Thursday, August 31, 2006

Second attempt at pictures

If Barbie can do math, so can you!
(Jane, you are a horrible influence! Anybody wishing to see what I'm talking about should visit the Escaping the City blog in my links section. She has wonderful pictures there, and not just of Barbie!)

My actual desire was to have some commonplace object in there so that people can see the approximate size of what I have. Unfortunately, my mind thought first of Barbies, due to Jane's site, and there were Barbies on the floor, so... It was inevitable. :)

As I wrote in the comments section of another post, they are 8mm beads. So, each 10-bar is 8cm long, not including the wire sticking out. I used round fishing tackle beads bought from a company in Ontario. There are other chains that complete the set, but I've decided not to do them.

Well, well...

It's funny how things work out.

Ds got up, saw his subtraction workbook out, picked it up and came to inform me that he was going to work in it. I asked him if he wanted help. He said yes. So we worked a bit on that and dd came down. I asked her if she wanted to work on math, too. She said yes and went and grabbed her math workbook. None of us were dressed for the day nor had we eaten brakfast yet. It was only about 7:15 when ds started.

So, they each did about 30-40 minutes of math this morning!


Only two days left this week. Then the long weekend and then back to the grin on Monday.

I feel kind of bad that we didn't get into the school groove already, but I knew that it would be difficult with my nephew here. He changes the routine and wants to spend his time interacting with his cousins, which is totally understandable. We still did lots of educational things, when I think of it, but I had hoped to have a routine in place before school starts so that I wouldn't have to focus on a morning school routine AND the school routine with the two oldest here.


It's only supposed to get up to 15C today. That seems so cold after the 30C we had the other day!! We'll still go to park day, though. But I'm thinking I may wear pants.


School. I thought about my post the other day and don't want people to think that nobody should send their children to public school. My main point was that if you are interested and you have those two primary fears, you don't really have to worry. It's also a bit of a rebuttal to those who are against homeschooling. I don't think public schools should by any means be abolished. There are all kinds of reasons to send a child to school. The typical criticisms of homeschooling, though, just fall through when you look at them deeper.


My environment was not improved upon yesterday at all. I did not sleep well the night before, then the weather was crummy, then my niece was tired and crabby and clingy... Things compounded. The school room is done. I've begun tackling the school shelves and even picked up a few things in the basement. I don't think I'm going to go for decluttering at this point in the basement--just get bins back on shelves and whatnot.

I'm finding for the school shelves it's difficult to plan out how things should be. My niece is now getting into everything so some things aren't safe. A classroom Montessori environment, even for toddlers (there are some part-time toddler programs out there, not here, but in other places) is totally focused on the age group occupying the classroom. Everything that's there is for the children. The shelves are the right height for them, the chairs and the tables, the materials are all displayed for them. My environment is somewhat different. I've got this 18mo toddler, then an almost 6yo (he's at the end of the 3-6 group), then my almost 9yo (falls into the end of the 6-9's or the beginning of the 9-12's), then the 12yo (academically in the 9-12's, but otherwise in the 12-15's) and his sister (in the 15-18 range). What would be ideal for the toddler limits everyone else. If I put everything up high so that my niece can't touch what she shouldn't, then ds can't reach it. If I put everything out thining of him, she'll get into stuff. *sigh*

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I felt like providing some pictures.

The Montessori math materials are very cool and very useful in allowing a child to practise and discover things. Here is my 100-chain, spoken of a couple of weeks ago, full out for the 100-count (I didn't put the labels) and folded to show that 100 is 10-squared:

(Edited to add: my chain is about 1m long. You can now imagine how long my 1000-chain is! I don't know if that is standard length or not, but I know the 100-chain isn't too far off standard.)

Back to the Environment!

I have 4 days left to get our school environment (aka house) into shape. It's actually usually kept fairly well off, there are just certain rooms that get neglected. Since the environment is so important in Montessori education, I've really got to get myself in gear.

What I have left to do:
  • finish the 'school room'
  • take care of the school shelves in the family room
  • declutter the bookcases in the living room (not get rid of stuff, just move it to the basement for rotation or something)
  • the laundry room
  • if possible, the basement--get rid of some toys and get the toys back in order

I should be able to get the school room done no problem today. The school shelves might be a bit trickier because I haven't figured out what I actually want there, but I could definitely store things we don't need right now. Decluttering the bookcases should be fairly easy. So, my plan for today, other than errands, is to finish the school room, declutter the bookcases and put away unnecessary materials from the school shelves.

In terms of actual school stuff, I'm going to wing it today. The weather is turning for the worst and it's never a good time for set plans. So, if I can get in some letter work with ds, great! If we can make some brownies or cookies and I can show ds and nephew how to wash the dishes by hand afterwards, great! If all we manage to do is watch a Magic School Bus video that is due today and go to the library, that's great, too. If I can manage to sneak in a short nap, even better! ;)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

On Homeschooling

It's been interesting reading a few things here and there recently on websites, forums and comments made in blogs. What's caught my eye the most are those on homeschooling.

There are some ignorant, rude folks out there who like to bash the whole idea and warn you that without a doubt, your children are going to grow up without a single social skill. (Conversely, if you plan on pulling your child out of school, even if it's just for a year, apparently they'll have no social skills left after that year. ?!?!?) They'll tell you that your kids won't fit in or will be weird or whatever. (Had an interesting conversation at a park day a few weeks ago on this very thing: yes, our kids will be weird because they likely won't be all caught up in the typical teen culture and since that's what everybody expects teens to be like, anything that doesn't fit in with that means, according to homeschooling naysayers, that they will be weird and socially inept. They don't get that it's really like having grown up in a different place entirely.)

