. The way the brain is formed is biological, or nature, if you will, not nurture. Brain development is a constant. Some things we have some control over, and can shape and change with societal norms and expectations. The brain development is not one of them.

While girl brains are getting the development for language all over the brain, and a little bit of their brains are developed for spatial relationship, boy brains get HALF of theirs for language and the other half is for spatial relationship. (Not relationship as in boyfriend, girlfriend. Spatial as in physics and engineering.)

This fact was presented to us with brain scans of boys and girls across cultures.

This difference in brain development begins to happen at about the fourth week of conception.
Please. Don't get defensive. This isn't to say there are not female engineers, it's just a scientific fact that the brains are different. About 20 percent of us have what is referred to as a bridge brain, meaning that either gender can have a little bit  more of the other's characteristics, but male brains are NOT female at birth, or at any other time in their lives. If there is a Y chromosome, then there is a male brain.

Also, the boy brain is bathed in testosterone in the womb, and this hormone is the aggression hormone.

From the time that boys are very young it is clear that they need to move, and some need to move more than others. That is why if you are looking for one, it is important to find a daycare or preschool with plenty of space, both inside and out, for movement. (A little Montessori plug here, true Montessori schools do a great job of allowing for a lot of movement, especially through third grade.)

This need for movement is also why using no recess as punishment doesn't work. They NEED that outlet, that time to run, get the energy out of their system for a while, and there is also a lot of social learning that happens on a playground.

The systems we have in place for school are really geared more for the way girls and women do things, and especially how they learn.

If you put a boy in a regular classroom and make him sit at a desk or table, expect movement. And what I've noticed is that by the time they are around 8 or 9 years old, if not sooner than that, they tend to tap their pencil against the desk, doodle on their math page, wiggle their foot, bang their knee against the leg of the table, or some other fidgeting behavior. As irritating as this may be to others, and especially to teachers, boys are not doing this irritate you.

It is to keep their brain awake.

Boy/man brains shut down easily. If they are not actively engaged in something, their brains want to shut off. Brain scans show that a girl brain at rest is still very active, while a boy brain at rest is shut down. To keep this from happening, we have to allow boys to fidget. Let them doodle and draw. If their brain shuts down they aren't learning. (One of the activities the boys in Sean's Lower El class loved to do was finger knit. They did this while the teacher was talking or reading to them.)

Boy brains have a lot of gray matter, and this leads them to focus on the moment. Girl brains have white matter, and this allows them to be thinking of a million things constantly. Even when they are resting. Boys do not like innuendo. We have to be direct, and we need to use powerful visuals when we need them to transition to another activity. Sign language works well.

We were told that their brains aren't equipped to write and speak immediately when we demand it of them. They need time to process. So instead of asking them to write an essay, tell them you'd like them to storyboard the subject, then write about what they just drew.

If they are upset, or have just had an outburst that led to some kind of time out, don't immediately demand to know what happened, or get them to talk about it. They really can't articulate it right away. Cortisol, the stress hormone, increases in these situations, and a drink of water will reduce the cortisol. Do that first. Then ask them to go with you for a walk. Maybe let them bounce a ball as you walk, and then begin to ask them what they think happened and talk it through.

It's also OK for boys to be aggressive.  Boys are naturally aggressive, and it isn't a bad thing. It is their way of bonding and showing affection. They love to hit and be hit, etc. What we have to watch out for is the intention behind the physical aggression. Once the intention is to do bodily harm, and not just play around, that is not aggression, it is violence.

Getting hurt on the playground is healthy. It isn't going to kill them. We have to stop hovering over our boys and protecting them from the things that will help them develop and become young men.

Because boys like using objects and moving them through space, i.e., swords, sticks, balls, rocks, etc., it is important to give them that outlet with rules or parameters. They are also drawn to video games because of the visual stimuli, and the ability to control objects moving through space. They are good at these things, celebrate it, but limit it. Because of the visual stimulation, it triggers something in the brain that makes them crave it. More of it just makes them want more, like an addiction. Talk about your values around technology and screen time. Limit it. It can also interfere with sleep. Some people have a rule that TV and games must end two hours before bedtime.

