Monday, December 8, 2014

School Days and Thoughts on Work "Minimums."

I have a couple of sickies on my hands today.  Kal-El's temperature was around 102 all weekend and around 100 today.  Me Too came down with it today.  His temp is only around 100 and he seems unphased by being sick.  Kal-El, on the other hand, has been wiped and slept most of yesterday.  

As a result, we took it easy in school today.  We made a few Truth in the Tinsel ornaments, read from the Bible, and spent about an hour in the school room.


Me Too did about nine equations FOR the large bead frame.  He did three of them ON the large bead frame.  He did six of them verbally because he could see instantly that they had single-digit multipliers and no exchanging. 


 For those of you who are wondering, I do have a verbal "minimum" set for the number of equations they should do on a material, three.  The KotU albums encourage letting the child create their own equations.  We have decided to use preprinted equations most of the time.  The boys know that inventing their own equations is always an option and they do that once every couple of weeks or so.  You might be wondering if setting a minimum of three equations makes it so that they always stop after three equations (as setting a requirement will often do) and the answer is "no."  I think the reason is that the boys and have such a loose and complex verbal agreement with so much flexibility and exception clauses.  So, what happens?  Some days the boys say, "I really like this.  I'm going to keep doing them and see how many I can do before I get tired."  Some days they say, "Mom, if I do more than three of these can I count them on a different day when I'm tired?"  They may or may not actually remember to cash those in.  They might say, "I don't like this work.  Can I do 12 of these and not do it for the rest of the week?"  Or, they might say "Mom, this division equation took me twenty minutes.  Do I really have to do three?"  Answer:  "No, you can do two today."  And finally, because we happen to use preprinted equations the boys can see that there is an end point.  They know that when they run out of equations something new and exciting happens so they often will keep doing something more than the "minimum" to get to the new work sooner.  

Also, the minimum differs from material to material, subject to subject.  On some works, like the addition memorization finger boards it was two pages.  For the stamp game Me Too does six equations or two pages in his booklet.  For the bead frame he does 3 equations.  For fractions he does a drawer, or if the drawer is huge he does 10 equations.  There are lots of ways to do this.  Or, you can not do it at all and see if you are happy with how things go.



Kal-El felt so crummy that he had to go lie down partway through an ornament.  During school he didn't want to leave the couch so he just worked in his word problem book for an hour.  Here our "minimum" is five equations (or one week's worth according to the series) but today Kal-El did ten because he was enjoying what he was doing.


Last week Me Too worked with a drawer in the fractions cabinet.  He likes to take out the fraction equivalence charts while he works to speed up his reductions. 


He usually writes the whole equation in his fraction notebook.  On a lazy day such as this one, he writes on the slip with a dry erase marker.  He doesn't erase them until I've checked them to make sure he's reduced all of his fractions.  Here you can see he missed one.


Here he must have been having trouble with a reduction and is trying to find the simplest answer using the fraction circles.  I can see Kal-El in the music room behind him practicing rhythms.


Both boys received presentations on the intersection of two straight lines.  They learned that when two lines are oblique to one another two acute and two obtuse angles are created.



They learned that you can't have one right angle formed without having four right angels formed. And, they learned that when this happens the lines are referred to as perpendicular to one another.


Me Too followed this up with some Albanesi task cards.  He happened to pull one about dotted and mixed lines which isn't actually covered in any of my geometry albums.  I made up an presentation on it and let him get to it.


He had to create dotted and continuous lines both straight and curved or a mix with the sticks and also draw them on paper using different colored pencils depending on whether that portion of the line was straight or curved.


He also followed up with our nomenclature book on "The Study of Lines."



Me Too was the first one to dive into the "multiples" section of the KotU math album.  Exercise one has him laying out 2 or 3 short chains (we sometimes used long) next to one another and labeling them both.  Then, I take all of the tags and mix them up.  I randomly choose tags and read him the number without letting him see the color.  He tells me which chain the tag belongs to and I give it to him to place it.  Finally, I take all the chains again and HE gets to ASK me for a particular tag I am holding in my hand.  He thinks it is VERY FUNNY to ask me for any common multiples first and no matter which one I give him, insist he meant the OTHER color.  Thanks to our focus on skip counting songs for the more difficult numbers this fall, Me Too is very good at this and did almost all the chains in one day.  We could have done this sooner.  It would be a great activity to use when a child knows most of his skip counting or multiplication facts but needs practice.




