Monday, December 30, 2013

A Busy Holiday Season!

I know it has been a while since I last posted. We took a long trip to visit family for Christmas and had a wonderful time. I had planned to post during our trip but it just didn't happen. I tried to keep up a bit on Facebook to let you all know we were still around, but the blog just got lost in the shuffle. I do not get to see my family all that often because I moved across the country from them, so I like to keep our few visits each year all about family.

We had a wonderful time, the kids got to play in lots of snow, which is a treat because we do not get snow where we live. We also got several Christmas presents that will be helpful in our classroom as well as fun for the kids. I plan to post some reviews on some of these items in the near future.

I have pictures from our adventures that I will be sharing as well. As you all get to know us, you will find that we are museum junkies. The kids and I visited a very special museum that I visited as a child and it was so wonderful to enjoy it again from a different perspective.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. We are now gearing up for New Year's and B's 2nd birthday. This next week will probably be quite busy for us again, but I hope to get a post or two up about our trip.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Little Holiday Crafting

We have been working away on our regular lessons this week. T has been enjoying learning about prehistoric humans along with the other prehistoric life from the second and third Great Lessons. Lots of math and grammar too!

Today I decided to focus a little on my younger child B. B is almost 2 years old and rarely participates in our classroom. I have a few lessons for her but she usually does them only when being supervised because she is very into destruction at the moment.

Last week, we picked up a crate of small mandarin oranges at the store on B's insistence. She has been enjoying them for her snack and lunch but T didn't really like them. We had several pounds of these oranges to eat and B and I were the only ones eating them. I remembered seeing this beautiful holiday craft at Munchkins & Moms, and I thought it would be a great way to use up those oranges before they went bad.

B is just under 2 but she is fairly coordinated. One of her favorite activities is standing up miniature animals in rows. I thought she would enjoy this craft.

You only need oranges and whole cloves.
Take a whole clove and poke the pointed end through the skin of the orange. You can make any pattern you like.
T made a person on one side (its upside down in this pic)

I cut B's orange in half as suggested in the link above. It really helped but I cut it the wrong direction so it wasn't divided like suggested. She still had fun but she mainly lined all her cloves down the center of the orange.
B's Pomander half

T's Pomander ball

My Pomander ball
B kept trying to eat her orange. Once she finished her half she got to eat the other half. She then insisted on another half so I had to open another for her and eat the remaining half myself. It was quite tasty.

Once we finished and let them sit a while I wrapped some yarn around the two whole balls and hung them on the tree with ornament hooks.
The look beautiful and smell amazing!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Coming of Humans 2013

We moved on to the Third Great Lesson: The Coming of Humans today. There really isn't all that much to show because this lesson is really just a story. We did some follow up work this afternoon after reading the story this morning. I have to mention that T (7yrs) is not impressed with the fact that the first Great Lesson is the only one that has "science demonstrations". He wants them all to have as much excitement in the presentation as the First Great Lesson, and quite honestly, the others are not as engaging for him.

I have several sources of the Great lessons in manuals and online but I have chosen to follow those that are on because I feel that they are the best fit for our family. There are many options depending on how you feel about the information. I personally prefer to teach the most up to date scientific information available so there are often times when I add or change the information to suit our needs.

We had a discussion about what makes humans different than other animals. There are three things we have that make us different, our hands, our brain and the ability to love. We read the story of the Coming of Life and then went through several books on the subject that we found at our local library. T's favorite was one called The Stick and Stone Age (A cartoon history of the Earth). It had some great information in comic book form.

When T had enough time with the books (and B went down for her nap) we stopped for a fun little project. I got the idea for making stone tools out of clay from a recent post at Making Montessori Ours. We used the crayola air drying clay because we had it on hand. T chose to use the brown clay and he also chose to not let it dry but continue to make other tools for over an hour.

 Some of his favorite creations were a harpoon and a knife.

We then moved on to a little study on the human hand. I pulled out our copy of The Hand Book and the model hand that goes with it. We didn't read through the book but just did some of the exercises in it and looked at the model.

 There are some really fun exercises like taping your thumb to your hand so that you can't use it properly. Then try to do activities that you would normally use your thumb to see how useful it really is.

Trying to pick up a pencil was fun.

 Writing with a pencil was even more difficult

Then he pulled out the hex bolt board and gave it a try, not as easy as he thought.