There are others who are curious about homeschooling, who are pulled toward it but have doubts. They worry if they'll be able to actually teach their children. They worry if their children will have any friends and if they'll have a good social development. Some are convinced that they'd be removing a chance for their kids to grow up well and decide against it. Some seem to want their kids to lead the same lives they did ("I remember prom and boyfriends and this and that and I want my kids to have that, too.") Others simply have the concerns and remain in doubt.

The good news is that worrying a bit about it means that you do care about what's best for your kids and you're not making a decision based on just what you want.

Are your concerns truly valid? Or are they concerns that society around you spouts out as some unalterable truth?

Let's take if you can teach your child or not. Do you think you could teach your child how to add 2+2? I think any parent able to read this blog of mine would say yes. Can you teach your child the letters of the alphabet (sounds first, remember! (See blog entry below!))? Can you teach your child how to tie his shoes? Can you teach your child to read? Here you might go, hm, I don't know. Most teachers have a format based on a particular program. They don't have any special training necessarily on reading and they simply make use of the program they've found. There are lots of recommended programs for homeschoolers. Are you intelligent enough to follow directions in a book? If so, then you can use a program to teach your child to read. And you only have one, maybe two, at a time you might need to teach. The school teacher has a class full, which is why she got the classroom training (teacher certificate) before being there.

If you are capable of learning, then you are capable of teaching what you've learned. There are plenty of resources out there that help people teach things. There's no reason you can't use those resources, too.

As for the social aspect, if you were to homeschool, were you planning on putting your child in a room by himself all day long? No? Oh good. Because if he's interacting with a single person, voilà, social skills use. If he's got siblings, even more social skills use. And I'll add, it's likely multi-age social skills use instead of what goes on in school: 12 years (13 if you count K) of social skills use primarily restricted to children of the same age. Which do you think is probably better as an adult? Being able to talk with people your age or being able to talk with people of various ages? Which situation is actually more reflective of life as an adult?

Add to this family interaction your ability to go out during the day with your children. There are fewer people in the stores and at the library and all kinds of places. This means that your children have a better chance of actually interacting with the cashier and the librarian and whomever. Add to that any extra-curricular programs you might put them in. Add to that any homeschooling activities you may participate in or families you may get to know and do things with.

Think about this further: where are your children more likely to be able to use and develop a wide variety of social skills? In a classroom where at least half the time is spent sitting in a desk responding to a single adult's questions and silently doing work? Or actually interacting with other people? Different people, too, since no homeschool activity ever has the same people each time.

I'm going to throw out another question (I like asking questions of people! I wonder if it was my own teacher training!): have you bought into the common belief that kids need to be around other kids the same age all the time in order to be able to interact properly with others? Please think about this for a moment. How long has the current model of the classroom been around? (Answer: about 150 years, but perhaps not even quite that as I think the early public school classrooms were multi-aged classrooms.) How long have people been around? (Answer: much, much, much longer.) Does it logically follow that human beings actually need to have that sort of situation in order to become adults who can work with others?

I've become convinced that part of our society's naysaying against homeschooling is the persistent desire for sameness. I think it would be advisable for many to read The Giver and see where the goal of sameness can end up. Not that I think our society will ever get to that extreme, but both the society in The Giver and our society have this particular bent on developing one model of a person and anything outside that model just isn't right. (And if somebody doesn't fit within that model and is/was homeschooled, it's automatically assumed that it's homeschooling's "fault".)

If somebody's shy, it's not good. Why? Because people are all supposed to be out-going and personable. But why? What would be so great about not having any shy or reserved people at all? Is that really, really a problem? It means that those people will be aimed towards activities and jobs where their personality fits just right. If everybody was a social butterfly, we'd have a lot of unhappy people in jobs which require you to kind of be on your own.

If there are academic issues, this is apparently a bad thing, too. And if you're homeschooling, it's assumed automatically that it's because you're homeschooling. It doesn't matter that we are all different and will want different things out of life and some of us may never, ever use math beyond basics as adults or that some of us will never spend any time writing as adults, other than filling out forms.

Why do we want perfection so badly? I don't think there's actually an answer for that question, but it's got to be asked.

And it ties back in with what I said above: people worry about the 'right' (perfect) thing to do about their child's education. Many people who would be awesome homeschoolers never jump on board because they're afraid of not being able to create the model that society says is 'right'. But there is no single right model! Not for schooling, not for a person. It's okay to be different. That's what schools kept trying to teach us, especially as teens trying to be like everybody else. But it's not just teens, it's everybody (okay, not EVERYbody) wanting everything to match up to some supposed ideal: have this many friends and first boyfriends and this much social contact and this type of training and these grades and these skills...

I think of Thomas Edison. His mother pulled him out of school after a month or something like that. She allowed him to be who he was. She did not insist that he become a 'well-rounded individual'. And good thing, as he probably would not have been the scientist he was if she'd had.

I realize this is a lot of babble and it may be entirely incoherent. It's also very long and I'm impressed if you've made it this far. (Leave a note in the Comments if you have!) My point is this: there is nothing to fear in homeschooling. Yes, there are considerations to make: what will you use to teach your kids, what sort of structure, how will you provide them with social opportunities beyond the people in the household, etc. The things society fears about homeschooling are fears not based on any rational truth. Or as one lady I knew online told me, FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. These falsities appear as realities to a lot of people. If you're intrigued by the idea of homeschooling, don't let them deter you from exploring it further!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I'm Pooped!!

This has nothing to do with Montessori nor homeschooling. It's just me needing a break.

It's 1:43 as I write this. I left the house just before 9:30 this morning, spent about an hour and a half with my 2 kids at AMA to get membership and insurance (they had a fire alarm or something before I got there and that held up all kinds of stuff). We got to Office Depot just after 11am, did some school supply shopping (okay, there is something about homeschooling ;) ), went to Tim Horton's for lunch, then dropped off books at the library, then went to Sobey's for a few groceries, then came home, unpacked the groceries, realized that we're having allergic people over tonight so put the cats in the basement, vacuumed, sprayed Febreeze Allergy all over, threw a sofa blanket into the wash, got the dishes running and finally sat down. I've basically been on the go for 4 hours. I'm not used to this!

