Sunday, February 24, 2013

President's Day

For President's Day, I definitely wanted to have a couple new things on the shelves to broaden my children's knowledge a bit about the history of our nation's leaders. I realized, quite to my dismay, that most of my children had a minimal amount of knowledge on the subject, due to the fact that I never gave them any! The exception would be my oldest, Little mama, who is the most amazing reader (I mean it!) and has read many books based on the history of our country, but I knew there was still a boat-load of information that she didn't have the first clue about. 

The best place to start, of course, was at the beginning. That was an easy one - I know :) I wanted to begin (I say begin, because I think this is a topic that might lose it's headline spot, but won't be completely out of the picture for quite some time - I hope!) with the order of presidents, to give them something tangible to show how many we have had, how long they have been president, and how often we get a new one. This past year was an election year, so my older two learned some things about a presidential term and how long it is and how the President gets his position from my husband and I talking at home, but I knew they didn't have any idea just how many presidents we have had in our nation's history. 

Using an idea from a coin sorting printable  at Teach Beside Me, and a simple sensory bin idea from a friend and teacher at a local Montessori school in town, I came up with this:

                                        A COIN HUNT!

All of the children REALLY loved this one :) One of the best parts is getting to hide the coins again for the next person to find. It definitely got many hands (and feet) in it, and they enjoyed it! Of course, here is where I make a confession - I almost had a cow watching rice fall all over the floor!!! I know, I know - I should be prepared for the mess and not panic over it, but reality says that I did begin to panic. I had to remind them many times of how to find the coins without getting rice everywhere , although I think the warning fell on deaf ears, because I still found myself prompting them to be gentle, and don't forget to sweep up the rice that falls. I am by no means a 'neat freak' or anything, but we do our daily cleaning in the morning for the most part, and any mother knows the inner struggle when she (or one of the kids) just got done sweeping, only to see something hit the floor and scatter in a million places! After a few times, I hope I got better at dealing with it and now I will get off that soap box!

This was one of the easiest to put together, since all I had to do was buy the plastic box and rice. I chose a container with a lid, so that when they are not using it, it can be closed and the graph can be placed on top of it. I knew the temptation to test out the 'cause and effect' method of what happens when you get a handful of rice and throw it/drop it on the floor would probably be more than Buddy Boy could handle, and although he was allowed to get his hands in there, I just didn't want to have it wide open, calling to him! It was perfectly easy for the oldest two, the best challenge for Miss Priss, seeing as she can find a coin if asked for it by name, but this time she had to stop and think about what it was first, and match the images on the coin to the ones on the graph. And it was really over Bug's head on matching the correct coins, with the exception of the penny, due to it's color, and the dime, due to it's size. She often got the nickel and quarter mixed up because of the similarities, but that's okay - she is only 3 :)

The other new work for presidents that I added was a Presidential Timeline, an idea that came together after seeing this and this, both shared by Deb at Living Montessori Now  as part of a Presidents' Day post. I printed off the pictures of all 44 presidents from the Teachers Pay Teachers website and laminated them, and then cut each one out, individually. Using white ribbon and small velcro squares, attached to the ribbon and the backs of the pictures, the goal was for them to simply order the presidents sequentially. This was perfect for the older three, although my 3 year old did attack it once. However, it took lots of help from me to make sure she got each one right, and I used several different tactics to keep her interested to the very end (my turn, your turn to place the president, what face is he making? etc.)

This is a video of Little Mama when she finished the timeline, telling me all of them in order.

I knew our children would enjoy these, but as it turns out, they even appealed to some traditionally-schooled, public school kiddos, as well!

                        Here we are, working through the timeline
After they finished, I had everyone line up to see how long it would stretch - turns out, the youngest two got to hold 'the future presidents' (blank ribbon for years to come)!

Due to a snow day, several cousins spent half a day with us. But they didn't completely miss school! Due to the amount of children in the house, I knew I had to find something to involve them all - so we used our timeline work and a National Geographic book on presidents to build it together, and as we added a new president, by a different person each time, we found a few interesting facts about that particular president, or sometimes just something funny that we didn't know. I was so excited when THAT inspired THIS:

  She wanted to make a timeline of her own, including the President, his wife, and an interesting fact for each one. I wish I had her longer so she could feel the satisfaction in finishing this one! 