The book even had a comparison picture of hands belonging to humans and four other primates

I didn't buy this book specifically for this lesson but it really turned out to be helpful and I would recommend it. We also tried a few more experiments like testing your hand's reaction time when dropping a dollar bill (we used a fake $100 bill instead). It really showed how the thumb is so important and how the brain is linked to the hand. 

When we were finished with the hand book, T went back to his clay work

That was the end of our Third Great Lesson this year. We plan to do lots of follow up work on prehistoric humans and move into human anatomy.

The Week in Review

A little review of our week last week. You aren't going to see any school pictures because we took off the entire week. We really enjoyed the time of rest.

T(7yrs) enjoyed three days of camp away from home. Two days he spent at a local recreation place. They offer lots of fun energy filled activities like rock climbing, trampolines, foam pits, giant slides, games and crafts. He also spent one day at his karate school doing a camp with lots of karate instruction and other fun activities. I like to take advantage of these types of programs because I feel that my children need time without their parents. I want my children to be able to go out into the world and feel confident in themselves not always relying on Mom and Dad to do everything for them. He is learning skills of self reliance and also having a great time socializing with other children.

While T was off having fun, B and I spent some girl time together. I do not talk about this much but I have some guilt about not giving my second child the one on one attention that her brother got for 5 years. I have mentioned that I never planned to homeschool and when I was pregnant with B I always told myself that the best part about having kids 5 years apart was that the second child would get lots of one on one attention while the older child was at school. Then we started homeschooling and I feel like she gets left out more than she should. Anyway, it felt really nice to focus all of my attention on her for a few days and she loved it too. We went shopping and I painted he little toenails (she is now obsessed with "pretty toes"). BTW, love piggy paint nail polish. We played together and read lots of books.

Thanksgiving was wonderful but busy for me. This was my first year hosting Thanksgiving dinner and I was nervous about getting everything ready at the same time. Well, everything went well except that my turkey and ham didn't fit in the oven at the same time. So we waited on the ham and had turkey and all the trimmings at 3:30pm and then around 7pm we had ham and some of the earlier trimmings. Everything turned out great and luckily my in-laws are awesome and didn't care that the ham wasn't done on time. It was nice to spend time with family and the kids just adore their Grandparents and Aunt. The kids even enjoyed time with each other.

Saturday we spent the day at a local state park hiking and enjoying the beautiful weather. Later that evening we put up our Christmas tree. We moved last year and never got our tree up (moved right before the holiday) and we haven't found our tree skirt, oops! I just love unpacking ornaments and telling the kids all about each one as we hang them on the tree. I know we are a Montessori home, but we decided to avoid the smashed ornaments and we only decorated the tree above B's reach. She' isn't quite 2 yet and her favorite thing to do is grab things she shouldn't have and run off with them. Then when you confront her, she throws that item and runs. Not exactly what I was hoping for with the ornaments so we are just avoiding the problem. We do have some fabric, felted, plastic, unbreakable ornaments that I allowed her to hang on the lower branches. Its not exactly the best looking tree this way, but its still special to us.

And, I can not forget to mention, T was THRILLED that it snowed last week. LOL I laugh because I grew up in a very cold climate and we now live in a warm climate. When I think of snow, I think feet of snow, but here snow is counted in flakes. (it was all melted by the time he got home from camp that day)

I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday week as well. We will be traveling for Christmas in December so there will only be a few weeks of school before we stop for the year. Right now I am working on a post on our Third Great Lesson, stick around you won't want to miss it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my readers! I hope you are all enjoying your holiday.

I wanted to share a service project that my son did this Thanksgiving to help those less fortunate in our community. Every year (for the last 20 years), my son's karate school has done a kick-a-thon to raise money to feed the needed Thanksgiving dinner. They collect the money and buy food, package into large baskets and deliver it to families in need in our community. I thought this was a very worthy cause and I thought it would help my son understand that there are many people who need a little help every once in a while. I thought it was especially good for him to see that there are people in need right here in our town, these are our neighbors.

He was eager to collect donations from family and friends. Each person donated per kick and then he performed a whopping 1000 kicks in one 45min class! He was able to raise enough money to feed three families Thanksgiving dinner this year. I am so happy that he had this opportunity for service, sometimes kids forget how good they have it.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Taking a Holiday

We are taking a break for the holiday this week. We have been schooling since mid-August with only one day (Labor Day) off. I think we have earned it and quite honestly, we need this break. B(22mo) will be hanging with me all week as usual but she will get some added attention as T(7yrs) will be attended a couple of local holiday camps. Then we will be hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house for the first time ever on Thursday. I have never actually cooked a full Turkey before, plus timing everything else.... Wish me luck!