I'm going to give myelf another 15-30 minutes to just vegetate in front of the computer. Then I'll go do whatever cleaning I should get done before company comes--the bathroom, the kitchen, pull out the toy cars. They'll be over at 5 so I've got lots of time.

Poor kitties are complaining in the basement... :(

Friday, August 25, 2006


I forgot to do the magazine file on the filing cabinet yesterday, but I did take care of the top shelf on the desk. The base part of the desk now looks all cluttered and junky. I might have to take care of that, too. lol.

I began the adventure in the school room. OMG. I think it looks worse now than it did when I started. lol. I pulled a bunch of stuff from the shelves so I could go through them and I'm not done that part. I'll hopefully finish that today and can begin tackling the desk. I thought the den would be harder than the room, but I was wrong! I honestly feel like I haven't made any progress in that room, although I know I have. It's just such chaos at the moment.

I read through my FlyLady emails this morning. One caught my attention about FACE and I don't remember if it was in the message or on her website, but I read about just starting where you're at and not trying to catch up. I've kept putting off all the Quicken things because I felt the need to catch up. Actually, it's more that I have dayhome receipts to take care of and wanted to have it all organized in Quicken so that I could just print off a report come tax time and have it all organized. But that would mean putting EVERYTHING in since Jan. 1, 2006. You can imagine how I wasn't too keen on doing that. The message today made me realize that I'm making things far too difficult for myself. It'd be better for me to just start Quicken where I'm at and then go through all the collected receipts (which aren't all dayhome receipts) on the side. I can put the information into a spreadsheet and it'll be MUCH easier than trying to get everything into Quicken at this point.

I've begun the Quicken process by getting all my accounts and certain automatic transactions in. Tomorrow I'll put in all the details from the recent statements. After that, daily updates as needed and I can begin going through the massive collection of receipts. (See, dh thought I was putting everything into Quicken so he'd pass off the receipts to me, and I kept keeping them because I thought I would start Quicken...) It's such a relief to know that this is all actually going to be taken care of and I won't have receipts flying around and cluttering up our precious school/home environment.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Environment Plans for Today

Since we seem to be very slow in the mornings this week, I only did some school stuff on Monday before my niece and nephew showed up. The kids have done other stuff through the week, but I haven't been doing the months of the year as I'd planned and I haven't done any letter work with ds. Things are just so non-routine around here at the moment that I find it difficult. It'll be easier as of next Wed. when dh has to return to school (he's a jr. high teacher--and yes, it was because of teaching jr. high that he thought of homeschooling!) and he'll be up before 8am. Because he'll be up earlier, I'll get myself dressed earlier and be ready to start things. I'll also be getting the kids up at a set time, maybe 6:45-7. You might think I'm cruel, but they're usually up at that hour anyhow!

As for my environment plans today, I need to finish off the den. It's just about done. See? This is what I have left to do.

There were two plastic bags full of paper stuff and other stuff sitting on the floor to the left of the filing cabinet. The black file stand (or whatever it's called) was completely full: the stuff on the top level was the equivalent of 3 levels. There was also a large pile where the planner is sitting. I need to go through the magazine file and put the planner pages (sitting next to the planner) away.

This area needs some tidying. Most of it is receipts. I was supposed to be keeping up-to-date on all this stuff by using Quicken, but I haven't been. Argh. The receipts will go in a receipts file and everything else will go where it needs to.

Ideally I'll do the desk drawer, too. At some point, ALL of the files have to be gone through, but that won't be now!

Since that shouldn't take too long, I'll tackle the 'school room':

You can see this doesn't look like a room that says, "Hey, come spend some time in here!" It's actually a lot better than it was, though! It needs to be nice because it's supposed to be a kind of retreat for those who want to work without any noise or distractions. Also a place to just go lie down on the futon if need be. I expect the 15yo will end up working a lot on her laptop up in this room since there's just too much activity a lot of the time downstairs. I'll have to look into getting a better chair upstairs. I think one of our kitchen chairs with a pad on it would be better than that crummy office chair (it cost me a whole $20, I think, but is about 13 years old!!).

I'm going to have to figure out what I want out of this room as part of the kids' environment. Since I now have to have art materials out of my niece's reach, I had thought about putting them up here, but I think that'll be a pain for the kids. So maybe on the shelves in the family room and some of the materials from there could come up into this room? Although, maybe this room should just have all the textbooks and workbooks and all that. Hm... Decisions, decisions! It has to have all the junk removed from it first, so I'll deal with that and then figure out what to do with the room. I think I do want to move the futon so that it's on the wall next to the door. It opens up access to the bookcases (one of which isn't actually a bookcase) and will probably prevent the continual accumulation of stuff right in front of it.

Time to go eat. My tummy is grumbling!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


It's taking me much longer than I expected to go through all the stuff in my den. The two bags of stuff next to the filing cabinet are more or less done. That is, I've sorted and organized but haven't necessarily put them away in the greatest spot: the bookcase in the den. It'll have to do for now because I need more binders to organize some of the stuff properly. The big piles on the filing cabinet have been taken care of. There's a magazine file left to go through (it doesn't actually contain any magazines but various school items) and the top shelf of the desk has to be done. THEN it will look like an enviting place to work in.

I've lost my enthusiasm for it today. I need to work on something else or just go read or something.

ADDED: I have to say that a TON of paper got recycled!!

Some pictures

These are my Long Rods, aka Red Rods. I made them from something I found at Home Depot, then painted two sides red and the other two sides to be the number rods. This is actually a no-no in Montessori, but since I have limited space and resources, I think it's better than not having the materials at all.

These are the long rods set out in the maze formation. Next to it is Ariel, dd's "kitten".

