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Archive : October 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Am I excited?
You bet I am! :)
After literally MONTHS of umming and aaahing, I'm finally going to start getting on with my new website but NOT in the format it was originally going to be in which was a webstore. Basically, I've decided to give our homeschool its own website! I'll have our blog there, separate pages for the grades our kids are in and (wait for it!) FREE downloads! I will have ALL our educational materials on there - ebooks, downloads that are currently on the materials page on this site AND all our Montessori materials.
This is something I've given huge thought to. There are waaay too many sites charging for materials and, to put it bluntly, a lot of them have far more professional looking materials to mine. From a purely business point of view the market (especially for pdf Montessori materials) is fairly saturated. From a personal, "me" point of view - well, it was always my intention to make things for free download. However, I became demoralised when so many of my materials were taken and then passed off as something made by someone else or, even worse, sold on.
I've come to the conclusion that, sadly, that is the world we live in - there will always be dishonest people who think nothing of effectively stealing someone else's hard work. I COULD charge for things as a way of making myself feel slightly better about the "thefts" but I won't because I don't want to. It doesn't make ME feel good - I WANT to give, not sell. If I do anything at all, I'll put a donation button on the website and then it's up to individuals, if they have the money, to donate if they want to :)
That all said, I DO have an idea for something I MAY sell ..... but that's a way off, something I'm working on. It may never see the light of day but, who knows ;)
In the meantime, feel free to bookmark the new site and check back fairly often because it will suddenly appear one day :) I'm SO looking forward to it!
Saturday, October 30, 2010
A few pictures
... from the last week - not many, but the camera ran out of batteries! These are all April's but I'm going to try and get some pictures of Rosie's work soon as there is a vast difference between the work of a 5 year old and a 13 year old (obviously!) Difficult with Rosie though because she moans every time I point a camera in her direction *laughs*
Anyway, here goes:
America, puzzle map, online
Geometry work - yes, I wrote the word "equilateral triangle" and yes, she did insist on putting the names of the shapes in speech bubbles!
Food pyramid work - we used a food pyramid and sorting cards from Montessori for Everyone and then a worksheet where April had to draw foods in a blank pyramid
Friday, October 29, 2010
Making Montessori Work - Part 2
I think one of the things that always scared me to death when I first started considering Montessori was the idea of having materials everywhere. It seemed to me that, to use the Montessori method, you HAD to have a lot of materials, sometimes several for one topic. After a lot of trial and error (not to mention cash!) I realised that this isn't true, at least not for a homeschooling environment. Nor is it necessary to have EXACT Montessori materials.
In this post, I'm hoping to cover what I, personally, think is important to have and what isn't. Remember, these are just my personal opinions - things that have worked for me.
3-Part Cards - When I started out with Montessori, these were the first things I "discovered" and, to this day, they remain one of my most favourite of all the materials. Why? Easy! They are such a truly simple idea and yet they can teach SO much. They allow the child to learn in a completely independent way and they take, sometimes very complex, ideas and make them easy to understand and remember. They can be used for language arts, history, science, geography (anything!), are easy to make yourself (or purchased very cheaply) and small enough to store easily without taking up a lot of space.
Let's take a topic, say, the human heart. This is a complicated organ with a lot of "bits" that make it up! If you give your child a textbook with a labelled diagram of the heart and ask them to memorise the parts so that they can then (without looking) colour and label their own diagram, they could do it but what hard work! They'd literally have to just stare at the picture until they remembered the parts! Now take a set of 3 part cards - 1 card for each part of the heart, black and white line drawings with just ONE part per card coloured (usually in red) with the name of that part underneath. To go with this, you have exactly the same pictures but this time with the labelled area removed. Your child can "play" with the cards - studying the labelled cards, matching them with the unlabelled, finding the matching word cards and, eventually, challenging himself to match the correct labels with the correct pictures without looking at the "control" cards. It's hands on and interactive - he/she isn't just staring at a picture and trying to memorise it - they are, almost, taking the heart to pieces like a puzzle and learning each part in turn.
I once heard 3-part cards being dismissed as just "bits of laminated card that my kids wouldn't be interested in". No, no, no! I suspect this lady really hadn't given it much chance (if at all) and dismissed it out of hand. Possibly - I don't know, maybe her children wouldn't have been interested but, then again, maybe they would. These "bits of laminated card" are incredibly powerful, simple learning tools!
Puzzle Maps - Yes, those beautiful maps you see in Montessori schools HOWEVER not all (unless you can afford them and have the space to store then go ahead!) We have the world puzzle map and the map for our own continent and that's it. That's all I think you "need" - for the other continents I just made pin maps by printing out the map, laminating, mounting on foam board and then providing a lablled control map and pinflags for the countries. I think it's really important for the kids to have the opportunity to create their own maps by tracing, colouring and labelling the pieces (brilliant for hand/eye co-ordination for littles too!)
