Monday, September 28, 2009

Getting Started With Montessori

Jo at A Bit of This and A Bit of That asked me to share my top 5 tips for getting started with Montessori. She'll be posting her own tips and those of other contributors on October 1st.

1. Read books. First, become familiar with Montessori and her philosophy by reading books by and about Maria Montessori. I don't have any specific books to recommend. I just read what our library had to offer. The Montessori method is not just a set of materials to use; it's a whole philosophy of education. Books, especially by Montessori herself, will help you understand the reasoning behind the approach.

2. Read blogs. The blogworld really opened up Montessori to me, because I was able to see how Montessori's philosophy was applied in real homes and classrooms. Plus, blogs are loaded with wonderful ideas that I could never come up with on my own. On the right sidebar, you'll find several helpful websites under the "Montessori Blogs and Links" category.

3. Adjust your home environment (along with your thinking.) A major tenet of the Montessori philosophy is that children should be allowed to do as much as possible on their own. In order to accommodate this, the environment should be prepared to suit the child. In our house, for example, we have a child-sized table for Zahana and Rohan to use for snacks or coloring. Miah and Larkin also have a low table where they can sit and do their work. Jeremiah has attached a low handle to the screen door so it is easy for the little ones to open when they want to come in the house. Shelves are arranged with activities and board books for the little two on low shelves and the bigger kids' things on the higher shelves. Snack time provides a perfect opportunity to allow children to do things on their own. Instead of peeling an orange and dividing the segments up myself, I'll peel back a little of the skin to get it started and then give the whole thing to the child to peel and eat himself. My little ones are able to do this sort of thing because they have had ample opportunity, but I have been surprised by much older kids who didn't know what to do with an unpeeled orange. My kids also love to help me cook. This requires a lot of patience on the parent's part, but little kids are perfectly capable of cutting, peeling, measuring, and stirring if given the opportunity and are allowed to make mistakes (and messes.)

4. Make your own materials. A lot of people are daunted by all the expensive equipment. Unless you're really handy, you can't make all of it, but even if you're really un-handy you can still make a lot. One of my favorite Montessori websites is Montessori Materials. It has lots of free printable material. I've made some of the beaded material with beads and pipe cleaners, which works just as well and costs a whole lot less. A lot of practical life skills only require what real life provides. For example, you don't need a lacing board, a snap board, a zipper board, etc. All those things are available in everyday life. Simply allow your child to try zipping his own coat, tying his own shoes, etc. instead of doing it all for him. Consider purchasing some things at birthday or Christmas, because the kids really do enjoy these things. Zahana received a little broom and mop for her last birthday and was delighted. Order catalogs from places that sell Montessori materials, such as Montessori-N-Such, and flip through it for ideas on what you could make or find at thrift stores. A tonging activity will be just as educational with 50 cent tongs from a yard sale and pebbles from the back yard as one purchased out of a catalog.

5. Don't be a slave to the method (and I would say this for any educational method.) This may not be the most popular tip among die-hard Montessorians, but I'm not a die-hard Montessorian. I have gleaned what I find useful from the method and philosophy and incorporated it into our life and homeschool. If you disagree with a certain aspect or even if you think something is really good but just can't get it to work for your child or fit it into your life, don't stress about it. Parents have been raising children to be happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults who use their gifts, talents, and brains since the beginning of time, using many different methods of child-rearing and education. In a home with children of various ages and abilities, it is impossible to have everything just as Montessori would have it. Children need parents who have time for them and love them unconditionally. They need responsible parents who are willing to learn and do what is best for each individual child. Children need, above all, to know God and His love. You don't need a method to give them that.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Earth: The Perfect Place to Live

(Update: I forgot that I wanted to share these aurora videos we watched while learning about the magnetosphere. The last one, which is by BBC, was our favorite. Also, if you type in "aurora borealis" on YouTube, you'll come up with a lot of slide shows with neat pictures.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJBrMXSn-hU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoYiPul1WvI&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7kqueltv00&feature=related)