One day the boys seemed to be jonesing for a new creative activity so I pulled out some packets of origami activities I had been saving for just such an occasion.  The boys followed printed instructions and learned to make lions, giraffes, and elephants.  It was tricky.  I had to make some too in order to help them out.




Kal-El would really rather not use the flat bead frame or checkerboard anymore.  I think if he ditches the concrete material so quickly he might not remember why the algorithm works the way it does long term.  So, I made a deal with him that for every equation he does on on the materials he can do another one on paper.  He prefers the white board.  When he finishes an equation he takes a picture of it with a little point-and-shoot camera so that he has a record of his work. This is especially helpful if I am folding laundry in another room and he wants to show off his hard work. 



I find it humorous that he also does this with the sentence analysis work.  This may look like a mess, but that is because he took a picture of two sentences at once to show me.


  • "The telephone and doorbell ring."
  • "Maria and Leigh speak."


He does these from the ETC sentence analysis cards I bought.  Some of the cards are called "sentence construction."  They give you a photo of the symbols and arrows and two photographs.  You have to write a sentence for each photograph that fits the pattern of symbols and arrows shown.



For one of Kal-El's kid's choice works last week he categorized shells according to how "pretty" they are.  Not the most scientific scheme, but I let it go.  I figure now the next time he tries to do that I can say, "You've already categorized them that way.  How about this time you categorize according to bivalve vs. univalve etc.,"



In other news, voting for the Homeschool Blog Awards begins today over at the Homeschool Post.  My blog is nominated in the category for "Best Homeschool Methods Blog."  You can vote daily on as many devices as you own.  I know everyone is busy, especially so over the holiday season.  So, if you happen to have a moment to pop over and vote for us I would certainly appreciate it!  If you don't, I completely understand! Voting is usually in November. Hopefully you all won't find it too annoying if I put up reminders about it during the voting period (from now until December 29th).  This is my FIFTH year in a row being nominated.  I've never won, but secretly have a theory that I was first runner up last year.
The Homeschool Post

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"We're so crafty..."


I imagine this post title sung to the tune of "Fancy."  Just some examples of what kids will do with unlimited access to a stocked closet full of art supplies.  Kal-El made this boat (Probably at 6 a.m. one day.  I don't know.  I was asleep.) and named it "Sticky Glue" because that's what he needed a lot of to hold it together.



You certainly have seen these fun guys in the background of our posts lately.  Kal-El made Santa and Me Too made the elf.  In the picture before this one Me Too had started work on a Santa of his own.


Me Too has been very busy making these jingle bell contraptions and hanging them from every doorknob in the house.  It is very hard to be sneaky around here right now.  We are certainly not artistically gifted, but we are having lots of fun.




Saturday, December 6, 2014

Air Cycle Ballet and Our Planet Collage



The Waseca biome curriculum is one possible linear path through the traditional Montessori AMI geography album and some of the biology album. I would describe it as "a subset of what is already contained in traditional Montessori geography (and biology) albums plus a few extension materials/exercises that are pretty neat."  I find the Montessori geography and biology albums a bit daunting because they are really a big collection of key lessons that you can give in almost any order that follows the child's interest.  At the same time, the knowledge presented builds upon itself in such a way that it is hard for me to skip around in the albums.  I find it easier to skip around by section but to present the section in order.  I was so intimidated by the geography album in particular that I found myself not doing it.  So, for our family the Waseca biome curriculum has been a blessing because it has provided a path for me to follow and got us going on the album (digging in, really).


Anyway, we were trucking along through the biomes curriculum and when I came to the first "Sun and Earth" lesson it launched us fully into the "Sun and Earth" section of our KotU geography album and I spent about two months presenting that section from nearly beginning to end (pages 70-98).  Now we only have about four pages left in that section before we move into the section "The Work of Air."  This will be truly following Kal-El's interest because he has been specifically asking about the causes of wind in recent weeks.  Of course, this is a bit of chicken/egg situation.  Am I following his interest or was his interest in wind made possible by his new knowledge of the Sun and Earth?  Funny how that work.  The moral of that story:  If your child doesn't express any particular "interests" just keep giving presentations and interests will start popping up all over.


