Monday, July 26, 2010

A Catholic Charlotte Mason site

Being Catholic, stumbling across this Charlotte Mason site was a happy occasion! :) I particularly liked the part in the introduction where they make the distinction between a CM-structured education and a CM-influenced education. Yes, the latter is what I want for my children: influenced. I think there are some fantastic ideas in CM that tie in well with Montessori, while being a little more feasible in application than having a setup at home that resembles a Montessori elementary or Erdkinder classroom.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I have started labelling the posts I've made. It's slow going, largely because I don't usually want to do the labelling ;), but you will see, a little further down on the right-hand side, the list of labels! Feel free to click around. :D

Babble, babble

Waiting around for some work guys to show up and thought I'd blog rather than clean the den. ;)

So, I may have a plan in the works with a friend for dd's social studies next year. What I've thrown out to her as an idea is that we have the girls (she has a daughter who is just a year younger than mine) work one day a month on a social studies project together. It could be their only formal social studies work, which would be fine. My idea is that they work on a country in-depth, but it doesn't have to be that. However, in-depth country studies give such opportunities for research, creativity and learning! They can look at the history, the needs of people, the government styles, changes in maps, collect items to have a Country Box of some sort or a display board/scrapbook/anything. I hope she likes the idea as much as I do! :) Having somebody to work with would definitely be way more motivating for the two of them rather than just doing something on their own.


I finished the first volume of the Charlotte Mason series. It's definitely planted some seeds in me. I am so very well attached to and convinced by the Montessori way of thinking that I don't think I could ever implement the scheduled, forced-lesson structure with my kids--although, I think it could be helpful with Bob--but the idea of including more of CM as part of our work really, really appeals to me! At the same time, I have to admit that I'm tempted to have even just an hour of CM-structured work per day with my 9yo son. Things to think about as the summer moves along. September will be here in no time!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kids love learning!

Kids truly do love learning. Any who appear not to have either had that desire squashed or those around them are not recognizing the learning they are loving to do!

The "trick" with so many, of course, is to provide them with things, but then give them the freedom to decide how in-depth they will go with it at any given time. Sometimes it's a matter of hitting on the right thing at the right time, but even then, if you start imposing yourself... The innate desire can fade quickly.

Take, for example, geography. Now, most non-Montessorians would say that 5yo's are not interested in geography. I would have to beg to differ. There is a huge fascination with the globe and maps. What they don't like is being required to remember certain things. My 5yo niece, while we were reading about some mammals this week, wanted to know where the monkey in question came from. I grabbed out the globe and provided a very brief lesson on where the water was and where the different continents were. I did cover the question of: Is Africa really green? (To my readers who are not familiar with a Montessori continent globe, Africa is usually green.) I decided to bring it up due to just this 5yo's nature--I could see her getting into an argument with someone older because they would insist it's not green and she would because she saw it on the globe. ;) So, I brought it up as kind of a joke, she said, "Noooo," although, she was checking with me to see if she was right. ;) Then I was able to show her where in Africa the monkey came from. Then she wanted to know what the other continents were called and so on. We spent a few minutes with this.

A day later, I decided to bring out my hand-made Continent Puzzle Map. (And man, did I wish I had dished out the $ for the wooden maps years ago! :( ) Immediately, she recognized the colour and shape of Africa. "It's Africa!" There was such delight in seeing "a familiar friend" in another material. From there, we went to match up the other puzzle map pieces with their corresponding place on the globe. She was thrilled, especially every time she saw or handled Africa. :D

A little something she learned this week that she loved learning and that will continue to delight her in the future.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fitting more Montessori in!

I've been wanting to blog each day to not forget anything, but I've already forgotten to blog each day. ;)

Yesterday: Hm, counted through the 100-chain with my 5yo niece; realized I ought to have worked more with the Teens and Tens Boards first with her. Note made to show those to her after our little vacation break. Read to her and her sister from an animal encyclopedia. Shoot, I know I did some other stuff with them yesterday.

Today: I was tired. Didn't feel like really committing to anything. As it turned out, everything kind of fell into place for the kids to play in the basement happily, so all was well. Took dd to a half-day day camp she's participating in this week, then headed to a playground afterward, as has been our routine all week. Found a fantastic playground by accident on my way to a different playground--such a great invention! Ample opportunity to run, to challenge those large muscles. Just fascinating to watch today.

