Monday, September 15, 2014

Parts of a Plant {Botany}

Care of the environment is an important aspect of a Montessori classroom.  I'm bummed we haven't done a very good job of this yet this year.  This morning we headed over to the store to pick out some plants. Barrett picked out a cactus- he said it was easier because he didn't have to water it (smart kid) and Indie picked the first ones she found that were pink. 

I introduced the Parts of a Plant nomenclature cards.  These include: the whole plant, root, leaves and stem. Montessori Print Shop has a Plant Nomenclature Book  and photo cards for types of Roots.  You can find some Botany friendly cards at The Little List. The cards pictured came from Karen Tyler's Botany Album

 Creating our Parts of the Plant Book.  
These nomenclature books are always a huge hit and such great writing practice. 

Looking for more? Popular Botany Posts from Mixing Playdough:

Fruit (Apples!!!)
Trees and Plants (link to free printables)

Deb at Living Montessori Now also posted the motherload of Apple Related Activities. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Landscape Art {Art Friday}

I had planned to take the kids up to the mountains to sketch this week but after a hectic few days we really needed that extra day at home. I'm sure we will make it up there next week. 

This morning we looked at some landscape art in our Can you Hear it? book along with searching for landscape art in our Usborne Famous Painting Art Cards. We also listened to  The four Seasons: Summer by Vivaldi. 

The selected cards that the kids felt fit a "landscape" description. 

They picked a card that inspired them. Indie picked Apples and Oranges by Paul Cezanne.

Barrett picked The Water Lily Pond by Claude-Oscar Monet. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Book of Centuries {History}

I'm really excited about incorporating this into our homeschool. A book of Centuries is more or less a timeline that is kept in a notebook or journal. You can find details and even a free printable at Simply Charlotte Mason but we decided to use a large journal for ours that I picked up at the craft store. We are also just doing one as a family but if your kids are older it would be great for them to work on individually. 

Traditionally a book of Centuries would start at 4000 BCE and go through AD 2100 but we started a bit earlier. Because it would be impossible to do every hundred years from the beginning of time we split it into manageable pieces:

The Beginning of Time (everything before the Paleozoic Era)
The Paleozoic Era
The Mesozoic Era
Cenozoic Era
Coming of Humans (Early Man)

This is the start of our century divisions: 4000 BCE- 3901 BCE and so on. 

If you incorporate Montessori into your home this would be easiest to do after The Great Lessons.   These stories go up to the history of writing and mathematics and are a great transition into Ancient History.  

Narrating and sketching the end of the Minoan Civilization. We also compared it to other parts of history we had learned about. 

Placing ourselves in the book. 

We had a TON of pages leftover at the end so Barrett thought they would be great for map work and I agreed.  We'll make sure we can cross reference ancient maps with current ones and maybe tape a few in there as well. 

This is a long term project and it will be invaluable as time goes on. What better way to keep track of what we've been learning?  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Processing Ragnar Relay

This post is a little off topic and a little late to the game but the farther out I get from the race, the more I want to process what that weekend was.  Ragnar is a 200 mile relay race with up to 12 people in two vans. You can find a Ragnar Relay just about anywhere but Colorado Ragnar is a special level of crazy. Mostly due to the elevation gains and losses throughout the course along with the altitude most of the runs are done. 

I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole thing. You go into it knowing it's going to be tough but also not wanting to let your team or yourself down. The first couple of runs our team was above pace and you could feel the excitement. When I was finally up to run 4 hours later, I stood at the bottom of the hill, thinking what a horrible idea this whole thing was. But you can't give up at that point- never starting- so off I went. 

I still think about what would have been different had a trained better for that hill. What would have happened if I hadn't hurt my knee on the way up. What if I had worn better sunscreen and drank more water. What if my mind hadn't played so many games on me. 

I made it to the end of my 10.7 mile run but I was done.  I wasn't ready for the emotional toll that "kills" took on me. (Kills are what you call it when you pass someone, I was passed more times than I want to admit on the internet)

About an hour after that I started throwing up. I couldn't keep anything down and I felt horrible. My team started planning what to do about the next runs I had and it just isn't what you want to hear or feel or think about. 

I was saved by a giant bowl of white rice (#teamwhiterice) and a nap inside. Knee taped up I was ready to go and I headed off on my next run- in the dark- on a frontage road- in the middle of no where Colorado. Still getting killed. A lot. 

While I was grateful for the end of a solid six mile run at pace I started dreading my last leg. I think I had stopped having any sort of fun a while back. It was only two miles and I had trained for it. Two quick ones on tired legs. But the tape stopped helping and it was time for me to run and I had to just go- pain or no pain. 

This was one of the most beautiful parts of the run and the moment I missed my family dearly. It's one of our favorite spots to go as a family. I hobbled my way across the finish line at a slow 13 minute mile pace- feeling defeated and frustrated and whiny. My strong finish became a battle of wills and a realization that maybe I actually hate running. 

Our team did finish strong and I really loved the community of women I was with. We had 14 kids between the 5 of us in one van. Different ages and parenting styles and with kids in all kinds of different schools. They made it worth it- thank you ladies. 

Joe is up there right now, racing Tough Mudder. He's about an hour into it and I can't wait to hear how it goes. I'm pretty sure I won't get a call with him sitting on the grass crying because he didn't keep pace. He's out there to push himself and have fun and cross off a new challenge. What I had wanted my Ragnar to be. 

