Sunday, April 27, 2014

Montessori Checkerboard and GIVEAWAY!

*post contains affiliate links

I am very excited to announce my very first giveaway!! I have recently become an affiliate for Montessori Services. Montessori Services is a wonderful online store where you can shop for everything to prepare your Montessori environment at home. I mentioned this store in a past post of my favorite Montessori suppliers and they ranked second, but only because of the fact that they do not offer a wide variety of Montessori materials. They do rank first on my list for supplies to prepare the environment. If you are not familiar with Montessori, a prepared environment simply means that they classroom is set up so that the children can do all of their tasks independently. Lessons are set up with all of their materials together on low shelfs so they can be accessed easily. In the primary and toddler rooms, there are small versions of everything so that children don't need to use step stools or handle tools that are too large for them. Montessori Services has all of these wonderful supplies and many of them are offered in sets to make it even easier. They also have a sister site called For Small Hands that has even more tools in small sizes for young children.

I have a great item from Montessori Services that I would like to share with you. The Montessori Checkerboard Mat (Item# MA175) is a must have for anyone who will be using Montessori at home for elementary.

Corresponding numbers are written below each square

Bead bars 1-9 fit nicely in each square. 
(These are 8mm beads)

This product would be great for Montessori classrooms as well but there is one feature that stands out for homeschoolers and that is its size. I have heard so many homeschoolers complain about how large the checkerboard is, and I thought about this too. Traditionally, a Montessori checkerboard is about 30 x 18 inches in size (depending on brand) and it is wooden. They are too big to place on a regular shelf, and even if you did have a shelf large enough, that is a lot of wasted space. In the homeschool environment, space is something we really need to think about. This lovely checkerboard mat from Montessori Services is made of fabric and rolls up neatly with a little ribbon to tie it closed. It fits quite nicely on the shelf with plenty of room for the beads and number chips on the same shelf.

This is an IKEA shelf with small cubby sizes openings. This shelf has the checkerboard mat rolled up (black), a felt place value mat for the stamp game (green), stamp game (bottom box) and white/gray number tiles (smaller box).

Another wonderful great feature of this checkerboard mat is just that it is fabric rather than wood. I know that in Montessori we love wooden materials. Wood always feels so nice in the hands and holds up nicely to use. This material is an exception in my opinion. When the beads are placed on the wooden checkerboard they often slide around and even roll off. Some say that this helps children learn to be more careful when using the material but I don't think its really necessary. In my experience, when beads roll it just frustrates the child and they don't really learn to be more careful they just don't want to use that material anymore. This checkerboard mat changes all of that. On the fabric the beads never roll, they stay exactly where they are placed. There is no unnecessary frustration when a bead is accidentally bumped into another square which ends in a wrong answer. Oh, and this checkerboard mat is also less expensive than any of the wooden versions I have ever seen.

I'd like to explain a little more about the Montessori Checkerboard for those who may not have used one before. The checkerboard uses the hierarchal colors (green = units, blue = tens, red = hundreds), and continues to hundred millions on the bottom row. As you go up in rows the numbers get larger. The second row starts with tens and goes to unit trillions. The third row starts with hundreds and goes to ten trillions and the top row starts with thousands and goes to hundred trillions. Children use these boxes for doing long multiplication.

In our introduction to this material, T simply placed beads on the mat to build numbers that I suggested (2,547).

The first calculation T did with the checkerboard, he worked through the problem: 7436 x 42.
First, he placed white number tiles on the bottom of the mat indicating the multiplicand (7436). Then he placed gray number tiles on vertically to indicate the multiplier (42). Then he flipped over the top digit of the multiplier (4) and worked only with the first row on the bottom (2). For each box, he multiplied that digit times the multiplier (6 x 2), (3 x 2), (4 x 2), (7 x 2). He then combined bead bars so that each box only had one bead bar in it. Next he flipped over the two multiplier tiles so that the top digit was showing (4). He continued in the same manner multiplying each digit of the multiplicand (6 x 4), (3 x 4), (4 x 4), (7 x 4).

Again he combined bead bars so that each box only had one bead bar in it.

Next comes the fun part, the diagonal slide. The bead bars in the upper row were slid down to the bottom row following their corresponding colors (i.e. the beads in the blue box would slide diagonally to the blue box below and so on for all colors). Lastly, the bead bars were combined, and exchanged if necessary, so that each box had only one bead bar. This gave T his answer with one digit in each place value box. He found that 7436 x 42 = 312,312.