How do you study earth in the context of astronomy? In Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Jeannie Fulbright focuses on the "Perfect Design by a Perfect Designer," explaining how earth has the perfect distance from the sun, perfect mass, perfect rotation, perfect atmosphere, perfect tilt, perfect land, and the perfect magnetosphere. I was tempted to jump into geology and physical geography but restrained myself. That could go on and on and isn't really about astronomy. I satisfied myself by checking out some general books about the earth and letting the kids go off on any tangents they pleased.
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As usual, the kids added to their astronomy notebooks. The scale illustrating mass/gravity/weight came from Homeschool Share's space lapbook page. (It's the very first planet minit-book, Planets - Gravity.) The rest came from JFeliciano. (Click to enlarge.)
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We learned how the atmosphere burns up most of the meteorites that come toward the earth. But we also learned from La Paz Home Learning that you can find micrometeorites in your own yard. So we took magnets out to the downspouts to see what we could pick up - nothing. Then we tried the cracks in the driveway and came up with lots of magnetic material. To find the micrometeorites, we put our findings under a microscope and looked for tiny, shiny spheres. The only way for metal to naturally become perfectly round is by a volcano or by burning in the atmosphere. Since we don't have volcanoes around here, I'm pretty sure what we found were micrometeorites!
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This picture isn't great and you can see a much better one at the La Paz link, but if you click on this picture, you will see two tiny spheres attached to a big chunk. Those are our micrometeorites.

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To learn the layers of the earth, the kids made a fun model using these instructions.
First, stick a gumdrop in a marshmallow. This represents the inner and outer cores.
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Melt 13 marshmallows with 1 Tbsp. butter in the microwave. Mix in 2 cups Rice Crispies. Pack around that first marshmallow. This is your mantle.
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Cover in chocolate. The directions said to use Magic Shell, which we did, but it really didn't work that well. It was too messy, leaked into the cereal layer, and never really hardened. I think melted chocolate chips would work a lot better for the crust.
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Cut in half to reveal all four layers.
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Tangent #1. Miah decided to make a model of the atmosphere on the wall.
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Oh look . . . atmosphere! And crust!
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Tangent #2. Making sand out of rocks. One of the books had a page about the ocean and how the waves turn rocks to sand. For about three days, Miah would announce that she was going to work then go outside and hammer rocks.
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Larkin went at it in a more boy-like manner.
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And paid for it.
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Didn't stop him though.
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He was able to garner a little sympathy from Rohan.
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Ta-da! Sand!
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Tangent #3. Making a river. . .
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. . . which quickly overflowed and invited everyone to play.
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Exploring magnetism with a little kit I found at Hobby Lobby.
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Making a compass.
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And finally, the earth narrations.
Miah’s Planet

Earth is the right distance from the sun. If it was closer, then it would be too hot. If it was farther away, it would be too cold. Earth has gravity, so you cannot float into space. If earth went too fast, there would be too many hurricanes. If the earth went too slow, the days would be hotter, and the nights would be colder. In the middle of the earth, it’s hot. The layers of the earth are inner core, outer core, mantle, and crust. If there was no magnetosphere, then solar wind would go inside the earth, and it would be no good. There are seven perfect things about the earth: distance, mass, rotation, atmosphere, tilt, land, and magnetosphere.

Larkin’s World

The earth is the right distance from the sun. If the earth was too far away from the sun, then the earth would be too cold. If the earth was too close to the sun, then it would be too hot. If the earth was spinning too fast, then it would have too many hurricanes. The earth has the inner core, outer core, mantle, and the crust. At the south pole and the north pole, you could see the aurora. The aurora is beautiful. The outer core makes the magnetosphere. The magnetosphere makes the solar wind go around it. Distance, mass, rotation, atmosphere, tilt, land, and magnetosphere are the greatest things in the earth.



"The evil within a child should be starved while feeding the mind with spiritual and wholesome knowledge so that the image of the Creator will once again be evident." -Charlotte Mason

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Cousin's Wedding

(click to enlarge)
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"May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else..." 1 Thes. 3: 12