Speaking of fascinating to watch... Observation. A key Montessori tool for whichever age group(s) you are working with. Today, I found myself intently observing my 2yo niece. She wanted water while we were at the park, I pulled out her little Rubbermaid bottle with a built-in straw, and she tried to get what little water was there, but it wouldn't come. I opened the top up for her so she could drink right from the opening. After she had a drink, she got this happy little, yet somehow sly, smile on her face and gently took the top from me. She put it on, twisted it a bit (that was fascinating to watch--she was so focused!), looked at me and said she wanted another drink, then took off the top and had another drink. I found myself in such awe over this tiny little creature! It reminded me of times where I have really made a point to observe, to find that awe in the kids--it is such a way to connect with them. Maybe not have them connect with you, but my experience is that really observing your kids and letting yourself be fascinated by them can be very powerful at helping you connect with them. I highly recommend it. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

The beauty of the built-in control of error

I just witnessed the wonderful beauty of the built-in control of error!

I decided to present the Number Cards and Counters to my 5yo niece today. Presentation went very well, she decided to try it on her own, I distanced myself with other things so she wouldn't keep checking me to see if she was doing it correctly. She got to the last number and had an extra counter in her hand. She knew there were enough counters for it to finish without any extra and you could see she was puzzled, looking over the other numbers and counters. She finally saw that she had only counted seven for the eight, placed the "extra" counter where it needed to go and was very pleased with herself. :)

Friday, July 16, 2010


So, we've just been taking it easy and recovering from all of the busyness the past while. It's been good to just relax! Well, okay, not ONLY relax, but do lots of it.

We went to the Street Performers Festival on Wednesday with a friend and her kids. Saw a very kiddie pirate show,  ate, the kids all spent some time in the City Hall fountain (it's okay, they're allowed ;); it's like a mini-pool with water spraying all over), saw part of a comedy/balloon show (very, very funny) and a hip hop group called Rhythm Speaks. Oh, and a not-quite-family-oriented hula-hooping act. :0 She was funny and amazing with her hula hoops, but some of her comments... Eek. One of the roaming individual acts got in on the Rhythm Speaks show before they began--someone dressed up as an old granny, who did some hiphopping herself! lol. I took more videos than pictures and can't figure out how to take stills from the videos to post here, so can't show you much. In any case, see how this little boy is dressed in balloons?

Well, the guy running the act managed to pick a tall guy as his next volunteer and put that orange-white-black balloon combination on the tall guy, but of course, it could only fit like a diaper. lol.

It was cloudy and the predictions were that it was going to be cloudy all afternoon and we'd have a late-afternoon thunderstorm. Well, we ended up in the sun, no sunscreen, and we all got burnt. :( Lesson learned: Always bring sunscreen! I normally do, but was trying to pack light.

What else have we done? Dd is back to working on whatever it is she's writing. She doesn't usually let me see what she's working on, although I catch glimpses here and there. Always stories inspired by whatever she's reading, sometimes her own versions of the stories or continuations. It's kind of funny that so many programs will require that students do this kind of work (retellings, their own version, continuations), yet I suspect plenty of kids are like my dd and would simply start doing it on their own! Of course, she's reading like crazy, too. She filled out a form at the library a week ago, asking for some book suggestions. The form is really good--goes through what they do and don't like, favourite books, most hated book ever read, etc. She got a list in the mail the other day, sent from the library. I think the suggestions she got from the librarian were really good. Of course, she'd already read one or two of them. ;)

Ds has started reading the How to Train Your Dragon series. He's now on the 2nd book. It's nice to see him branch off into something other than Geronimo Stilton, Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes. ;) I shake my head at myself when I see him sitting around reading, because I had worried for so long about if I was doing the right thing in letting reading go with him. I can't say it's harmed him in any way! In addition to the How to Train Your Dragon books, he's pulled out a book on animal facts and has been going through it, which has led him to using Google Earth to find out where some of these places are.