Geometry cabinet/solids - Over the years I've spent vast amounts on Montessori materials .... and then sold them again! The 2 things we'd NEVER part with though are our geometric cabinet and geometric solids. They are used again and again and again, they are a beautiful and tactile way to learn various geometry concepts and can be used with toddlers for sensorial exploration right through to more advanced concepts. We've used them (apart from the obvious of learning the names of shapes!) for ordering sizes (using the circle drawer), in place of inset shapes for learning to use a pencil, for measuring angles of triangles and so much more. The kids have used the inset frames for tracing when doing art projects and, yes (Montessori puritans might shudder in horror!), April has built churches and castles with the solids and peopled them with Playmobil characters!
Stamp Game - If I had to choose ONE maths materials, above all others, that was my favourite it has to be this. Rosie (my eldest) had the most HORRENDOUS problems, at age 9/10, grasping the concept of place value and carrying/borrowing and I'd tried everything. I was already using 3 part cards in science and decided to investigate the stamp game. I made my own out of coloured paper and "presented" it to her (more or less!) as per the Moteaco albums - after a couple of fits and starts she got it. Totally got it and didn't have ANY problems with this concept again. Being able to count out the stamps for the sum she was doing, PHYSICALLY change the stamps for 1 of the next place value when she got to 9 and SEE the result laid out in front of her just made it all click into place. A brilliant, brilliant "invention". Truly.
Coloured beads/Gold Beads - again, if you can afford it and have the space then go for it but if you can/haven't don't beat yourself up over it. There are 2, perfectly good, alternatives - connecting Cuisenaire rods (in place of coloured bead bars) and base 10 blocks (in place of gold beads). They are generally cheaper and do exactly the same job.
Animal/botany puzzles - beautiful yes, but not necessary. Use 3 part cards to teach the parts.
ALL the varieties of maths materials - this is probably a bit of a tetchy subject but I really don't think that there NEEDS to be, say, 3 or 4 different materials to teach addition facts. Now, I'm not a trained Montessorian so perhaps I'm missing something but I think having the addition strip board and several different addition fact charts might be overkill. Personally, I think the strip board material is enough. Same for subtraction, multiplication and division - we don't have enough room in our homes for ALL these things (at least I don't and I know others who have said the same)!
So, imo, what would we use for basic maths? Just these:
Addition/Sutraction - Strip Board Materials.
Division - Division bead board
Multiplication - Multiplication bead board
Connecting Cuisenaire Rods (for doing the bead activities)
Base 10 Blocks
In our homeschool, we also feel that a good computer based learning programme is useful for maths (particularly if it isn't your strongest subject!) I know they're not used in true Montessori environments but we are Montessori-enhanced NOT true Montessori :)
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Quick catch up!
Next Montessori post coming soon, in the mean time here's a quick round up of what we did over the last week.
Firstly, a good science link since we couldn't use Sid the Science Kid anymore! I found a series of videos on Teachers TV called The Blue Dragon - aimed at 5-7 year olds. Here is a link to the videos and here are the programme notes from Channel 4. April REALLY loves this and said she wanted to make a lapbook - such a good idea! Actually, given the number of programmes, I think we're going to have to make several! Anyway, so far, we've covered a bit about food and done some life cycle and animal sorting activities.
In maths (we're still happily using Aha! Math from Learning.com along with hands on work), she has been practicing addition/subtraction facts and working on geometry.
A Little Dicey!
Shapes that become other shapes
Shapes all around us - we dug out the Montessori shapes for this
April's also been doing the writing exercises from Ladybird keywords 1c:
Rosie's been doing well with her more independent work schedule - she's keeping up with it (although the last few days she's been ill with a cold) and is actually doing MORE work than when I had her on a stricter timetable!
Here's just one thing she's been working on - renewable/non-renewable/flow energy sources. After completing the relevant learning activity on Aha! Science, she used the sorting cards from Montessori Print shop and then created a page in her project book.
Here, she's working in her bedroom! :)
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Making Montessori Work - Part 1
NOTE: In this post I recommended PBS Sid the Science Kid as a great resource. Unfortunately, PBS powers-that-be have decided to block viewing if you are outside the US (even on You Tube!) so, sadly, I can no longer recommend Sid or any other PBS resource. Very sad because April adored watching the video clips. I shall attempt to find a UK alternative! :)
There have been some changes, homeschool-wise ...
Readers who've been with me a long time will know how much I favour the Montessori method of education - indeed, most of Rosie's learning up until the last year has been Montessori based. We moved away from it for 2 reasons - firstly, I became irritated by the sheer amount of materials we had out all the time and secondly ..... we thought the grass was greener .... Yep, like a lot of homeschoolers we figured there "must be a better way"!
