Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sssshhhhhh...... Learning in Progress!

It's been busy around our house, but not so busy on the blog! 

I didn't realize until just now that three weeks went by in a *flash* without a blog post. Never take silence on the blog to mean that nothing is happening - it's just the opposite, actually. Usually, it means that everything seems to be going on, and when life gets busy, the blog is the first thing that seems to take the back burner. 

I thought I would give a little update of what we are doing now, 7 weeks in to the school year. Unfortunately, I don't have many pictures. At our busiest times, when pictures would be wonderful to get, I can't stop to take them! I do have a few that I can pull together, though.

Okay.... so a 'few' is relative :)

This little Bug has been the source of a great deal of hair pulling busyness! Where the older three children are doing really well staying busy and moving from one thing to the next now, she is NOT. She still wants to be right beside me, doing something with me, all the time. In fact, she can be interested in doing a work off the shelves, that she has been presented, and knows how to do herself - but will not do it if I am not right there doing it with her. I have tried to explain to her that once she knows how to do something, mama doesn't have to be there to do it all with her, always, and she can choose it any time she wants, to no avail. So normalization is still not in her - she loves what she is doing, as long as I walk through all the steps with her *every time*.

 I am working on encouraging her to work independently as often as possible. We have been using our cards and counters numerals from Montessori Print Shop's Free Downloads along with glass gems for their intended purpose, as well as some early addition.

She has a desire to use the addition board, but I think it stems from seeing Miss Priss moving swiftly through the addition memorization charts, and she wants to do the same. I told her she can't move on from doing this style of addition, however, until she begins to work well on her own whenever she needs to. That may or may not be orthodox Montessori, but I am hoping it will work anyway. I think I will be adding practical life/fine motor/sensorial things as much as possible to try and help improve her concentration and ability to work alone.

We had an unplanned 'wash Mama's truck' night, which led to some yard work and weed pulling. While doing so, we found milkweed vines growing along the side of the house, and had a little fun breaking open the pods and looking up what we found online to read about it a little.

 This great, kid safe knife is from Pampered Chef! While the four older children used butter knives, Buddy Boy was able to work well with this one, without me fearing for his cute little fingers!

The pods were still damp when we first opened them up, but within a few minutes they began to dry, which made for quite a bit of mess floating around when we began to clean up! :) It was fun for them to see, though!

Although I know he was completely holding the knife upside down, I loved the great way he had his hands lined up to safely cut something - were the serrated edge to be going down, instead of up, that is..... :)

Miss Priss has enjoyed the extensions that I made for our Brown Tower and Brown Stair - I will have to share the pictures in the next post. I need to protect them with contact paper, but they are still usable right now! 

Hoss has been working diligently on cursive writing. There is apparently a debate on whether cursive writing is important and worthy of teaching in schools anymore - I would say my opinion is a BIG, fat YES! Although I think manuscript is important to start with (if you go anywhere as an adult to sign any kind of legal paperwork, you don't actually have to be able to sign in cursive, but you almost always are required to be able to print), I have seen amazing results out of Little Mama when she learned cursive. While her manuscript itself is so-so on the neat side, she has beautiful cursive and really enjoys it.

I have large cursive writing cards from Abeka that I was given, and he uses those with me for teacher-led lessons on the correct way to write the letters and learning to join them. There are also things on our shelves, such as dry-erase boards, and this set of cursive writing worksheets that I put in a binder inside sheet protectors. He can do these any time he wants. I try to give him a new lesson every 2-3 days.

I have sandpaper letters (lower and upper case) that we borrowed from our little library's homeschool shelves. I had them out in a box, but they weren't garnering much interest. So I pulled together some letter groups, and set a couple of them out on one of our shelves that hold mostly language materials. These pictures are of Buddy Boy doing this work, which he can do with me there to work with him. Miss Priss and Bug also do these, even though Miss Priss really doesn't NEED them - she just likes them. 

