Friday, April 10, 2015

Magnetism and Using Worksheets in the Montessori Inspired Homeschool

Today we worked on some exploration with magnets. 

I found this very small, inexpensive set of magnets at a local school supply store here. They didn't have the one I REALLY wanted, so I settled for a cheaper one for the time being. 

I prepared for our day this morning by going online and printing off a few ready-made free worksheets. And here is where you insert the gasp-heard-round-the-world. :) 

I generally shy away from worksheets - we don't use them on a daily basis. I would not print out a worksheet for something that was new to my children. I believe you should always, as much as possible, give your children a concrete learning experience long before bringing in anything abstract, like a worksheet. In this case, they had already had that. 

When you are working with children who have had the concrete first experiences you can build off of those with some that review what they know and give them a chance to expand and show what they have retained. That's my feelings towards worksheets and combining them with a Montessori inspired homeschool. Generally not necessary, but can sometimes prove helpful if they are targeting what you are working on together. On to the fun pictures :) 

We all gathered around the table to talk about what makes up a magnet, and did several fun things (of which I have no pictures because my hands were rather busy) to talk about magnetic fields and how you can't feel them in their own with one magnet but see proof of them as you put two magnets together, first on synonymous poles and then opposite poles and see the reaction of the magnet. They thought the most fun part was when we laid two of the magnet bars on the table and used one to scoot the other along in a line, in circles, and finally figuring out how to make it fall off the table.

This led to a small rabbit-trail discussion of whether it was possible that the makers of the Lego movie could have used a magnet in the scene at the end where Emmett falls off the table.

(I couldn't find a youtube video that showed that specific scene, but this one is right before and right after it)

We did a few sheets about predicting what would and wouldn't be magnetic, then tested our predictions. I didn't get a good picture of us actually testing what we pulled out, but we had two groups of objects. 
Group #1 - seashell, washer, crayon, small springs, scissors, keys, and a pencil
Group #2 - penny, quarter, dime, nickel, can (vegetables), tweezers, a screw, measuring spoons, paperclip, fork, ziploc bag. 
They were all able to take turns seeing what was and wasn't magnetic, and saw that sometimes an object might LOOK magnetic when it really isn't. We also discussed how some things, like the scissors, are both magnetic and non magnetic, and some things - like the measuring spoons - might depend on what type and that there isn't always an absolute yes or no for different objects. 

We took a side trail here and everyone was sent to find 5 things they wanted to try with the magnets, and we made a list of what was magnetic, non-magnetic, and both. Then I showed them how they can lay that information out in a Venn Diagram. 

Next we used a couple printables to test and record the strength of a magnet as it passes through another object. They thought it was amazing that a magnet could lift their paperclips through glass, wood, cardboard, and even plastic. They really enjoyed watching the magnet not only lift the paper clips but me be able to move the clip around with the magnet.

This was just a fun little coloring certificate that I printed off for them to stick with their 'research papers' in their binders. This, of course, is obviously Buddy's work. 

Most of them scattered to do other things after our lesson, but Buddy grabbed the magnets and began a little work of his own. In this picture he has actually made something of a pattern with magnet-paperclip-magnet and found out that he could pull the entire line of magnets and clips with just one magnet.

Which inspired this 'train' that he played with for almost 20 minutes.

I couldn't help but take this picture. After I finished helping the others get their work put away, I caught his eye while he was playing. He very calmly informed me that the strong magnets in 'his train' were the 'men and boys' and the magnets that weren't strong enough to pull the train were the 'old ladies and girls' and that is why they were all by themselves in a pile. Oh, what a mess this little guy is...

And that was the big excitement today :) Now I think they are outside cleaning up from giving the dog an impromptu bath that I am sure they loved and he hated. 

Never a dull moment!!!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Playing Catch Up

What a game of catch up it is, too. 

Blogging has taken a back burner for a little while, for a few reasons. 

#1 - We are SUPER busy! Just flat busy, no other way to put it. 
#2 - I am now solely dependent on my phone for pictures, which is fine - it takes great pictures, but I am trying to find the easiest way to get them from my phone to my computer in a way that doesn't try to save Every. Single. One. every time. I'm not real tech savvy so I am slow to try and mess with it. 
#3 - The kids have testing (state mandated) this week, and though it's only one day - half a day, at that - I generally try to put a focus on the type of material that they will be facing so they are not surprised and ill-prepared for the final day. 

I've pulled a few pictures together to try and give a good idea of some of the things we've been doing the last month or so, since the last time I posted. I still have a couple vacation posts I want to finish, and am determined to do that - before our next out of town trip, at least. 