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and check back with us soon. I will try to post some pictures of our fun while we have a break. Here is one to get started. T enjoyed flying his kite after we finished school on Friday. Isn't it amazing how something as simple as a kite can bring so much joy!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Verbs and Drawing

We took a little time to work with grammar last week. We have been working through the Montessori R&D Language Manual I for Elementary. Honestly, we are behind because T does not enjoy grammar.  I have decided that I will give him lessons in grammar even if he doesn't choose them because it doesn't seem like he will ever choose them. Sometimes in Elementary, work becomes required.

We tend to do several lessons at one time. The lessons are usually quick and fairly simple so we can usually do several in one day. T is in his second year of Elementary so he "should" be working with the command boxes now according to the scope and sequence in our manual, but we didn't use this manual at all last year so we had to start from the beginning. I am now doing the year 1 sequence quickly so that hopefully we can start the command boxes in the spring. We also have skipped a few of them lessons because I do not feel they are needed by T. We skipped labeling the miniature environment, because we do not have a miniature environment and there is also a lesson on labeling the classroom which is exactly the same.

This time he was working on animals and their sounds. There is a lesson with animals and their sounds for primary also but this is focusing on the noun and the verb rather than just matching. We also have the article included when he recorded his work in his language journal.

I hand wrote the labels with several animal names in black (nouns) and the sounds they make in red (verbs) and the headers "Animal" and "Sound". T matched them and then wrote complete sentences in his journal for each animal.

Sorry for the odd angle of this picture, if you click on it you can see an enlarged version. In his journal he would copy the first combo as "A wolf howls". He wrote each work in its proper grammar color (light blue article, black noun, red verb) and labeled with their symbols above. I only had him use the symbols at the top since every sentence was in the same order.

T has decided recently that drawing is super fun! I find this amusing because he has never shown any interest in drawing in the past. I remember as a preschooler he went to a Montessori school, all the little girls in the class loved to draw and none of the boys were interested at all. I was a little surprised at this difference at such a young age but maybe boys just need a little time before they find this as joyful. I think for T it is more about learning to sit and concentrate on something for long enough to draw because when he was a preschooler he was always on the move.

I was thrilled at this new love of drawing and pulled out our Draw Write Now books. I bought these a while back because they have one that focuses on the polar regions and my son LOVES polar bears. He was interested in learning to draw them and that is how I found this set of books. I bought the first 4 in the set last year but T was not interested in them (other than the polar bear in one book). Well, with his new interest, I pulled them out and he had a blast drawing all afternoon and even on the weekend.

There are two in particular that we used because they are themed for Autumn. Book 2 focuses on Christopher Columbus, Autumn Harvest, and The Weather. Book 3 focuses on Native Americans (T's fave), North America, and The Pilgrims (Thanksgiving is next week).

I really love these books because they give step by step instructions for drawing, there is a small amount of writing that is great for copywork, and there is history/science included in each section as well.

I wanted to share this particular page with you fellow Montessorians. As you know, we are working through the Great Lessons and we will soon be coming up on the Fourth Great Lesson which is about the origins of Language and Writing. T found this Native American writing to be very interesting, he even cut out his paper to resemble an animal hide.

"When the grass was tall (summer), a man left his teepee to go hunting deer. He crossed the mountains, swam the river, camped under the stars and stayed three days."

He walked around with it most of the day reciting what it said. I think he will enjoy learning about early writing.

If you haven't tried the Draw Write Now books yet, check them out. There are eight books each with three themes including drawing instructions, short sentences for copy work and unit study content. You can buy each book individually, as I did, or you can buy the entire box set of all 8. The box set is cheaper if you want them all, but I had already bought a few before I knew about it and I didn't want to pay to get doubles. You can see examples and tables of contents on their website as well as buy them there. I bought some of mine on Amazon, others at a local bookstore. I have seen the box set show up on Zulily (discounts on toys/clothing/educational materials) in the past. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hiking and History

Come and join us on a hike through history!