What I don't have pictures for:

Little Mama is moving forward on her personal science work, but still does a LOT of reading - so much that she has to be reminded that there are other things to do. She is enjoying reviewing some language work that she has learned before, and has been sneaking in some art with it - as she works through her compound words/synonyms/antonyms/homonyms, etc., she likes to write a story and illustrate it using all the words. This was her own idea, and makes the work so enjoyable to her! I promise, if there was a curriculum that allowed you to do nothing but write stories and draw, her name would be all over it! She is beginning some LARGE multiplication on the checkerboard in the next week or so, and I expect her to pick up on it very quickly. She is working on fractions steadily, and I hope to be able to move to decimal work before too much longer - but I don't want to rush her. I have to observe her very carefully in Math to be sure I don't rush or overwhelm her.

Hoss is just doing amazing with everything - grammar, cursive, working through the multiplication charts and doing some work with the stamp game in subtraction. He finds this very easy, and a LOT of fun - he is very good with numbers. We are behind on a 'Montessori' scope and sequence, but right online with where we need to be for them. I am wanting to begin more writing with him, and am looking for the place to start that I know will set just right with his personality. He is moving well with History, but we haven't done a great deal of Science yet this year. 

Miss Priss is also enjoying Math - she is very quick with addition, and is working through the memorization charts very quickly. I DO NOT have the golden bead materials, although I do have some homemade-style bead bars (not made of beads, but on paper and laminated), so I working on how I want to re-create the golden bead decimal work in order to introduce her to large numbers in a concrete form before we begin working with the stamp game. In the mean time, we can work through addition and subtraction with the beads, boards, and charts. We are still working on reading and she thinks it is great fun to copy words from her reading book onto dry erase boards and work on spelling what she can sound out. 

We have NOT started dong any group Science work yet this year. I know - horrible teacher-mama - but I am still working on it. The kids do really like that Netflix has Magic School Bus episodes, and they don't realize how much they are learning when they think I am just being nice and letting them watch TV during lunch :). History is done mostly by the older two, but we have been enjoying episodes of Liberty's Kids that can be found on Youtube, which are usually followed up by google searches of the particular event or main characters in the story. 

To see what Buddy Boy is up to, you can check the 'Tot School' category at the top of the blog.

I think our year is going great, overall, and hope to see it improve more and more as time goes by!

***I apologize for the lack of links in this post - it was hastily written, and still took me three days to finally post it on the blog! BUSY, BUSY, BUSY has been our life!***

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tot School - Yellow Week(s)

Finally - our Yellow Week post. Or, should I say, Yellow Weeks!
We have been so busy the last three weeks. First, sadly, a friend of mine lost her 5 day old baby, so for a few days of our first week of Yellow, I was a little busier than normal with extra things pertaining to that. Then, the following week, my children decided to start coming down with some kind of virus. When you have five children, you almost wish they would just all be sick at the same time. It can make for a hectic couple of days, but when it's over, it's OVER! However, that was not to be this time. This virus decided to move slowly through the kids, one at a time, and linger for a couple of days - then back off - then hit a couple of them AGAIN! I am hoping that we have seen the last of it, but who knows?! Add normal busyness to that, and you can imagine our life around here!

I tried a couple new things out this week with Buddy Boy, still trying to get a feel for what really motivates him and what doesn't interest him at all. So far, I've come to one big conclusion - gross motor is a great thing right now! Specifically, throwing/catching a ball. So anything that even remotely resembles a ball is highly favored.

Here's a peek at our trays:

      Pouring Beads
Buddy boy could pour yellow and white beads from this cute, tiny little white pitcher into a yellow ice cube tray with banana shaped sections.

Clothespin clipping
I wish this one was a little better, honestly, but it is what it is. We had our yellow foam hand shapes (just like the ones used in our red and blue weeks) and I wanted to do something a little different this time, so I thought I would set them on a tray with some clothespins and let him clip the clothespins on them. Instead, he liked to compare HIS hand to the yellow foam hands, and clip the clothespins to the tray. So I guess it wasn't a total bust, just definitely didn't get used the way I thought he would use them.