Here is our month in review:

*The Game Changers*
(the biggest changes that affect our daily and weekly routines)

I started both selling and using Plexus in the past month. It has truly been an answer to pray, specifically in the energy level! I have no more afternoon crash and bedtime crankiness out of exhaustion. But I'm not saying that as a sales pitch - just an update on how I'm making it through each day, by the Grace of God.

Baseball season is upon us. This is always a busy time of year, keeping up with practices and games. It's even more busy when I'm the only parent here to keep up with it all. That being said, Hoss L.O.V.E.S. this time of year and that makes it all worth it.

*School Days*
(what has been going on in school life, both pictures and updates)

In the middle of March the kids had their annual Solo and Ensemble for their homeschool music group. Hoss and Miss Priss (in general music ed) didn't compete, only performed with their class. A skit, various different instruments, including the kalimba, bell plates, boomwhackers, and many other fun ways to play with music. LM actually competed, in that she sang a solo, and received one of the highest ratings.  

We got some new materials in recently, including a hundred board (above), multiplication board (below), and decimal board (two pictures down). In the picture above you can also see part of our Lego Timeline board that we have used for weeks while working on the Lego study we did. That was a fun one, but the kids were definitely past being excited about it, so we tapered off until we are now finished with working with it. 

Hoss is past basic multiplication facts and the memorization of them, but it is never a bad thing to practice what you know. That being said, Big Z was over one day and it's very hard to have school when outsiders come in. I just realized that sounded a little creepy the way I said that, but it is hard to keep their minds on school when someone else is over that isn't a normal fixture in our day. So I challenged both of the boys, who had never before laid hands on this material, to work together to complete it. I quickly presented it to them and they worked on it until they were completely finished. The picture itself isn't such a great angle, but I was also working with LM on something so I had to hurry.

LM definitely understands decimals, from the use of money. But the decimal work has been on my wish list for a while. So, I bought some, and improvised some. I bought the board (from Kid Advance, I think it was) and found the small wooden cubes at Hobby Lobby. There are , like, 30 or 40 in a bag - maybe more - and I bought two bags. Thankfully, I realized that to an extent, I will be able to use the same cubes to do a little bit of a volume lesson with them and the brown (pink) tower that we have. Anyway, I digress.... I gave her the first lesson on decimals that a friend and teacher at our local Mont. school showed me, then showed her how to lay out decimals on the board. Apparently I was going way too slow, because after showing her ONLY numbers less than 1 unit, she wanted to do her own. Before I knew it, she had  some  number in to the millions on both sides laid out and was making up her own numbers that large just to get to lay them out on the board. So adding and subtracting will come next, which will probably go just about as fast, and then we can move on. She's definitely able to do this, in fact, I'm probably much too slow on getting the actual lesson to her. It is what it is, though, and I'm glad that even when I didn't have the material right away or when we've been so busy that I haven't made a point to specifically introduce something to her, just keeping her involved with LIFE, explaining things to her (and the other kids) teaches them so many things!

Hoss was working with turning improper fractions in to mixed fractions here. I had been out of town for a couple days one week and left some *busy work* with my mother, who had them, so that she could give them something to do if she needed that time. He was brushing up on adding and subtracting fractions, and I realized that I didn't look close enough at the worksheet I printed out (I can hear your gasp from here - a worksheet in a Mont. inspired homeschool? It would be no different in this case than having a work card system to move through, or anything else. He already knows the material and sometimes you do what you have to do!). I introduced the concept of a mixed fraction to him, again, because it's been a while since we've talked about them, and he was easily able to go back and turn every improper fraction into one that is mixed.

I thought this picture was so funny. One of the things Miss Priss had in her 'busy packet' of work were a few reading comprehension exercises. This particular one was just a 'finish the story' creative writing exercise. I told my husband her feelings about disobedient dogs came through loud and clear. :)

Our next 'focus study' is going in a geographical slant - I have been working to combine some Waseca materials, both printed and purchased (got the wonderful North America map stencil to start with!) to do a continent study. I'd like to turn it in to a biome/culture/historical study of each continent, the countries in the continent, and so on. I'm still working on preparing this material, though, so I'm not real sure when we will start to be honest with you. 

A little practical life cheese cutting. Yes, Buddy Boy is wearing a pot holder, and No, I have no idea why. Nothing was hot, but I suppose he felt it was appropriate. 

Buddy has also been in this massive sensitive period, the best I can tell. He has been using our open-ended play materials to build. Everywhere. Everything. He gets the wooden blocks, tangram/pattern blocks, Legos, cars, and Lincoln Logs out daily and builds different things with them. I love it because he is extremely absorbed in what he is doing and always has a story to tell me about what he has made, sometimes very elaborate. He tends to use his cars as the 'people' in his story, which is quite funny. His concentration has improved immensely. 