Another very important point to make is that boys NEED a three-family system. The first is the family involved in day-to-day care of the child, the second is a group of friends the child can go to to talk, and a community or faith family is third. With all three in place, things are easier for you and the child. Boys naturally want a kinship group. If we don't find a healthy way to provide it for them, they will seek it out and can find the kinship in gangs.

Boys are good at all sorts of things, and we need to allow them to be in charge of their decisions, and show them they are appreciated and valued. Boys are funny. We have to allow them to be funny, allow them to talk about guts, boogers, slugs, poop, snot, and all those icky things that girls don't like.

The alternative is just not working. What we are doing is failing them. Of course there will be those boys who do just fine in the system that is designed for girls. But what about the rest of the boys? This video contains staggering statistics and statements.

Here's a humorous video about the difference between men and women.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Things I love about Homeschool: So Much to Learn

Now that I'm a homeschooling mom I get to study things I didn't learn while I was in school. Such as all of these ancient civilizations, and the elements and periodic table in detail, not just enough to get me through pre-med biology class.

Homeschooling keeps me on my toes, and keeps me looking for new information. For instance, today I saw a story about a newly discovered dinosaur. Anzu Wylei. It's nickname is "Chicken from Hell." We had fun reading about it.

In our study of Ancient China, I checked out two books on the Terra Cotta Warriors from the library, and we are both enjoying the books.

Because my child is eager to learn, and loves to do research, he frequently finds information that is intriguing for both of us. He delights in sharing the information with me, and I'm so thankful that he loves to learn.

I know that I wouldn't be learning all of these things without homeschool. The schedule of school and work and all that goes along with keeping a home on top of that would not allow me enough time.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Montessori Day

This is a snapshot of a day in our Montessori home:

One day last week we cleared the table and I said, "I need you to do a work plan."

Sean filled out a sheet that I have pre-made with the subjects and blank lines for him to fill in what he is going to do in that subject. For instance: Science-- and he would fill in something like Elements Work.

I went on about my work in the kitchen, and he went outside with a magnifying glass. I went outside to check on something and saw that he was experimenting with it the magnifying glass. He was using the sunlight to burn a piece of wood, then he chose leaf, and then a dandelion. All of these materials reacted differently. (No fires were started, and I admit I said something like, "Be careful. Don't start a fire.")

When he was ready to move on from that work, he came back in and got to work on the next thing on his list. He is writing a book, and listed the characteristics of his main character. Once he was satisfied, he moved on to history. He read more about the ancient Chinese civilization, something we started on last week. When he was ready, he summarized what he had read.

I believe he practiced piano that day, and later on I took him to his first Parkour class.

My only involvement: a request for a work plan, listening to him summarize his history information, and driving him to the Parkour class.

This is a typical day for us. I try to stay out of his way as much as possible, and only give lessons when it's time to introduce something new. This is almost always language, because we are working on writing essays, and imaginative stories. Otherwise, I let him do his own thing. I put out books and materials that I hope will spark him to explore them, and I allow him to do some research on the computer. Of course he talks to me throughout the day about what he is discovering, or he asks questions about what I think about a particular bit of information.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Let the Kids Figure It Out

As a homeschooler, I believe it is important to find opportunities for my child to be around other children on a regular basis. I know there are some homeschooling families who do not believe this is important, and actually believe the opposite to be true. They don't want their children to spend very much time with children outside of their own families.

As a Montessori homeschooler, I want as many opportunities as possible for my child to interact and practice being in social situations. His time in private and public Montessori schools gave him skills to navigate the community of a classroom. Being peaceful is part of the Montessori curriculum, and in order to do that we must practice.

We visited with friends for a little bit of social interaction a few weeks ago. The kids played peacefully inside and outside while the moms talked. Everything seemed just fine.

Time was up and we had to be somewhere. Once we arrived at our evening event I received a text message. The mother of one of the children was concerned. She stated that my child had said a spate of very negative, and some hurtful, things to the other children. Of course she wasn't there to hear these things, so her child had told her these things after we had gone.

