Saturday, February 28, 2009

Preschool Update

In the past three weeks, because of various sick days...snow days...national babies being born...we've only met for preschool three times. We've had good, productive days, but I want to dedicate this post to the really cool Circle Time lessons Miss K put together to teach the kids about keeping their teeth clean and healthy.

She gave the kids some background information about teeth - how many, what they're made of, little teeth vs. big teeth, etc. She explained why it's so important to keep our teeth clean and why crunchy fruits and veggies are so much better for our teeth than sugary snacks or sodas. After explaining that the kids should brush their teeth two times a day and floss daily, she showed them these videos on proper tooth brushing technique.

Next, to illustrate the affect that sugary foods have on our teeth, she dunked a hard boiled egg in soda and left it to soak overnight. The next day, the egg looked like this:

We used fluoride toothpaste and a toothbrush to brush the egg...

...and voila! A nice clean, shiny, bright tooth egg:

On another day, Miss K brought in a set of tooth molds (yes, those are her husband's molds that their family dentist let them have!), and the kids took turns brushing them with proper brushing motions:

Also, she put together a "Happy Tooth/Sad Tooth" sort:

Finally, for Arts & Crafts one day, the kids used a "brush" (a paintbrush) to turn a yellow tooth white:

Once again, very nicely done, Miss K!

Over the course of the three weeks, we did the "R" and "S" stories and verses from My ABC Bible Verses:

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy," Exodus 20:8

"Seek the Lord while he may be found," Isaiah 55:6

Sorry for the delay between posts! Lots of good stuff going on - hopefully I'll get to blog about it all soon!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Free Nomenclature Card Downloads

In case you missed them, ETC-Press has a beautiful collection of 3-part cards that you can download for free here (special thanks to Lisa from the montessorimakers yahoo! group for mentioning them).

There are 3-part nomenclature cards for land formations, geometric solids, cloud formations, phases of the moon, the solar system, parts of a flag, parts of a leaf, parts of a tree, world continents and hemispheres, and world oceans.

In case the link above doesn't get you to just the right spot, click on "Free Materials" on the left-hand side, and 11 items should come up. Once you've selected an item, you'll see the words "click here to download the file" in teeny-tiny print underneath the item's description. Look closely - I missed it the first time through.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Infant Activities

This post has a loooong background, and rather than bore you with all the details, I'm going to try to get straight to the point.

Our 10-month-old has a hearing impairment that was detected at birth. Official diagnosis: moderate bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. The upshot: this is a permanent hearing loss, it's not genetic, it's just something that happened, and as long as she wears hearing aids by the time she is 6 months old (which she has), her speech and language should develop right on par with her "hearing" peers.

Now, it just so happens that we live in a county that has amazing services for babies with hearing impairments, including a speech and language development specialist who comes to my house once a week to work with my daughter, make sure she's developing appropriately, and teach me simple techniques I can use to make sure my daughter's development isn't affected by the hearing loss.

The other day it occurred to me that these techniques would be beneficial for any baby, not just one with a hearing impairment, so although they may not be Montessori-based, I think this is a good forum for sharing them (especially considering that many of you have babies around the same age as my daughter). Also, I know that our county is one of the only ones in the country to provide these kinds of services, so perhaps these posts will be beneficial for parents of infants born with a hearing loss who - through complete happenstance - don't live where we do.

This first activity is so simple and so obvious, I can't believe it never occurred to me to try it with my older girls. I'm sure everyone is familiar with using picture books to teach babies the names of things. My daughter is still too little to look at picture books, though - she's teething right now, and all she wants to do is eat the books I show her. So instead, I started looking around my house for objects, and just look at what I found already sitting on my shelves:

A hen, sheep, pigs, and cows:

An elephant, a seal, a monkey, and a lion:


And numerous other baby-safe "objects." So here's the game:

Using two objects at a time, show your baby the objects and say (for example), "This is a sheep who *baaas*, and this is a cow who *moooos.* Can you show me the sheep who *baaas*?" If she reaches for the correct object say, "That's right, that's the sheep who *baaas.*" If she reaches for the wrong object, say, "That's the cow who *mooos*; can you show me the sheep who *baaas*?"

