Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Day I Left My Children Alone

Week 6 - Day One

On Monday of this week, I left my children alone. After waking up and getting their breakfast, we started our morning cleaning routine, complete with work cards, and spent a little while at it. For some reason, Monday mornings are rough cleaning days, although goodness knows why - half the weekend is spent at church, it seems, but somehow - they always are. 

Then, I left my children alone. I dove into the abyss that is school materials, determined to clean out, rearrange, and reorganize. There were still things that needed to go on the shelves, Buddy Boy needed new theme trays, and it had to get done. Immediately. We had choir that afternoon for LM, and still had to fit lunch in before that. I faintly heard LM say she was going to start with the multiplication checkerboard as I began to move my couch away from my hidden, built in shelving. 

About halfway through, this is what I found the kids doing.

Miss Priss did this puzzle of the states - three times. In a row. The third time, she figured out how to slide it on a cookie sheet and flip it over to see the flags and facts about each state that is on the back side of the puzzle. 

Hoss got upset over something - I've got no earthly idea what -  and decided it was his job to personally test out every new tray that I was putting out for Buddy Boy and Bug. 
size sequencing

 matching number/picture cards

 fine motor

All trays were beneath him, but somehow it was appealing to be the 'tray tester'.

After multiplication from LM and pattern making from Bug (no pictures, but she showed me several different patterns with the unifix blocks), they apparently started building. I'm pretty sure there was some kind of elaborate pattern scheme they were working on - I overheard LM telling Bug to get a certain type of pattern for the next row of blocks in their castle/tower.

(please ignore the mess that is the kitchen floor - it doesn't manage to stay clean for very long. Oh, and the need to re-paint. That's another issue all together.... :/ )

Buddy Boy worked for at least 30 minutes making pictures with our pattern blocks, eventually inviting Hoss to work with him.

By the time they finished their own, unprompted, unsupervised work period, it was time for a quick lunch which was made by LM and off to choir. 

Moral of the story:
Be a *present* parent - and while doing it, learn to be *present* in the background. It's good for them to just occupy themselves, and they might surprise you sometimes! 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fall Baking With Kids - Montessori Practical Life

Wait for it.... Wait for it....


Okay, so I might be a little premature to call it Fall in the South, but the last part of last week, it sure felt like it! :)


LM made her first ever solo batch of Pumpkin Bread.

This recipe is one that I can't say was handed down through the family with tons of secret, special ingredients. I will say, though, that it was a favorite growing up, and the tradition continues in my home now, with my children growing up loving it. It was also greatly associated with Fall, Thanksgiving, and Christmas time.

The recipe is so simple and easy to follow - you'll have great smells filling your house in under an hour!

You'll need:

3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
4 eggs, beaten
16 ounces pumpkin (canned or fresh!)
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ginger (not ale - typo in cookbook!)
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup hot water

Oh, and one handy helper!

First, cream sugar and oil - this is where a KitchenAid Mixer is going to come in real handy, so you can mix, measure, and pour all at the same time!

After sugar and oil have creamed, add eggs.

Then, add your pumpkin. We cheated and used canned pumpkin, but if you have fresh, feel free to use it! Confession - I've never tried it with fresh. It must be good, though!

Next, in a separate bowl, add dry ingredients - flour, salt, baking powder, and spices. 

Sift dry ingredients together, then add to pumpkin mix alternately with the hot water. 

When that's all in your mixer, and if you do have a wonderful KitchenAid, let it mix while you clean up what you have used and get ready for the oven.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

I love my Pampered Chef mini loaf pans, but you can use any style of mini loaf pans you have. I highly recommend the mini loaves, versus the full loaf - it's less baking time and less chance of a slightly over-cooked bottom. Or, you can mix it up and make muffins or make it all at once, cake style. Just remember to adjust your baking times accordingly.

After spraying your baking dish well with non-stick spray, carefully fill at least halfway, though no more than 2/3 full. Be careful to make sure they are even, of course!

We like to sprinkle the tops with a little cinnamon sugar. It gives the bread a nice, sweet crunch :) .

Place in the oven, and set a timer for 30 minutes. At this point, check your bread. When the top is cracked and no longer looks wet, you'll know it's finished. With my mini-loaf pan, we actually bake ours for about 35 minutes. Just keep an eye on it and use good judgement from the 30 minute marker until you know it is finished. Another good way to check is the tried and true toothpick-in-the-center method.