These kind of huge numbers make lower elementary kids so excited. Once they see how they really can do this type of material they only want to choose larger and larger numbers to work with.

It is best for children to know their basic multiplication tables before doing this work but it is not necessary. Things will go much faster if they can just do the simple one digit multiplication in their heads but if they can not you don't have to hold off on this material. Just have them place that number of bead bars in the box and count them, then exchange the beads according to place value.

I have recieved this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links, if you click on one of my links and then make a purchase, I will receive a small commission, it will cost you nothing as the customer. Thank your for supporting our homeschool.

Shop Montessori Services

Now that you have seen how much we love our new Montessori Checkerboard Mat, I'm sure that you want your own. Here is where my giveaway comes in. Montessori Services has graciously offered a $50 gift certificate to one lucky winner. You can use it towards one of these wonderful mats, or whatever else you choose from this store. Let me tell you, my shopping list for this store is long. If you would like to enter for this awesome prize please use the Rafflecopter widget below. This giveaway is only for residents of USA and Canada (no PO Boxes).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day 2014!

Today we celebrated Earth day. We celebrate this day each year and this year I decided to change things up a bit. In the past we have focused heavily on being earth friendly. We try to be very concious of our carbon footprint and do what we can to lessen it. We have covered recycling, reducing waste, etc for so many years I thought it was time for another focus. This year we focused on Peace.

Montessori focuses a lot on peace in the classroom but sometimes at home we forget how important it can be. There are less conflicts at home just because there are less people to conflict with. I really want my children to know about other cultures and how other people live. The more we understand other people, the more we feel connected to them.

Yesterday we made tie dye t-shirts to wear today. I made B's for her because 2yr olds and permanent dye don't mix well. Plus, it turned out to be a bit difficult because I forgot to wet the shirts first and the dye took a while to soak in well. T made his entirely on his own. He is so proud of it! I think they turned out so nice. We are planning to put a saying on them but we ran out of time. Soon they will have one of our favorite sayings on them .... "Peace begins with me"

We read three books during our Earth Day Peace lessons. The first one is called If Peace is... by Jane Baskwill. Its a wonderful book that compares peace to everyday items that a child would recognize, like a candle or a song. It talks about peace being a promise that we all must work to keep. The kids really enjoyed it and I thought it was lovely.

The second book we read was called All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka. This is a wonderful book that talks about all of the colors that people (children in particular) come in. It compares our colors to things found in nature. B was especially interested in this book.

The final book we read was called Only One You by Linda Kranz. This book was so much fun and nearly made me cry, it was so sweet. Its a story of a young fish receiving advice from his parents about life. They give wonderful advice about being yourself and being a friend to others. It ends with a sweet line that we incorporated into our craft: "There is only one you in this great big world....make it a better place." We painted rocks to look like fish in the book, used some scrap wood to make a little sign and placed it in our garden pebble path.

The kids had fun painting some river rocks with paint to look like fish. B wanted pink (her favorite color) and she mixed red and white on the rock to make a wonderful pink fish. She then painted a yellow fin all by herself, which I didn't expect but she was looking at the book for quite a while before painting. I helped her with the eye and mouth.

T started by painting a white belly, a blue body and red fins. He made his entirely on his own and was very interested in the details.

Here are all three of our fish. Mine is the last one, and I had fun making it as well. I admit, I am not an artist, but it was fun.

T used some scrap wood from boards he broke in karate to make this sign. We worked together to color the sign with shades of blue sharpies to resemble water. I wrote the quote with black sharpie. T used his kid sized hammer and nails to put the steak on the back of the sign and pounded it into the ground.

I love how this turned out in our yard. You can see in the background of the last picture we have a gazebo in the back of the yard, this path leads to it.

While we were outside, we also spotted a dove flying into a tree in our yard. Of course, doves are a symbol of Peace.

I also want to give credit to this blog for the idea of making the sign and rock fish. I found it through pintrest.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Little Passports Makes Geography Fun

This post contains affiliate links**

T has never been all that interested in Geography. When he was in primary Montessori school he did have a short period of time when he was tracing the puzzle maps that he was quite interested in learning all of the countries of South America. He actually still remembers them all, but he rarely wants to pull out his puzzle maps or review countries. I've noticed that our geography studies have been lacking just because he isn't all that interested. We are part of a geography club in our homeschool community and that helps but it doesn't really get T interested like I hoped it would.