Big and Small Erasers
I pulled out some yellow duck erasers, both chunky and small, and threw them in a basket. I knew that was all the invitation Buddy would need, because he loves to line things up in a row and loved these erasers the last time we used them (with our Easter theme last year). It gave a great opportunity to talk about Big/Small and grouping.

We also used our Crayola My First Crayon (in yellow). Buddy Boy was almost more interested in the yellow shoes and the button at the top that must be pushed as you twist his head to extend the crayon. I am honestly glad that he didn't figure out how to twist and push at the same time - I got the 'Mama knows everything' advantage and the crayon didn't get broken from being twisted too high.

Yellow Banana Puzzle
I found this puzzle in a three pack of fruit puzzles at the Dollar Tree. Buddy enjoyed this puzzle, and used it several times. Although you could see the outline of the puzzle piece shapes in the base of it, I was very thankful that it was a perfect square shape - it kept him from getting frustrated when he put it together.

Number Matching with Yellow Foam Blocks
I hesitated to put this tray out, because we haven't touched numbers yet. Buddy Boy can count fairly well, but number recognition hasn't been covered. I did want to use these little foam blocks/dice that I got.... well, I don't remember where I got them. This is what I came up with! I could have made it look even nicer, and use yellow squared with the numbers written in, but I was in a rush and did this before we started school one morning. Turns out, he did pretty well with them!

Yellow Sensory Basket
This is ALWAYS a hit. Can I make a confession for a minute? Okay - I will. Sometimes - I don't pull this basket down. Because I know he loves to get elbow deep in it, and the cleaner in me can't handle the mess  fun. Not that I clean it up, mind you - but like I said earlier - gross motor throwing/catching is great to him.... I'm sure you are getting the picture now :) .

The Contents:

YELLOW cookie cutters
YELLOW gel ice cubes
YELLOW buttons
YELLOW magnetic numbers
YELLOW wooden cheese (from Melissa and Doug Sandwich Set)

YELLOW sensory bottle (mustard bottle, cleaned well, and filled with macaroni noodles). I did glue the lid on VERY well with hot glue.
YELLOW circle and square puzzle pieces
YELLOW poms, spiky ball, and truck 
YELLOW counting bears family

YELLOW blocks
YELLOW assorted erasers, most of these found at Target's Dollar Spot (I LOVE dollar deals :) )

Action Shots:

The first couple of times Buddy used this tray, he clipped each finger of the foam hands. Eventually, though, he clipped anywhere on the hand, or the edges of the tray. He definitely got the fine motor practice in.

Buddy Boy used his yellow crayon to color on blank sheets of paper. In retrospect, I should have printed off some coloring sheets of yellow items, which I will probably do for the next color if they are needed.

Buddy is usually VERY good about returning trays exactly where they came from, all the way down to which direction they were pointing on the shelf/table.

He liked pouring the beads, but decided that pretending to drink from the tiny pitcher was a great idea. I try to be as lenient as possibly, letting Buddy make up his own ideas for his trays when I can, but this was a little bit more than I wanted to allow. SO - I did redirect him to the correct way to use the pitcher - after the picture. This is definitely a Montessori-inspired work, so I didn't want him to stray too far from the purpose.

As you can see with this picture, and the picture below of the erasers, he really really likes to line objects up. 

Although we didn't focus on the names of the numbers, I was very surprised to see him correctly match the blocks each time he used these. He is very good at visual matching - it's just getting the oral recognition to stick in his head.

I don't plan on taking quite so much time with our next color, but I am glad that I decided not to rush him through these - I don't want to move on until I can see the signs that he is ready - recognition and desire for new trays - and really enjoy seeing him learn!

Feel free to check out our other Tot School weeks:

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