November 27, 2014

Getting creative and dealing with mess!

Rogue has been in art and craft mode recently pretty much to the exclusion of all else! It's all good though, all that play dough squishing and paint brush wielding is great for hand strength, coordination, developing creativity and concentration. 
I like to encourage independence in art and craft by having everything (yes even paint) accessible to the kids. I know that sounds mad and I agree that sometimes, fairly often really, it does lead to quite big messes, but it is so good for them to be able to act on that creative impulse that I think the benefits outweigh the cons. 

Ways to cut down on the mess:

1. Have very small paint pots. We use tiny little pots to decant our paint into and on top of that I teach them to only fill them halfway. I think a big pot just invites the squeezing of the entire bottle of paint and that lovely squidgy mess of brown mixing that happens! 

2. A place for everything. We used to have a box, one very big box with everything in it. Of course, whenever anything was needed the entire box would get dumped out to find it. Now we have things separated into small draws and jars and we can just get what we need out.

3. Make cleaning up fun. Ok, so I know this is going to sound really naff but sometimes the simplest things work the best. We have an old cloth and I have drawn a face on it, he likes to eat paint off the table and he eats really noisily (think Cookie Monster esq.). Yup, that's it... Rogue thinks it's really fun to be the paint eating monster cloth! 

Well, I started writing that list thinking I would have lots to share but that's about it. Fact is I have a tiled floor and an old table and the kids don't often wear smart, valuable clothes so a bit of mess doesn't bother me that much.

Happy crafting! 

October 24, 2014

Equivalence material

I have to be honest, I was daunted by this material. It is big, it's expensive, it's extremely precise and it seems to only be available from neinhaus which is even more expensive than normal expensive. My only option really was to make it, but, as mentioned before, it's so precise! The whole point of it is to be exact, shapes that are congruent are 'exactly' the same.

I thought about several materials, thick card was first, very thick card like mount card was next but I wanted the pieces to have real depth to them. Corrugated card was a strong contender and I may even go there if I have to remake any but I avoided it because of its tendency to squash on the corners. In the end I went for foam board, it is good because it cuts cleanly, but not ideal because the edges can crumble if you're not careful. It's saving grace was the price tag, £4.99 per board and I used 2, so £9.98 total compared to over £260 just for the square figures from neinhause. Of course they are amazing quality, made from iron, durable, exact and so on, but really, £260!

I made the square figures, the triangle figures and a circle for learning the parts of a circle (chords, arc etc). First I cut 14 squares (14 x 14 cm), then I very carefull measured, drew and cut out the centre shape. Making sure all the squares were the same and all the triangles were the same. I made these as precise as possible using a ruler protractor and set square.  Next I just cut up the centre pieces into half, quarter, eighth and sixteenth pieces. I say 'just' but it took ages, as you can see they are not exactly exact but they are very close and I am happy with them. I then stuck the frames down onto some mount card I had around and then finished it all with a few coats of spray paint.

The very small pieces are a little bit delicate but this is an elementary material so it should be fine and so far the coats of paint have stopped any of the crumbling edges. I think that it will be strong enough to cope with my children but it probably wouldn't survive several classes full so I can see why the schools buy the iron.

October 20, 2014

Days of learning - elementary

Wow, a flurry of new interests and activities this week. Binx has been desperate to get on the computer for some time now but I was holding back while I searched for some good content, we are not by any means ready to just let her loose on the internet. Khan Academy has filed that gap for us, I certainly haven't explored the whole site yet but what we have used is amazing. Binx has been doing the maths and the computer programming. I was happy to see her doing maths but amazed to see her progressing through the computer programming at such a rate. This is something I have zero experience in and could never have taught her but here she is (only 3 days in), creating shapes, colours and using variables in code. She is practicing all four operations, graphing, plotting points, and pretty advanced algebra formulas and best of all she doesn't even realise it because it is fun! I was getting left behind by the whole thing so I created an account so I could learn too. As a parent/educator you get progress reports including how long they spend doing each thing, which areas they are focusing on and which areas they need help in. I think we are quite late to the party here because Khan Academy has been around for a good while but we are excited to be joining in now. Note: no one paid me to review this site, I am just a mum and a homeschooler and we like it!

Of course, the more traditional materials still continue, below was a lesson on suffixes which involved the invention of many random words and was pretty fun.

We explored different types of mountains and how they are formed several weeks ago and this week binx revisited it and created posters showing the main types of mountain.