I had heard about Little Passports before and visited their booth at a local homeschool expo once but I kept telling myself that I could put something like that together myself. Here is it nearly 2 years later, I haven't put it together myself. One of the best things about Little Passports is that they do all the work for you. You don't have to pick the countries, research the countries, collect postcards/pictures, souveniors, and flags for each country. You also don't have to come up with the fun activities for each country that will get your child engaged. There is just so much to do as a homeschooling parent, especially if you are not using a pre-planned curriculum. I love that my kids got excited about geography without me having to spend so much of my time putting it all together. Then there is the added thrill of getting mail address to them. Our package came with both of their names on it so they were both very excited.

Little Passports has two options, the first is their original World Edition where you receive a package containing one country each month. The other option is the USA Edition where you receive a package containing one state of the USA each month. I think both are great options, but I think the World Edition fits in nicely to the Montessori method because of the emphasis on world peace. Montessori thought that if we got to know how people around the world lived we would grow closer to one another and peace would follow. Not only would it be a great addition to geography study and continent boxes, but also in the cultural/peace study as well.

If you would like to learn more about the different options and what you get in each please check out the Little Passports website. They are even having a 15% off sale until 4/8!

Here is what arrive this afternoon at our home:


Here is what comes in the package: a letter from Sam & Sofia describing their adventure in Brazil, a postcard with an animal from the letter, a piece of amethyst (also from the story in the letter), a sticker to place on the suitcase, a Brazil flag sticker for the passport, a push pin sticker to place on the wall map, an activity sheet (2 sided) and a boarding pass with a code for online activities.

The first thing T did when he heard the package was about Brazil, was he pulled out his South America puzzle map and took out Brazil to show B.  Then they looked over their goodies.

T read the letter to find out about this month's adventure. I think the reading level is around 2nd grade but there are some words that may be a bit difficult because they are names of animals or names that are common for that country.

The story in the letter described rescuing a rare monkey by hiding him in an amethyst mine. They included a postcard with a photo of the red uakari monkey and a small piece of read amethyst. The kids LOVED this amethyst!

T spent some time working on the activity page while I put B down for her nap. He was searching for animals in the rainforest.

As if that wasn't enough geography for the day, T hopped on the computer to see what activities were waiting for him. There was Trivia, a soccer game and an interactive map of Brazil. He really enjoyed reading about different animals, landmarks, sports, food, etc from Brazil. There were several beautiful photos online as well. There were several parts where things could easily be printed and used later offline.

Finally, I had to tear him away from his geography work to go to his track practice but he has planned to start tomorrow morning with more study of Brazil.

Little Passports is having a Birthday Celebration. They have been in business for 5 years and are offering 15% off new subscriptions , use the promo code HAPPY5 thru 4/8/14. If you have been thinking about trying it, now is a great time. 

**I am an affiliate of Little Passports. I was given this package at no charge in return for my honest review. All opinions on the blog are my own and I would never review a product that I had not used personally. If you click on the links in this post and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting our home school.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Outdoor fun with Science and Geometry

The spring weather has called us outdoors many days in the last few weeks. Friday we decided to take our study of Geometry to a new level. We combined science and geometry in a fun little project. T had a lot of fun practicing his new protractor skills and spotting angles in the real world.

We started out with a little nature walk where we looked for angles in nature and man-made objects along the way. This stick was the first thing T spotted angles on. We brought along some sidewalk chalk to mark the angles and he used his protractor to measure them. He knew just by looking which was obtuse and which acute.

We found many angles on a picnic table we came across.

And right angles on this park bench (it was a bit windy)

We found a right angled isosceles in the parking lot 
(this was the parking lot for the playground and there were no cars so it was safe to stop and break out the protractor)

At this point it was too windy to perform our science experiment so we went home for lunch. Luckily, the wind died down in a couple of hours and we were able to go back outside and work while B napped.

Angles on our driveway.

A little practice on adding angles, 100º plus 80º equals 180º, or a straight line.

Oh look, the grass is turning green finally. Found an acute angle of concrete next to an obtuse angle of grass.

Our garage door is covered in right angles

Our science experiment was determining at what angle would we get the most distance with a straw rocket. We used this wonderful printable that I found through this blog.

The directions show how to make one of these cute little mini paper rockets. A template is provided and you just cut it out and roll it around a pencil, then attach the fins with tape. T decided to add a little color to his rockets before we cut them out. We decided to make two rockets to give more accurate results. Most science experiments need a good size pool of results to be accurate. At home it was just the two of us performing this experiment so we made two rockets and each of us did the experiment with each rocket. This helped us fill in the charge provided in the printable which is made for groups of 3 or 4 students. 