Life really hit hard when I got back. We had an emergency foster placement that drained me more than I realized. She didn't want to leave our home but my hands were tied. It's not easy putting a screaming child into a car and not having any idea where they are going to end up. The kids all dealt with it in different ways. Our homeschool season started full force and I found myself unsure of whether it was the right call this year or not.  Joe had projects finishing with work so I was by myself a lot. Not really where you want to be when life gets crappy. I started realizing how much I wanted to complain and collapse and not press on.  

Ragnar is a little bit like life. Maybe a lot. Maybe that's the beauty of the race. It's a lot of waiting around. A lot of nothing. This is followed by a lot of something you can't avoid. Having a community around you makes it bearable but doesn't negate the hardness of it all. And you never really know why. Why is it hard? Why did I choose this? But you know that it's where you are supposed to be and you keep going. You keep putting one foot in front of the other- hobble or no hobble. 

"Not that I have already obtained all of this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." Philippians 2:18

Thinking about running a Ragnar next year? My tips:
1. put sunscreen on every hour- even if it's two in the morning. 
2. if you feel the need to vomit, just do it. Bonus points if you can make it up the hill out of sight of your team. 
3. You will have to push yourself to your perceived limit. Than you will have to keep going. 
4. Guys will be nicer about kills than girls. Just go with it. 
5. Tutu's aren't all that bad. 
6. If they say "hug the sign" they mean "hug the sign"
7. You will have to prioritize sleep, eating and showering. Choose carefully. Choose very carefully. 
8. Hug those friends- new and old. They have seen you at your worst and at your best. 

Thank you friends for putting up with me and pushing me. I love you guys. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Chrysanthemums {Art Fridays}

We used the piece, Chrysanthemums by Utagawa Hiroshige along with some hand picked chrysanthemums and sunflowers for our Art inspiration this week. We also listened to The Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. 

You can find both of these in the book Can You Hear it? or you can find them online of course! 

One of the hardest lessons for me with my oldest has been understanding his thought process with his drawings.  He can draw things in great detail and proportion if he chooses too- but other times it appears that he doesn't care and the page just looks like a bunch of scribbles. Today I took some time to sit down with them and realized that he was drawing with the music. He would speed up or slow down, use more pressure or less, depending on the dynamics in the song. It wasn't that he didn't care- he was just experiencing the activity in a different way!  We've referred to it as his "action" drawings. 

Dad's monochromatic approach. The kids really enjoyed having him here this morning! I love seeing his drawings and think I might start stashing them away. 

Next week we will say goodbye to summer by looking at View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, After a Thunderstorm- The Oxbow by Thomas Cole and listen to The Four Seasons: Summer by Vivaldi. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Charlotte Mason- Exploring her Philosophies

It is no secret that I have been heavily influence by Maria Montessori. Her view of children and their capabilities is inspiring.  She was a scientist first and by simply observing the children she was in contact with, she figured out how to guide them so that they could succeed. 

There are of course problems with any philosophy or method. Montessori never intended home use of her work. She was very clear about student/directress ratios and age ranges. She made many of her materials herself and was very controlling of her ideas.  Her primary work was accomplished with the 3-6 age crowd mainly because the older ones were in school already. Unfortunately, she never really expanded too much into the older ages. There is a little bit on Early Elementary and pretty much nothing after that. 

In a home environment, I have struggled with how to implement some of her ideas as the kids get older.  Group work is so integral to the Elementary Montessori Classroom that it is almost impossible to mimic it in a home environment. 

So, here I am, exploring more philosophies and ideas and trying to find a good fit for my oldest. One where he is challenged appropriately but is also leading his own learning. I recently saw this quote in an issue of Wild and Free (a free bundle to download): 

"Cherish in your children the love of investigation"

I love this quote and it inspired me to look more into Charlotte Mason and her philosophies. I feel like I have a lot more to learn but I wanted to share a bit about how she compares with Montessori and what specifically we are going to try to incorporate into our work. 

Mason lived from 1842-1923. This seems to be a turning point in a lot of educational philosophies. She is a huge influence in Christian homeschooling circles.  

She believed that "education is an atmosphere."  This is where you will find the greatest disparity between philosophies. She was very much against changing the environment to fit a child. She felt that a child should not be isolated to a "child friendly" environment.  That means no small chairs or tables or kid sized things that you would find from Froebel or Montessori. 

She also believed that "education is a discipline. " That education was stronger than natural inclinations. 

Mason stated that "education is a life" and that because the mind feeds on ideas- children should have access to a large amount of curriculum and resources. 

She agreed with Montessori in the realm of external motivators. Both believed that they have no place in learning and are detrimental. You can find modern research confirming this in the book Nurture Shock.  

In terms of early childhood, Mason believed that kids should be outside exploring their environment and that was more important than any other type of learning. You can see a movement back towards this in some of the Forest Kindergartens popping up.  

I am a huge proponent of getting kids outside but I also know from experience that when given the opportunity- they will surprise you.  Montessori put out materials that appealed to children for a reason. Access to a moveable alphabet may spur on your little one to learn how to spell before she can read.  Numerals and counters will have them reciting addition and subtraction problems before you know it. Montessori believed that young children needed to be in a concrete world able to explore with their senses. Concrete always comes before abstract. 

Montessori wanted to cultivate a spirit of learning more than a mechanical skill or mechanism. Mason believed that under the right conditions "studies serve for delight"  and that "the consciousness of daily progression is exhilarating to both teacher and child"

I am growing to love both of these philosophies and am grateful for the chance to pick and choose from them. 

Here's a list that I would like to incorporate into our home for early elementary:

Notebooks for Nature, Math, Explorations
A Century Book (For history, it is a book with pages marked for every hundred years from 4,000 BCE to current time)
Narration of Literary Works 
Recitation, both secular poetry and biblical 
Living Books 



Curriculum Resources


For your Homeschool Self