After that, all that's left to do is.... 


Friday, September 12, 2014

If You Build It, They Will Come....

Week 5 - Part II

I posted some on what was going on in week 5 in my last post. It was too long, though, to go in to some extra fun, and this post will really be mostly extra fun that we have had going on.

Enter Floam foam:

A good friend of our family brought some goodies one day towards the middle of week 5, and one of them was a package of floam/foam beads. They LOVED playing with this, and it ended up being a fun mini-oceanography project, making a coral reef.

Yes, that IS a large octopus and snake!

We talked a little about camoflauge, and how it helps the fish/animals that live among the coral. 

Can you find the fish???

Here's what's new in our world during week 6:

They have come to take over our world.....

and they have succeeded!

 Birthday time for us is at a maximum in September, with 3 birthdays, 2 of which fell in week 6 of our school year. Hoss and Miss Priss have hit a Lego revolution with their free play time, and I have to admit - I'm kind of enjoying it. It's a good time (as long as the Legos aren't underfoot!). The only downfall - Buddy Boy. He'll have to get his own Legos at Christmas (or possibly sooner) or he's going to drive them all crazy. 

They have been building, working on following directions to a 'T', and getting creative. I guess you could call it early architecture/engineering, if you wanted to get detailed about it.

Whether it's Legos or Foam, I like to call it tricky learning - in that, they are learning while they think they are just playing.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

School Days: First Month

I can't believe I'm saying this.... Our first month of school has ALREADY passed!

Where did the time go???

I've not been the most diligent mama-homeschool-blogger thus far. I've not taken as many pictures, or tried to keep a record and post once a week. I'm pretty sure it's been a month, at least, since my last post with pics and talking about what we've been doing. Oh, well - you win some, you lose some. 

*Week One*

We spent this week getting in to a good routine using our new Work Cards. 
For the free printable, go here (look for Daily Work Cards under the practical life section). I created this to help them be accountable for what they are supposed to do every day (very real practical life) without me having to tell them all the time - especially my older ones. I made their cards personal to  them, with their names, so I won't show their cards, but I have a template of what one looks like. 

We had company with their cousin (featured in past times on the blog as Big Z) before he started school, so we kept the schedule casual. There was a lot of Lego building going on, so I  guess you could call that early engineering. 

*Week Two and Week Three*

We had several days of  babysitting laid out for us in weeks two and three. Isn't this little sweetie just gorgeous?!?!?!

Because it's been quite a long time since we've had a baby in the house, she got a LOT of attention, and time. The kids learned some practical life lessons about having a baby around, how to care for her, and the kids mommy enjoyed some quiet time every afternoon so she could nap. My babies were all used to noise around them, and they always slept like a rock. SHE does not, hence the quiet time. It was a great time for some reading alone, or more Lego building - Hoss and Miss Priss are currently in love with Legos . They also may or may  not have all watched more Busy Town Mysteries and Curious George than normal. Have you ever noticed how much science and logical thinking is in those two shows, or is it just me trying to justify this very un-Montessori, unschooling decision??? :) 

We did get some actual work in. Bug got a refresher in matching capital/lowercase letters, and Miss Priss used the same cards to have a refresher of her own on using capital letters to start the beginning of a sentence, name, or proper noun. 

A little geometric solid play.... 
I bought this set of wooden, natural geometric solids last year and really loved the natural wood. However, for any Geometric Solids printables you find online, they are always the traditional blue. When I remembered Aubrey's post on Montessori Mischief about using watercolors to paint them, and saw the watercolors out, I decided to give it a try.

My thoughts post watercolor painting the solids: They do turn out beautiful. I love that you can still see the swirl of the wood grain. However - if you have little hands that are wet, or if they decide to try and see if they taste good (yes, he's 3, but still on the great occasion tends to get mouthy) - the paint comes off. So, I will probably go back and repaint with actual blue paint, non-washable, and hopefully non-toxic (although the initial tasting was apparently enough to cure him, because he hasn't tried it again).

LM loves to get crafty and artistic, so when a family friend gifted us with some watercolors and a watercolor book of blank paper, she went to town. I loved this particular one - such a charming impression of the sunset. 

She also found some seashells from Buddy Boy's tot tray shelves and sorted, explored, and got artistic with them as well. These particular shells came from Mexico. 