Once your baby is consistently reaching for the correct animal, add a third and eventually a fourth object.

My daughter is ten months old now, and she can totally do this! I don't even know if my older girls could have done this at this age, because I never tried it with them - I just waited until they were old enough for picture books.

I consider myself to be fairly proactive when it comes to my kids' early development, so the fact that I never thought of this game before now makes me think that others of you out there might not have, either. I'd be interested to know if these types of posts are useful to parents with "hearing" children.

And to parents of children with a hearing loss who might stumble across this blog, hopefully these activities will be helpful to you, too. It was only recently that I truly understood their purpose: I'm sure most of you are familiar with vision loss - things are blurry, you put on a pair of glasses, and your vision is corrected to 20/20. Hearing is more complicated than vision, though, so although hearing aids are beneficial and necessary, even "aided" hearing is never "20/20," so to speak. For instance, even with amplification, the sound /m/ can sound like /oo/, and vice versa, which can make speech very difficult to understand and emulate. Activities like this are intended to make sure that the baby's hearing aids are working effectively and that she can discriminate sounds. Of course, she'll be able to tell us these things in a few years, but the goal is to try to catch and identify any issues early before they can affect her development.

For now, we're encouraged that our daughter's development is right on track, and - considering all of the emotions that go with learning that your child has a hearing impairment - I couldn't ask for anything more!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Birdwatching Activity

We have a very faithful community of "feeder" birds in our backyard, and I supply them with thistle and safflower seed all year long. Although a lot of birds around here migrate south for the winter, many stay put, relying on birdfeeders and other sources of food to make it through until Spring.

This past weekend was The Great Backyard Birdcount, and I was inspired to make a new activity that I'll file away under "cultural."

First, I used Mrs. Riley's PageBuilder to create 3-part cards of the birds that visit our feeders most often:

(Thanks to Shannon for introducing me to this site. Up until now, the site has been free, but the public beta will expire at noon on Feb. 23, after which time subscriptions will cost $12 a month.)

Second, I created a birdwatching sheet featuring the birds introduced with the 3-part cards.

After my daughter matched the 3-part cards, she pulled a chair up to our back window and sat - patiently - and identified and recorded any birds that visited our feeders:

She really seemed to enjoy it and often yelled out new birds she had identified.

I was really pleased with how this activity turned out, because it required patience, observation, visual discrimination, etc. We reviewed the terms "male" and "female" and discussed the differences in plumage between male and female birds. The concepts "common" and "rare" made themselves abundantly clear, because some birds were always all over the feeder, while other birds were seen only once or not at all. Most important, my daughter seemed to enjoy it. At first she said, "Birdwatching is boring - there are no birds," but then they showed up and I noticed she grabbed her clipboard and headed right for her chair. The only drawback would be that I was the only control for error ("Mommy, is that a bluejay?").

I've made the birdwatching sheet I created available for download here. You could easily modify it to include birds that frequent your yard. Also, you can find/modify the cards I made at Mrs. Riley's PageBuilder by searching for "Feeder Birds of the Eastern US" Parts 1 and 2.

Happy birdwatching!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Phonics Swap 2009

Jo at A Bit of This and A Bit of That hosts phonics and culture swaps six times each year, and I recently participated in my very first phonics swap. Basically, I sent two swap partners 10 phonetically correct miniatures for their collections, and they each sent me 10 miniatures for mine.