Well, guess what? For us, there isn't a better way. We had the better way all along, it just needed tweaking.
So, the materials and the "3 hour work period" (which used to dirve me bats too because "life" always gets in the way and prevents you from doing the work period you had planned). I was trying to be Montessori + .... TOO Montessori and it just doesn't work in a home environment. What you have to do - I have learned since - is take the "idea" of Montessori (hands on learning activities, freedom to choose what to work on and when, lots of practical life) and work it into your home life rather than trying to recreate a Montessori classroom.
So, for our purposes, I've broken things down into 3 stages (pretty much those of a Montessori school) - Primary (4-8), Elementary (8-12) and Secondary - or Erd Kinder as it's officially known - (12+). At the moment we're ignoring Elementary as April's in Primary and Rosie's in Erdkinder and I take each of those phases one at a time and figure out how I can create the freedom of choice and movement and the hands on type learning. Here are my solutions:
Maths - lots of "real life" maths (weighing stuff when we're cooking - if April wants to help she can - measuring, counting pennies etc) combined with a good, interactive learning programme on the computer (more about that in a minute). I don't have all the maths materials out all the time - what I do is that if April has worked on the computer programme, I look to see if I can provide a Montessori activity based on what she has learned. For example, the other day she was matching solid shapes to their bases on the computer so i dug out our Montessori shapes and their wooden bases and she played with them on and off for a couple of days. She was recreating what she'd done on the computer. Then they go away again. This seems to work pretty well.
Reading/writing - I DO have Montessori style cards for phonics (because they work and we love them) - at the moment she's working on consonant blends (slug, brick, drum etc) - I just put these in a small, lidded box and leave them on the table where she works and she can get them out and work with them when she wants. She's also working her way through the Peter and Jane reading books and she's doing the writing exercises in her project book. All these things she asks to do rather than me telling her unless it's been a few days since she's done any and then I gently suggest that she might. Obviously, we have LOADS of books out on the bookshelves to encourage free reading - both fiction and non-fiction.
Science - this is usually sparked by the season or something she has got interested in - for example, the other day she picked lots of leaves in the garden and was sorting them out. I found a great video on Sid the Science Kid about leaf investigations and she watched that. Then (because the kids on the video did!) she wanted to stick some in her book under big and small. Finally, entirely on her own, she dug our leaf shape cards out of the cupboard and matched some up to the leaves she had found (pic for that is in the last post). So there you have it - self directed (apart from the video which I added), self planned and entirely Montessori!
Erdkinder (German for Earth School) is quite unlike ANY other secondary programme of education. In a real Montessori Erdkinder, the children would live on a farm and this always made me think that this style of learning wouldn't work at home. However, again, I was trying to be TOO precise - you can take the "idea" of the Erdkinder and adapt it slightly for homeschooling and, actually, it fits incredibly well!
There are other writings on this better than I can do so maybe go read these first and then come back here :) Go ahead, I'll still be here!
So how do we make all this work for us? Well, there is no reason that we can't provide "working on the land" activities - gardening ... in our garden! Just let them get out in the fresh air, get their hands dirty and work the earth. How much better is that for a child of that age than being cooped up in doors just READING about plants or farming or whatever. They are learning SO much from this gardening experience!
I just sat down and thought of all the things that Rosie really needed to be able to do by the time she's 18 and used that as the basis for our Erdkinder programme. I included obvious things like cooking, gardening, handling finances, doing laundry etc but also things you might not immediately think of - like wiring a plug safely! Absolutely everything.
Then I added in a required amount of maths (again, using the same online company as April), English, Science and lapbook work of her choice. I made her a sort of checkbox system on a form that she sticks on her bedroom cupboard - she chooses WHEN she wants to do a piece of academic work and, when done, ticks the box. For example, there are 5 checkboxes for maths - when she completes 1 lesson in maths, she ticks the box. If she's very enthusiastic she wants to get her maths out the way early and does 2 lots a day! This system gives freedom and encourages her to get her work done early to give her more time for other things. I'm still saying "I need the work done" but it's up to her WHEN it's done. I basically give her a week to complete all the checkboxes and then she gets a fresh form.
All VERY Montessori and, my goodness, FAR less stress on all of us!
Anyway, online resources we are using are (I won't describe these - you can go check them out if you want):
Learning.com (for maths for both and science for Rosie)
We get other resources from:
Oh... and my own Montessori resources ... shop coming soon ... OH HEAVEN'S I keep saying that don't I?! :( It will come honestly!
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Just can't blog properly at the moment - suffering from a bit of blog-writers-block. I have plenty to say but can't seem to put it into words! Ah well, until I get my groove back, here are some pics.
Categories: Crafts, Cultural, Language Arts, Maths
See archive index for other posts