There is soooo much learning and growing going on! It's great! :)

Next week, I'll have my two nieces and nephew, just for the week. It'll change the calm around here ;) and, unfortunately, it'll change ds's reading habits. Although, I may just insist that after lunch is quiet time with a book, while I get my younger niece down for her nap. My nephew (10yo) has started having a bit of interest in reading, so it may work out really well. I do need to really plan the week, though. Although I know the boys will likely spend a good deal of time outside on bikes and scooters, if it's too hot or if it's rainy (which the weather forecast is predicting), they'll be inside, probably going, "What can we do?" lol. I talked to ds last night, and he said he'd like to do some fun science stuff. "Like what?" "I don't know. Something I'd like." lol. Chemistry or building things are always good. I actually had the thought of maybe presenting the first Great Lesson. Ds probably hasn't seen it since he was 5 and may not even remember it! I also have some science albums from Montessori R&D, which I could have a look at and see if there's anything I could get started this coming week.

I have sat down and started working out some routines I could use with the girls. (Well, the two little girls. :) ) Basically, it's just a reworking of Maria Montessori's original schedule, starting with a bit of taking care of the environment, having story/discussion time, I'll include that some word or sound games (like I Spy), then move onto some lessons (will have to plan those and practise the presentations), etc. I haven't worked it all out yet, but given it's Friday, I should maybe get on that so I can practise at least Monday's presentations before Monday hits!

On to another previously posted-about topic: Charlotte Mason. I'm going much more slowly through the first book than I thought I would. I had to stop taking notes because there's just so much! So far, I have to say that a lot of her thinking matches up so much with Montessori: hands-on math as much as possible, connect with real things, little ones under 6 should be taught how to clean and dress themselves and so on... Even all the focus on habits isn't really any different from Montessori when you think about how the children are shown how to do so many different things in very specific ways--when they do them over and over, that is really just the development of a habit. The courtesy lessons are all about developing certain habits... A light bulb moment went off in my head while I was reading what Charlotte Mason had to say on the subject. (I'm still in the habits section in the first book.)

The further I get into the book, the further I understand Charlotte's true love and respect and admiration for children! I had never read enough previously to get that; CM had always felt like kind of a stiff approach, for some reason. Getting a feel for who she was has changed how I see her approach.

I have to say that the real difference, for what I've read so far, is that Charlotte Mason would have the teacher decide what the child is to learn and when, whereas Maria Montessori would have the teacher show the children all the things they can learn, and let the child follow his inner guidance to choose what he will learn at any given time. Of course, this encompasses other differences, like CM training a child not to dawdle over things that don't interest them, but still having to do those things, and Montessori saying that if a child isn't interested in something, let him find something else to develop focus and attention.

My heart and mind still believe very much in Montessori! I like the "what"of CM and think I will be able to incorporate a lot of the "what" into our schooling--science ideas, history ideas, certain books that I can read aloud to them, etc. Because so much of Montessori for older kids depends on having lots of kids around for the "what", it's one area where CM can be very helpful. CM also reminds me that direction is not a bad thing--and Montessori would say that the child who needs more direction ought to have it. Getting the CM structure in mind I think will be very helpful for working with Bob this coming year. In some ways, CM ought to have been a more natural approach anyhow for Bob for high school: the work he is doing this coming year is prescribed by the government. He must cover certain work in order to get the credits. He can't do the Montessori thing and take his time to go in-depth on a subject that interests him--he has to cover the work.

Of course, if I want to have the CM series completely read by the end of August, I'm going to have to get really going with the reading!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fantastic Quote

"Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you." - H. Jackson Brown Jr., author of "A Father's Book of Wisdom" and "Life's Little Instruction Book"

Self-evaluation time: How many of you parents can say you lived fully fair and with complete integrity today? :)


Pictures are now posted in the previous message. For some reason, Blogger is using Edit HTML as the default rather than Compose, which is why I didn't have all of my buttons. So, those of you blogging with Blogger and suddenly find you are missing buttons, click on the Compose tab. :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Education Everywhere!

The past few days, my kids, hubby and I accompanied my mom and step-dad to a place called Slave Lake. While my mom and step-dad stayed in a hotel, my kids, hubby and I decided to camp there with our dog--first real camping trip for her! She's a rather excitable sort of dog (part Pointer, Lab and Australian Shepherd, among other things), so it kept us on our toes for using Cesar Millan techniques to try to keep her excited level as low as we could--especially when squirrels would make their appearance. ;)

The campground we stayed at, in addition to having some spiders that required a looking up in Bugs of Alberta, happened to be having one evening a little show on weasels. Well, ds has a thing for wolverines and having picked up Mammals of Alberta not long ago--which he immediately went through animal-by-animal, reading in-depth the ones he wanted to know more about--he really wanted to go see the show because wolverines are in the weasel family. He and I went and while it was a little babyish, there were some interesting things shared about different kinds of weasels found in the area and we both learned some things. Afterwards, naturally, he had to sit down with Mammals of Alberta again (thank goodness I brought the books along!) and he saw some of the weasels mentioned in the show that he hadn't really paid attention to before. Those "planting of seeds" we so often are encouraged to do at the elementary level in Montessori were in full force!

