Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Week in Review, 3/12 - 3/16

Last week we took an early Spring Break in order to get some big, time-sensitive projects done (one of the privileges of homeschooling, no?). While we didn't formally "do" school each day, the big girls did math (we do math almost every day -- even during the summer!), and the little girls got some good Montessori work done. We also threw in a quick science experiment for good measure, and our 5-y.o. -- frustrated by the "mental math" that Singapore Math sometimes requires -- pulled out the bead frame to supplement her math work. 

Some highlights from the week:

G - geometric solids, geometric figure cards...

G - opposites matching:

G - world map...

...and labels:
G - color box (3?), grading seven shades of a color from lightest to darkest:

E - exploring magnetic and not magnetic (and then she took to threading a nail into the circle end of a safety pin, which kept her busy for a looong time -- who knew? :)

E - sorting three colors of bears

E - nuts and bolts activity:

E - marbles on golf tees:

E - Matryoshka dolls:

E - Melissa & Doug grill set (slicing/tonging/skewering (akin to beading/stringing, only easier because the skewers are hard)):

E - open/close; pushing toothpicks through teeny holes in spice jar lid: 

S - Singapore Math 2B. As I mentioned, Singapore Math puts a great emphasis on "mental math," or doing math in one's head. For example, for 300 - 99, they tell her to think of 300 as 200 100. Then, they tell her to subtract 100 - 99, which equals 1. Next, she adds 200 + 1 to get her answer: 300 - 99 = 201.

It's a good system, but S was having difficulty -- for her, it would have been easier to stack all of the problems and work them out by subtracting and borrowing. I didn't want her to have to do all that borrowing, and even Singapore Math didn't want her to do all that borrowing -- after all, the whole point of the exercise was to make subtracting easier!

But because she was getting frustrated, I suggested that she grab the bead frame. She had used it before but needed a quick refresher. Once I reminded her how to use it, she set to work and knocked out all of her textbook and workbook exercises in no time flat! 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, may I present the large bead frame (it typically comes in large and small -- we have only the large one). The colored beads are on wires that correspond to the decimal system (units are green, tens are blue, hundreds are red, thousands are green, and so on). S will now demonstrate the process she went through to solve the problem 800 - 98:

First, 800, or 8 hundreds:

She needs to take away 9 tens, but she doesn't have any tens. She "gives one hundred back to the bank," or slides one hundred bead to the left...

 ...and exchanges it for 10 tens... 

...she takes away nine tens and needs to take away 8 units, but she doesn't have any units, so...

...she "gives her ten back to the bank..."

...and exchanges it for 10 units (she's working fast now, can you tell!? My camera could barely keep up :)...

...she takes away 8 units...

...and she's left with her answer: 702

After she got the hang of it, the problems were easy...

...and eventually she was able to do them in her head...and isn't that the whole point? 
(PS - "The bank game" language is a holdover from S's many years playing the bank game with the golden bead materials. For a very basic tutorial on the bank game, click here)

We waited for a sunny day and did experiment #116 from the Janice vanCleave book. We put ice cubes in two zip-loc baggies and closed the tops. We covered one bag with a black piece of paper and the other with a white piece of paper. The girls hypothesized which set of ice cubes would melt faster -- those under the black paper or those under the white. This is what the ice cubes looked like when we started: 

We covered the bags with the paper and checked the ice cubes every five minutes to see which set melted faster:
This isn't the final photo, but you can tell that the ice cubes under the black paper melted faster than the ice cubes under the white paper. We talked about how the sun gives off energy in the form of light; black absorbs light energy better than white, so the temperature under the black paper was higher and the ice cubes melted faster. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brown Stair/Marble Extension

For those of you who don't frequently check out the other blog (OMS Daily), we did a cool brown stair/marble extension I remembered reading about at The Wonder Years long ago: rolling a marble down the stair as a control of error.

When we tried it, we were delighted to discover a musical surprise. :)

Thanks for the great idea, Amy!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentine's Day Heart Stamping

Another simple, cheap, easy craft idea my husband saw on pinterest courtesy of Rust & Sunshine -- thanks for the great idea!

We tried this craft because even our toddler could do it. Simply fold and tape a toilet paper roll into a heart shape, and stamp away.

All of the girls enjoyed this activity -- even our 7-year-old. Now that the stamps have dried (we used some pink acrylic paint we had on hand), the girls plan to go back and add layers of hearts in different colors, write special messages, and them send them to family members for Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Shaving Cream Bath Paints

This is another great idea my husband found on pinterest: colored shaving cream bath paints. I loved this activity because it was fun, cheap, and easy, it used ingredients we had on hand, and it was virtually mess-free -- much thanks to Having Fun at Home for the great idea!

First, the girls sprayed shaving cream into muffin cups (and really, haven't you had fun right there?). Then they dropped in a few dots of food coloring and swirled:

Don't these look delicious? ;)

When they were done, they had a lovely rainbow assortment of bath paints. We happened to have a set of neon food colors in addition to the usual ones--and we experimented by mixing other colors--so we made a variety of shades.

