The First Two Weeks

We are starting the beginning of our third full week of school! 
Most of our time has been spend trying to get back to a normal routine. I initially didn't want to take a summer break, because it is very hard trying to get back to where we once were, but that's okay :)

I have about a handful of pictures to share with you and some details on what we are doing so far.

The first thing I have been so excited to show you is our brand new, beautiful brown tower and brown stair! 

Yes, you read that right - we have a brown tower! Why is it not pink, you say? Well, first we should start with where they came from to start with. I have been wanting some of the early primary sensorial materials for a LONG time, but wood working just does not happen in this house. So I went to a great friend, who I've known my entire life, who is also a master craftsman! I gave him the measurements, and then spent what seemed like forever trying to help him understand why I needed exactly what I needed (hahaha) - you try to explain the importance of a set of blocks, exactly 1 cm to 10 cm's , and why it's so important to paint them pink.... I did have plans to make them the authentic, appropriate colors (although honestly, if you are a montessori homeschooler, or just use SOME Montessori, you really aren't held to a color), so I told my friend that it was just fine to use scrap wood to make them - it didn't matter what it was. What I didn't realize until I picked them up, was that when he said 'scrap wood', he meant scrap CEDAR. These are beautiful! I knew the minute I saw them that I couldn't paint them - and I guess he figured I wouldn't want to, either, because he had already sanded and sealed them for me.

As you can see, both the tower and the stair are made perfectly, with the measurements just right - the two sets go wonderfully together, and the smallest pieces of each do the self-check just as they should!

The three youngest children (Miss Priss, Bug, and Buddy Boy) all have gotten a great deal of use out of these already. Buddy Boy has a loooooong way to go before mastering them, but Bug and Miss Priss do very well with them. In fact, really Miss Priss (who will be 6 tomorrow!) is actually developmentally past these by Montessori standards - except that she has never seen them, so by our standards she is new to them.

I gave her the lesson on both the tower and the stair at the same time, hoping to cause her to *on her own* see the relationship between the two. Sure enough, within just a few minutes and some strategically asked questions (What is the same? How are they different? - only asked to make her think), she figured out that they are indeed related to each other! 

Buddy Boy does most of his concentrated work during our Tot School time, but he does enjoy the sensorial work, both during our time together and by himself after I move in to the school room with the others. Here I was able to catch a couple pictures of him working with the knobless cylinders, the red and green sets. These were found through Yahoo Groups Montessori swap, and are actually (according to the seller) made by Haba, so there are some differences than what you would get from a Montessori supplier. There are only 7 cylinders per block, instead of the fundamental 10 that you would see from a set such as these knobless cylinders, and set 123, and 4 of the knobbed cylinders with blocks. In fact, they are really a combination of sorts - they have the same colors and knobless feature of the Montessori knobless cylinders, but the blocks that are the same as the knobbed cylinders. I am considering adding knobs to some of these, simply because some of them, if put in the wrong space, are impossible to get out without turning the entire block upside down, which essentially ruins all previous blocks that were put in.

Where Buddy Boy has not been able to master the tower and stair, he does very well with these and generally gets them all correct. Sometimes, his ornery side kicks in, and he does them wrong on purpose, which means I have to come along and encourage him to do it correctly or put them away... :)

While Miss Priss, Bug, and Buddy Boy have spent a lot of time checking out the new things in the classroom this year, I spent the first couple of weeks working off and on with Little Mama and Hoss on refreshing their memory, checking to see what we might need to work more on to make sure they have mastered (things we started last year, but apparently they didn't have it in their heads enough!), and filling in a year-long planner for their work.

This is something I have wanted to bring them to for a while now, and we did a little bit of planner use last year, and they seemed to thrive on it. Now, that doesn't mean I wanted to relinquish their freedom to choose what they like. That is one thing I really enjoy about Montessori - the ability of the child to be able to go with what they enjoy and learn through their interests. I did know, however, that in some areas, they wouldn't do anything if they had a choice, or very little!

So we spent some time talking about what they had before them, and figuring out where they wanted to work that in to their planners. For example: I found each one of them personal, grade level appropriate History books for this year - they each have two. I told them I really wanted them to get through the books by the end of the year - this would not be a problem for Little Mama, who is an avid reader. I knew if I just put them on the shelf and never said a word, they would be read! Hoss, however, enjoys reading, but is not as driven by it as his sister. So we figured out how often they would need to have a chapter/unit complete in order to get it done by the end of the year. Then they were allowed to have some choice of when they would work on it each week. Math and grammar were done in a very similar way - I told them where they needed to start with their Math this year (at the moment, they would *technically* be behind, according to Montessori standards, but after beating myself up a little over that, I realized I just needed to figure out where they were and work at a steady pace from that instead of trying to rush to catch them up to where they would be had they been Montessori from the start. I would be doing them a great disservice to try and get them to go faster than they should, and by doing that, I think I would be losing some of the method itself!). They were allowed to choose what days to work on each of the things we talked about, but in most cases, I did tell them how often things needed to be done each week : as in, grammar has to have four days and fractions need to be done atleast three days out of the week, and so on and so forth... 

Well, this is a longer post than I planned on, and I have at this point rewritten int a couple times to try and shorten it, to no avail. It has helped me to put in front of my face a good visual of where we are, so that I know the last couple of weeks weren't wasted, because we were moving slower than I thought we would initially. 

By now, I'm sure everyone has started their school year - I hope they are all going well for you!  


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