Our family took a lovely nature hike over the weekend. We live in the South (USA) where there are many Civil War Battlefields that have been marked for historic purposes. One such battlefield is not too far from our home and is inside of a State Park.

The park offers wonderful hiking trails alongside a creek. As you hike the trail you pass by the ruins of an old textile mill that was burned during the Civil War. There is also a nice building that house items that were found in this are as well as items pertaining to Civil War times.

First we stopped by the building! The kids really enjoyed it. T(7) loved the guns, swords and relics that were left behind. B(22mo) loved the live animals, turtles and snakes.

This is a petroglyph, a form of writing/drawing on a stone. A intro to the 4th Great Lesson perhaps.

Buttons and a breastplate, Arrowheads, Locks and keys, Pieces of pottery, A hand formed brick and burnt pieces of thread and wood from the burnt mill.

Gears from the mill

Civil War dress and weaponry

Civil War swords and revolvers.
After we were done looking indoors we started our hike. The weather in our area is perfect for hiking right now. We often have very hot summers but fall and winter are wonderful for being outdoors.

Beautiful Autumn Colors

About a mile into our hike we came to the ruins of the old textile mill. We spent a while looking, T was very interested.

We continued on our hike through the woods admiring nature's glory.

I believe this is a Great Blue Heron in the creek

We took a close look at some Fungi

T loved this giant leaf

B (22mo) rode on Daddy's back in a carrier most of the time but she did get out and walk when we were on flat ground.

T loves hunting for shells.

More Fungi. We had a ton of beautiful Fungi this summer but we didn't get a chance to take pictures so we snapped a few shots this time.

This is my favorite time of year!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Little Fossil Fun

We have been doing lots of work with fossils, dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. I decided to do something a little more fun to keep T interested. In my last post about the Coming of Life follow up work, I mentioned that we attempted to make plaster fossils using a kit which did not go well. Instead of trying again with plaster, I decided to go the tastier route and make Fossil Cookies. You can't go wrong with kids and cookies right? I got the idea a while back from Chasing Cheerios.

We decided to do peanut butter cookies because they are easy and I was planning to have both kids help make them. B is not quite two yet so easy is better. It turns out that she decided to take an extra long nap today so she missed the cookie making. I used a simple peanut butter cookie recipe.

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten
Sea salt for sprinkling on top

Mix everything together in a large bowl. Place 1 tablespoon scoops of dough on an ungreased (we used parchment paper lined) baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 mins until the edges are golden.

T ended up making the cookies much bigger than planned so we only got 11 cookies. This should make about 18 cookies if they are 1 Tablespoon each. Smaller would have probably been better because ours lots some detail when they grew in the oven.

T measured and mixed the ingredients with very little help. As we were making our fossil prints we talked about how fossils are made and what type of fossils we were making. The cookie fossils are mold fossils because the animal dies and leaves a cavity behind.

There are many things you could use to make the imprints in the cookies. We chose to use some of our Safari Ltd, Toob animals. I recently purchased the Dinosaur Skulls Toob and we also had the Coral Reef Toob still in the package. I washed them thoroughly before using them. I think the sea creatures made better fossils but T really liked the skulls. The only thing I do not like about the Dino skulls set is that the names of them Dinos, which are embossed on each skull, are VERY hard to read. The color and the small spaces make them difficult even with a magnifying glass.
You can click on all pictures to make them larger.

As you can see the molds were much deeper before we baked them, but some of them still looked great after baking.

Once the cookies were finished we went a step further and made a cast fossil. A cast fossil is created when a mold fossil is filled in. Many fossils in museums are casts made from mold fossils. We used carmel which we had leftover from making carmel apples. I was planning to use chocolate, which I thought we had, but someone had eaten it.
Starfish cookie

I layered plastic wrap over the cookie and them put the carmel on it so it wouldn't stick. Then put in the freezer to harden

Star fish, mold fossil, cast fossil

We cut out the starfish cast to make it easier to see.
Just as we were finishing up, B woke up from her nap. Perfect timing for a yummy cookie!

FYI, if you have a small child, I highly recommend the Learning Tower. You can see both kids standing on it in the pictures above. It is adjustable and helps boots them up to the counter safely. T is 7 years old and fairly tall for his age and he still finds it useful on the lowest setting (first pictures) when he is working at the counter. B, almost 2, is on the top setting in the last picture. I got mine used but here is a link to their website if you are looking for something like this.
The Learning Tower