Another seed planting at the show was the discussion of bears being carnivores. We had all believed that carnivores ONLY ate meat; turns out this isn't true. Goes to show that I have not made it very far in animal classification with the kids, doesn't it? ;) Another seed planted that I could take advantage of to go a little deeper with this topic.

Just to bring up the books mentioned above, I don't know if such books are available for other regions, but I imagine so, and I highly recommend them as materials in your prepared environment. We have 4 such books: Birds of Alberta, Alberta Wayside Flowers and the two mentioned above. I will be checking out the publisher to see what other books they may have; I'd especially like one on trees or plants rather than just flowers. One thing I have to say, though, is that the things we see that we can't find in the books would make a wonderful project: keep your own bird/mammal/bug/etc. reference book. Of course, this is kind of like Charlotte Mason's nature notebook idea, but a little more focused so there is an additional reference available.

Dd found the longest, fattest earthworm we have ever seen.

He wasn't as outstretched as he could have been in the first photo and you can see in the second how he's bunched himself all up.

We also checked out some fancy cars and remote control cars and planes (there was some sort of car show going on), went on a very short walk in an area where there are bear warnings (NOBODY else was around, we had the dog with us and the deeper we got into the wilderness, the more ill-at-ease we were; it was an opportunity for the kids to learn that you ought to make noise when going through woods so that you don't surprise a bear--and to listen to your gut!), and found a little toy dinosaur we still have to identify.

A very busy trip! And very tiring. The poor dog is so tired out, she didn't even care about "supervising" us while we brought things in once we got back. She plopped herself on the ground at one point, then moved to a folded up blanket waiting to be put away and finally to her bed upstairs.

I'm guessing we won't see much of her tomorrow as she'll still need to sleep!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Responses to comments

Supposedly, all the comments (including the originally missing one) are posted, but when I actually visit the blog, they are not there! I don't know what's going on with Blogspot at the moment. I may copy and paste the comments in myself later on. Here, however, is my response! I hope it makes sense! It took me at least a couple of hours, many distractions, etc.

What great feedback! It will help me in honing in better to explain things for those less familiar with this aspect of Montessori. It’s so easy to just come from a place of understanding that I don’t consciously think about and just kind of assume everyone’s at the same place I am!

I’m going to tackle evenspor’s comment first:

First, I’d like to make a distinction between imaginary play and fantasy play. Pretending a baby doll is a real baby is imaginary; pretending about fairies is fantasy. It’s impossible. They don’t exist and they certainly don’t have castles. I don’t know if Maria Montessori actually wrote about this distinction, but things I’ve gathered from things written by others make a big distinction between the two. Just to explain my use of fantasy in my previous posts.

My son (around 3 at the time) engaged in pretend play after we saw the car across the street on fire. He spent a week playing with a little fire truck and some cars and how the fire truck came to put out the fire on the cars. It was his way of processing the event and it was very good for him. That said: I would be appalled if a Montessori primary classroom I had him enrolled in had him spending his time pretending or encouraging him to pretend. I would not be spending the money for a Montessori education for him to be spending his time playing like that!

But, I will reiterate what I recall Maria Montessori actually writing on the topic: pretend/fantasy/imaginative (take your pick ;) ) play is normal, children do it, but for a child under 6, she felt, and I agree with her, that a school’s job is not to provide a means for imaginary play but to help the child better connect with the real world around them. That is not to say that imaginary play doesn’t have therapeutic purposes in certain situations, but we aren’t talking therapy here: we are talking an educational approach to teaching children ages 3-6.

I wonder if part of the problem is that Montessori is being seen as a “preschool”, which in many cases today is very much like an educational daycare (if you’re lucky!). Montessori is not a daycare; it is a school. Its aim is to educate. And so, again, I have to say that pretend play has no place to be encouraged, and must be absolutely discouraged when it happens with the materials, in a Montessori school. In a Montessori home, I would expect pretend play because a home is about raising the child 24 hours a day, not just 15-30 hours a week. (Just again a reminder that we are talking 3-6yo’s here; it’s an entirely different ball of wax for those above 6. And the original question was about using Montessori materials for fantasy play.)