These are my alternative cylinder blocks. As I mentioned in one of the comment sections, the blocks are supposed to have 10 cylinders in each block and they're supposed to be knobbed. They're also supposed to be about 3-5 times bigger than what I have (sorry, I didn't include something to give a sense of how small mine really are--each block is less than a foot long).

My blocks came with colourful cylinders: a red set, a green set, a yellow set and a blue set. Had I left them that way, they could have been used for a Montessori activity called The Knobless Cylinders. But you lose the whole point of the cylinder blocks if they are different colours and I wanted the cylinder blocks more than the knobless cylinders. (Besides, these cylinders are so small, many of the knobless cylinder activities wouldn't have worked out.) At some point, the child is supposed to be able to mix two sets together and visually figure out where to put each cylinder. If it's colour-coded, you get one in the right place and the rest of that block is easy. So, I painted them all brown. You can see the paint is coming off one of the cylinders sitting out front.

Each set has a different set of cylinders. The ones I have out are all the same circumference, but different heights. Another set has growing circumference and growing height; another growing circumference and shrinking height; another is all the same height but growing circumference.

Enough of that for now. I need to get ready for the day. And tackle those den piles. :D

The Environment

The environment means something very different to the Montessorian than it does in general usage. The environment is where the children are.

My environment has been slowly degrading over the past few months. I'm beginning to loathe it. Time to take a stand!

I've signed back up with FlyLady, but I have to say, I'm just feeling rather frustrated with her. SOOOO many adverts for her products. argh. I may just follow the tips on her website in terms of preparing Morning and Before Bed Routines and gradually work up to all the other stuff.

Here's what frustrates me most about my home at the moment--that is, what I need to tackle before school officially begins on Sept. 5:

-the den: horrible piles on the filing cabinet, clutter/papers on the desk
-laundry room: all kinds of stuff just laying on the floor or put in a shopping crate to keep it tidy looking (that is, visual proof of procrastination)
-the 'school room': this is the room where the two oldest put their bags, where various texts are kept and other stuff. It became the storage area while we were repainting. Not everything has left and more stuff has been added.
-the basement: this is probably the scariest of all. Toys everywhere. Too much stuff in general. Dh is going to bring the junky, falling apart desk down there to the dump--that'll help open up the space a bit. But what is really needed is a toy sorting, with a bunch being chucked or given away.
-the bookcase in the living room should be tackled, too, as it's stuffed, but a lot of the books don't even have to be there
-the school shelves (in the family room) need to be reorganized

So, my plan for today: work on the den piles this morning. I have errands to run today but I should be able to get all the stuff sorted and put away properly this morning. This afternoon, I'd like to tackle the school room. I think I'll do it all crisis cleaning style so I don't get too overwhelmed: I'll set the timer for 15 minutes, then do something else for 15 minutes, then come back.

First, though, I need to go take the promised pictures of my long rods and cylinder blocks!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sensorial Time!

Well, it seems the slight rearrangement of our family room causing my long rods/number rods to be more visible has created a desire in ds to work on sensorial items. He woke up this morning, asked for a movie, I said no, he then went into the family room, saw the long rods and decided to do the maze setup. He then saw the lone cylinder block I had left out to show to my niece (18mo) sometime and asked where the others were. He's now dumped all of the cylinders and is working on putting them all back.

As I said in my other post, we're ready to get back to work!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

It's Sunday

That means tomorrow is Monday.

I'm smart, ain't I? ;)

With Monday, we are finally going to start something regular for school. I feel now that I'm ready to begin, the kids are ready to begin and I see so clearly now how things fell through before because I was trying to force things when we weren't ready.

I'm very ready to start! Summer's taking too long. lol.

Dd (8) and I had a talk yesterday. What it resulted in is me learning her desire to do more work with me instead of me showing her something quickly and expecting her to do more on her own. I never knew how much that stressed her, but it does. She's a perfectionist and panics. I mistakenly thought that because she was capable, I could just have her do it on her own. I see now how shaken her confidence is and that it will have to be built up before I can expect her to do some things on her own.

So, we decided together to start school tomorrow. We'll do one thing in the morning before my niece and nephew arrive. I'll hopefully be able to do some letter work with ds before they arrive, too, because he does really want to learn his letters. It will be a nice way to make our way to the official school year.

It's interesting, though--I think our conversation must have released 'something' in dd. She began writing a story last night. She hasn't sat down to write in weeks. Writing (in English) is something she has a certain amount of confidence in. Although I could never tell her to just go off and write something. Silly me expecting her to be able to do that with other areas.

Sunday seems like a good day to plan the week. [A huge pause occurred. Nothing is coming to me. lol.] What shall we do this week? I could start dd on math--place value. Or perhaps start showing her different ways to work on math facts. I want to hold off on the French phonics because I'd really like to double her up with the 15yo and I don't have notebooks yet for her to do the writing in. What else could I do with her? I could check out social studies topics and maybe start one of those with her. Or maybe play some games with our Canada puzzle map.

OH! I remember she had wanted to learn the months of the year. It's something we've never really looked at. That sounds like a great thing to work on this week. She already knows the first three so only nine others to learn. I'll make some month cards and we can work on the circular layout I learned about from a Montessori teacher. You place the cards like in a circular formation so that the child learns to think of December as being before January. You then play games to put them in order or try to recite them from memory or ask things like, "Which month is after May? Which month is two months before September?" Things like that. The goal is not just plain recitation but a genuine understanding and knowledge of the year. If I had twelfths for my fraction circles, that would be another way to work on it. But I don't. So why'd I bring that up? Who knows!

Saturday, August 19, 2006


I didn't think about it much at the time, but did think of it later, about the differences in the Montessori approach to beginning reading and writing and the traditional school approach.

While working with my nephew yesterday, he knew the name of every letter, but when I asked him if he knew the sound, he was totally lost. I realized that in a traditional school kindergarten, they will focus on having the kids know all the names of the letters by the end of the year.