LM is currently involved in a self-directed project of doing a report/presentation on Carl Linnaeus. We listen to a CD set called Jonathan Park, an excellent tool for families that believe in a young earth creation, and just recently one story involved Linnaeus in it's background. She has been diligently working on researching, working with  me and Google Docs to prepare her main points as printables, and the finished product will be a presentation board that she will use to tell about what she has learned. I am looking forward to seeing her finish this, and she is really enjoying the work.

On the heels of LM, Hoss took her lead and is working on his own such project, but on John Adams. He has been reading books in the Adventures in Odyssey series that cover early America, and that may or may not be why he chose Adams. I do know that he spent the better part of an hour one day working on a list of people he wanted to research, finding birth and death dates and why they were important. 

Miss Priss is - well, she's Miss Priss. She struggled through the last few days of working on her Lego Cards, which was one of the reasons why we let it taper off. She is enjoying working with multiplication and division, specifically word problems, of late. 

Bug has been working to finish her addition charts, although slow going, and is still working through reading. Were it not for our busy life here lately, she would probably be a little farther along than she is. One thing that has improved is her ability to focus on her work. It might also be because I strongly felt that if she wasn't able to focus on her work by the end of the *school  year*, I would be keeping her at a 'kindergarten' level next year. I may or may not have even told her that. What she doesn't know is that her work and what she could do would have steadily changed as she was ready. She just knows that if she can't focus on her work, she won't think she's in 1st grade. Mind  games, maybe, but it has shown her that she does need to complete what she starts and has driven her to push herself harder. 

Buddy is showing an increased interest in writing his numbers and letters. I purchased sand paper numbers recently, because I wanted them not only for him but also the younger two girls who sometimes still flip their numbers backwards when writing them, and he shocked me a couple days ago by pulling them out, looking at them, then covering them with his paper before writing the number on the paper. Not the traditional way, but it was his way and he was doing amazingly well at it. He is also writing, and just yesterday wrote his name completely for the first time. It was both sweet and sad, knowing my baby isn't staying a baby anymore!
*Family Life*

I did take a trip about 2 weeks ago, as mentioned earlier in this post, out of town. Actually, out of state. Me, myself, and I drove ALONE to see my husband in the great state of Texas! What a trip that was, let me tell ya! It was a beautiful drive on the way there, but the way home - I drove a great deal of that through the night, which was hard on this non-night-driver. 

I had no idea that there were such creatures as these monstrosities that met me on my way. From what I have read, these are 'Clean Energy Power Lines', but I'll be honest - driving through and seeing nothing but these things surrounding me on the trip was a little strange. So what do I do? Drive and catch a picture at the same time. Of course. 
 (the link shared is not from a personal opinion perspective, just what I found when trying to figure out what these were!)

Teeth are falling out everywhere in our house. In the last week alone I think I have pulled three of four from mouths in the house. :) Just another sign that #babiesdontkeep! 

Losing teeth and gaining family :) My three youngest children were a part of the latest wedding, when my sister-in-law got married a week ago. This is one of the harder parts of a military life - sometimes, you miss out on big events. My husband was unable to come for the wedding, but with the Lord's help, we pulled it all together and made it on time. 

I am absolutely in love with this handsome little guy. Also, very excited! His wedding attire is going to, in part, double as Easter clothes this year! :) I can't get enough of him in that hat. 

My pretty girls. I have been so blessed to have the children God has given us, and know I don't deserve to be their Mama, and that we have been given a most precious gift. 

That is what we've been up to! I hate that this post was so long, and in  my opinion, for myself, so overdue! :) When you get lemons, make lemonade! 

I'm pretty sure Spring has sprung just about everywhere, so I hope if you are reading this, that the weather is nice, the days are fun, and God is blessing you, too!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My Space Conundrum

Totally off the subject after all the vacation posts, and knowing there are a few more to come. Busy hit me at the door when we got home from vacation, and one of the biggest problems I have currently is this:

No, it's not the issue of horrific lighting OR the fact that those shelves are empty. It's that they are in my bedroom for one, and for two - that's the total amount of space I have for anything school related. If it's hard to tell, the small shelf to the right of the overly large shelf is a 3-cube cubical shelf from a local home improvement store. My plan is to add a 6 cube shelf as soon as possible. This space lends itself to the need for some very good organizational planning to have what is needed out and yet still make it not seem too cluttered. I used to have a storage area in our old living room, behind a couch, and that made it easy to swap out materials. Now, though, all material not in use has to be kept in a storage unit, which means I have to try to plan ahead as much as possible. 

And there you have it - the ongoing saga of homeschool in my home - wherever said home might be. :)
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