The last part of the "Sun and Earth" section in KotU is "The Protection of the Atmosphere and the Rains."  It was our first breaking point in a while that sent us back to the biomes curriculum where we picked up the linear progression again. We told the story "All Energy Comes from the Sun."  I didn't get a picture, but pulled a real houseplant and models of a grasshopper, frog, snake, and eagle off our shelves to assist with the story. You can read the story yourself through the link to the free online version of the biome curriculum on this page.



Another day we acted out the "Air Cycle Ballet."  One of the boys is a plant and the other an animal.  The plant has taken the energy from the sun (and minerals and water from the soil).  They take in carbon dioxide from the air and give off oxygen.  The animals inhale that oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.  The boys are using their hands to bring in and give back the appropriate gases. 

Waseca, Air Cycle Ballet




Another day we made the "Our Planet Collage."  This involved tracing a dinner plate as well as the continents of North and South America from our puzzle map.  Stretched out cotton balls provide a visual symbol of the normally invisible atmosphere protecting the Earth.




Waseca, Our Planet Collage

I like that the Waseca extensions here have provided a story and sensorial experiences to kick off our study of the "protection of the the atomosphere and the rains" in the KotU album.

I realize that I did skip blogging about the final work chart in the "Sun and Earth" section of the album.  We did it, but I didn't take photographs.  I will hopefully have time to lay that work out again so I can show you a few pictures.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Truth in the Tinsel Time, Again

Me Too reading Isaiah 9:2-7


It's Truth in the Tinsel time again!  This year both boys are taking turns reading the Bible verses aloud for the other.  Every year we just love how much this curriculum encourages and reinforces our habit of daily Bible reading with the added fun of ornament making.  If you would like to read more about how our family has used Truth in the Tinsel in the past, see some of our ornaments, and see how our family has chosen to display them you can find all of our Truth in the Tinsel post through this link.

I think my coolest post on Truth in the Tinsel is about the music I selected to play for my boys as they make their ornaments.  I chose songs with the goal of memorizing the Bible text of the day in mind.
The post is called "Musical Companions to Truth in the Tinsel."



Thanks to a suggestion from my friend Heidi (Please be praying for her family, especially her unborn daughter!), I put together the selections from that post into a YouTube playlist.  You can access the playlist at the bottom of this post.

I have a couple of new Truth in the Tinsel tips this year.


I use the book on my iPad (in iAnnotate) and I never realized until this week that if you tap on the Bible reference (such as Isaiah 9:2-7) it opens up an NIrV version of the text in Bible Gateway.  After you're done reading you quickly close it with a tap and are right back in Truth in the Tinsel.  I have found it very helpful to be able to quickly pop open the appropriate verses on my iPad to follow along as the boys read in case they get stuck on a word.  Funny, they handled "Zechariah" just fine but stumble on "Midian." 

If you are looking for a Bible that is great for lower elementary, I wrote about the Bible that we use in this post.  We chose it because of third-grade reading level of its NIrV translation and its LARGE PRINT.


Truth in the Tinsel is also our Advent calendar.  Instead of opening  a little cardboard door to reveal a chocolate, we take a link off of a paper chain each day until Christmas.  Each link has a "clue" written on it (which gives the kids an extra way to help focus on listening to the Bible verses).  My other tip this year is to make your own paper chain.  This is the first year I didn't print the paper chain from the Truth in the Tinsel book.  The "official" version is very small, uses a LOT of ink,  is formatted in a way that makes the chain pieces difficult to cut out and trim, and then each link needs to be folded.  This year I finally wised up and wrote the clues on a normal paper chain with a Sharpie.  Duh.  I don't know what takes me so long sometimes.  This provided some extra benefits.  My boys take turns taking the links off the chain and LOVE To fight about whose turn  it is EVERY DAY.  Me Too's links are green and Kal-El's are red.  Fight avoided.  I was also able to write all of Kal-El's clues in cursive and Me Too's in print for some extra sneaky cursive practice that makes Kal-El feel like a big man.  I just tape our paper chain onto the patio doors next to our kitchen table, alongside Kal-El's paper Santa and Me Too's paper elf.  Some years I hang it from a suction cup hanger (couldn't find it this year).