Now as for fantasy play not accomplishing something real, I don’t think I actually said that. I think I said that it takes the child away from what is real and what is right now. Some imaginary play may connect the child with what is real, like my son at age 3, and some imaginary play is to substitute for something real the children would like to do that they can’t, like play kitchens and baby dolls, and other pretend play that is all about fun. But this has nothing to do with the instructional focus of what is Montessori education. I do not need to educate my son in how to play with fire trucks. :) (Of course, then there is fantasy/pretend play that goes too far where the child can not seem to disconnect from the play, either out of habit or escapism, but that might be a whole other topic).

The more I write this time, the more I feel I am focused on: Montessori is an educational approach, with an aim to be teaching the children something. The Montessori classroom for the 3-6’s is a school, not a preschool (which actually means “before school”). Montessori does not say pretend play is not allowed, simply not (usually) in the Montessori classroom where the focus is on developing a wide range of skills, developing concentration—reaching everything that it means to be “normalized”. How do you educationally address a young child’s fantasy play, especially when it was found over and over that if you connect them with a variety of here-and-now activities, they become focused and content and work very happily? And not only that, but do away with the pretend play on their own during that school time?

What am I talking about? Paula Polk Lillard describes in “Montessori in the Classroom” how she allowed a small box of toys in the classroom. At the end of each session in the beginning days, the children had time where they could choose one toy and play in a fashion that did not disturb others. It took very little time before the children kept themselves so busy with the activities available in the classroom that they did not even care about the toys. Maria Montessori had found the same thing years earlier. She had put toys in the classroom at first. They ended up untouched. I think that is very telling.

As for the “whole child” lauding, I find it hard to not take the term literally and don’t think any approach actually does it. ;) I don’t know if it’s a term Maria Montessori ever used to describe her philosophy or if others used it because of their understanding of what it means.

As for the second comment, about imagination-poor households: I don’t believe that’s the norm (although I do agree it’s an increasing phenomenon), especially for the likely well-to-do families sending their children to a Montessori school. Plus, the better schools ask parents to not have their young children watch TV, etc. But, I could just be naïve, I admit. I have heard of some Montessori primary classrooms allowing at the end of the day a brief period of imaginary play. I don’t know how they make it work or how it affects the child’s work or development during the other part of the day, especially since we are talking 3-6-year olds. But it might be a workable solution. In proper Montessori fashion, the directress would experiment and observe what happens over time with and without the playtime. I do not see how actually encouraging or allowing imaginary play with the materials (which was the original question) during the actual education time could be helpful to the classroom. Maybe the idea of the toy box shared above is one that could be kept, with the faith that what happened in the past in Montessori classrooms can happen again, as long as the activity levels are consistent with the Montessori approach (kids shouldn’t be running around screaming, etc.).

As for outdoor time, it really ought to be a part of a Montessori education, although I know it doesn’t always happen. That’s the particular problem of that Montessori school; I don’t think it would provide a reason for allowing pretend play.

As for imagination, the imagination of a 3-6yo is vastly different from the imagination of older children and adults. Calling the Pink Tower a fairy castle isn’t really what I would consider using the imagination to create something. This is a harder topic to cover and one I can’t really touch on at the moment; especially since this response is getting VERY long!

There is something about the objections that leave me with a feeling that there is a push for Montessori to be the perfect approach that will encompass every potential psychological, emotional, physical, social, etc. need, including those brought on by the disordered society in which we now find ourselves living. Part of that disorder is that we live in a society where so many schools and businesses and organizations try to be all things to all people. We can’t do it. The Montessori Method is an educational approach, not a method of therapy. It should not be a school, a therapy centre, a child-rescue centre, etc. and everything that it can possibly be to help children. It is a school. If a child’s home life is so disordered that a Montessori classroom has to change its ways in order to benefit him, it simply may not be the right place for that child. And yet, I can’t help thinking that a 3-6yo child deprived of imaginative time at home would still reach that point of normalization in a traditional Montessori classroom where he could be part of reality rather than in front of a tv screen or video games all day.

