Sunday, June 28, 2015

Starry Night, Solar System, and Pizza Fractions

Week 4 of Kindergarten


I'm continuing to use the same work plan to keep M on track throughout the week, but I plan to print a new version for next week. I may change the format to use push pins or stickers instead of the paper clips because the clips tend to slide on the laminated paper.

We continued with "Young Chefs" camp, and I added a few new materials to M's shelves. M also received the second kit from the Magic School Bus Young Scientist's Club. I have several of these kits that I modified and used with my high school science classes when I was teaching, and I was excited when a friend passed along a great deal on the annual membership for this club. I put away the first kit (on volcanoes) for next week to prepare for our science camp, so we jumped ahead to this month's kit - The Secrets of Space (affiliate link). I really like getting the monthly kits because it has a wide range of activities, most of the materials are included, and it helps me narrow down which science theme to pursue that month.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Work Plan, Cooking, and American History

Week 3 of Kindergarten


This week was the start of the "Little Chefs" camp for our co-op. We also got in an order of new materials from IFIT, including two sets of bells, and we planned a field trip with friends to the Upcountry History Museum.

In addition to those planned activities, I printed our first attempt at a work plan based on the post by What DID we do all day? I decided to go with daily and weekly options so we could reset it at the end of each week. I will probably play around with the subjects listed until we find something that we're comfortable with, but this was a good start. M really likes moving the paper clips from one side to the other as she completes her work, and she likes having the chart to look at to see what her options are for the day.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sewing, Butterflies and Fairy Gardens

Week 2 of kindergarten!


I'm continuing to use the planning sheets I created (find the download here). I like that I can see all of the subject areas at once, and I don't have to plan by the day (since I know I won't stick to a day-by-day plan). I do want to add a couple more long-term planning sheets to help guide me with material making and to make sure we are making progress in all subject areas.

Next week I want to try incorporating a bit of a work plan to encourage M to do some work independently. I really like the format described in this post about work plans from What DID we do all day? I'm going to try to make something similar, including the daily work and "other" work (which will probably be weekly to get us started until I can figure out a good rhythm). The "work period" is more like several shorter chunks of time added together throughout the day, and a work plan would be helpful in documenting the work that has been done, and acting as a visual reminder to M of what work she has available to choose from.

Day 6 - Monday

Sewing, sewing, sewing! I have been meaning to start reading "Sewing in the Montessori Classroom," (affiliate link) which was recommended to me by another mom. I finally started it and pulled together a few intro activities, and WOW! I had no idea that this would be such a hit!

M has done lacing cards and has made tons of bracelets and necklaces, so we skipped ahead to the actual sewing activities. I started by hole punching some construction paper and card stock (definitely recommend the card stock over construction paper!). I folded the construction paper in half, then hole punched through the front and back so the holes would line up. I showed M how to pull the yarn through the hole from bottom to top to whipstitch the edges. She thought this was great! When she finished, she thought it looked like a frame, so she drew a self-portrait in the middle.

She asked for more sewing work, so I punched holes around the border of some scrap card stock, and she made a cute bookmark to decorate. She wanted MORE, so I punched holes in the shape of numbers and showed her how to use running stitch to follow the pattern. We will definitely be adding more sewing work to our shelves next week!

Next, we continued our work with the golden beads. I used a thick headband as a blindfold and had her identify the unit, ten bar, hundred square, and thousand cube by touch.

When she finished, I did a presentation on the relationship of materials. (10 units = 1 ten bar, 10 ten bars = 1 hundred square, etc.)

We have been talking a lot about calendars and time lately (we're building a new house, so we discuss the schedule of construction). I wanted to check her understanding of concepts of time, so we started with the broad concept of seasons. I printed a set of 3-part cards from my KHT album, and she matched them and put them in order starting with our current season. I read the extra information on the back of the cards, including the typical weather, what you might wear, and examples of activities for each season.