I hope you are all finding ways to bring meaning to the holidays!


My playlist of Musical Companions to Truth in the Tinsel can be accessed below:


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Proctractor Chart, Geography Work Chart #3 (GW3)

Today we worked with the third work chart that goes with the Sun and Earth section of our Montessori geography album (KotU).  We are still talking about the effects of the Earth's rotation and the tilt of its axis in relation to the perpendicular rays from the sun and our seasons.

protractor chart, Montessori, GW3, Geography work chart

The boys liked this chart a lot better than GW2.  GW2 irritated them because we kept moving the sun.  "But Mom!" they argued, "the sun doesn't move, the Earth does!"  Truth be told, they didn't like that this chart requires you to rotate in two directions instead of one but they thought it was a step in the right direction.

What we have here is a rectangle with a circle drawn on it.  The circle has been divided into segments which are colored as follows: white for very cold, blue for warm to cool ("in-between" temperatures), and red for hot.  A slit is cut vertically through the diameter of the circle so that a second circle can be placed inside with one half exposed at a time.  The inner circle is white and slightly smaller than the first in order to expose the colors of the circle beneath. The lines of latitude are marked along the edge.  The solid red line represents the equator.  The dotted red lines represent the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn and the Arctic and Antarctic circles.  The yellow arrow represents perpendicular rays from the sun.


I've placed a small dot of poster putty on the white circle to represent a location on the Earth (you could just do this with your finger).  In the photo below, it is either March 21st or September 21st and the perpendicular rays from the sun are falling directly at the equator.  The poster putty dot is in the blue zone but relatively close to the red.



In the photo below it is June 21st and the perpendicular rays of the sun are falling at the Tropic of Cancer.  Our poster putty dot is now in the red zone.



In the photo below the date is December 21st and the perpendicular rays from the sun are falling at the Tropic of Capricorn.  The poster putty dot is back in the blue zone, but closer to the white zone than previously.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Geography Work Chart #2 (GW2)

We are finishing up the "Sun and Earth" section of the KotU geography album.  The last few things we do before we move onto things like the work of wind and water are work charts.


This is the second of the work charts in the sun and Earth section of the album.  The first one (GW1) was the time zone chart I posted about at the beginning of October.

Montessori geography work chart GW2 perpendicular rays sun zones

This second chart (GW2) shows the Earth divided into zones according to the locations of the Arctic and Antarctic circles, Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, and the equator.  I could have printed the basic chart from several places.  A download is included with the KotU album.  A very nice, clean version is included in the NAMC blackline masters.  My ETC impressionistic charts has an unlabeled version of this but the heat distribution is pictured "realistically" therefore the tropics are not clearly delineated.  In the end, I had a copy from the Mid-America album already printed and colored from a few years ago so I wrote the names of the zones on with a Sharpie and called it day.


You need a small movable image of the sun and the dates of the equinoxes and solstices.  I typed up the dates and threw some clip art into Google Docs and printed them on cardstock.  You can save yourself five minutes by accessing my file.

I already showed the boys how the perpendicular rays fall on the different parts of the Earth on these dates the other day with the globe and a flashlight.  This chart gives them another way to practice that knowledge.  They took turns.  One brother would place the sun and the other brother would place the date, then they would switch.

Friday, November 14, 2014

School Days




Me Too has been continuing his squaring work.  This is an on-paper extension of the work he did with the short chains and squares last week.




I don't know if he just likes this work a lot or just likes the fact that he is a presentation or two ahead of his brother, but he has been requesting presentations in this thread.  Tuesday we started the notation of cubes.



He also likes me to "surprise" him with work that he can do without including his brother.  My response to a recent request was to throw some music notation work at him.  



He also completed the next level, some three-part cards.  Me Too likes to take his own pictures of his work.  He posed Spotty with his cards and took this picture.  Spotty has been doing a lot of work with Me Too lately.