Instead of immediately going into interrogation mode, I decided that once I had a chance to talk with my son I would ask about how things had gone that afternoon. What did you guys do? What did you think of so-and-so ( a kid he had only met once before) and so on. I tried to artfully address each accusation without coming right out and asking, "Did you say this?"

Once I got a pretty good feel for how the day went, I decided I wasn't so sure he had said any of those things. He seemed to have a good time. I dug a little deeper and asked a few more questions. He seemed to have a good time playing outside, but admitted he didn't care for the video games that were available. He liked seeing one kid again whom he had met only once before, and I could tell by his demeanor and tone that he would like to spend time with him again.

I wasn't quite sure what to do next.

My main concern was making sure that if he did say the things he was accused of that he realized how hurtful they were, and that it was not OK.

But part of me wondered why in the world I was even dealing with it. Not that I think my child should be allowed to behave badly, but because I didn't understand why the kids wouldn't have dealt with it on their own, at the time.

It turns out that he denies saying them, and so instead of dealing with him saying hurtful things, it has turned into something entirely different. He's been accused of things he didn't do.

I feel very frustrated by this. What are we doing to our children? It seems like parents are so involved in their children's lives that the children can't handle their own business. By jumping in, we are taking away their opportunities to practice working things out on their own when a problem arises.

When I was a kid, and when my older two were kids, this was not the case. I remember  having heated fights and arguments with my friends when I was a kid, and then we found a way to work it out. The stakes were too high not to work it out. If you didn't work it out, who in the world were you going to play with?

I watched from the window as my oldest son, who at the time was about 5 or 6 years old, stand up to some older kids who came into our yard and started bullying my daughter, who was about 4. He flat out told them they had to leave, and were not going to talk to his sister that way. I was standing by in case I needed to intervene, but I let him handle it on his own. Those kids left and didn't come back.

I grew up learning to deal with my own quarrels with other kids. On the playground, in the classroom, at church, or in our own backyard, the kid arguments and issues were theirs to deal with. My mom only interfered when it was clearly dangerous or she was fed up with the noise of an argument.

I tend to take that same attitude. I don't think this is my fight. If Sean had said those things the child has accused him of it would mean that we need to have a serious talk about how to speak to our friends.

He denied using the words he is accused of using. We've had a couple of conversations now about this, and I've asked him how he wants to handle being accused of something he didn't do. One thing is very clear, he plans to handle it on his own.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Approaching the next plane of development

Sean is transitioning to another developmental stage. I think he's embracing his tweenness. I don't think that is a word, but it is real.

So with that will come a different way of learning, I'm sure. I'll have to start reading more about the adolescent mind and how to engage him in work. So far, he still seems to be very engaged and eager to learn.

He's definitely more involved with friends. He spends a lot of time talking to them on the phone, and chatting with them on Skype.

I'm bracing myself for the teen years. Thank goodness I still have a couple of years to get ready. As I talk with other moms of boys his age, they are all either going through rough patches, or are downright off kilter. One mother said her boy has outbursts of anger and rage, hitting and yelling. I know that child, and it's difficult for me to imagine him that way.

My first boy reached puberty and became the most mellow and amazing young man. Except for getting completely bored out of his mind with middle school, he was the easiest person to be around.

Last year Sean had some anger issues, but those have all gone away this year. I attribute this change to homeschooling. He's where he needs to be, and learning what he needs to learn, and having great experiences.

Here's hoping that the transition in the next year or two will be a smooth one.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Radiolab and the Dinosaur Extinction Hypothesis

I follow a blog called Montessori Muddle. This blog is one that I'll be looking at a lot more in the near future. It showcases what's happening in the Montessori middle and high school.

I jumped on my blog today to browse around my list of blogs I follow and saw a post on Montessori Muddle with a link to this program:

Their link was for the podcast, but we decided to click on over to the video. It was great, and made me wish we had gone up to Seattle to see it. I didn't even know it was happening.

