Monday, April 25, 2016

School Days

Today's post is an unusual "School Days" post.  Rather than just show you glimpses of certain works I made a point to photograph each thing on their work plans at least once over the course of a couple weeks (I spread it out so my photographing isn't intrusive). So, in this post you get a rare look at what a whole week can look like.  There are many things they do every day and I certainly didn't photograph every work they did for a week.  You'll see each category on their work plans once.  I last wrote about their work plans in detail in January.  I change things on the work plan frequently.

Where possible, I've linked to books or materials that we are using for your convenience.  So, this post does contain affiliate links, thank you for supporting our homeschool.

The boys have been working with decimals just about daily.  My greater-than/less-than alligators made a reappearance.  This work wasn't in the albums, but seemed like a good idea. I wanted them to practice comparing numbers with decimals carefully making sure that they understand which that on this side of the decimal point tenths are bigger than millionths.  It is a good idea to do this comparing numbers with only a few places to the right of the decimal with those with lots of places to the right of the decimal.  For example:

5.8 > 5.1279989  

I think I mentioned our addition work with the decimal board in a previous post.  The boys thought the board was very silly to use for such easy work and used it for just a few equations before moving on to just paper.  If it made the process that clear from the very beginning I guess it was worth the time spent.  

They have been working through the Nienhuis activity set for decimal fractions.  I think they both finished all of the addition cards this week and will practice with the subtraction cards next week.  

Another work they have been doing daily is the ETC Montessori 6-9 measurement task cards.  They will go through this relatively quickly, I think, and then we'll do the 9-12 task cards.  There is a lot of variety of work in this set.  Some works are two-part cards as above, some are story problems, and some are experiments.  

They have been in the section on time measurement and have each done an experiment every day for the past two weeks.  They have had a blast timing themselves running laps up and down the driveway with stop watches, counting how many times they can dribble a ball standing versus walking for one minute, etc.,  One of Kal-El's experiments this week involved bean seeds in the light versus the dark (integrated with the Montessori biology works as you can see).  The experiment called for seeds in wet paper towels.  However, Kal-El's public school friends took him to their classroom window one day when they were at the playground at the school to show them how they were sprouting bean seeds taped to the window in plastic bags and water.  He wanted to do his the same way they did.  He also reports that his friends are also working on decimals.  He thought this was all pretty exciting.  

Every day we either listen to The Story of the World on audiobook, do the recommended map work, read the recommended fiction and non-fiction for each topic, or do one of the interesting activities suggested in the activity book.  This week we learned the Gupta dynasty and the Ajanta Caves.  We learned about Diwali and the Rangoli that many make for the entrances of their homes.  We watched some YouTube videos of monks making mandala so that they could appreciate how it is done.  We wanted our art to be more permanent so we did ours with white glue on paper.  In the picture above the boys were sketching their designs on paper first.

We also work in Writing with Ease  every day.  I have said several times in the past that this is like Reading Rainbow for us, but I was completely wrong.  I just watched an episode of Reading Rainbow and that is NOT the show I was thinking it was this whole time. I was thinking of the nice guy who illustrates stories as an excerpt is being read and then leaves off at a cliffhanger and tells you to read the book.   I was thinking of Cover to Cover with John Robbins.  We used to get to watch that once a week at the parochial school I attended for middle school.  I LOVED it.  

So, Writing with Ease is like Cover to Cover for us.  The boys want to read every book excerpted.  Recently we've read:

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Pippi Longstocking (all three books)

Of course, if a book has a sequel the boys want to read those too.  We do most of these as read-alouds, but sequels are usually read individually.  Right now Me Too is reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle individually and Kal-El is reading a sequel to the Rats of NIMH.  This is in addition to the piles of library books we bring home each week and in addition to the SOTW individual reading and read-alouds that we do.  

Me Too is currently enjoying the Vet Volunteers series and Kal-El is currently reading The 39 Clues series.  We get most of our weekly reading and SOTW books from the library.  It helps when your library is part of a network of libraries for SOTW. Our library often doesn't have the book but one of the other libraries in network almost always does.  

I think it is also important to have good books on hand in the house.  This is extra important if you have a super speedy reader in the house like Kal-El or myself.  We need great books to reread lying around for when we run out between library trips.  My husband calls them my "emergency books."  I buy most of the WWE books because we just love them all.  Bauer really curated a nice collection of literature to use in those books.  I also think it makes a big difference to get a good edition with beautiful illustrations.  Whether I buy or borrow the book, I like to check the blog Read Aloud Dad for recommendations on which edition to choose. 

When we need further ideas for additional reading we use The Read-Aloud Handbook and Read for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted Families.  The boys also often choose to read the books excerpted in Vocabu-Lit: Building Vocabulary Through Literature.  However, compared to the other three resources, the literature chosen just isn't as good.  The books tend to be award-winning but a lot more modern and I guess our tastes just run to the older books.