I can’t comment on Montessori’s assertion that “the imagination should be separated from the development of the child” because I don’t know where she ever said that. Her basic premise was that children already imagine and do a fine job at it (let’s leave the exceptions out of it!) and our job is to help the 3-6yo child connect with the world around them.

Those wishing to really understand where Maria Montessori came from on this topic really ought to rely on what she and even her son wrote and not how I am trying to explain it. :)

(Was this long enough? LOL!)

Just to add to the fantasy talk

I recall reading in one of Maria Montessori's books something about the whole issue of fantasy play being likened to playing cards for adults: It is a wonderful diversion, but it would be a problem if it was so much a part of our lives, it took us away from other things.

Maria Montessori was not against fantasy play. She did seem concerned about children who pretty much only fantasy played (it's a real disconnect with reality!), but on the whole, she thought that fantasy play could provide clues to what the child would really like to do, that children would engage in it for fun, but the point of schooling for the Montessori Method is not to help the children engage in fantasy play. :)

More on fantasy

I received a notification about a comment needing to be moderated, went to the Blogger dashboard, clicked on the link to get to the awaiting comment, and it was gone! I don't know if this is a Blogger issue or if the person who submitted the comment decided to remove it. If the person who submitted it did intended for it to be published, let me know and I will copy and paste it from my email!

In any case, it brought up a good point: Why is fantasy the no-no? Since kids all around the world do it naturally, just like they naturally walk on beams or lines, why the problem with it in the classroom? Why isn't it considered educational?

Maria Montessori writes about fantasy in The Absorbent Mind, I think, and possibly elsewhere. True fantasy takes the child AWAY from the present moment, AWAY from reality. Children under 6 already have such a shaky grasp on what is real and what's not. I still recall my nephew being absolutely serious when, at age 5, he told people he was going to be a Jedi when he grew up!

So my earlier response did not go as far as it really should have. Part of the answer as to why not fairy castles with the Pink Tower is because such activity takes the child away from reality at a time when they most need to connect with what's real. At the 3-6 level, Montessori is very focused on helping the children connect with the real world around them. It's why they are given child-sized brooms and sponges--so they can do these real life things on their own. And why they are allowed to engage in food preparation--so they can do these real life things on their own. The sensorial activities help them connect with the world around them through their senses. And so on. Making fairy castles with the Pink Tower does not help them do a real life thing!

Think of yourself if you are daydreaming or off in lala land while doing something else. You are not really connected with what you are doing, are you? If you were studying for a test of some sort and kept pretending something else, you wouldn't get very far with your learning, would you? This is no different for the child using the Montessori materials. Those materials ARE their "study materials". But not just any study materials: study materials to help them grow in the here and now.

I'm not saying that fantasy needs to be abolished from our homes. There is a time and place for fantasy play and with the Montessori Method, it is NOT with the materials that are designed to help the child develop in the here and now. Let them have some other blocks to make their fairy castle after your school time is over with. But let the Pink Tower be for what it was intended. :)

Monday, July 05, 2010

"Why shouldn't the children use the pink tower blocks to build a fairy castle?"

The post title came from a question posted to a Montessori list. I came up with an answer and a couple of people liked my explanation, so I thought I'd share it here (I was responding to different things, hence the "First..."). I'd welcome any comments to make the explanation even better! And yes, it's specifically about ages 3-6.

First, to answer the question: Why can't they use the pink tower for building fairy castles?
Answer: Because that is not what the material was designed to do. We should not use our personal cars as battering rams ;), towels as clothes, forks as weapons, etc. It's part of setting limits on materials. Kids do not come preprogrammed to know how different things are supposed to be used and will use things in ways they really shouldn't. These are educational materials, not toys. But this is just part of it.

Another part of it is that it's being used for *fantasy play*, which Maria felt the children did well enough on their own, outside of school time, with materials they found (sticks, clothes, etc.). Her method's aim is to *educate* the children and they do not need any education in fantasy play, especially since so many children are prone to engage in fantasy play excessively. As stated above, the materials are educational materials; they are designed for the children's education. They are not educating themselves while lost in fantasy with the material. They are not getting the intended benefit of the material. Just as she cautions against presenting a material too early--because if it's done too early, they won't connect and they may see the material as nothing to connect with ever--using the material to make fairy castles will not help the child connect with the material properly, so the desired educational benefit is gone.