Kal-El decided he didn't want to be left behind and tackled some more of the squaring sequence at the end of this week.



  The boys learned 90% of their facts through the Montessori memorization sequence.  However, they were slow or stuck when 7's, 8's, and 9's were in combination.  The boys and I have been reviewing the multiplication facts for a different tricky number each month.  In September we chose eights.  In October we chose sevens.  That actually solved our problem because if they needed to multiply by nine they would just use the commutative property and do the equation the other way.  However,  for November we decided to work on nines anyway.  We are using this song to help with the memorization.




For one of his "kid's choice" works this week, Kal-El got it in his head to write out every possible equation that he could think of that results in nine.




I plan to have Kal-El do more work yet with the checkerboard and flat bead frame.  However, he watched how I used long multiplication on paper to check his work when he lost his place on the checkerboard a few times.  That was all he needed to make the leap to paper.  I never thought my child's first long multiplication completely on paper would have a multiplicand into the millions and a multiplier into the thousands, but it did.  Yeah Montessori!


Here is the very first long-multiplication equation he ever did completely on paper (last week).  He "invented" the equation himself and only came up to me to ask one small question about how to "shift all the numbers for the zeroes" when he came to his first partial product (Because on the checkerboard you multiply THEN add your zero.  He realized he had a problem after he wrote down his first partial product and didn't know how to shift the numbers when the paper wouldn't slide like on the flat bead frame.)



I think he did all the carrying in his head for the equation above.  Below you can see that I showed him the more traditional way to notate what he needs to carry.



However, he refuses to write the carried numbers SMALL.  You can see below what a mess that makes.  However, he is otherwise doing things correctly.





Me Too has been working on R-controlled vowels.  We use the movable alphabet a lot for that work.



Nate the Great books are just, well, great.  You know the storyline of an easy to read book is good when the older child is stealing the younger child's library books.






We have been working, still, in the KotU geography album, Waseca Biomes curriculm, and BFSU.  I have been coordinating my favorite lessons from all three into work the past week on the effects of the tilt of the Earth's axis.  That means hours of daylight, the arctic and antarctic circles,  By "favorite" that means we've been basically doing everything straight out of the KotU album.  The best lessons on these topics in the BFSU are so almost word for word from the Montessori albums that I have to believe that they were Montessori-inspired.  I spent a lot of time spinning globes with flashlights pointing at them the past few weeks.


We are getting a lot of use out of our geography impressionistic charts from ETC.









Here Me Too is working on one of the last few lessons in All About Spelling, vol 1. 




He was writing words as I dictated them to him.  The word "shrunk" inspired him to write "Papa shrunk."  Hi Papa!  We are thinking of you!  As you can see, if I notice that he writes a letter backwards or with the improper strokes I demonstrate how to do it correctly and have him write that letter five times.  This day we had trouble with k's and b's.  He has done all of the Montessori writing work from birth (except that we didn't start with cursive).  He has done HWT level K twice.  He has done HWT grade one twice.  He is not ready for HWT grade two. He is too old for me to pull off changing the cover on the grade one book and tricking him into doing it a third time.  So,  I bought him Zaner Bloser levels K and Grade One (and artfully covered any references to grade level with dog stickers).  He can see and understand what he's doing wrong.  After he is written a page I can ask "do you see any letters you wrote backwards" and he can circle them all.   It's not just reversals though. He confuses lowercase and capitals (while writing, he can identify them just fine).  He uses completely invented strokes sometimes.  Oh well.  Let's just be thankful he's not in second grade.



Kal-El is interested in astronomy again.  One of his many "kids choice" moments this week involved drawing the solar system on our new extra whiteboard.  I wish I had snapped a photo later, after he had added the asteroid belt in red.  Long story short, Kal-El likes to draw on the white board we use for All About Spelling.  Using the whiteboard for AAS inadvertently erases anything drawn on it.  I was cleaning our Montessori storage space recently and found an extra white board.  Problem solved, and the new white board is seeing daily use.




Well... some uses of the white board are more productive than others.




Kal-El discovered this little surprise from the science supply store tucked in the drawers this week and we all enjoyed some freeze-dried ice cream.