The girls used regular paint brushes and sponge brushes to paint our bathtub walls, etc. They had a blast! And although I don't have any pictures of the paints actually being used (way too many naked tushes :), I think this "after" picture gives a nice feel for how much fun the girls had:

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Great Montessori Curriculum Website

I was away from blogging for a while, so I apologize if I'm telling everyone something they already know...

The other day I came across, which is written by a 3-6 Montessori teacher in Albuquerque, NM. She has made her entire curriculum available -- day-by-day, week-by-week!

In her own words, her resources are freely available for use by Montessori school teachers, people teaching in Montessori co-ops, homeschooling Montessori families (like ours :)--in short, anyone with the desire to learn about or better implement Maria Montessori's methods.  She also has a blog, a great overview of the different facets of Montessori education, and free downloads. The site is completely free, but she gladly accepts donations. If you haven't been there yet, definitely check it out!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Homemade Bird Feeders

My husband is loving pinterest. The other day, he saw this simple idea for making bird feeders out of toilet paper rolls, and he and the girls made them last night (thanks to The Moffatt Girls for the fun idea).

First, they spread peanut butter on the empty toilet paper rolls...

...and rolled them in bird seed: 

(Our seed of choice is safflower, which we use to attract cardinals, titmice, black-capped chickadees, nuthatches, and even the occasional woodpecker. Also, squirrels aren't very fond of safflower, so they leave our feeders alone unless they're starving).

We put the finished rolls in the refrigerator over night...

...and this morning, my husband laced them down the braches of an overwintering Rose of Sharon that abuts our deck:

The verdict? 


Long ago, I put together a birdwatching activity that the girls can use to track the birds that come to our feeders. I'll have to put it out again, since the girls got to make these feeders themselves. I've already seen black-capped chickadees (shown in the photos above) and titmice (and a squirrel (and our dog :), too -- the peanut butter is a little too tantalizing for them to resist. :)

Happy birdwatching!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bible Dolls & Pinterest

Last week, My Boys' Teacher pinned this Bible doll craft from alljoinin on pinterest. We thought the dolls were so cute, we made a few of our own:

They're still a work in progress (some still need headdresses, and we may or may not put faces on them), but from left to right, we have Ruth (our 5-y.o.'s creation), Naomi (our 7-y.o.'s creation), John the Baptist/Elisha/Elijah (my husband's creation), and David the shepherd boy (mine). We had so much fun sewing these little dolls! We even have Goliath and a few others in the hopper. 

I've been away from the computer for a while now, so pinterest was completely new to me when My Boys' Teacher mentioned in a comment that she had pinned a picture from one of my posts. I looked into it and was intrigued -- it's a great way to see and share Montessori and other homeschool ideas (not to mention recipes and lots of other great ideas).

Are you on pinterest?  If so, please feel free to share your pinterest page in the comments below or via email--I'm always looking for new ideas and concepts to incorporate in our classroom.  For those who are interested, my pinterest page is here

PS -- If you're not on pinterest yet and would like an invite, feel free to email me. :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Highlighters and Handwriting

Yesterday at OMS Daily, I briefly mentioned the use of highlighters in our schoolwork. They play a very important role in our homeschool, so I wanted to show everyone a few examples of when and how we use them.

These are our word drawers:

Drawers 1-38 contain Laura from My Montessori Journey's word drawers (which she so kindly made available here). Here's a peek inside drawer 1...

...and here's an example of my 3-y.o. matching words to pictures (drawer 25):


Drawers 39-60 contain our exception word cards, which you can download here. Each drawer contains 10 words, as well as a list of the words that should be in it (just so I know if a word has gone missing):

I also put the drawer number on each card and on the back of each word, so that if either gets misplaced, I easily know where to return it:

I keep strips of lined writing paper and clip boards by the word drawers; once my daughter has matched the words to the pictures, I write the words on the lined paper in highlighter, and my daughter traces over the highlighter (a technique I saw used when my oldest daughter, then 3, attended a private Montessori school). So that I don't have a million strips of lined paper floating around, I tape her strips into a composition book, which is a very nice way to collect them (my daughter loves to flip back through her book and read the words):  

Lately, I've started writing directly into the composition book. It doesn't have a dashed line between two solid lines, but I notice that the spacing is identical:

I also use the highlighter with my 5-y.o. We use The Well-Trained Mind and Writing with Ease for our writing/grammar/literature curriculum. Susan Wise Bauer places a strong emphasis on journaling; however, Bauer points out that for a child this young, it would be difficult to think of something to journal about and then keep it in her head long enough to write it down. Therefore, Bauer recommends dictation -- my daughter says her journal entry to me aloud, and I record it for her. As an added twist, though, I take my daughter's dictation in highlighter so that she can then write her entry herself: 

I even use highlighters with my 7-y.o., who currently is working on cursive writing. This is an example of a "copywork" page from Writing with Ease, Vol. 1. The theory behind copywork is that, by copying well written excerpts from literature, the child learns proper sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, etc. But because the excerpts are written in manuscript, I model the cursive writing for her with highlighter, and then she writes over my writing:

The majority of the older girls' handwriting practice is not highlighter-assisted, but the highlighters are extremely useful in special circumstances like the ones I just mentioned. And although this may sound trivial, letting the girls pick which color highlighter they want me to use makes handwriting just a little bit more fun :)