Once you build your rocket, you place a straw inside and blow as hard as you can to launch it.

We took our rockets, protector, tape measure and chalk outside. We marked the starting line with chalk and the launcher stood behind the line. Then we lined up the rocket to the proper angles using the protractor and launched the rocket. We measured the distance the rocket travelled and recorded it on our chart.
(not the best picture because I had to hold the protractor and the camera at the same time, but you get the idea)

Ready, Aim.....


Before we performed the experiment, T was asked to predict which angle would produce the farthest distance. The four angles tested were 90º, 70º, 45º and 20º. He chose the 45º angle. He knew that the 90º angle would give the least distance because it is meant to make rockets go straight up. He didn't really know why he thought the 45º angle was best except that it was not the closest to 90º like 70º is and its not the furthest away like 20º is. 

Here is our result chart
(in the launcher # boxes I added notes as to what color the rocket was (Green/Red, Blue/Orange) and the first initial of the person who launched it so we could keep track.)
We used inches instead of cm because our tape measure wasn't metric. 

As you can see from the chart, T was correct about the 45º angle being the best angle if you are trying to shot your rocket the longest distance. I drew a little diagram for him to show what that was the case. (the inches at the bottom are just a rounded average of distance we got for each angle)

When we were done with our experiment, T mentioned that he was going to use this new information at his track & field practice when he throws his mini javelin so that he can throw it a longer distance. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Some Elementary Geometry

I mentioned in a previous post about our love of Sir Cumference books. We read the Dragon of Pi book when we celebrated pi day last month. Yesterday, we read Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland as we talked about types of angles and triangles. We also introduced the protractor. There is a Montessori protractor that is sized to match the metal insets/fraction circles but we do not have one yet. T had fun learning how to use the regular protractor. The book uses a medallion as a protractor so T was excited to get his own. This book actually came with a small very thin plastic protractor but as its a library book we couldn't keep it.

(please click on any of the following photos and they will get larger, some of them may be difficult to see fully if you don't enlarge them)

We started our discussion with types of triangles.  Montessori Print Shop has a wonderful FREE printable of the seven types of triangles 3 part cards. He measured the angles of the triangles and we talked about right, acute and obtuse angles. We also talked about what isosceles and scalene meant. He matched the cards to their name and then compared them to the control cards.

T located each of the seven types of triangles in our geometry cabinet. You can see from the tray that there are only six triangles on the triangle tray in the cabinet. The last triangle (obtuse angled scalene triangle) is located in the last tray of the cabinet with the "extras".

After matching the triangles from the Geo cabinet, he tried his hand at the blue triangle constructive triangles box. This box contains two obtuse isosceles, two equilateral, three right angled scalene and one obtuse angled scalene triangles. 

Today we moved our focus to the angles. We talked about how right angles are always 90º, acute angles are always less than 90º and obtuse angles are always greater than 90º. T used these angle cards from Cultivating Dharma. There is a heading for each type of angle and five cards for each. He sorted them, measuring when he needed to.

There is a wonderful short lesson called The Story of Geometry. Don't worry, this isn't another Great Lesson. Its very short and simple. You don't really need any materials unless you would like to do the demonstration and then you only need some rope/string and a few weights/markers. 
The Story of Geometry gives the history of Geometry going back to the Egyptians. The Egyptians had trouble with flooding moving their markers for their farms and they used rope to fix their problem. There is a wonderful free version of this story at Montessori Commons that we used. This site doesn't have any photos so I also used a post from Making Montessori Ours where they did this lesson.
The Egyptians learned that if they always used sides of 3:4:5 in their triangles they would always make a right angled triangle. In our example we used 6" segments so one side was 3x6=18", then 4x6=24" and finally 5x6=30.

Later Pythagoras figured out why this worked and named it the Pythagorean Theorem.
a^2 + b^2 = c^2\!\,

We used the 3:4:5 for this triangle using inches so there was 3", 4" and 5" sides to this triangle. It made a right angled scalene triangle as it should have. Then we made each side a square and determined its area. I could tell I was losing T by this point so we pulled out our trusty bead squares. He immediately understood what the square of 3, 4, and 5 were. Then we added the beads from the 3 square to the beads of the 4 square and it did, indeed, equal the beads of the 5 square. T understood it but he was less than excited about it. I got a few looks because I was excited that he was learning some more interesting math. I love math but he thinks its a bit boring. This is just a foundation though, he will tuck this info in the back of his mind and will be able to pull it out later and understand it more easily. For now, I think we i'll just stick with measuring angles because he finds that fun.