Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

 Happy Halloween!

T(7) dressed as a Death Eater from the Harry Potter books

B (22mo) dressed as a fuzzy Monster

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bring Autumn Into Our Classroom

It is Autumn, the weather is beautiful, and I have been trying to bring some of the season's beauty to our lessons lately to keep T interested.

We collected a big pile of pine comes on a nature walk and had to find something to do with them. We made a little display for our nature table.

T pulled this succulent from his terrarium and we placed it in this cute one that hangs in the window. I actually bought this for $0.30 on clearance from Target. Its one of those dollar spot items from a while back. I thought it was pretty.

T wanted to do something "spooky" with his pinecone craft project. He isn't a big crafter so it was fun to see him excited about doing something. I saw something I thought he would like recently at The Magic Onions and he gave it a try. A pinecone spider, using one pinecone, four pipe cleaners, hot glue and as many wiggly eyes as desired. My son ended up only doing 6 eyes even though he insisted that he knew that they have 8 eyes. He also added a yarn web strand.

Of course, we couldn't spend all of our time crafting since T is in elementary. We took our Autumn theme into our Grammar lesson. We have really been slacking on Grammar lately. T does not really find it interesting and so it is hard to get him to focus on it. Recently, he asked questions about our grammar solids that have been sitting on the shelf for over a year now. I took that opportunity to jump into elementary Grammar work. We have been doing the early presentations very quickly. He hasn't had a problem understanding or remembering so we are just moving as quickly as we can to keep his interest. When we go over and over things, he often gets bored.

Here we did a lesson on the Adjective using different colored leaves. In our manual, it describes the lesson using different colored flowers but we only had two colors of flowers left in our yard. We had several different colors of leaves just waiting to be the start of the lesson. I placed a red, yellow and green leaf on the table along with a label "the leaf." I asked T to read the label and bring me the item described. He read it and asked "which one?" I repeated that he should bring me what the label described. He chose one leaf (because it said "the" meaning one) and it didn't matter which, I told him it was not the one I wanted. He brought me another and I gave the same response, but added that maybe I should have given him more information. I cut the label between "the" and "leaf"and placed a label with the word "yellow" between them. He then brought me the yellow leaf.

He copied the sentence in his language notebook and labeled it with the correct symbols for Article, Adjective and Noun.

We also reviewed the Noun Family and the order in which they should appear. We rearranged the labels and read them. By doing this, we determined that this is the only logical order for Article, Adjective and Noun. 

I also gave him the lesson on the symbols used for the Noun Family. Why did Montessori choose the pyramid shape, the size and the color for these symbols? She was inspired by the Pyramids of Giza, which are strong and stable. The sizes have to do with the importance of the Noun over the other two, yet they are all related. We happened to have a small plastic model of the Pyramids of Giza from our Safari Ltd. Around the World Toob. He also looked at the real image of the Pyramids on our matching 3 part card.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Science Sunday with Daddy!

Today, on a whim, my husband decided to do an experiment with T. It was something he did as a child and always thought was cool.

Did you know that many breakfast cereals are fortified with Iron? You probably did because its often written on the label or mentioned in advertising. Well, did you know that humans usually have enough iron in their bodies to make two small nails? If your kids don't believe you that there is metal in their cereal, let them try this experiment.

We used a Erlenmeyer flask, stir bar and magnetic stirrer for this experiment because we had it on hand. You can use a zip top bag instead but it would be harder to extract it from the bag.

We used Cheerios cereal, but there are many types that contain iron. Check the box to see how much iron it contains, the more it contains, the more you will be able to extract.

A VERY strong magnet is necessary to pull the iron to the side of the container. The magnet we used was from our Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty in Strange Attractor color. (FYI, this stuff is awesome for fidgety little hands). You can get strong magnets at other places but we had this on hand and the magnet is pretty strong.
Magnetic Thinking Putty

First, Dad put some water into the flask and placed the stir bar inside. Then he turned on the stir plate to make it stir at a medium rate. T added a few handfuls of Cheerios and smashed them a bit with a plastic straw. Then they let it sit and stir for a couple of hours to allow the Cheerios to disintegrate some. If you are using a zip top bag, just mash them up with your hands to mix it together and let it sit for a while.

The water became light brown and then they got out the magnet.

First you must hold it low, next to the liquid to allow the iron to be attracted to the magnet.