It was later on that I realized how unfair this was to him and all the other kids. If they had been taught the basic sounds of the letters this year instead of all the names and no sounds, he would be reading and writing simple words! All of them would be. Why do they do this to kids? Why is it so blindingly accepted that kids need to know the alphabet in order to learn to read and write? It's simply not true. Knowing the name of the letter provides valuable information for somebody who can read and write but is totally useless for the child who is learning to read and write.

I then, of course, felt guilty that my nephew learned all his letter names at school and I had done very little with ds all year in that area (both were kindergarten this year). But ds was far more interested in math and spent time learning to read and write numbers, read digital clocks to us (to the point of annoying us--imagine being on an hour-long trip in your vehicle and your 5yo is telling you the time with each minute that passes...), loved working on addition facts and was even introduced to subtraction... Every attempt at doing letters was met with little enthusiasm until recently. I guess I'm trying to console myself that it's ok that we're only starting just now. Especially since he'll be learning the sounds before the names. In that respect, he's no further behind than my nephew, really.

But back to my point: if you are going to be teaching one of your children to read, please, please, please teach them the sounds of the alphabet first. Knowing the names doesn't help them at all! Don't believe me? Then try this:

The word is

If you teach your child the names of the letters first, your child will say:


I don't know what a seeaytee is, but it sure isn't even close to reading the word 'cat'.

If they know that c is /k/ and a is /a/ and t is /t/ (not 'tuh', but /t/), then they can look at the word and say, "/k/.../a/.../t/ cat!" They can also use their knowledge of the sounds to write words they want to write, even if they're not spelled correctly. Knowing the names of the letters only helps them write if you tell them which letters to write. They can't figure out words for themselves. Essentially, it initially disempowers them because their focus is so much on the names and not on the sounds.

So promise me you'll start with the sounds, okay? Great. :D

Friday, August 18, 2006

Old Activities Die Hard

It's interesting how activities that called to a child in the past can pop up suddenly again.

I was slicing up a banana for my niece so that she would stop digging her nails into it to pull off pieces and ds (almost 6) decided that he wanted to slice a banana to eat. This has always been a favourite activity of his, something I first showed him when he was about to turn 3 or he had just turned 3. He hasn't sliced a banana in a long time, but boy did he enjoy himself!

My nephew (6yo) got in on it, but not with banana slicing (something he was never particularly attracted to): the Sandpaper Letters. While ds was playing something my nephew wasn't interested in, my nephew complained of not knowing what to do. I said we had lots of things to do in our house and listed some. He wandered around the family room and looked at the school shelves, spotted the Sandpaper Letters and asked to do them with me. Those were a favourite of his when he was 4 and coming to me each day during the school year. We probably haven't done them in over a year and a half!

I find it curious that both boys would be spontaneously attracted to an 'old' activity today. Still trying to figure out if there's some reason why that I've missed...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fascinating Creatures

I decided to make muffins this morning while the boys were outside playing. My niece was in the kitchen and I decided to get her involved and let her try to stir the batter. Not an easy feat as it was very thick, so we did it together. I put her down to take care of something and she wanted to stir more, so I held her up to stirt more. I put her bacj down, siad, "Wait a second," and pulled out the muffin tins. Next came the cutest thing: she remembered from the one other time I had had her help me put the papers in, so she got herself seated next to the tins and waited for the papers to come. I found it so fascinating, seeing for myself the sense of order Montessori had observed in young children. It can only take one time for something to stick as being the thing to do! I also was intrigued by the change in her approach. The first time, she kept doubling up papers in a hole and I would take one out and put it in an empty cup. This time she didn't do it even once. She thought about it at the end and hesitated, but then put the last paper in the empty cup.

Children are fascinating!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Non-Montessori Week

Dd is attending a day camp all week. I saw yesterday how this will affect everything. She has to be there at 9, so we got her there, it was a perfect time to go play in a playground with the others, so we did that, got home around 10, which meant it was past time for a snack, the boys and my niece played a bit with dd's Barbies, then it was lunch just after 11, my niece went for a nap at noon and it was quiet time for the boys. She got up after 2 and we had to leave around 3:30 to go get dd. It's going to be like this all week.

I could probably still do some Montessori stuff. I just haven't been sleeping enough and am too tired to be enthusiastic about it. I may have the 10yo next week and am thinking maybe I'll just hold off doing things until then. I can get some potting soil this week and some other things set up and start doing some more structured activities next week when our time isn't quite so strange. But I feel like I'm wasting and have wasted good time this summer to do some great activities with them. I think part of it is that I don't want to force them and my nephew seems to only want to engage in highly active, noisy play.

On the other hand, I think now is the time for me to develop the habit of doing at least one thing each day with ds. I'll propose a game today to find some things around the house to test if they are magnetic or not. There. My one thing. I'll report back later. :)

I did it! Yay! They loved it and it calmed them down for a bit. Unfortunately they are now totally insane. We did not go for a walk nor did we play at the park today. We should have. But now my sil will be showing up sometime within the next 30 minutes so I can't really go anywhere.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Practical life activities are one of the easiest things parents can do with their kids if they make room for them to do so. Last night, ds helped me with things to prepare supper. The night before, it was dd. This is something new but it's because I've decided to make an effort to invite them to come help me. Ds felt so big last night!

Today, they'll be invited to make chocolate chip cookies with me. We're going over to someone's house this afternoon plus we have plans on the weekend with family and want to have cookies available. They love making cookies, so it'll be a great activity for this morning. Particularly on this cloudy, rainy day.

On the topic of practical life, it just hit me that the laundry has to be done today so that we have clothes for the weekend. Another thing the kids can help me with!