What are the pink blocks for? The direct aim is sensorial: to develop visual analysis skills in the area of dimension. The indirect aim with all the primary materials is to develop concentration; for this particular material, it is also a preparation for math. Is a child really concentrating on the blocks while she makes fairy castles? No.

The first goal for a child starting Montessori is to develop attention/concentration. That's part of the aim of the sensorial and practical life materials. I've read it recommended that a child not be presented with language, math or culture materials until they have developed concentration. (I don't know if it was Maria Montessori who recommended this or someone else.) If the child feels the desire to build a fairy castle with a material that's supposed to be helping her to focus, then she ought to be directed to an activity that will help her focus on the here and now, not an imaginary world.

Camping and other thoughts

We've been sort of camping the past few days--sleeping in a tent at night out at my in-laws' lake house, but having full access to the house. lol. My husband's whole immediate family was there, which makes for 8 grandkids and 8 adults--it's hard to fit that many people in the house, so we tent!

Influenced already by Charlotte Mason, I wished I had nature journals already for the kids. I remember we had started some years ago, but didn't use them long. I think it's a shame. In any case, my Charlotte Mason readings are definitely having an effect! I don't have all the Montessori botany and animal cards and all that; CM provides an alternative to connect with the world around us.

These camping days have also really left me wanting to get started now on some routines. One problem in the way of that is that we've got a couple more trips coming up, which will really get in the way. I guess I have to make do with what I have.

Being with all the kids, seeing some of what my 5yo niece was choosing to do, talking with her mom about my almost 10yo nephew (yes, 5yo's older brother) and his very serious desire to homeschool with us starting this fall (his parents aren't ready to make that leap yet, although it's been in discussion for years), led me to see that to serve them best, I really need to set up our time together this summer during at least August (they have one week with me in July, then off 2 weeks, then with me for the rest of August) to have some sort of "school" routine. Have lots of activities planned. I know I've said this in the past; I hope this is not just another passing fancy. I feel more emotionally connected to this idea this time.

One of the things that my nephew and nieces' mom said is that my nephew seems to have the idea that if he's at my place, he can just spend all his days on his bike or scooter--because when he comes, the kids tend to have a day off and don't do school work, so he doesn't see that side of it. So, my thinking is that if I'm already into a schooly routine with my kids, I need to keep going, incorporating some things specifically for nephew and nieces, and he will get a good feel for what it would be like, plus it'd keep my kids in routine AND provide some educational "benefits" (for lack of a better word) to them all. :)


Moving ahead to the fall, with the reading I've been doing in "Home Education" and Levison's "More Charlotte Mason Education", things are starting to sort themselves out in my head as to how to structure things. I'm not sure yet how much time to start the 16yo off with in his studies, but I did have the thought, "There is NO way he will get all of his science done if he only does 20 minutes a day!" Then I had the thought: "Don't think of it as a single course: it is 4 subjects in one course. He can do 20 minutes of bio, 20 minutes of physics, 20 minutes of chem and 20 minutes of environmental studies each day." Aha! That's already almost an hour and a half of work. Of course, his ELA will need to be broken up into handwriting, spelling/dictation, reading instruction then his actual ELA credit work. Which I have to still figure out. Same thing for his math--he can cover two topic areas in math per day. Math is actually a strong subject for him--he picks it up quickly when he allows himself to. A couple of the math units don't require that other units be done before, so I think it could work, especially if the units are different enough.


Back to this summer... (Sorry, I'm just typing as it comes. Tenting has meant not sleeping as well because of the darn birds waking me up ridiculously early in the morning and I'm very tired!) Ds was "helping" his Dad play cards last night. His Dad asked him to pick up two cards. He was playfully counting them, "Un.... deux..." So I playfully challenged to say it in German. He's forgotten how to count in German! Well, that got dd going, though, and I said a few things here and there and their grandparents asked a couple of things, so now dd has had her desire to learn German rekindled, so that's good. I do need to figure out a routine. I have an idea written out, but not specific enough yet. And I'm going to have to plan some specifics. That's one thing reading Levison's book reminded me of: When things were going wonderfully smoothly around here, I knew exactly the minimum work I wanted them to get done. Very specifically.


Okay, enough for now!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Fantastic Primary Website

I've been to this site numerous times but noticed I didn't have it in my links. For those of you starting out at the primary (Casa; 3-6 yo's) level, this site is great! Even those of you starting with early elementary will find some useful activities. It goes through just about all of the lessons one could present at the primary level: