Saturday, January 31, 2009


I just wanted to say a heartfelt "Thanks" to everyone for their comments and emails in response to my last post. I feel very encouraged and have a lot of new ideas for managing things a little better so that my older girls can get in the Montessori room more.

On Thursday, we had a "perfect storm" of sorts (in a good way) in which my husband and oldest daughter were out of the house and my 9-month-old was napping, leaving just my 2-year-old and me - what fun! When she has no distractions, she can sit and focus on her work for what seems like an eternity (for a 2-year-old, at least :). However, she definitely has trouble concentrating when her older sister or friends are around. I was excited to have 30 - 45 minutes to let her "play" in the Montessori room.

She tonged...

...and poured:

She knows all of her numbers, and she has recently mastered counting without recounting the same thing, so I thought it would be fun to try the large number rods and number cards. I put the number rods in random order on one mat and the number cards in numerical order on a second mat. We worked together to count each rod, and then she ran to the second mat to find the right number card:

She was very proud of her work when she was finished (and so was I :)

She has only worked with the long red rods a couple of times, so I was delighted when she was able to put the number rods away almost effortlessly.

Her very favorite thing to do in the Montessori room is the sandpaper letters and the sand tray - which is really just her way to get to play with the sand ;) . We worked together to trace and write about ten letters (here she is making an /o/)...

...and then I let her just enjoy the experience (I love the look on her face here as she watches the sand slooooowly fall through her fingers):

And here she is watching the sand pile up on her arm:

She has worked with the sand tray about 15 times now, and she knows to be very careful and to try not to spill sand (this took some practice, but she's very good at it now). A long time ago, this is an activity that I would have said was too messy for her. Thankfully, I've gotten over myself and my fear of messes. (I mean, seriously, it took me all of 2 minutes to sweep up the cornmeal that fell to the tabletop/floor, but it was a solid 15 - 20 minutes of sheer delight for her.) With the weather so cold outside, it was nice to bring the "sandbox" inside for a little while.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Bank Game?

Calling all you Montessorians out there - I need your help!

First, a little back story. Lately I've noticed my oldest daughter's interest in the shelves waning. She has pretty much mastered everything I've got out right now, and I blame myself for not staying two or three steps ahead of her. My 9-month-old is very mobile and is extremely hard to manage in such a toddler-unfriendly environment, so we rarely do work in the Montessori room outside of "preschool." We turn out the lights in that room when everyone leaves for the day, and they don't usually go back on until the next time we meet, so the Montessori room just isn't at the forefront of my mind (plus, life is just busy with three young kids, you know?). So, here's an additional, off-topic call for help to all you Montessori homeschoolers with small kids - do you have any strategies for managing your crawlers/toddlers so that your older kids can get some work done?

Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked. We didn't meet today because of the ice/snow storm we had last night, so I used it as an opportunity to take stock of everything and see what new things I could put out that might pique my daughter's interest. In the far reaches of my basement I discovered, of all things, something called "The Bank Game."

The Bank Game? I thought we already knew how to do the Bank Game. I opened it up and quickly flashed back to this summer, when I was setting up the Montessori room: I opened the box and little number cards flew all out of order and I had no idea how to reorganize them, so I quickly put the lid back on and vowed to come back to it another day. Well that day has come. Today when I opened the box, I knew somewhat intuitively how to arrange the number cards, but that's where I got stuck, and here's where I need your help. Can anyone out there tell me how to use this beautiful game, or at least point me to a written or video demonstration of it?

As you can see from the photo, there are white number cards with colored numbers along the left-hand side that go from 1 - 9 in each category (1 - 9, 10 - 90, 100 - 900, etc.) from units to 1 million. On the right side, there are colored number cards with black numbers that go from 1 - 9, 10 - 90, 100 - 900, and 1000 - 9000. There are three each of the unit cards 1 - 9, and then there are three "00" cards. There are six labels: Cashier, Banker, Bookkeeper, Controller, Clerk, and Customer.

I would be very grateful for any advice you might have, be it related to "The Bank Game" or to reining in a 9-month-old. Thanks!!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Preschool Update

Just in case anyone was wondering - yes, we're still here!

Last week was a short week for everyone around here - Monday was the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and on Tuesday, everyone had the day off for the Inauguration (we live in a large suburb of Washington, DC, so schools and many businesses were closed).

We met on Wednesday, but I didn't get any pictures. Miss K's Circle Time theme was The Mitten by Jan Brett. Amazon's description sums up the book well:

A Ukrainian boy named Nicki wants his grandmother Baba to knit snow-white mittens for him. She warns her grandson that a white mitten will be hard to find if he loses it in the snow, but of course he promptly does just that! What happens next is the surprising part, as a mole takes refuge in the lost mitten, then a rabbit, then a hedgehog, an owl, a badger, and a fox. If you think the mitten might be a wee bit stretched out at this point, just wait: "Then a big bear sniffed at the mitten. The animals were packed in tight, but the bear didn't care. He crawled in anyway." When a tiny mouse squeezes in, her whiskers tickle the bear's nose. He sneezes, and "Aaaaa-aaaaa-ca-chew!" all the animals fly out of their crocheted cave. As the mitten sails through the air, Nicki spots it, reclaims it, and takes it home to show his smiling Baba.

Miss K read the book to the kids and then used it as a way to introduce the concept of estimating. She showed the kids four different sized mittens, and then they each took turns estimating how many little balls would fit into each mitten (the largest held 16, the smallest held 3).

For Arts & Crafts, Miss K led the kids in this activity, in which they colored the different animals from The Mitten, cut them out, and then pasted them into a mitten.

We closed with the P verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses: "Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God." Psalm 147:1

This week will be short as well, if we meet at all. Yesterday, my family was recovering from the stomach flu, and today the whole town has pretty much shut down as a result of our first official snowfall of the year (for real this time ;). Our area doesn't handle snow and ice all that well, so our outlook for tomorrow is tentative, at best. In the meantime, I've been working on some new stuff for the classroom, which I'll try to post about soon.

Thanks to all of you for your supportive comments and emails! If you've emailed me, be on the lookout for a reply soon, and if you've left a comment, thanks and keep 'em coming!! :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Snow Day!

Well, not quite. Although it's been very cold here, we have yet to see our first flake. And since Miss K's Circle Time theme for this week was winter and snow, she took matters into her own hands and made snow of her own using a little sno-cone machine.

The kids loved tasting the "snow" and using their senses to learn more about it. They each got to record their observations in their very own "My Little Snow Book," which Miss K made for each of them. They loved filling in the blanks on each page ("The snow tasted ________," The snow felt __________," etc.):

During Independent Work time, Miss D's son spent the entire day playing this game.

I'm not sure if the game would be found in your typical Montessori classroom, but I love it. The object is to navigate an ice cream truck through traffic, and Miss D's son did card...after card...after card. His brain was working pretty hard - toward the end of the day, he would lie down on the floor and rest in between "rounds."

Miss C's son also was hard at work. He poured water...

...spooned split peas...

...and pin-punched a snowman (among other things):

For arts and crafts, Miss K showed the kids how to make their own snowflakes...

...and she talked to them about how God made each of them unique as snowflakes. The kids glued their snowflakes to construction paper and then added this verse: "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful..." (Psalm 139:14).

We closed with the "O" story and verse from My ABC Bible Verses: "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good," Psalm 118:1.

We had a small crew on Tuesday - just my family and Miss D's - but we had a lot of fun. Miss D's son worked on all 6 sound boxes at once. He put six mats around the room and matched pictures to their beginning sounds. Here's what it looked like when he started:

And here's what a portion of it looked like when he finished:

My daughter worked with Miss D's son, and she also worked on this pre-sewing activity (in this picture, she's copying the house pattern you can see underneath her right arm):

For Music Time, Miss D gave the kids rhythm sticks and took them "on a trip" to a carnival. First they sang "The Wheels on the Bus" as they rode to the carnival, then they got off the bus and *ran* to get in line at the first ride, and then they waited. And then they *ran* as the line moved forward, and then they waited. ;) Then they *rode* a roller coaster, stopped to eat cotton candy, etc... The kids love that portion of Music Time. To go along with this week's five senses theme, Miss D taught the kids this song (to the tune of Old McDonald):

On my face I have two eyes;
I use them every day.
They are used to help me see
When I work and play.
With a look, look here,
And a look, look there,
Here a look, there a look,
Everywhere a look, look.
On my face I have two eyes;
I use them every day!

On my face I have a nose;
I use it all the time.
When I sniff it I can tell
Vinegar from lime.
With a sniff, sniff here,
And a sniff, sniff there,
Here a sniff, there a sniff,
Everywhere a sniff, sniff.
On my face I have a nose;
I use it all the time!

In my mouth I have a tongue;
I use it when I eat.
Tasting with it I can tell
Sour from the sweet.
With a lick, lick here,
And a lick, lick there,
Everywhere a lick, lick.
In my mouth I have a tongue;
I use it when I eat!

On my head I have two ears;
Listening all day long.
And if I didn't have them there,
I couldn't hear this song!
With a listen here,
And a listen there,
Everywhere a listen, listen.
On my head I have two ears;
Listening all day long!

On my body I have skin;
Feeling cold and heat.
It stretches from atop my head
Way down to my feet.
With a touch, touch here,
And a touch, touch there,
Here a touch, there a touch,
Everywhere a touch, touch.
On my body I have skin;
Feeling cold and heat!

We closed with the "O" story and verse from My ABC Bible Verses: "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good," Psalm 118:1.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Making "Sense" of Winter

Today we were all back together for the first time since before Christmas. It was great to have everyone back!