That was not everything we did this week, by far, but this post has been long enough already! I hope you enjoyed a peek into Presidents with us - I would love to hear what your ideas are for teaching Presidential history! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Let's Call It a Snow Day!

                   I mean, really - who could work all day in this???


Where we live, it doesn't ALWAYS snow, so when it does come, it's best to take advantage of it. So we worked until about noon, and then decided it was a soup and snow ice cream type of day. So we trecked outside to get snow.

Since I don't actually have personal experience making it on my own, there was no one better to call than Nana (my mother), who was actually already thinking about doing the same thing.                                 

                    My masked man! Buddy Boy just had to try on his brother's face mask. 

  I thought it was funny that when I told her to smile, you could see the smile through the mask.  

The kids helped me to get snow, and we only had to filter out one good handful that Bug decided to pick up with her hands - all the way down to the grass. :)

     After that, who could resist a little bit of play before coming in for soup?

                  And THIS is the final result of our snow gathering:

So now, for the directions on how to make this delicious, creamy treat.

2 cans Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (or plain evaporated milk)
1 tbsp vanilla for each can of milk
* If you use the sweetened condensed milk, this is all you will need.
* IF you use the plain evaporated milk, you need to slowly add sugar until it tastes just a little bit too sweet.
Then slowly begin adding the sugar, one large scoop at a time. 

Initially, stir with a whisk, breaking up any large chunks of snow. Eventually, it will become too thick, and then you have to trade the whisk for a large spoon. 

It is absolutely one of my favorite treats in the winter time, and a family tradition for us!

We had a wonderful snow day! What do you do when it snows where you live? Stay in and have school as normal, or make exceptions and enjoy the weather?         

Saturday, February 16, 2013

More Valentines Day Fun!

Rounding off my re-cap of our Valentine's Day - themed work at home today!

The number wheel was one of their favorites, which left me wishing I had put it out the first week of February instead of the second! It is fairly self-explanatory - each space had a specific amount of Valentine's Day stickers, and the heart-shaped, glass bowl (it was a wedding present 10+ years ago, so I have no idea where it was found, but the Dollar Tree has similar ones around Valentine's Day) held clothespins with the numbers 1-10 on them. Fine motor skills work for this was the action of using the clothespins and working the grasp needed for good pencil control. There was also a counting concept for Math skills that made this both fun and educational at the same time! I would have to say this is definitely one that would need to be repeated again, with a different theme for the stickers.

                                              This is what it looked like on the shelf 

Hoss even tried this one out a couple of times, although it is well below his skill level in all areas (there is not a NEED for an older child to do a work on a younger child's skill level, but by allowing the opportunity, it very often is a temporary desire, as they are not really challenged enough to feel compelled to come back to the work a great deal. However, I imagine sometimes it's nice to do something that doesn't task the brain as much, and gives them a mental break - and when it's new to the shelves, how tempting can it get??? ). After completing it, he held it up for me to see that, "It looks like the sun!"

This is one that I enjoyed having out for them, and did get some use, especially from Bug. It probably would have been used more if I had it a little easier to reach - I kept it up on a higher shelf where the children that couldn't reach had to either ask for it or stand on a chair. I know that is not at all what a Montessori teacher or instructor would tell me to do, but the desire to not have to sweep up beads, or pull them out of Buddy Boy's nose, or anything else you can imagine, just won over on this one. And while I had hoped to see some great pattern work erupt, and it didn't, some great motor skill work was done and I was still impressed by how many beads could actually fit on one of those sections of pipe cleaner. I got the pipe cleaners at Walmart, along with the purple and pink beads, which came in a multi-pack.  The wooden tray came from a lacing pictures set that I bought at Target.  
 This next one was also a bit last minute. One day I noticed Bug wanting to clip some clothespins from another work on our shelves to the edge of the tray. I thought she might enjoy something like this, and I was right! She visited this little work several times in the week that it was on our shelves. So simple to make, I used the left over foam from my near failure to cut out ten small hearts (I ended up only using 8 - note to self: get a bigger jar next time!). Then pulled out my handy dandy hot glue gun and went to town. I will note here that the clothespins for this one were from the Dollar Tree instead of Walmart. And from this I learned that I would rather spend an extra dollar and get clothespins in Walmart's craft aisle next time! They work fine, but the quality of them is not so great, and they are a little easier to slip apart while trying to take them back off the jar.      