It's definitely worth a listen if you've got Upper El, middle or high school students.

Thank you for sharing it Montessori Muddle!!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Elements: The Gifts That Keep Giving

Books are very special in our house. Sean has always had a full bookshelf, and as he has outgrown some of them, they've been replaced with books that are at his current level.

While he was at the public Montessori school there were book fairs several times a year. We attended all of them, and always came away with at least one book. And this is funny, in a way, because this is a kid who doesn't enjoy reading. Not novels, anyway.

It was at one of the final book fairs of the year that I found a couple of things I wanted to put back for his birthday. One was a book called, "The Elements." It's beautiful, and I just knew he'd love it. I also had already been thinking of doing homeschool again, and figured even if we didn't, this book would definitely be useful for years.

He opened it on his birthday last year and was overjoyed. It has been his go-to book for reading pleasure. I haven't asked him to do anything with it at all.

Last week he decided he would use it for the science part of his work plan, and came up with an activity on his own. He wanted to make a list of five elements off the top of his head, then look them up in the book and write down how they are used.

First he began by telling me that elements are so important, because without them we wouldn't be here. We need these elements in order to live, he said. Then he made his list of five, and started looking for them in the book to get information.

While he was working on that his math teacher arrived and made a comment about the book. "That's the one that comes with the cards, right?" he said. It didn't come with cards. I didn't know about the cards. He said he saw it in his Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest training. He described some of the information on the cards, and how they can be used, and I immediately got online to search for them. Found 'em. Ordered. Delivered on Thursday.

The cards are a companion for the book, in my opinion. Although I believe either could be used exclusively without the other. The book is gorgeous. Each element is represented by a color photo and some information about it. The periodic table is explained and in color as well.

The front of each card has a large color photo of the element, along with the number of the element, and on the back is detailed information.

I had Sean read the cover card, which provides a variety of ways to use the cards. He decided his first work would be to arrange the cards by melting point.

This work had him thinking. He wanted me to work with him, but all I did was hold up a card and say the name of the element, and he would take it and either predict the melting point, or just look on the back for it and place it on the floor. But he decided some of them would be a negative number, just based on what he knows about the element. I was genuinely intrigued with this work, and his explanations of why one element would have a negative melting point temperature while another would be a really high positive number melting point, so I provided the awe and wonder while he walked me through the work as he was doing it.

It also had him using math, and putting the numbers in order from lowest to highest melting point. We didn't get through all 118 of them yet. Unfortunately we work in the living room and couldn't leave all of the cards out over the weekend to come back to on Monday. We stacked the cards he already arranged, and put the others back in the box. I'm sure he'll come back to this work, and I am excited to see how he continues to use these cards in different ways.

If you are interested in "The Elements" book or cards, you can find them here and here. I bought the book at a Scholastic book fair, but got the box of cards from Amazon. I see there is also one called "Elements Vault." It looks great. We don't have that one. Yet.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Things I love About Homeschool: Curriculum

We are lucky to live in a state that honors a family's right for children to learn at home, and to choose the curriculum that works best for their children. This freedom to choose has been a big relief to me.

I know my child, and though I'm still figuring out as we go on this homeschooling journey all of the things that work, I am certain of the things that don't work.

Choosing a curriculum for homeschooling can be a huge task, but for us it has been easy. Sean started his schooling at a private Montessori school, and when I decided to homeschool him for first grade,  I found a large community of Montessori homeschoolers online. It was such a blessing. Although there isn't anyone near us who is using Montessori at home, just having the online community was comforting for me.

Although he ended up going to a public Montessori school for second through fourth grades, when I brought him home this year to homeschool, there was no question that we would use Montessori again.

Now that he is older, we are using some Montessori materials, and I'm coming up with ways to teach other things on our syllabus that are interesting to him. We use an Upper El Montessori curriculum, but it's a mix of freedom within structure. Freedom to choose what to write about, with guidance on how to write about it. Freedom to venture into science topics that interest him, history that is intriguing, and current events.