We spent the afternoon at the Children's Museum. The new Japan exhibit was great, and was definitely the favorite part of the day for M. As their website explains, "Kawaii Central is a streetscape inspired by Tokyo's bustling Harajuku district, bursting with color, trendy shops and cuter than cute kawaii styles. Kids sing karaoke, smile for the photo booth camera, serve up a seasonal Japanese meal, and design adorable mascots for their families. The beautiful, natureal Shinto shrine park invites children to build a bridge, crawl through a forest, encounter kami spirits, and make a wish at a wishing tree. Together the exhibit highlights how old and new traditions coexist in Japan, giving visitors a family-friendly window into Japanese culture."

In addition, she painted in the Art Studio ("rainbow in sunset") and made an origami cat.

Day 7 - Tuesday

Last Tuesday we received our Painted Lady Caterpillars (affiliate link). I made the mistake of getting too many critters at the same time, and M found the tadpoles and earthworms more interesting than the caterpillars. I have to admit that the caterpillars in the jar aren't as interesting as the caterpillars on a plant (we got monarchs last year that a friend brought back from a butterfly garden in North Carolina). 

Anyway, we left the caterpillars at co-op over the weekend, and returned to find five chrysalises hanging from the lid of the container. We made cute butterfly life cycle collages using different types of pasta glued to this template from The Art of Teaching

While the kids glued, I read the Dr. Seuss book My, Oh My -- A Butterfly! (affiliate link). We went upstairs to observe the chrysalises, and matched these Life Cycle miniatures (affiliate link) to the butterfly life cycle nomenclature cards from The Helpful Garden.

The kids colored pictures to go with the poem "Butterfly, Butterfly" by Jan Warren and assembled them into a little book.

We wrapped up by starting our fairy gardens. The kids filled baskets (lined with pieces of trash bag) with soil, planted a couple of annuals, and added blue aquarium stones to make "ponds" for their fairy friends. M brainstormed other features she wanted to add to her garden. She drew and labeled pictures of all the furniture and decorations the fairies would need in their house.

When we got home, M wanted to do a lesson from her reading book. We use The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading (affiliate link) to introduce new sounds, then practice with phonogram folders, readers, and other sound games. I absolutely love this book! The lessons are short (1-2 pages), but provide just enough practice to introduce the new sound. I also really like how the lessons build as you progress through the book, so there is built in practice to reinforce previous lessons. Today, M completed Lesson 91, which reviewed the vowel pair "ea" and introduced the sight words "do" and "who."

Day 8 - Wednesday

On Tuesday afternoon, we received a shipment of new materials from IFIT International, including this operations felt mat. M has just started working with the golden beads, and she thought this mat was great. She pulled out her golden beads right after breakfast and starting placing beads in the columns. She counted the beads, exchanged when necessary, and found the number tiles to match the quantity she had put out. 

Later, we took a walk in a large field adjacent to our apartment complex. We recently read "A Fairy Festival Surprise" by Kimberly Gallagher, one of the books in the Herb Fairies series. The book discusses some of the uses of the plantain plant, and we found tons of plantain in the field. We found several other plants that we attempted to identify using the PlantNet app. My favorite was a gorgeous purple flower that turned out to be a passion fruit plant, and M's favorite was the tall, purple stems and small green and white flowers of the pokeweed plant. This led to a discussion of poisonous plants, and we talked (again) about why we always make sure we know what a plant is before we touch it, and definitely before we eat it.

Day 9 - Thursday

On our last day of "Nature Explorers," the girls finished their fairy garden baskets. I prepared burlap rectangles and brought several different colors of yarn and yarn needles. The kids learned running stitch, and created their own designs to make beds, blankets, or hammocks for their fairies.

After a short presentation on land forms (island and lake), the kids chose their own work for the remainder of the morning. M tried out the new teen bead bar hanger, then worked with a friend on the hundred board.

When we got home, we reviewed the long "e" sound and practiced spelling words with the "ea" vowel pair. I made new printable movable alphabets in different colors (a full set of black, red and green) using a file from Montessori Print Shop. We used the red alphabet for the "ea" vowel pair to isolate it, and use the black letters to spell the rest of the word.

Her new Highlights High Five magazine came in the mail (thanks Gigi!), so we spent the next hour reading the stories (most of which she can read by herself!), playing games, and cutting and assembling the pull out story book.

We got a little extra exercise by swimming for an hour before dinner. M is making a lot of progress with her swimming skills, and can swim independently without her life vest now. She wants me to teach her breast stroke next week.