My swap partners were Joann in Olympia, WA, and Gabriel in Austin, TX. Here's what I sent them:


Here's what Gabriel sent me:


Joann sent:

Zero (typewriter key)
Nine (typewriter key)

They also sent lovely postcards from their respective hometowns. We live in a very culture-rich area (American Revolution, Civil War, George Washington's home, not to mention that we live 12 miles from the capital of the United States), but somehow I just could not get my act together to include postcards. I had big hopes and lots of culture-based ideas for things to send, but in the end, I sent only miniatures. I can get paralyzed by details, and I knew I would never get the miniatures in the mail if I veered off on a tangent. Alas, perhaps if Jo hosts a culture swap in a couple of months...

To see what other people swapped, click here. To my swap partners, thanks for all of the goodies!! I'm just starting my phonetic object collection, and I'm glad to have all of these additions!!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It's a Girl!!

I'm thrilled to announce that Miss D gave birth to a healthy baby girl this morning. She weighs 7 lbs, 12 oz and is 20 1/2 inches long. Congratulations Miss D and Mr. T (big brother and big sister, too)!!!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

New Practical Life Activity

I can't remember where I saw the idea for this sweeping activity (sorry!), but today I set my two-year-old up with a basket of pompoms, a small hand-held sweeper, and a dustpan. She poured the pompoms onto the table...

...diligently used the broom to sweep them into the dustpan...

...emptied the dustpan into the basket...

...and then started all over again:

She must have done this 15 times, and each time was just as fun and satisfying as the time before. If you're looking for a simple way to keep a two-year-old busy, this is a great activity!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Day Fun

Continuing with her mail theme for Circle Time, on Wednesday Miss K brought each of the kids their own little mailbox, and they spent the morning making Valentines for each other and delivering them to each other.

The kids really loved opening their very own mailboxes and finding mail inside.

During Independent Work time, I presented the Pythagoras Board to Miss D's son. I know I've mentioned before that he has a real head for numbers, but on this day he absolutely blew me away. He's four and a half, and he can skip count (in his head, no less!) by every number up to ten. He could probably skip count by 11 and 12, but I wouldn't know because the Pythagoras Board only goes up to 10! Miss K and I sat there watching him with our jaws on the floor! Once he finished it, he immediately got to work on what he really wanted to do while patiently enduring my presentation - play Rush Hour Jr:

Miss K's daughter worked with the nuts and bolts...

...and the map of the United States:

My daughter did the continents map:

The two-year-olds were in and out, but when they were "in," Miss D's daughter transferred water through a funnel:

...and my daughter did a bunch of different puzzles, including the parts of a tree:

We closed with the Q verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses: "Quench not the Spirit," 1 Thessalonians 5:19.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Sidebar Links

My oldest daughter turns five this September, and we're not sure what we're going to do for kindergarten - should we continue with the Montessori homeschool? Should we enroll her in a private Montessori school? Should we enroll her in our local public school? Should we enroll her in a private Christian school? And on...and on...and on. Years ago, someone told me that school decisions would be among the more difficult ones I would have to make with respect to my children, and at the time, I found that difficult to believe. Now I understand.

For a little guidance re: the homeschool kindergarten route, I turned to someone who is a total source of inspiration for me: Xia at Grillos y Canarios. She Montessori homeschools her three boys, who are 9, 6, and 3. Up until a few posts ago, she posted both in Spanish and English, but she recently made the decision to post in Spanish only. I find that Google translator does a good job of letting me keep up with her blog in English.

She makes Montessori homeschooling look so easy that I emailed her with a few questions about her materials as well as resources for presenting them. She pointed me to some places that I had never seen before, and I thought some of you out there might not have heard of them, either (or maybe I'm just a total noob :). I've added them to the sidebar, but they include 3 - 6 and 6 - 9 albums from Montessori Teachers Collective. She also reminded me of the Montessori by Hand and playschool6 yahoo groups, which I knew about but which I had filed in the back of my mind and then promptly forgotten. She also recommended that I read Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius.

Also, Carla emailed me recently and mentioned the montessorimakers yahoo group, which I hadn't heard of (thank you!!).

Hopefully these links will be helpful to you too! If you know of a link you think I should add, please email me or leave a comment - thanks!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You've Got Mail!