He comes up with his own ways of learning science at home, and we mix in some monthly trips to Camp Seymour, and the Pacific Science Center. He has materials here that have been given as gifts, and I download some ideas from the Internet. He reads his book about elements and the periodic table, and other science information, and also researches things online. He comes up with his own experiments and questions to research. If he's curious about things like the Bermuda Triangle, we can find a video on that subject, and he can look for more information on his own.

He prefers to read fact, and listen to me read fiction. He reads about planes, technology, and animals, and I read aloud to him books such as Huckleberry Finn, and other classics. We use the newspaper a little bit, and I plan to start using it more, selecting certain stories for him to read so we can discuss them.

We incorporate art into our curriculum, and this was missing from his public school experience. He draws daily, and learns new techniques by researching them on his own. I incorporate drawing into every subject we study, frequently asking him to draw a map, characters for a story, or something he would like to invent.

Fortunately we can afford private piano lessons, but his public school music class definitely reinforced his knowledge of music and prepared him to feed his passion for it.

Our history work is not Montessori material, but he is doing fine with it. I'm trying to bring in some interesting things to go along with the history we are studying.

My child learns best this way. Hands-on materials for some subjects, child-led learning in some areas, and freedom of choice with parameters in other subjects. An outside expert is needed for things like the piano lessons, the math instruction, and the art lessons he is currently taking. Field trips are a great way to reinforce his learning.

What does not work for Sean is a traditional schedule of take out your math book and work on that for X minutes, then take out your spelling book and work on that for X minutes, etc., traditional teaching, and traditional subject matter.

What he needs most of all is freedom, and homeschooling has given us that freedom to choose the methods and curriculum that work best for him. The goal is to learn, and he's doing that.

We are thankful that our state honors our choices, and that we are free to find the best way for Sean to learn.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A step forward

While we were at the Pacific Science Center for the Visiting Scientist program a couple of months ago, Sean spoke to a psychologist who studies fonts and which ones are easier to read, and other ways we respond to font types.

He showed us several different experiments. He asked us to read a sentence written in two different fonts. He asked if there was one that looked like a feminine font. Sean gave him a blank stare. The man turned to me and asked if there was one that looked more feminine, and one did stand out to me, but I wanted to wait until Sean had a chance to answer.

I wasn't sure he understood the question, so I said, "Is there one that looks more girlish, or boyish, to you." He looked for a long time at each one and finally said, "No."

A volunteer at the center was standing with us as we were doing this exercise. He had been glancing at me while Sean was studying the fonts. We waited, and when Sean answered, "No." We both smiled.
I told the psychologist I believe Sean's reaction to this particular exercise was an example of progress in our society.

The volunteer said, "I think that is really awesome."

This is not to say that Sean doesn't recognize certain things as masculine and feminine, but in general he views activities as a matter of interest rather than a "girl" thing to do and a "boy" thing to do.

While we were at a family function, a family member was engaging in conversation with Sean about his activities. She asked him, "Are you going to take ballet?" She is in her late 70s, and to her it was a way to joke around, but he took it as a serious question, thought on it for a moment, and then said, "I don't know. Maybe."

He walked away and she said to Chuck and I that she was really just kidding, but it looked like he was considering it. We explained he is interested in everything, and he doesn't really view ballet as a girl activity.

Children become very focused on making sense of the world when they are around age 7, 8, 9 ish. The traditional roles of households and working world are very important to them. They sometimes say things that don't sound very Politically Correct. I've seen adults get offended when a child talks about their religion, for instance, and insists that everyone is supposed to go to church. In their minds if their family is going to church everyone is supposed to. Just like all mommies are supposed to do whatever their mommies do, and daddies are supposed to do what their daddy does. That is what makes sense.

But Sean has been in a diverse community, and a diverse household, and family. He went to school with transgendered kids, and kids of all faiths and backgrounds, ethnicities, and origins.