If you're looking for some good PL activities for a 3-6yo (some are even suitable for younger kids), check out Shu Chen Jenny's site.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Nothing much done

I've been suffering from fatigue, sleeping problems and headaches the past few days. Darn PMS has hit hard this time. I don't feel like doing anything. I'm grumpy with the kids. The mugginess from the weather is affecting me, too. I've got to pull myself together so that I can have a decent day with the kids!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Montessori Read and Write

I managed to get this book for very cheap from someone a year or so ago. It is a fantastic book for anybody wanting to working on beginning literacy activities. It is chock full of great activities, tells you the rough age you can first work on it, materials you need and how to do the activity.

This week, I'd like to play different levels of the I Spy game with the kids. This game is just like the game most of us have played with colours, but instead it uses sounds. It starts as simple as holding a single object, like a pencil, in your hand and saying to the child, "I Spy with my little eye something that starts with /p/." (Say the sound, not the letter name.) The next stage is to have two objects in front of you, each starting with a different sound, so maybe a book and a cup. It builds up to analyzing sounds in simple words where the kids have to think about beginning and ending sounds or all the sounds in a word. I'd also like to make letters/sounds books with the boys. I've got a bunch of magazines and catalogues saved for cutting out and lots of paper and glue so I think I'm set!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

From Rutherford House

I know this is a Montessori homeschooling blog, but visiting Rutherford House is part of our 'going out' that is so strongly encouraged for Montessori elementary. :D That's my story anyhow and I'm sticking to it.

Here's a closeup of something we picked up on our first visit to Rutherford House and our first attempt at ghost hunting. It was what is called an orb. This is not like the dust/humidity orbs that many people online seem to think are something other than normal flash effects. I can't tell you how many photos I've seen of people getting all excited because 'there are orbs everywhere!' but they're just dust orbs...

Anyhow, what we learned in our studies is that dust orbs are round (meaning, almost perfect circles) and usually have a nice ring as the outside edge. They are also a single colour, white or off-white. The photo below does not have any of this:

As you can tell, it's not round, it has no ring, it's not even white or close to white and is in fact multicoloured. It even almost looks like there's a face but that could just be something with the wallpaper in behind playing in with the 'orb'. I have NEVER had any other picture, in the who-knows-how-many we've taken, on this camera do this. Looking at it now, I still get chills from it. Probably because of other things that have happened in that room and knowing that Hattie Rutherford passed on there. After discovering that when looking through the pictures at home, we absolutely had to go back!

The child

I was reading the following rather cynical, but very true, comments today from The Child in the Family by Maria Montessori:

What is the child? He is a reproduction of the adult who possesses him as if he were a piece of property. No slave was ever so much the property of his master as the child is of the parent. No servant has ever had the limitless obedience of a child required of him. Never were the rights of man so disregarded as in the case of the child. No worker has ever blindly had to follow orders as must the child. At least the worker has his hours off and a place to go for compassionate response. No one has ever had to work like the child, who must submit to an adult who imposes hours of work and hours of play according to a rigid and arbitrary set of rules.


The idea that the child is a personality separate from the adult never seemed to occur to anybody. Almost all moral and philosophical thought has been oriented toward the adult, and social questions about childhood itself have never been asked. The child as a separate entity, with different needs to satisfy in order to attain the highest ends of life, has never been taken into consideration. He is seen as a weak being supported by adults, never as a human being without rights oppressed by adults. The child as a human being who works, as a victim who suffers, as the best of companions, is still an unknown figure.

These quotes above struck me because the idea they touch upon was something I was thinking of the other day. Children are not really respected as people in our society. Neither by the schools nor by adults. We've spent too many generations seeing children as nothings who need to be molded into somethings instead of already seeing them as somebodies. And as parents, too many of us do not really see our children as 'separate entities', as people who know and see things differently from us. I know I'm often guilty of it. When I'm able to really see my kids as their own persons, it changes things in me. It makes me less likely to force something that doesn't need to be forced. It makes me more likely to try to understand them the way I might try to understand an adult. It helps me see them as truly amazing and fascinating people, completely contrary to that one mom who wrote an article about finding her children boring.

I need to read more Montessori literature these next few weeks to restock myself so that I can spend more time seeing the kids, including the school kids starting in Sept., for the people they are. I also need to spend some time today and tomorrow planning activities for this coming week. Thinking about the Montessori philosophy and observing my nephew's increasing loudness and hyperactivity during last week have made me see that he needs something else but just doesn't know what it is. It's my job to try to find that something that will satisfy him.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Skill of observation

I remembered today how important it is to really just observe the kids. It's such a cool thing to do--just mentally sit back and just watch them. No judgment, no interfering, just watch what and how they do things.

I can't remember now the specifics, but I was with my niece and was observing what she was doing. Children are so fascinating when we can take the time to do this. And it was then that I realized that I hadn't been doing a lot of observing lately. A lot of thinking and trying to plan and wondering, but not a lot of observing.

Just before lunch, I sat back and was reading from "Non-Violent Communication" which had been recommended on a Montessori list. Rosenberg, the author, writes, "The Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti once remarked that observing without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence." Isn't it interesting that on the day I remember how important observing is I go and pick up a book that makes such a comment? :) I can not help but think of Maria Montessori being a pure genius in her observations, able to see clearly what was going on and nobody else being able to prove it without extensive research until some 80 years later. Modern research on learning and development proves much of what she learned just by observing children. [I've realized there is little coherence in this paragraph, but just rambling from one idea to the next. My apologies.]

Back to observation. It's a skill that I think the school system simply expects kids to have but not really aim to teach them. Kids are supposed to observe what's going on and follow directions and a multitude of other things that teachers take as a given and when students don't, they think the student's not paying attention. It's just that they don't know what to pay attention to.

I think there's good reason that Maria Montessori and Charlotte Mason both stressed the importance of developing attention, both encouraging nature as one of the means. For Mason, it was the primary means of developing the skills of observation, which automatically develop attention. There is so much to be learned, without being 'taught' simply by knowing how to observe and have that attention.