Then slowly move the magnet up along the glass, the iron will follow. If you look closely, you can see the iron on the inside of the glass where the magnet is. If you go slowly enough, you can pull it to the top of the container and extract it.

Here is the part of our iron that they were able to extract from the Cheerios. I think if they had smashed the Cheerios up more they would have gotten more iron but they did pretty well.

This picture has the magnet below the paper so it is standing on end.

My husband did this experiment from memory of doing it as a kid. Yes, he thought it was that cool that he remembers it as an adult. I looked around the internet and found wonderful instructions for performing this experiment in a zip top bag here.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Force of Gravity

We are continuing our Cosmic Education with lots of Earth Science studies. The First Great Lesson lead us into the study of Astronomy and Physical Sciences. We've talked about the planets, the sun, the moon, stars and other celestial bodies.

I picked up this fun book from the library and we read it today. It is called Why doesn't the Earth fall up? And other not such dumb questions about motion. by Vicki Cobb. T is 7 years old so the title of this book interested him. If you put the word "dumb" in it he finds it hilarious. We did not read the entire book but excerpts in the area of gravity. It is a cute book and I recommend it if you can find it at your library.
Why doesn't the Earth fall up?
We also borrowed the book Gravity is a Mystery by Franklyn Mansfield Branley. This book is from the '80s so the drawings are very retro. It was a cute book and my son was thrilled because it compares all of the weights in the book to 60lbs which is about his weight. It gives a comparison of what your weight is on other planets and the sun if you weigh 60lbs. If your child is another weight you could calculate the weights but I was happy I didn't have to go that far. A child who was a bit more advanced at math could use that as a project to figure out themselves.

Gravity is a Mystery
T is all about experiments and I had already told him that I had an experiment waiting for him. He was very excited to receive his first experiment card to do the experiment on his own. The experiment cards are simply blank index cards with experiments printed on them and the explanation printed on the back.
The materials and procedure are listed step by step for him to follow. He collected his materials and headed out to our backyard.

This particular experiment I first read about in a book called Montessori Today by Paula Polk Lillard. In the Appendix there is a section called "A Student's Reflections" where a former student recounts the first time she did this experiment in her Montessori school. It is also described in great detail in our Montessori R&D Functional Geography manual. Basically, you tie a rope (or a dog leash in our case) to the handle of a small bucket. The bucket is them filled about 3/4 full of water. The child swings the bucket over their head in large circles and then observes what happens.

Yes, that is a McDonald's happy meal halloween bucket we are using. And we used a dog leash instead of a rope because that is what I had on hand.
The water stays in the bucket

Centrifugal Force pulls the water outward keeping it in the bucket

He was worried he might get soaked at first

Centripetal Force keeps the bucket moving in a circular path

When the Centripetal Force (his arm) was removed from the rope the bucket flies off in a straight line (this part we did with an empty bucket)
T LOVED this experiment! He was outside doing this experiment for about an hour. He spent most of that time doing the empty bucket part when he let go of the bucket trying to see if go off in a straight line. Then he came inside and we reviewed the terms Centrifugal Force and Centripetal Force using some simple cards I made.

If you have an energetic early elementary child I highly recommend this experiment. We all know that the more interested they are the more the lesson sticks. I think my son will remember these forces for a long time. Maybe one day he will think back on this lesson the way the former student did in Montessori Today.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Crisp Autumn Day Spent Apple Picking

The crisp Autumn air has been calling us outdoors. We spent most of the summer hiding in the air conditioning because where we live it is VERY hot in the summer. Autumn is the time we try to spend most days outdoors. One of our favorite family traditions has been apple picking. We drive about an hour and a half to the mountains where there are many apple orchards. We have a favorite that we've gone to since T was 2 years old. Last year we tried another (I dont remember why) but we went back to our favorite this year.

The kids favorite part is always the petting zoo. They always have plenty of friendly animals, including lots of babies.
T found a goat

B loved the geese

She loved the baby cow even more, he got a kiss on the nose

There is a baby goat behind that fence

A couple of piglets were napping in the hay

We had a nice hay ride around the orchard to view all of the beautiful trees and learn where each variety was. Then it was out to the trees for picking.