Day 10 - Friday

I set up several trays for M on Friday morning for her to work on while I put the baby down for a nap. She was able to do a few of the activities independently, and waited for me to come back to work on the rest.

She looked through her Herb Fairies "Keeper's Journal" with information, pictures, coloring pages, and stories about plantain. She copied the scientific name for plantain and drew a picture of the plant. We later talked about what "parallel" means, and compared the pictures to the leaves we found in the field on Wednesday.

Next, she did some calendar work. She put days of the week cards in order from Sunday to Saturday (reading the cards on her own), and checked her work by comparing to the control card.

She also made her own calendar for the month of June. I printed blank calendar templates, filled one out with the dates for this month, and laminated mine as the control. She took another blank calendar sheet and copied the numbers from the control onto her sheet. Then, she read a set of command cards I made with statements such as "Draw a star on Father's Day (June 21)" and "Count all the Mondays in June."

She really liked this activity, and I think I'll repeat this each month. It was really easy to put together, and it allowed her to practice handwriting (copying the month and dates), counting (writing numbers in order), reading (command cards), calendar skills (identifying days of the week, finding dates on a calendar, finding today, yesterday, tomorrow, etc) and math skills (count how many days are left in the month, finding numerals).

She wanted to repeat the spelling work from the day before, so I added some "sh" words and had her sort the objects and then spell their names using the red and black movable alphabets.

When she finished, she asked to do another reading lesson from OPG, so we worked through Lesson 92 ("ie" vowel pair and sight word "friend") and Lesson 93 (Review of long-e vowel pairs).

Finally, she chose to complete the hundred board while I packed the diaper bag to head to Asheville for my dad's birthday.

We'll end the week with this shot of the first butterfly emerging from its chrysalis!

Successes and Challenges

Successes this week -

  • Encouraging M to do independent work - sewing, Herb Fairies, hundred board, etc.
  • Following the strong interest in reading (requests for reading lessons, spelling work)
  • Clearing toys out of the main area of M's bedroom to create a work space that won't be disturbed by her little sister.
Challenges this week - 
  • Still don't have a solid block of time as a work period. I need to provide more work that she can do on her own while I put H down for nap, then use nap time for presentations.
  • Still need to come up with a system to help M better utilize the materials at co-op. She asked to work with the teen board on Friday, but that is stored at co-op. Maybe I could take photos of the shelves at co-op and help her to look over the options before we go.
  • Feeling scattered. I like the planning sheet I'm using because it doesn't overwhelm me with an excessive number of lessons to prep. However, I don't feel like I have a clear vision of the big picture. I want to think about some long term planning, or possibly just create a list of topics that I would like to present at some point this year so I have goals to guide our progress.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Montessori Kindergarten - A New Year Begins

This is it. I officially have a kindergartner! We are officially homeschoolers. For real now. I'm so excited for this year, and fortunately so is M. So here we go. Week 1 of KINDERGARTEN!


I created a new planner to use this year based on a sketch from a friend in one of my Montessori Facebook groups (MMS Montessori Material Making Club - Thanks Amanda!). The idea was sparked by a post on What DID We Do All Day? about Work Journals and Planning. The general idea she came up with was to plan out the next three lessons in each subject area to be prepared for whatever the child may choose to work on. Planning for Montessori homeschooling can be really challenging because you are following the child, and won't know in advance exactly what they will choose! I loved her idea, and with the input of a few other moms, we created a "Montessori Planner" (click to download) that I think will be perfect to meet our needs.

First, I jotted down some notes on the overview sheet for the month. I noted her current interests, topics for books I needed to get from the library, reading I needed to do (including albums to review), and any field trips we had planned. I also chose three goals for the month. Since this is our first month, two of the goals have to do with scheduling and organization, and the third goal is to work on handwriting, since that is one area I know M needs some work.

Next, I have a 2-page spread for weekly planning. There is a row for each subject area with three columns for the next three presentations I want to have available. At the end is a table to list the materials I need to make and supplies I need to buy in order to prepare for all of the presentations.