Miss K's Circle Time theme for this week is the five senses, and today she talked about using senses to appreciate winter. She explained what the five senses are, and then she and the kids worked together to write sentences like, "In winter, I can wear a soft hat" (to explore the sense of touch), "In winter, I can see snow," "In winter, I can taste hot chocolate," etc. It was a great activity that incorporated creative writing, reading, handwriting, new information, and applying that information to the world around us. As usual, nicely done, Miss K!

Not many pictures from today, but I do have downloads (I used primopdf to convert the files to .pdfs - it worked really well!). As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently created number cards for the red and blue number rods and small number cards for basic addition as set forth in Elizabeth Hainstock's book Teaching Montessori in the Home: The School Years. I printed out three sets of these cards, cut them, and laminated them. Miss D's son and my daughter had fun doing static addition.

Also, I put out a new snowman outline to pinpunch, although I had no takers today.

For PE, Misses D and C led the kids outside, where they dribbled soccer balls through cones and kicked them into nets, and they played with the parachute.

We closed with the "O" story and verse from My ABC Bible Verses: "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good," Psalm 118:1.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Free Pink Tower/Brown Stair Extensions

Since reading this post at Montessori Free Fall, I've been wanting to put an extensions photo album out on the shelves. The other day, I finally got around to setting up all of the combinations from Stephanie's post, and I thought they turned out just lovely. (If you had told me five years ago that pink and brown would be all the rage, I would have thought you were crazy. And yet, here I sit in layered pink and brown shirts, admiring not only Maria Montessori's genius, but also her sense of style :)

I've uploaded the pictures to a Picasa album, so you can easily download them to your own computer and print/laminate them, or you can order a set of prints.

(Edit:  You can see a more recent set of extensions we created here.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Activities

On Wednesday, school was a no-go. Despite my great hopes, the "respiratory infection" that reared its ugly head in my two-year-old last Friday...then worked its way to my 9-month-old by Monday...managed to grab hold of my four-year-old on Tuesday night. I wouldn't wish this on any family (especially now that my 9-month-old has a secondary double ear infection!!), so we're biding our time and hoping that we will all be healthy and contagion-free by Monday.

I used the time to finish up some activities and create some new ones. I finally finished all of the sound boxes from Laura at My Montessori Journey's system. Basically, she breaks the alphabet up into three sections: red (RAMFBITG), yellow (PONLHUSC), and blue (DEXQYJKVWZ). (I think I've modified the order somewhat.) For her phonetic objects/sound boxes, she breaks the three groups into six smaller ones and has a set of phonetic objects for each group. Typically, phonetic objects are dollhouse miniatures, which my budget doesn't really accommodate (although I'm always keeping an eye out on craigslist and freecycle - just in case!). Instead, I made my own phonetic objects (phonetic pictures?), printed them out, laminated them, and organized them into six boxes:

Boxes 1 and 2: RAMF/BITG

Boxes 3 and 4: PONL/HUSC

Box 5: DEXQY

Box 6: JKVWZ

I tried to find six pictures for each letter, but some were harder than others. After I made these, it occurred to me that I should have included "inchworm" for the letter I - I'll revise the file and re-upload it soon.

I also made number cards to go with the red and blue numerical rods. I'm not sure why my initial materials order didn't include those, but it's been bothering me that I didn't have them. Sandpaper numbers don't work, because those go from 0 - 9, and I needed 1 - 10. I went ahead and made my own set that I cut up and laminated. The font I used is not all that common, so I need to figure out how to save the file as a .pdf, and then I'll upload it.

I also made a set of small number cards so that we could move beyond the bank game to simple addition, as Elizabeth Hainstock does in her book. The font is very important with these too, though (because the numbers have to be spaced just so), so I'll need to save them as .pdfs as well.

Those activities have been on my To Do list for a while now, and it feels great to have them finished. I hope you and your family are weathering this winter better than mine, and here's to healthier days to come!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A New Year!

Today (hooray!) my family was healthy enough to host preschool (well, my 9-month-old was kept in semi-quarantine, but that counts, right?). However, both Misses C and K could not join us, so Miss D and her crew came a little later than usual for preschool-lite. It turned out to be a nice way to ease back in.

After Circle Time (during which Miss D and the kids discussed the new year), the two-year-olds joined us briefly. Miss D's daughter spooned split peas and practiced water transfer with a funnel, while my two-year-old built towers with the knobless cylinders.

Miss D's son and my four year old did the bank game, the hundred board...

...and the hanging bead stairs:

Miss D led Music Time, and then we closed with the "O" story and verse from My ABC Bible Verses: "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good," Psalm 118:1.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Unfortunate Part of Hosting Preschool... that if you or any member of your family is sick, then no school :(

We were so excited to see everyone today after our lengthy Christmas break, but my two-year-old and I simply weren't healthy enough. It was probably for the best that we didn't meet, though, because my 9-month-old had a fever all day today. Hopefully everyone will be healthy tomorrow so that we can get back to it!