It's a big world out there. We don't all fit into a mold. Sean makes decisions for himself based on his interests, and not what others would expect him to choose. That is a beautiful thing, and I hope he will be able to follow his own path and not that of others as he gets older.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Fraction circles

When the math tutor arrives I usually retreat to the couch and plug in my ear phones on the laptop. It is my Downton Abbey time, because I don't want to be a distraction. It's a great time for me to plug in and escape since we can't get the station that airs Downton Abbey on Sunday nights.
I occasionally pause the show and turn down the volume enough to listen to something Sean and his tutor are working on. It's usually some type of algebra, and just recently they've been working on fractions.

Today I plugged in my ear phones, and watched a bit of Downton. Then I noticed the fire was waning, so I unplugged and gave the fire a nudge and heard Corey say, "Why don't we get that fraction circles tray."
Music to my ears.

I bought the fraction circles last year, and I'm so glad we have them. It haven't spent a ton on materials, but sometimes it feels like they are just sitting on the shelves not being used. So to see Sean actively working with them today was great.

I asked Corey if I should get the fraction skittles that go along with it, and he said only if I find a set for a cheap price. He said they are really not used very much, but the fraction circles can be used over and over again. I found some on Jump Start Montessori on sale. If you're interested, you can find them here.
These fraction circles are plastic, and include the whole all the
way down to 1/10. I must have gotten these through Alison's Montessori.
I notice it says for age group 6-9 years, but he is using these for math
work in Upper El also.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mesopotamia, Babylon, and King Nebuchadnezzar

Our study of ancient civilizations is moving slowly.
This history curriculum is not Montessori, so there aren't any hands-on activities with it. It's straight forward information with questions at the end of each chapter. I've decided that if we breeze over something and Sean's not interested, that is OK. He will at least have been exposed to the information, and maybe the next chapter will spark his interest.

I wanted to illustrate for him how we get information from various sources, so I combined the study of Mesopotamia and Babylon with another book called, "Ancient Civilizations, The Illustrated Guide to Belief, Mythology and Art," and I've also flipped to some books in the Bible to read about Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar.

We finished up this lesson last week. It wasn't really of much interest to him, but he listened and did what was required. He actually seemed more interested in ancient man and the lifestyle prior to settling into agriculture.

We are now starting on Egypt. I plan to use the same sources, and I'll ask him to find some others. I'm hoping this one will appeal to him more, since we were able to see the King Tut exhibit when it was in Seattle, and we have a DVD of King Tut's tomb, and there is so much more information about Egypt. I'm going to look for some hands-on work to go with the study of Egypt as well, in hopes that will get him excited about it.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

To All Homeschooling Parents

Your performance as a guide/teacher has not gone unnoticed.
Your dedication, perseverance, patience, and your ability to spark a chid's interest in learning is admirable and inspiring.

You spend your days not only guiding children and presenting lessons, but cutting out materials, laminating, arranging, rotating, and researching them. You comparison shop, maybe even spend hours upon hours creating materials. You take the children on field trips, and you look for ways to supplement the work you are doing with them to reinforce the learning.

You worry, you doubt yourself, doubt your abilities, wonder if you are doing the right thing for the children. You look for resources to help you do your job even better than you already are.

Each day you come to work ready to do the job, and on weekends you continue to inspire children to not only learn and practice grace and courtesy, but to navigate the world and have the skills to collaborate and get along with others. You work with them to express their feelings instead of lashing out, and you help them learn how to become independent, life-long learners.

You are the guide/teacher, the mediator, the cook, the nurse, the custodian, the counselor, the bookkeeper, the secretary, and the specialist. Your days "off" from your teaching/guiding job are filled with more duties and demands.

Though you are guiding your students to be appreciative and kind, you rarely get a thank you from anyone, or an acknowledgement for your commitment to this important job.
And so this is to serve as that acknowledgement.

Your abilities as a guide are amazing. You are doing the right thing for your students. You do a great job of researching and finding bargains on materials. You are so talented at creating materials. Everything that you have for your students is enough. Whatever you don't have will not harm their education. You are making the right decisions. You know your students better than anyone else does. You know what they need. Your commitment will pay off in spades. Your students will thank you someday.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mark Twain knew a thing or two

I still read to Sean at night. I plan to continue until he asks me to stop, and I secretly hope that is at least a few years away.