Getting a boost from Daddy
Row after row of apple trees
Check back for more apple activities and recipes!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Our Favorite Educational Games

We like to have fun in our homeschool. There is more to learning than worksheets and memorizing. The Montessori curriculum is awesome with putting hands on materials into the hands of the very young which builds a strong foundation. Sometimes even those manipulatives can get mundane. Some of our favorite games are actually lessons we've incorporated into the curriculum, others are used when he gets bored with the everyday materials. I'd like to share five of our favorite educational games. I am not affiliated with any of the companies who produce these games and I purchased them all myself. These reviews are my own opinion.


I have seen this game on several other Montessori blogs and I had to try it. The creator is a homeschooling mother and she did an awesome job with this game. This is a card game to help aid learning of multiplication and skip counting. The more they play the more quickly they will be able to memorize these skills. We just got this game last week but it is already a favorite. We've played Two Speed and Three Speed so far.
Each number 1-9 has its own deck. For example, Two Speed will be multiples of two from one to ten (the numbers on the cards for two speed are 2-20 by 2s). Three Speed will be multiples of three from one to ten (the numbers on the cards for three speed are 3-30 by 3s).

Each player gets half of the deck and each places 4 cards face up in front of them. Each player puts one card face up in the center and the game begins. Each player must get rid of his/her cards first to win. The two cards in the center indicate which cards can be played.

A card from either side of the number shown can be played (for example, in Two Speed, a 4 card in play would indicate a 2 or 6 card can be played). When you get to the end of the numbers they repeat so a 2 card would indicate a 20 or a 4 card could be played. A 20 card would indicate a 2 or 18 card could be played. If at any time the two cards in the center are the same the first to call out "SPEED" would send the entire center pile to their opponent.

This is a fast game which I find helpful with a 7 year old. T is one of those kids that gets bored when a game takes too long. When we played Three Speed this afternoon it was 15 minutes start to finish. I think this game will be good for supplemental math work. I will consider this to be a math lesson if he chooses it.
He lost this round and decided to do a pose for the picture LOL


If you have a little boy you might hear about zombies often. T loves zombies! You might be questioning my judgment right now, but please read on and maybe you will see the appeal of this game. My son does not watch tv/movie zombies. He learned about zombies from a little friend that he went to Montessori school with at the age of 4. The only zombies he really knows about are halloween costumes he has seen and the zombies in Minecraft (video game that his dad introduced him to, that is another post). This game is a little "different" but it really engages T and it teaches him math. This game requires 3 players, since its usually just T and me, we use a stuffed animal to stand in and T plays for it (double the math work). Each player chooses a colored card which is used in the second phase of the game. NOTE: we avoid the orange card, the colors on the cards need to correspond to the colors on the dice and while the card is orange, the numbers on the dice are red. The first time we played this caused a BIG problem. I will explain the second phase below.)

This is a dice game. There are 5 dice with colored numbers 1-5 and colored brains. There are lots of tiny brain shaped counters which I think are pretty cool. The red brains represent 5 points and the white brains represent 1 point.

These little brains are super cute!

You get three chances to roll the dice and you can save whichever dice you wish. The object is to get the highest sum when adding numbers of the same color. You may only choose one color to add together, whichever will give you the highest sum. The number of brains you roll will be multiplied by the sum, the color of the brains mean nothing. For example, in the photo below, each green number is added together but the black number is discarded. Then we take that sum and multiply it by the number of brains so 5+2=7x2=14. You would then take 4 white brain (1pt each) and 2 red brains (5pts each), as shown next to the yellow card in the photo.

The second phase of the game occurs when there are no more brains in the center pile. Now the players have to take brains from each other. This is the phase where the colors of the card you chose at the beginning come into play. The color on your card will correspond to a number/brain color on the dice (with the exception of orange which shows red on the dice, we avoid orange because of this). Now when you roll the dice you must try to sum numbers of colors that correspond to the cards your opponents are holding. For example, if my card is yellow and my opponents are green and blue, I would try to roll the highest sum of numbers in either green or blue. It does not have to be the highest sum, however, you may choose to take a lower sum rather than the higher sum depending on color. If you wish to target a specific player (one with more brains perhaps) you may take less brains from that player if you roll their color rather than take the higher sum from another player. If you choose your own color or a color that is not being played by an opponent, you must pay the brains from your pile into the center pile. Obviously, if you are playing attention to the game you would not choose to do this, but it is a rule so remember it. This caused a big problem for us the first time we played because I chose orange for my color and we went for quite some time never rolling orange in the second phase. Eventually I realized that there is no orange on the dice, the color is red on the dice, so if you are using the orange card, make sure you look for red on the cards or that player will always win. We chose to just not ever use the orange card and since there are 5 colors and usually only 3 players we don't have a problem.