Story of the World has been great for history and projects this week had binx building a ziggurat out of blocks and painting a shirt to make a kind of dress coat.

Here she is exploring a lesson on ways of combining. We mixed water with salt and water with copper sulphate to show solutions, water mixed with chalk dust to create a suspension, sand and iron filings made a mixture (that could be separated with a magnet), and bicarbonate of soda and vinegar gave us a chemical reaction. The albums that we are using have many chemical reactions shown but I can't seem to get hold of the chemicals because I am not a "proper" educational establishment and I don't have a license. 

Quite a lot of maths got worked on this week. Addition and subtraction on the bead frame, the division board, multiplication of fractions and this fun work on square numbers. While drawing out these squares binx said out loud "I think I get this!" in a really excited voice, and that is what it's all about.

October 13, 2014

Days of learning - primary

Caring for an animal is always included in a montessori classroom. Usually they start with a fish and take responsibility for feeding it and cleaning it out. We don't have a fish but we do have 2 dogs, 2 rabbits and a hamster in the house. The kids have always been involved in helping to look after them, including feeding, cleaning and loving them! Over the last couple of weeks though, rogue has been so excited about the rabbits. The one he is holding in the picture is called Benjamin Mittens and we have another called Teasel Thumper Cuddles, (all our bunnies have had long names, I really don't know why!). For the last week then it has been his job every morning to give the rabbits their food, check their water and say good morning to them. He is very proud of the responsibility.

Binx was working with grammar boxes this week so rogue decided to get involved by climbing right up on the table to examine the grammar symbols. I gave him the large stencil (binx was using the smaller one for her work), and he spent some time matching the symbols to the correct space in the stencil. He then wanted to draw some of the shapes using the stencil and cut them out. He is a bit young to draw using the stencil so I had to hold it down for him. His cutting out was pretty good. He drew the shape in the middle and then sheared the edges off gradually until he got close to the lines and then rounded the corners. He is doing the circle below.

A favourite work that gets used a lot is matching the small pictures to the large pictures. I am going to add 'old calendar' to my montessori materials hunting list right now because I really need to make him a different set of these while he is still enthusiastic about it.

The box below was actually sold for holding tea bags but it is perfect for sorting. At the moment it just has a colour on a sticker in each compartment and then craft sticks with the colours on for sorting. I will change this often for different sorting tasks. I'm also thinking if I can find another of these boxes they would be perfect for spindle boxes.

I introduced transferring water with a baster this week. A big hit, after he got over the fact that the water was green! Honestly, I thought that would just be a bit of fun, you know, make it a bit more interesting, but while I was trying to show him what to do he just had to keep on (and on) asking, 'why is the water green?', 'what does green water do?', 'does green water taste nice?', 'can the dogs have green water?', you get the picture! Lesson learned, do not introduce new activity and new colour of water at the same time! 

My biggest success of the week was the binomial cube. I think I managed to stumble my way into presenting this at just precisely the right moment in his development. He was so impressed by the sides of the box folding down that he let out a little squeak even though he was trying so hard to be really still and quiet to watch. He paid attention the whole time I was showing him and then proceeded to repeat it himself three times in a row just like the presentation. He didn't even try to build a tower which is what he usually does with everything even remotely block shaped. It seemed to be just the right level of challenge without being frustrating and he was so satisfied with folding the sides of the box back up. Isn't it lovely when things just work.

The orderliness of montessori seems to be occurring at other times too. He was getting his duplo bricks out at the weekend and on auto pilot just went to get a tray to put his 'work' on! Anything that keeps the bricks in one place is fine by me! 

September 22, 2014

Sandpaper globe

The primary montessori globes are extremely cool but also come with a hefty price tag, I wanted to create one but all the tutorials I found were using actual sandpaper cut out and stuck onto a globe. I haven't tried it that way and I guess it must work because lots of people have done it but I thought it would be very laborious and also difficult to stick a 2d cut out onto a 3d globe. 

My method was to get a very cheap globe from a charity shop and paint the seas blue and the land a light brown. This took about three coats. I used acrylic so it dried fast. I then mixed some playsand with quite a lot of glue and used a tiny brush to paint that on to the land. I then left it over the weekend to get really hard and it's fantastic. The land feels really textured compared to the smooth sea and none has rubbed off yet. 

I went back to the charity shop and found another small globe (even cheaper this time because the stand was broken) and I painted that one like the continents globe with the sea blue and each continent a different colour. Binx made a stand for it by painting the inner tube of a roll of tape.