We finished a book last week, and I looked for another one to begin, and decided to pick through a book called "The Young Folks Shelf of Books," a collection of junior classics.

It includes the first chapter of Tom Sawyer. I don't know if I've ever read all of Tom Sawyer. If I did I was very young.

At first I was struggling with the language a bit, but being from the South, I picked up on it quickly.

I plan to get a copy from the library so we can finish the story, or if I can find an inexpensive copy I'll buy it.

At the end of the first chapter something jumped out at me that pertains to Montessori education. The story goes, for those of you who either have forgotten or haven't read it, Tom is being punished by his Auntie, who is raising him. He's supposed to be whitewashing the fence on a Saturday afternoon, and as the other boys come by to tease him, he turns it around. He convinces them that to whitewash that fence is a coveted job, and they all want a turn at it. Not only does he get out of doing the work, they pay him to let them do it.

And Mark Twain says, "If he had been a great wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do."

That sentence says it all. Montessori education, and indeed unschooling as well, educate the child with the notion that they are not obliged to do anything, but instead the work, and the world, is so compelling and full of interesting things that one could not imagine anyone not wanting to do the work of learning. And that makes the work more like play.

Mark Twain continues:
 "And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a treadmill is work, while rolling tenpins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign."

Wordsmith Extraordinaire, that Mark Twain.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Things I Love About Homeschool: Time, and Pace

Sean is working on a completely child-led experiment. I didn't come up with one thing about it.

He said he wanted to find something that would interact with citric acid, inject it into a tangerine, and see how long it takes for it to decompose. I thought that was a fine idea, and told him to research what that might be.

He didn't come up with anything, so he started to think of things around the house he could use. He mixed vinegar and alcohol together and injected it into two tangerines. He did this yesterday. I started to suggest that he use the scientific method, keep notes, that he measure carefully, etc. and then I stopped myself.

It was late in the day when he began, and first thing this morning he was back at it. I decided to let him go for as long as he wanted on this task, and once in a while I would ask, "So what are you learning from this work?"

He would tell me one or two things that he had learned.

I wanted to give him the freedom to spend as much time doing it as he desired. He wasn't just messing around, he was really working and observing. From the tangerine skin, to the syringes he used, he was exploring all of it, and watching the results as he pumped as much of the liquid into these things as they could hold.

My plan is to review the scientific method with him tomorrow, and see if he can identify anything about the method that would have helped him prior to beginning this experiment.

But the really wonderful thing is that as a homeschooler he can spend all day on one experiment. The only time I stopped him was for lunch, and then again when it was time to go to children's choir. We can spend as much time as we want on a subject, and he can go at his own pace, and I love that about homeschool.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Half Year Rundown

Well, we've been at it for five months. I thought it would be a good time to get real and look at what we are really doing.

Although we are operating with a Montessori philosophy, I don't have a lot of Montessori materials here that are for Upper El instruction. I invested in quite a few when he was Lower El, but I can't afford to outfit our home with very many Upper El items. I try to Montessorize some of the things we do, but really, we are hackschooling. It makes me wonder if I should change the name of my blog. I'll think on that a little longer.

I'll explain.
We are Montessori in the fact that I'm trying the best I can without any training to follow the child, and present certain subjects in a Montessori way.
But at this stage in his development Sean is skilled at finding things he wants to learn, and as soon as he talks about something he wants to know, I try to find a way for him to explore it. He can learn a lot on his own, so I don't need to present everything.
And that is the way we are hackschooling. When he wants to learn about something I let him go for it. We also spackle instruction together through homeschooling with library books, a history curriculum that I found which spans first humans to present time, some Montesssori three-part cards and the few materials I have, and the language and grammar exercises I make up as we go. We utilize a tutor who is here for an hour a week to teach math who is a Montessori Upper El teacher.
I send him to children's choir on Wednesdays so he can have some music instruction, and he will begin formal piano lessons next week. We belong to the YMCA, and he has plenty of property to run and play for physical exercise, as well as the exercise he gets from chopping wood. He also gets some physical exercise through the Camp Seymour programs, and he gets science instruction there, and our membership to the Pacific Science Center, as well as some science projects and experiments that I've found on the Internet.
He hacks his own art instruction through the Internet, and has become quite an artist.
On top of all of that he enjoys finding things on Youtube and other Internet sites on a wide range of subjects. Whether it's how to build something, tips on stop motion photography, or information on physics or chemistry, he is always learning.
He has practical life activities every day, and has responsibilities.