I don't expect (or want!) M to do everything on these pages in one week. At the end of the week, I can transfer the presentations she did NOT do to the following week's sheet, and fill in any blanks with new presentations to prep. The goal is to stay a few steps ahead of where she currently is, so when she is ready to move on the materials are there and I am prepared to give the presentations. This will also help to focus my material-making endeavors to ensure that I'm spending my time (and money) on projects that are needed in the near future.


So how did it all turn out?

Day 1 - Monday

M was so excited for her first day of "school!" (I had talked it up that she was going to be officially starting kindergarten. The day really wasn't much different from our normal schedule, haha.) We started a little later than I would have liked (10:30) because I still haven't figured out how to get M started while H (the 12 month old) is awake. (That's one of the goals for this month...) As soon as H was down for nap, we jumped right in with a reading lesson. We've been using the Dwyer Method (see this WDWDAD post for details), and The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading (affiliate link). M is working on long vowel sounds, so we did a "scavenger hunt" with command cards. I wrote clues on the cards for her to read, then she would stick the note where ever the card said to go. For example, one card said "Place this card on the spot where you bake." All of the cards used long a vowel sounds spelled in different ways (a-e, ai, ei, ay).

Next, we did a review of the Base 10 presentations on quantity and symbols for 1, 10, 100, and 1,000. We did the quantities and symbols separately, then matched them (quantity to symbol and symbol to quantity).

When we finished working with the golden beads, M decided to pull out her magnet kit, and worked independently for a while. She searched her room for magnetic objects, experimented with the north and south poles of the different magnets in her kit, and tested the strength of different magnets.

After H woke up from her nap, M asked to go to the zoo. We spent the afternoon talking about animals, then finally wrapped up with a trip to the library to grab our books for the next couple of weeks.

Day 2 - Tuesday

The Montessori co-op I help run started summer programs this week, so we used our "camp" days as the work period on those days. The first summer session is "Nature Explorers." We started the morning by making nature journals (we did the staple and tape method, and wrote directly on the paper bags rather than gluing the printed journal pages). The kids had a blast decorating their journals, then collecting leaves outside to sketch or do leaf rubbings. The "secret pockets" in the journal were perfect for holding leaves to do rubbings, or to save any treasures they found outside. M consulted the leaf chart to identify the shapes and margins of the leaves she found.

They took a break to prepare snack (slicing strawberries and balling watermelon, as well as setting the table and pouring drinks).

After snack, we did a presentation on needs of plants, then the kids did a little role-play game where they pretended to give the plant everything it needed. M was the first "seed" and sat in the "soil" in the middle while one child pretended to be the sun, another pretended to be rain, and the rest twirled around as carbon dioxide molecules. When she had everything she needed, M stood and stretched her arms as she "grew." The kids thought this was so much fun and repeated it over and over so they could play different roles!

Next, one of the girls talked about a tick that had gotten on her while playing in the woods last weekend. Her parents had removed the tick and put it in a plastic bag. All of the kids were able to look at the tick (now dead!), and view it under the microscope. I had a book from the library about ticks too, so we read a few sections while we compared the pictures in the book to the specimen.

We wrapped up by planting seeds in our mini egg carton gardens. M chose zinnias, peppers, stevia, lavender, and squash. Hopefully we'll be able to transfer them into the ground after they sprout!

After camp, we grabbed a small travel aquarium and drove out to our new property. The neighborhood has a large pond on the edge of a 500-acre nature and hunting preserve. H was asleep in her car seat, so I parked the car in the shade with the windows down, and M and I kicked off our shoes and waded in the water to catch some tadpoles and minnows. M had an absolute blast playing in the water! We caught a couple of small bullfrogs and one froglet.


M got a little reading practice in before bed by reading two BOB books, one that she chose, and one that focused on long a vowel sounds from Set 5 (affiliate link).

Day 3 - Wednesday

H had a doctor's appointment in the morning, so this was another odd day. We had some errands to run after the doctor, and I knew we needed to pick up some worms for co-op, so I decided to skip the regular work period and spend the day out of the house. M really wanted to go back to the pond, so we drove back out to spend some more time tadpole hunting. We also collected jars of sand, rocks, sticks, and plants that we could use to build a habitat for the frogs.