I'm very happy with these, I think I spent £3 on the first globe and £1.50 on the second.

Days of learning - elementary

Lots of good work on the bead frame this week. Binx has been working on addition of 4 or 5 addends in the ten thousands. One (of the many!) thing I love about the montessori materials is that really complicated processes are achievable and enjoyable because of the way they are taught. Just being faced with a huge addition sum on paper might have been intimidating but because we got to know the bead frame and worked through the steps then it is just a natural progression and before you know it you are working on problems that seemed really difficult before.

Binx is working on learning division facts here, this is an activity designed for younger children but she wanted to revisit it because she still has difficulty recalling division off the top of her head.

We read a good book about Van Gogh this week and that set off an impromptu art session that everybody got involved in.

Looking at the notation of squares of numbers in a very hands on way. Sneaking in some times tables practice too! 

Binx is always one for the science experiments so I usually do them at the end of the day because I know she will spend ages on them. After looking at the properties of solids, liquids and gases last week we looked at solids in more depth today. We looked at the properties of rigid, elastic and plastic solids (using a ping pong ball, a sponge ball, and a ball of clay), and we also looked at how a solid can be made to change by applying weight. The experiments involved changing the amount of weight, and also the length and thickness of the solid. Lots of fun! 

Days of learning - primary

Rogue has been working on loads of practical life exercises this week, as well as some sensorial work. He is still loving the cylinder blocks, I don't blame him actually, I find them really appealing as well! 

I made a button snake for him last weekend and that has been a big hit too. It is basically a ribbon with a button on each end and squares of felt with a slit cut so you can put the button through. I made this because he was getting frustrated and struggling to do up buttons on his jacket so I thought he could do with the practice. I have made three sets with gradually smaller buttons and felt. This is the largest one.

One evening rogue sneaked off to the school area and I came in to find this! 

I tried introducing hole punching for the first time. I drew dots on the paper for him to punch over. He had lots of fun punching holes, but not on the dots.

The pegboard came out again. He loves this activity and I am always intrigued by the very regular patterns he makes, never random.

Of course he had to get involved in his big sisters investigation of solids.

This pegging activity was new this week too and he concentrated for ages on it. Really worked the muscles in those fingers.

Scooping macaroni with a tiny sieve. He did this very slowly, enjoying the sounds of the macaroni hitting the bowl.

September 15, 2014

'Sandpaper' letters

The sandpaper letters are a classic montessori material for teaching letters. The trouble is they are pretty expensive for textured flash cards, so I made my own. I didn't have any sandpaper and I like to use what I have already if I can so here is the method I used.

First I just cut up some old mount board I had into roughly A5 size rectangles, and painted them pink and blue (21 pink and 5 blue). When that was dry I drew a big letter on each just lightly in pencil and when I was happy with it I went over it in sharpie, making the lines thicker. The letters are over to the right because Rogue is definitely more right hand dominant but if you have a left handed child you would want to position the letters more to the left.

Next I mixed some glue, black paint and glitter together. I used up old pots of glitter, mixing all kinds of colours and then used the paint to try to take some of the shine and colour off. It worked surprisingly well actually. The texture was very thick, like wet sand.

Next I used a small brush to paint a line of this mixture into the centre of the lines of the letters. 

This has worked really really well, once it was dry it had a really good texture just like sandpaper and bits don't come off when you use them. Sandpaper is great but this has worked brilliantly for us and it came at my favourite price - free!

Days of learning - primary

Rogue enjoyed using the pegboard for quite a long time. Whenever he uses this he always puts the pegs in lines or blocks, never just a random sprinkling of pegs.

Carrot grating proved a bit difficult so I think we will have to practice grating with something softer. No fingers grated though so that's a bonus!

This was a new activity that I put out, pouring pecans into a bowl and then using the small ladle to put them back into the jug. Simple, but entertaining.

I got out cylinder block 2 this week and as it looks the same when they are all in he was pretty surprised when he picked up the widest one and found that it was really thin! He tried the two blocks together and really enjoyed that, it seemed to be just the right level of challenge for him. 

 These bird pictures were cut out of an old calendar and usually calendars have little thumbnail images on the back of all the pictures so they provide a perfect matching game.

Rogue had fun exploring the 3d shapes. He just held them, tried to build with them and then experimented with rolling them. He discovered that the cube doesn't roll, the sphere rolls a long way, and the ellipsis is really really funny when you roll it!