NOT PICTURED: Grammar parts of speech presentations for article, adjective, noun to serve as a refresher. Presentation for LM on the multiplication checkerboard. More reading in our Abeka Readers for Miss Priss AND Bug, who is amazing me with her drive to learn to read. We also got the first set of Bob Books, which she enjoys. Buddy Boy has the regular sensorial/practical life/fine motor work, plus a few seashell-inspired trays. I'll share more about those in another post. 

*Weeks Four and Five*

Finally moving in to a few days with no distractions from outside forces, we were able to get more done. This is where my lack of pictures will show the most. I have very few, but maybe that's because I was working/watching. I am still working on printables on my Free Printables page, and trying to get them loaded on to the blog. So around homeschooling, I have been trying to invest some good time in to that. 

I'll break these two weeks up in to people.

LM - She has been working with the multiplication checkerboard and will soon be working with the division racks and tubes. I guess I'll have to do a post to show you my DIY version of those, too, before they start showing up in pictures. She is still moving at her very own pace in Math, which to me seems particularly slow, but I just hope what she DOES learn, sticks. She and Hoss have also started, as of this last week, working through a fun Word Problem DVD/Book (Mathtacular Word Problems). There is a mystery story behind it all, which is intriguing, and although it may not be Montessori in and of itself, they are allowed the 'choice' of working with it whenever they want, which is just about every day. She has been getting the last of the refresher lessons on the Parts of Speech while I work on trying to finish files for my own Grammar Box fillers. I have a feeling  once I get them out, she'll get through most of them fairly quickly. I still need to get the Reading Analysis/Sentence Analysis materials, or make some of my own, for those lessons. She still reads All. The. Time. and continues to amaze me with what she recalls from her latest book(s) of choice. The last Library excursion brought her back with the regular selections of fiction or history-based fiction, and a few books on the Hispanic *quinceanera* celebration. I never tell the kids what books they HAVE to get, although I sensor what they read, and they tend to pick some non-fiction, teaching books fairly often. We have yet to start back to our BFSU lessons, but that is coming in Month #2.

Hoss - He hasn't gotten a strong start in all Math areas yet this year. He has begun to work with the division board in preparation for the charts, and I can tell that division is nothing new to him. The concept is already there, and I am seeing it by him speeding through. He enjoys working with the board, though, so I'm not going to push it too much. He is slowly starting to enjoy reading more, and is opening himself up to longer books, which is a good sign. He still works with cursive writing practice, although he prefers manuscript. He is not so drawn to grammar/language/spelling, so I am trying to take it careful. He shows correct usage, but hasn't had much interest in wanting to learn more about it. I'm hoping to draw him in by new presentations and extension games. 

Miss Priss - she is moving in to multiplication with the first presentations with our bead bars. She has also protested mightily to our spelling lists, because she says they are too easy. However, she hasn't had much practice in dictionary usage or putting words in alphabetical order, which I include in their spelling options, so the words are easy, but the extensions to them are what we are working on. She is really enjoying being able to read, and of late has gotten a little brave with her selection of books. More than once, she chose a book or two that she wasn't able to read, but I'm glad she's open to them. 

Bug - I sigh as I think about how to update her work. She is, age wise and registration, in Kindergarten this year.  My next to youngest, officially in school. That makes me a little sad and nostalgic. She loves to read, and is soaking it all up like a sponge. Like Hoss and Miss Priss, she loves the Abeka Reader. Independent work for her is still slow. She is one of my most dependent children for her age (5.5 years). She consistently wants me to be right beside her, or working with her, and if she chooses a work and I encourage her to do it on her own, because I am working with someone else, she promptly quits and returns the work. I am going to try and add more practical life/sensorial/fine motor that she will enjoy, trying to keep it fresh. Things that are much too easy for her, but that she will be willing to concentrate on doing by herself. 

Buddy Boy - I am doing tot school, and I am not. I am going to try to have a few themed trays out for him, that I will hopefully change more often than once a month, but I am not going to be able to ignore the others and spend that one-on-one time with just him this year. With the others all being in different grades and possibly needing me, it just didn't work. I will present the tray to him like I would before, but then it will always be on the shelf for him to do whenever he chooses. 

 Anyway, now this long post is at an end! That is how our first month + has gone, and I am still excited about the year - no burn out  issues yet! :) 

I hope everyone is having a good school year so far, no matter when you started (or if you're always going!)

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