On Monday, we were finally back together again (well, sort of, because Miss D's family was sick - bummer).

Miss K's Circle Time theme for this week was mail. She explained how a letter gets from here to there, what stamps are, how to address an envelope, etc. We made Valentines during Independent Work time and addressed them to various friends and family members.

Also, I had a couple new things on the shelves. Miss K's daughter practiced pouring from a pitcher into two containers. The goal is to pour only to the line, and the white pitcher contains more water than necessary. The sponge is for spills.

I also had a scooping/leveling activity out, which my 2-year-old used. Here she's working from left to right - she scoops, levels, transfers.

The inspiration for this work came from The Wonder Years, which, in case you've missed it, is just an amazing blog - thank you!!

Miss C's son used the sand tray and sandpaper letters:

Miss K's daughter used the knobless cylinders:

Over the weekend, Miss K's youngest daughter celebrated her first birthday, and we had fun re-celebrating with her. Miss K brought cupcakes and we sang "Happy Birthday" - so much fun! Happy Birthday, little one!!

We closed with the Q verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses: "Quench not the Spirit," 1 Thessalonians 5:19.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Sequence of Montessori Work

No preschool this week - all of the families were sick, so we weren't able to meet. The girls and I have gotten some good work done, though, and I will post pictures soon.

As I mentioned recently, my oldest daughter is ready for some new challenges in the classroom. I pulled out a bunch of new math works but have felt uncertain about the sequence in which I should present them. That has led me back to the beginning, taking a fresh look at the Sequence of Montessori Work from David Gettman's book (which is very similar to other "scope and sequence" lists made available by multiple different authors and sources). I thought other homeschooling Montessorians might find it useful, as well.

You can download a Word version here. Otherwise, I've typed up the sequence below. But before you go :), what resources do you use for sequencing your own Montessori presentations?


[Early Practical Activities, introductory Sensorial, Culture, and Language Activities, no Math]

- Pouring beans between two jugs
- Opening and closing containers
- Buttoning
- Buckling
- Other simple dressing frames
- Carrying and laying floor mats and table mats
- Saying Thank You
- Other early grace and courtesy work
- Carrying a tray
- Lifting, carrying and putting down a chair at a table
- Climbing and descending stairs
- Walking on the line
- Folding
- Hanging clothes on a hook
- Brushing hair
- Dusting

- Cylinder blocks
- Pink tower
- Color tablets, box 1
- Presentation tray of geometric cabinet
- Sensitizing the fingers
- Touch boards
- Presentation 1 of geometric solids
- Stereognostic bags

- Classified pictures, exercise 1
- Classified pictures, exercise 2
- Speech
- I Spy, Stage 1
- I Spy, Stage 2
- I Spy, Stage 3
- Book corner and library

- None

- Land and Water

[Building fundamental skills in all subject areas except Math, concentrating on sight and touch in Sensorial work]

- Pouring water from a jug
- Medium difficulty dressing frames
- Simple braiding of rope or yarn
- Laying a table for a meal
- Polishing brass, glass surfaces, shoes or furniture
- Washing hands
- Washing cloths
- Scrubbing a table top
- Sweeping sawdust
- Brushing clothes
- Folding clothes
- Hanging clothes on a hanger
- Handling a book
- Asking for and receiving scissors
- Greeting people
- Kindness to visitors
- Being silent

- Advanced cylinder block exercises
- Brown stair
- Red rods
- Color tablets, boxes 2 and 3
- Geometric cabinet, exercises 1 – 4
- Binomial cube
- Blindfold
- Tactile tablets
- Later geometric solids presentations
- Stereognostic bags
- Sorting grains
- Sound boxes
- Preliminary presentation of bells
- Three-stage lesson on the names of the sensorial qualities

- Classified pictures, exercises 3 and 4
- I Spy, stage 4
- Single-letter sandpaper letters, exercise 1
- Metal insets
- Speech “questioning”