One of Me Too's many "kid's choice" works this week was to pick a card out of the bin of geometry command/task cards.  You can see it on the far left in the photo above (there is a triangle on top of it).  This card asked him to trace all of the triangles in the geometric cabinet and then use the angle measure from the box of geometric sticks to identify all of the angles of each triangle.




He was very careful not to miss any angles and checked them off as he went along.



Me Too has been working with the large bead frame.  This week he started doing actual equations with the apparatus.   We are starting with multiplication equations with multiplicands up to seven digits and multipliers of one digit.  



When we reach multiplication on the large bead frame I always (well, twice, once with each kid) feel like there is a step missing in the Montessori math sequence somewhere.  Me Too knows his facts so in the equation above he knew when he multiplied 9000 by six that his answer was "54 thousand."  But, then he starts to move the thousands beads FIFTY-FOUR times!  What works is if I write "54" down in the margin, ask him how many zeroes to add (3), then he SEES that he needs to move five ten-thousand beads and four thousand beads.  It just seems to me that there should be a work that teaches the child who knows his facts to transfer the extra digits of a product to the appropriate categories without having to write it down in the margin.  You can see how full my margin became and this was only an equation with a one-digit multiplier.  When Kal-El was doing equations with larger multipliers we needed scrap paper just for that.  The checkerboard does a better job of teaching this actually (I realize as I write this).  Maybe we need to bump on over to the checkerboard for a little while.  I am open to suggestions.




Kal-El has been working on cursive.  We ditched Handwriting Without Tears due to the awkward, stilted, unattractive cursive font and are using New American Cursive.



I mean, who doesn't love meerkats?



Kal-El's cursive work has inspired Me Too to use some of the more complicated patterns for decorating between his math equations.  He gets ideas from a little book I put together and bound.  It has a few pages of "equation decorating" patterns and a ton of metal inset design suggestions.  The boys also love to invent their own.  However, sometimes without a classroom full of kids to inspire ideas, you have to put some in a book so they don't do the same things over and over.





Kal-El pulled out the handmade book from our long ago continent swap (the gift that keeps on giving!).  He really enjoyed reading every word and had a lot of questions.  It was an excellent example of Montessori comic curriculum at work.  He "thought" he was studying geography, but was seriously practicing reading.  He was super excited to read about the "Capricorn Caves" again realizing after our lessons the past few weeks that it was likely called that due to the location of the Tropic of Capricorn.  The geography lessons the past few weeks gave him a new appreciation of how and why the seasons were backwards for the child in the book living in Australia.  He enjoyed it when the book mentioned it being December 1st, near the start of their summer, and that the temperature by 11:00 a.m. was 36 degrees Celsius.  I wrote out the two equations for converting from Celsius to Fahrenheit on and index card (to be stored in our measurement drawer later) and helped him convert that temperature to Fahrenheit.  He was able to do the multiplication and addition on paper but was a bit irked that he had to do the division on the test tubes.  We'll all be glad when he's fully abstracting!  



Me Too is still working on the division bead board.  He is almost done.  Er, either he or his dogs are.  Me Too clearly had the camera again.



See?  Only 21 more quotients to work through.



He will be SO glad when he finishes the division bead board because then I will let him start racks and tubes.  He is SO OVER the stamp game.  I have to agree.  Exchanging all those stamps is tedious.
As you can see, we don't even have enough stamps.




Kal-El is working with two-digit divisors on the racks and tubes.  He is not happy that Me Too is going to start that material before he is finished, but he is just going to have to be tough.  I think he will comfortably be into three-digit divisors when Me Too starts so that should help him feel like there is a "buffer" of several levels between them.



Putting all of those beads on the board might be just about as tedious as the stamp game, but exchanging sure is easier.



Kal-El asked me to take this picture and tell you all that he has 54 beads in his hand.


I noticed this week that we are not remembering to work on things in the multiples/divisibility thread (part of the numeration thread, I guess).  I will have to find a way to put that onto our work plans.  It is a great time for the boys to be working on that because they will be able to make us of and practice all of those facts that they know and love.


We are having a great time together and are so happy to homeschool.