We spent the evening researching tadpole and frog habitats. We used the sand, rocks and plants that we had collected, as well as a couple of small clear containers filled with pond water, to create a nice space for the frogs, froglets, and tadpoles.

Day 4 - Thursday

The second day of "Nature Explorers" camp was all about critters! I set out the frogs and tadpoles, painted lady caterpillars, mealworms, and earthworms for the kids to observe. We read a story about larvae and talked about the life cycles of caterpillars and mealworms. Next, we split the kids into two smaller groups for more observations. M started in the earthworm group. She and her friends sketched the earthworms, measured their length, talked about where they live and what they eat, and observed how they used different body parts.

She wasn't interested in touching the worms (she doesn't really like getting her hands dirty), but she wrote notes about the worms as she watched.

It says, "Stretches and stay in dirt all the time. They like the dark."

After snack, she assembled a frog nomenclature book (from Montessori Print Shop). I read the text pages, and she found the matching pictures. We also did a presentation on vertebrates and invertebrates, and the kids helped to sort a set of animal miniatures and picture cards.

Finally, we went outside to make a habitat for the worms. We talked about what living things need (food, air, water). I poked holes in the top section of a 2-liter soda bottle. The kids all worked together to put a layer of rocks at the bottom of the bottle, then alternated pouring sand and dirt through the funnel to fill the bottle about half way. The poured some water to moisten the sand and dirt, then searched for "worm food" (dead leaves, roots, etc) to add before putting the worms in their new home.

When we got home, I suggested that M spend some time working on handwriting. She writes a LOT, but doesn't form all of her letters correctly (like drawing "s" backwards) and prefers to use capital letters rather than lower case. I recently bought her several composition journals (similar to these - affiliate link). I grabbed her box of sandpaper letters, and we sat down at the table together with one of the journals. I traced the letter "a" and then wrote several a's on the first line. She traced the sandpaper "a" and then traced my a's in the journal. She filled the rest of the line with more a's.

She decided that she wanted to teach me to write, so she proceeded to follow that same format (trace the SPL, draw a few sample letters in the journal, ask me to trace the sample letters, then draw the letters to fill the line). She enjoys playing the role of teacher, so I played along and she filled three full journal pages with different letters!

As she wrote, we played a version of "I Spy" where she thought of words that contained the letter she was writing (at the beginning, end or middle of the word).

She rounded out the day by reading a bedtime story to her little sister, and then reading one of the longer BOB books to me.

Day 5 - Friday

We didn't do a Montessori work period on Friday, but it was still a successful school day. We drove up to Asheville to visit my parents and help sort boxes in their attic in preparation for their move. We listened to Classical Conversations history songs on YouTube for most of the hour long drive. We have never actually participated in CC, but our friends have and the kids all seem to love it. It's not a program that I would personally enroll in, but I have to admit that the songs are quite catchy! M is obsessed with them, and has all of the Cycle 3 history songs memorized. (Weeks 1-12, Weeks 13-24)

We also had a discussion about world religions. Car rides always seem to be the time when M comes up with some of her most interesting questions...

While I sorted boxes, M got in her PE for the week. She and my parents took a walk (approximately a mile) down the trail in their neighborhood. When they got back, she rode a trike around the driveway, and then played catch for about 30 minutes. Needless to say, she slept for most of the drive home!

Successes and Challenges

Successes this week - 
  • Being flexible and willing to follow M's interests (like going out to the pond twice to catch frogs)
  • Allowing M to be in charge and do things her way (like with handwriting); not stepping in and requiring it to be done my way
  • Having the right materials prepared - frog nomenclature book, parts of an earthworm cards, vertebrate/invertebrate classification, handwriting journal, SPLs, golden beads, etc.
Challenges this week - 
  • Not having a dedicated work period. I need to find a system that allows M to have a dedicated 3-hour work period at least 3 times per week without distractions from H.
  • Disorganized work space. We're in the middle of moving, so things are pretty crazy. I need to carve out an area for M's shelves to keep her materials organized and easy to access.
  • Not taking advantage of materials at co-op. Several of our Montessori materials are being stored at another family's house (where we currently hold co-op), and are therefore only available during co-op time. I need to encourage M to use the materials during the time, rather than doing work that we have available at home. I might experiment with developing a work plan for co-op time...

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