Where am I going with this? I don't know. The dryer just beeped and dh's cordless electric screwdriver is making noise and I've lost my train of thought. I think I'll blame it all on the rain instead. :D

What's on for today?

I've somewhat scrapped the idea of presenting something each day this week. Yet it's working okay. Ds pulled out an alphabet puzzle yesterday and we talked a bit about some of the sounds he's already worked on. The kids have been drawing after lunch. My niece has been fairly easy going the past couple of days.

We had a little field trip on Wed. to Rutherford House, a local historical museum, the house of a former Premier. I can't go there without some strange thing happening, be it on camera, on tape recorder or just 'feelings'. This last time, it was major tingling in one arm, then I turned the other way and the other arm tingled the same way. I turned back and the first arm tingled badly. Left that hallway and my arm ended up hurting with pain actually going through to my back. And again, as usual, weird stuff in Hazel's room. I was standing in this one spot watching the kids try on the various 1910-ish costumes and hats and it was like energy building up around and in me. Hazel's room is one where the oldest and I found a 'cold spot' one day. The air itself wasn't cold, but we were cold when we stepped in this one spot. It then disappeared and I ended up finding the same intense cold in another part of the room later. I'm not sure I believe in ghosts and hauntings, but I can't deny that there's some strange stuff at that house.

I still want to have something ready for when the boys move into hyperactive. It's like something clicks and they feed off each other while annoying everybody else around them. Probably pulling out the magnets or another science kit would work well. I should review the experiments and the story for the first Great Lesson (Montessori) and be ready to do that on Monday. The boys will love it. Dd, who's already seen it twice, probably wouldn't mind it either.

What's the first Great Lesson, you may be asking? It's about the beginning of the universe, solar system and the Earth. Although the original lesson is entitled "God Who Has No Hands", some teachers change it a bit so it doesn't have anything to do with God. It's kind of a shame because it's supposed to be an impressionistic story, not a religious one. Anyhow, the story involves showing them some experiments to sort of see the science behind some of what went on. One of the experiments is to have a wide bowl of water and you sprinkle confetti-like pieces of paper (I use the stuff from our hole-punch) on the water to see how the particles are attracted to each other. You can find out more here, but warning, it's a bit slow and some of the photos weren't archived. (I'm still sad that Don Jennings has left the Montessori world and his site behind...)

Back to today...

I was going to go grocery shopping, but I hate going shopping when it rains because everything gets wet, plus I'll have the 4 kids with me if I go. I think we'll stay in and I'll pull out the 'construction box' (basically, a box fulled of recyclable/reusable materials like plastic containers, egg cartons, boxboard boxes, etc.) and paints and they can create. And watch a video or let them have some XBox time. Or both. lol. There won't be any sending them off outside or walks with the dog or park time today!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I had left the 100-chain out on a little placemat (although that's bad of me because it was just laying on the floor and not put away) and dd started playing with it. I told her it was for counting and she went, "Yeah, yeah," but I started counting and the boys were coming up the stairs at that point and continued counting with me and putting down the labels for 10, 20, 30, etc. It was great! I showed them how the 10 tens folded together into a 100-square and my nephew said, "Cool."

Ha! (That's a Ha! of delight! And that I knew they would love the chain!)

A mixed day

It's been kind of strange today.

The kids were just so content playing and going for walks and to the playground on Mon. and Tues. that I decided to just play things by ear today. It probably wasn't the best decision given we were out late for supper and a movie yesterday, then I was awake at 5am, but we often make poor decisions when we're tired, don't we?

At breakfast with ds (dd was still sleeping), I did some work with sounds/letters, cutting some strips of paper, putting letters on them that he is familiar with and then telling him we'd play a game. I had him find me the different sounds and he did very well. We then used the sounds there to figure out how we would spell the French word "mal". No problem and he was so excited by it all! I have to do my best to do a little bit each day because he does love so much learning these things.

After that, with dd up and nephew and niece arrive, my time was focused on keeping my niece busy so that she wouldn't be all unhappy when her Dad left. She got busy with stuff and the others were playing happily, so I folded some long-awaiting laundry, in front of them. The rest is kind of blurry (which is a shame--it's only 12:20pm as I write this; morning wasn't that long ago!) but I know at one point, ds and nephew's play became very rowdy. My heart sunk. It was what I had hoped to avoid. Once their play moves into rowdiness, that's all they tend to do: hyper, dangerous, destructive, LOUD. Since the weather had improved a bit, we went out for a walk and came back for lunch. After lunch, I insisted on quiet time so that my niece could fall asleep, but also it's just a great routine. The three sat down drawing and colouring. Ds is off with dh at the store and the other two are still quietly drawing, whispering to each other now and then about what they're drawing. Very nice. :)

Totally separate from all of that was some of my thinking today. School is viewed as a place to help a child develop into an adult, right? But how many schools are set up in a way that actually would allow children to do that in the best manner possible? Most schools require children to sit in small desks most of the time, without being allowed to get up when needed (not without permission, anyhow), not being allowed to talk to others for help or advice (because that would be cheating) and so much more.

Also, the idea struck me that if school is a place to help become an adult, how come the kids are surrounded by so many kids the same age most of the time? Families worked well in the past, for the most part, in raising kids to be decent adults because the kids were part of something bigger, they functioned in a large part as apprentices in the home; in essence, they learned how to be adults by emulating adults and having a chance to practise those skills, either under the supervision of an adult or as the supervisor of young children. Most schoolchildren are basically apprentices to the kids around them. Nobody tries to be like the teacher! Okay, except maybe on in each class, the one who's considered the nerd/teacher's pet/take your pick.

No wonder we have so many problems in society today! I really do think that all kinds of societal problems would not be present to the same extent if it weren't for mandatory schooling and the general use of public schools.