This game takes a little longer than the SPEED! game but it also involves more rules and a wider range of mathematics. There is both addition and multiplication involved, color sorting and strategy. T and I really enjoy this game and my husband also had a great time when he played with us once. This game is used more for when T is bored with the regular materials and wants to play a game but it really does end up being a large amount of math work.

Brick by Brick
Brick by Brick

Brick by Brick is a creative building game. I actually did no research on this game when I bought it. I spotted it in a pile of games at a local thrift shop and thought it looked fun. I think I paid $1 for it! It costs a bit more online but its still a neat little game. You get a small cloth bag (mine is blue not yellow like the advertisement picture), five red pieces that look like bricks connected in different patterns (mine are plastic Ive read some reviews that old versions were wood), and a deck of 60 cards with puzzle challenges and their solutions on the back.

Each card has a completed puzzle which you examine and then try to recreate using the five pieces. It can be quite challenging! When you solve the puzzle you can flip the card over to see the solution, this can be used as control of error in the classroom. If T finds it too difficult, he is allowed to flip the card over and try building it using the solution on the back. It is a good way of following through with a solution to the problem that way the next time he might be able to recall that memory.

I enjoy playing this game myself and find many of the cards challenging. The game is listed as 8+ and T is only 7. There are times that he gets frustrated with this game because he really wants to solve the puzzle. Most of the time if he cannot solve the puzzle he will flip the card over and built it according to the solution and move on to another card, other times it frustrates him too much and he will only do the one puzzle. This is a "fun" game, its meant to challenge his mind, not as part of the curriculum. He uses this game when he wants to, it is not considered a lesson.

Kit & Caboodle
Kit & Caboodle
Kit & Caboodle is a dice game. This game is about categorizing and math. This particular set is science/nature themed so it crosses over several subjects. In the box you get a dice shaker, 6 dice, a score pad and pencil. The dice have outlines of mammals, insects, reptiles, birds, etc. Each player must categorize their dice during their turn to produce the highest score.

The categories are broken down into Kits and Caboodles. Kits include descriptions such as Wings or Shells. If you roll a bat and a bird they can be categorized together under Wings because they each have wings. If you roll a snail and an egg, they can be categorized together under Shells because they both have a shell. Colors of the words can also be Kits, all orange or 3&3 (which means 3 of your dice fall into one kit and 3 fall into another). Caboodles include Birds, Mammals, Insects, Space, Reptiles, phrases spelled out with the words on the dice, 3&3 (same as in Kits only with Caboodle categories) and 6 of 7 (which means you have 1 dice in 6 of the 7 caboodle categories).

You may choose which Kit or Caboodle to score on each turn. Once you have scored that category you may not use it again so you have to try to use only the highest scores for each. In each turn you must score on category, you can not skip a turn, if nothing else you must take a zero. Each picture has its own points assigned to it, so you must look at your score sheet in order to keep track of what each it worth. Once you have rolled and chosen your category according to the pictures you have rolled you must add up your total points. Once all players have filled their score sheet the game is over and the player with the highest total score is the winner.

I like this game because it involves math in scoring, there is critical thinking used in choosing the categories wisely, sorting into categories is a great skill (I especially like the science theme since we are starting the animal kingdom work). We use this game as a fun game not part of the curriculum.


Bananagrams is a fun spelling game. If you know how to play scrabble, this is quite similar. You build words from the letters in your pile in a crossword pattern. The difference is that each player builds his/her own crossword rather than all together. You may also rearrange your own words as often as you want. You win by using all of your tiles with no remaining tiles in the bunch. This is purely vocabulary and spelling practice. There are no points to add up or anything, just the first to use all tiles making correctly spelled words wins.

If you are looking for a fun way to practice schoolwork without your children complaining too much, try some educational games. Even games that are not labeled educational, often teach valuable lessons like good sportsmanship, problem solving and simple math. I encourage you to try the games I've listed, I think you will find them as entertaining and educational as we do. Please leave me a comment sharing any games that you use in your homeschool, we would love to add more to ours.