When they finished, the work stored itself in the same jar, with the lid screwed on. Extra bonus: practice in twisting a lid off and on :) .  

This one surprised me just a bit. I made our Valentine's button snake based on this one from My Boys Teacher at What Did We Do All Day. I had made a button snake previous to this one, but it didn't go over as well, and I realized it was because I didn't make it the exact same way (I used all felt the first time, instead of ribbon for the snake body like I should have) so when I did this one, I made a few changes. What resulted was a hit - and here is the surprise - the one who enjoyed it the most was 2 year old Buddy Boy!  

I would never have imagined that he would be able to do any of this. However, after about 10 minutes of intense concentration, I looked over to see him sliding the pieces on, one by one. When he realized  I was watching him, he held it up excitedly for me to see what he was doing. After that, he came back quite often to do 'his work', as he called it.

This is one that probably took the most time in making, but afterwards made sure to laminate *in THICK sheets* so I never have to do it again!    


Using Wilton cookie cutters (I couldn't find the exact set that I have, but this one is pretty similar), I traced several different designs on to plain white copy paper, and then laminated each one for durability. Then I showed them to lay out the card they wanted and use the cookie cutter(s), which were placed in the tray pictured below, to match the card. The card provided a template, but also a control of error, as well as color coding what I drew with the color of the cookie cutters (another simple control of error). This was something simple enough that Buddy Boy probably could have done the easier ones, such as the size differentiation templates, if he had chosen to (which he did NOT). The younger girls did enjoy it, but it wasn't used as much as I had hoped for the time spent on it, which means either my expectations were a little high, or there could have been a better way to present it, with maybe a different tray? Not sure - but it's worth repeating and setting it out differently next time to see if it catches their eye a bit more.        

Anyway, that's what I prepared for this years' V-Day works. That is not everything we did all week, of course - there is still a great deal of work that is done in more of a traditional style school method, but that's another post for another time, trying to explain that one.... 

Hope you enjoyed it and if you have any ideas on how I could improve the ones that weren't touched as much, or anything that you did that your children seemed to enjoy, please DO leave a comment! 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day meets Montessori approached homeschool!

Well, I would have loved to post all these fun things oh, say, a week or two ago, when we began all our Valentine's works - or even before that, in case someone saw something that might work for their home. However, seeing as how I didn't get my new camera until Valentine's Day, I wasn't able to take pictures before today, or catch my crew in action with these. But I figured it's better late than never, as mom used to say, so here goes:

This very beautiful container, which was most likely intended for a dry potpourri at one time, emitted the most wonderful smell for two weeks on our shelves - candy! When Nana gave the kids a bag full of large heart candy, I knew just where it was going and what it was to be used for. One of their favorite manipulatives, these were used for many things. 
One was to be accompanied with these:

I found these great chunky dice at Target in their dollar aisle, and they were used at all levels - basic counting and one-to-one with 3 year old Bug, Even/Odd practice and greater than/less than (we use our alligator math from Living Montessori Now) with 5 year old Miss Priss, and even the older kiddos liked to get their hands on them for multiplication and division practice, mostly because they undoubtedly snuck a few in their stomach when I wasn't watching! ;)


Another Target $1 find were these V-Day erasers, which were simply kept in a basket due to the variety of things we could do with them, such as....


                                   and adding practice.

I originally had higher hopes for this particular work, which fine-tunes their skills needed for writing later on. However, it was *thisclose* to being a total failure! I only give it that much credit because of a few attempts at engaging some of the kids in it, only to see them pass on to do other things. So maybe we will wait a while before we try something like this again - maybe it was too simple???

I decided at the last minute, while finishing up something else, to make this sweet 'heart' moveable alphabet for the occasion. Sticking with the montessori method of isolating the consonants/vowels by color, I used pink for consonants, purple for vowels.

 And since these, too, were used for more than one thing, such as spelling practice for Hoss and sound baskets for Miss Priss and Bug, they were kept on our shelves in this bowl that I got in a gift package one year for Christmas. Sidenote - it's amazing what you can find and use to present materials in a pretty way and teach your children to be careful with what they are working with! 

I have several more things to share with you. but I think if I keep going, this post may never end! So I will have to make a Part 2 of our Valentine's work for you to see! This was our first time to have a good part of their work revolving around a theme, and I really enjoyed it, as well as the kids. So now I am wondering where to go next and what new works to create (or re-vamp from some of these!)
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