Montessori schools, for the most part, are quite different from the traditional school. The kids are, first of all, in a mixed-age setting, usually in a 3-year grouping, but some elementaries do the full 6-year grouping (I would love to see that in action--having 12yo's helping 6yo's to read and whatnot! how wonderful!). There are two adults present in a class. The kids can get up and move around when they need to, can study when they're ready to, participate with the kids they want to, or be totally alone if they want to. The focus is on the kids and not on the teacher. The junior highs that stick most to Montessori guidelines have the kids participate in businesses or farms or sometimes week-long apprenticeships once a year in a willing business. Montessori education recognizes the child's inherent desire to learn what he needs which will be part of who he is as an adult.

This is where there's a huge hole in public education, with the interminable government/school focus on test results. Test results tell us nothing. Even the curriculum imposed on all kids is ridiculous. What makes a difference in an adult is not how much they know about elementary math, science or social studies, but do they know how to learn, think, reason? Are they self-motivated? (How can you be truly self-motivated when your success in school depends entirely on your grades?) Can they manage finances? Do they know how to work hard for a good purpose? These are the things that matter.

Dh asked me yesterday how long I planned on homeschooling for. I said I'd like to see our kids at least finish grade 9 at home. But, honestly, I think I'd like them to do it all, if possible, at home. They'll be able to get most of their school work done fairly quickly plus have lots of time to volunteer and/or work, actually have a part of the real world out there instead of the supposed real world of school. That will be much more like university life than high school is. That's assuming my kids go to university, of course, but if they don't and they've already begun working in a field they enjoy, it'll because they'll have had the opportunity to do so.

Okay, enough of my babble today. My niece is probably on the verge of waking up anyhow!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How come... plans usually fall through?

My nephew showed up today with a bunch of toys and the kids wanted to spend time with him playing, plus my niece has to be watched constantly because I don't want to ruin the recently painted walls with the baby gates. So, this morning, instead of my intended activities, I don't think I did any of them. I also forgot about my niece's nap and the conflict with library day--if we go to the library after lunch, she will fall asleep on the way there, only sleep about 10 minutes, then wake up once we get there and not get enough sleep. If we wait until she's done her nap, we won't have time to go to the library. I decided to go this morning, which cut back on our time to do things.

My niece played with playdough for quite a while, as did ds. But I had forgotten how much time she takes up and without the oldest kids here, I'm basically the one who's got to supervise her the whole time.

Some pluses for today: my niece drank from her little shot glass, she played with playdough, she helped clean up stuff, I let her walk in the mall instead of pushing her around in the stroller... Some good things.

Oh, a funny thing, too: she was going up and down the stairs, following one of the cats and had decided to walk forward down the stairs. She held my hand and took one step down, then held out her arms so that I would carry her down. A Montessori concept came to me, though, that children should only be helped as much as is needed. I knew she was perfectly capable of doing the rest but she was used to being carried everywhere. So, I just stood there with my two hands held out so that she could hold them to walk down. She gave me the funniest look when she realized I wasn't going to budge on it. Gave this little grimace and rolled her eyes up. Probably trying to figure out how she could convince me.

The cat then flew back upstairs so she was distracted and went back upstairs. When the cat went back downstairs, she held out her arms for a millisecond, then turned herself around to crawl down the stairs backwards. Another time going down, she held my hands and walked down forwards. Didn't attempt again to have me carry her down.

We did go to the park after lunch and I had hoped to let her walk the whole way there, but I swear it would have taken an hour to do so and the whole point was to get to the park so ds, dd and my nephew could play. So, she walked a bit, then I pushed her in the stroller until we were almost there and then let her go for it.

hehehe. She's making sympathy-seeking faces because I just told her booboo when she had put her fingers near the inside part of the door hinge. Now she's flat on the ground and licking her arm. Toddlers are strange creatures, I tell you!

Plans for today

I only had my niece and nephew for a few hours yesterday. Not enough to start up any sort of routine or work with them on anything, especially since we only got back from being out of town about 2 hours before they came!

I will have them the full day today and am hoping to do a few things. I need to find a small box in which to put my *Sandpaper Letters, the **100-chain and a few books to read to them. I also want to pull potting soil out of the shed and the kids and I will repot a poor plant of mine, probably while my niece is having her nap. If the weather is okay, we'll also take a nice walk with the dog, who's not only slowing down a bit in her old age, but is simply out of shape because we never walk her.

I haven't re-read enough of Montessori from the Start in the activity sections yet to have something prepared for my niece, but she's super clingy right now and will probably just hang onto me for today. I'll have to just have her 'help me' do stuff. :) One of the things we are doing today is going to a dollar store to try to find some things for her little shelves in the kitchen: a little glass pitcher (probably a creamer), small matching bowls and plates, small cutting board and a cloth placemat with matching napkin. If I can find those today, then later in the week I can look for a small chair for her for at the little table we have. Although, I should test it out today with the little stools we have--the small table may actually be too big and the little chair may be pointless.

**For those unfamiliar with Montessori**
*Sandpaper Letters are letters cut out of sandpaper and placed on a board or thick paper. The 'teacher' tells the child the sound of the letter, they come up with different words beginning with that sound, then the teacher shows the child how to trace over the sandpaper in the way we would write the letter. This allows the child a very sensorial experience in learning the sounds of the alphabet. I will add that children in Montessori usually begin writing simple words before they begin reading.

**The 100-chain (one of several available chains in a classroom, but one of only 2 in my home) is made up of 10 bead bars, each with 10 beads on them. These bead bars are part of the Golden Beads material, on which Base Ten sets are based. The kids love these chains and it gives them practice in counting up and down by 1, as well as counting up and down by 10 and it can be folded to show how 10x10 makes a square, or 10-squared. There are little number labels that go at each joint, where one bead bar meets the next. I also have a 1000-chain which is so long, it doesn't fit straight out anywhere in my house! That will wait until they're pretty good at counting on the 100-chain.