- None

- Land and Water exercises
- First maps
- Places classified pictures
- Classification by leaf, preliminary work

[Developing more advance Practical skills, concentrating on other senses in Sensorial work, completing preparatory work in Language, fully entering Culture work, starting Math]

- Pouring water from a jug
- Pouring water through a funnel
- Bows, laces, and other difficult dressing frames
- Advanced braiding, then plaiting hair
- Tying a tie
- Simple cooking chores
- Ironing
- Making beds

- Geometric cabinet exercises 5 – 8
- Constructive triangles
- Square of Pythagoras
- Trinomial cube
- Fabrics
- Thermic bottles
- Baric tablets
- Presentations of bells

- Double-letter sandpaper letters, exercise 1
- I Spy, stages 5 and 6 frequently
- Exercise 2 with all sandpaper letters

- Number rods, exercise 1

- All maps
- Places picture folders
- Past and present
- Stories about the past
- Air
- Water
- Magnetism
- Classifying animals
- Classification by leaf
- Parts of animals
- Parts of plants

[Advanced Sensorial activities, early Language reading and writing, Mathematics Group 1 and starting Group 2]

- Responsibility for certain daily Care of the Environment duties
- Helping and advising younger ones in a group

- Geometric cabinet, exercises 9 and 10
- Thermic tablets
- Mystery bag
- Visual work with blindfold
- Bells exercises 1, 2, and 3
- Tasting cups
- Smelling boxes

- Movable alphabet
- Writing individual letters
- Writing families of letters
- Positioning letters on lines
- Sandpaper capitals
- Box 1 of object boxes
- Action cards
- Box 2 of object boxes
- Reading folders, exercise 1

- Number rods, exercise 2
- Sandpaper numbers
- Number tablets (with the number rods)
- Spindles
- Numbers and counters
- Memory play
- Limited bead material
- Number cards
- Function of the decimal system
- Fractions

- Gravity
- Sound
- Optics
- Places artifacts

[Further development in Language reading and writing, essence of counting, adding, subtracting, and multiplying in Math]

- Assisting with group activities
- Attending to visitors
- Comforting other children

- Knobless cylinders
- Bells, exercises 4, 5, and 6

- Matching and writing capitals
- The alphabetic sequence
- Writing copies
- Puzzle words
- Reading folders, exercise 2
- Classified reading
- Environment cards
- Articles
- Adjectives
- Conjunctions
- Prepositions
- Verbs

- Formation of complex numbers
- Introduction to teens
- Introduction to tens
- Unlimited bead material (Addition, subtraction, and multiplication)
- Counting
- Stamps (Addition, subtraction, and multiplication)
- Dots
- Fractions exercises

- Plant life cycles
- Timeline

[Advanced Language work, basic division and arithmetic memory work in Mathematics]

- Serving snacks and meals
- Subtle etiquette

- Advanced bells work

- Margins
- Punctuation cards
- Reading folders, exercises 3 and 4
- Adjective matching
- Detective Adjective Game
- Adverbs
- Command cards
- Adverb matching
- Verb games
- Plurals
- Feminine and Masculine
- Root word charts

- Unlimited bead material (Division)
- Stamps (Division)
- Addition and Subtraction Snake Games
- Addition and Subtraction Strip Boards
- Multiplication tables
- Multiplication bead board
- Addition, Subtraction and Multiplication charts
- Advanced work with fractions

- Reading classified cards in Geography, Nature Studies and History
- Fact books from the library

[Application activities in Language, abstraction in Mathematics]

- Helping the Director prepare the environment
- Presenting practical activities to younger children

- Presenting sensorial activities to younger children

- Written questioning
- Free writing
- Reading folders exercise 5
- Reading analysis

- Unit Division Board
- Division Charts
- Short Bead Frame
- Hierarchies
- Long Bead Frame
- Simple Division

- Definition stages of Classified Cards in Geography, Nature Studies and History
- Field nature observation work