I signed Sean up for Khan Academy when we were first beginning this school year, but I hadn't seen much that I thought would be at his level.

However, I saw an email last week offering an hour of instruction on how to code. Yesterday I asked if he would like to do that and he was totally on board.

He spent an hour, but he did it at his own pace. It was something he had never done before, so he went slow, and was able to make a rectangle in different sizes, and move it all over the page using code.

He stopped there, and took a break and moved on to something else for a while.

I am so thankful that we found Montessori when we did. I'm very thankful that I dove in head first to learn as much as possible about the philosophy and materials. I see that it has given him a sense of order, and the permission to take a break and do another work or activity for a while and come back to the original one. (So glad I know that it is not only normal, but healthy to do that.) He has the confidence that he needs to explore, research, and present his findings. He is patient as he works to get to an answer. He has respect for his peers, for his work, and the things in his care, such as his plants and his animals. He is comfortable expressing his feelings, and asking for what he needs.

All of this came from the Montessori environment. Being in a Montessori classroom with peers gave him a sense of community. It taught him how to wait, how to help others who are struggling, how to accept help when he didn't know something, and how to look for the good in others. He learned how to follow, and how to lead, and he learned patience--especially with others.

I will always be so grateful to all of his teachers and teacher assistants who fostered these qualities in him. I hope he will be as well.

Though I believe a Montessori classroom is a wonderful place for children to learn, I can see clearly that Sean needed to come home. I am so glad I was paying attention, and that I have a husband who not only was paying attention and supported the decision to homeschool, but suggested it!

As this school year has progressed, so has Sean. He has made a complete turnaround. When the school year ended last year, I wasn't sure I would be able to spark his interest again. He didn't want to do anything. He didn't want to learn.  He had been that way since the start of fourth grade. I was crushed.

But within the first week of being home I saw a change, and it has only gotten better. Now he is interested in everything again. His love for learning and exploring is back, and he is happy. He used to be angry a lot, but the anger has disappeared. He is content, communicative, and a joy for me to be with every day. (Though I do enjoy a day to myself every so often on the weekends ;-} )

We have some exciting projects on the horizon. He is excited to dive deeper into studying Roman history and how that empire fell. I can't express how happy it makes me to hear the excitement in his voice. There are science projects, research projects, and more.

~~We are so blessed to live in this country, where we are free to homeschool. And specifically we are blessed to live in this state, where homeschooling is respected by our lawmakers.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Breakin' it with Camp

We've been on break since Christmas Week, but I signed Sean up for some camps back at the first of December.

Of course he can start back up with his school work anytime he wants, but I figured he could use a defined number of days to relax and know that we didn't need to do "school" work.

He just finished Lego camp today, and I haven't even had a chance to ask him what they did. It's through the Bricks4Kids company. He attended their after school program last year, and did the stop-motion photography camp this summer. I knew he'd like to get back into a room filled with bins of Legos, even though his own room could be used for one of their classes ;-)

Yesterday was Eco Camp at Camp Seymour. He had done part of this instruction before, but I like the idea of repeating things, especially when there's a lot of info.

He is dissecting a squid.
He did this in fourth grade, and I plan to sign him up for it again later this month when they offer it to homeschoolers, if he's up for it.

He said they learned about salmon spawning, and went out in the big canoe. I won't post that picture because it has a ton of kids in it and I'm not sure their parents would want their photos shared.
A big than you to Jessica Smeall, recreation coordinator for Key Peninsula Parks. She advertised the camp dates and programs, and she took these pics and many more.