They have been working on their Spanish nearly daily.  Above is one of the activities we did this week.  I gave each child a laminated picture of their head with some poster putty on the back.  I also set out a toy bus, airplane, train, and car.  Some of our recent vocabulary cards are on the table.  The boys took turns sticking their head to one of the vehicles and driving it onto one of the vocabulary cards.  I would ask, "A dónde vas tú" and they would then say something like "Voy a la playa en autobús" or "Voy al parque en avión."  It was a little silly sometimes. 

Kal-El is still working on memorizing the capitals of Europe.  Me Too is still working on the capitals of Africa. They mostly do this with our Pin It! Maps.  Me Too was really struggling with this particular group of capitals because he had no idea how to pronounce words like Ouagadougou, Nouakchott, N'Djamena, or Mbabane.  We have already often used the map games at Sheppard Software, but their older website used to be so hard to navigate we thought that they didn't have games for Africa.  It turns out they do and the game levels through this link have been very helpful.  Level one lets you click on a country to hear it's capital pronounced.  Level two has you matching the capital to the country but they pronounce the capital name each time which has been helpful reinforcement.  We also have Montessori apps on our iPad that do this type of thing but they don't have them for Africa yet. 

We are taking a short break from our simple machines work to go back and continue the work we've been doing this year on electricity.  I am so impressed with the Snap Circuits SC-300  kit that Santa Clause brought the boys for Christmas.  I expected that they would be able to make a variety of circuits, but there are 305 progressive projects in the accompanying booklet.  The boys  made more than twenty of them last week and things are lighting up, music is playing, sirens are blaring, propellers are flying into the air...  They love it.  

I set a goal for the boys to each finish one entire All About Spelling  and one Vocabu-Lit book this year.  In Me Too's case he alternated each one daily.  Kal-El chose to do his entire Vocabu-Lit book and then start the spelling.  If you add the number of lessons in the two books together, there are more lessons than there are weeks in our school year.  So now, the race is on to try to finish what is left before summer.  I have no problem carrying this into the summer, but the boys have chosen to double up each day to finish on time.

Kal-El's favorite part of his AAS book is the "Word Analysis" work at the beginning of each chapter.  The book is scripted for the parent.  Above is one of the words we analyzed this week and below is the accompanying script from the book.

The boys are practicing either long-multiplication or long-division daily.  They both can do these abstractly with any size multiplier/multiplicand/divisor/dividend.  Right now they are inventing an equation or two to complete each day.  Sometimes they choose a page out of Basic Math Skills, Grade 3 or 4 instead.   However, even though the Evan-Moor is more rigorous than common core, the size of the equations is still significantly smaller than what they are used to doing with the Montessori materials.  We keep the Evan-Moor around for occasional use to get them used to the formats they would see on a traditional test.

We recently spent about two weeks doing one multiplication equation a day on graph paper.  This is the lesson in the albums called "geometric multiplication."  

Grammar is another thing the boys do daily. We are following a Frankenstein-esque sequence all our own (which I wrote about here).  I want to get into verb tenses but the materials and albums we are using want to take us through some advanced work on types of nouns first.  We are generally following the sequence from MRD (Kal-El is in their Language Arts, Volume 5), using ETC materials (mostly), and Keys of the Universe and Not Your Grandma's Grammar for presentations.  

At any rate, above Kal-El reviewed the difference between concrete and abstract nouns and learned the advanced grammar symbol for abstract nouns.  We used the presentation from NYGG and cards I made from MRD.

Me Too is mostly working on adverbial extensions with the analysis materials, but is also reviewing direct and indirect objects because he seems to have trouble with those.

Word study is also on their daily work plan.  

Having completed the traditional presentations for word study in our KotU albums long ago, we are currently working on what's referred to as "further exploration."  We use ETC materials for this and like them a lot.  Me Too is currently working on reviewing antonyms.  Kal-El is learning the Latin definitions for certain prefixes and exploring their effect on the definition of words.

The rest of our work is done on a weekly basis.  

These are some of our Child-sized Masterpieces folders.  These are Step 5 folders.  This is beyond matching and pairing or grouping.  In this step they are learning about the painting and the artist and memorizing the names of both. 

Once a week the boys do a full weeks worth of Daily Word Problems.  Me Too still has a set that I cut and laminated.  Kal-El just prefers to do his straight out of the book. 

Kal-El writes fluently in cursive rather than print by choice.  He still needs practice making connections sometimes.  Me Too is still learning some of the letters.  We use New American Cursive.  Above is some of Kal-El's work in, I think, book two. 

In addition to all of their spontaneous art and art that crops up connected to our SOTW work, we do a lesson from I Can Do All Things at least once a week.  Today we were practicing drawing circles properly (lightly circling 4-5 times rather than looping around once darkly and connecting the ends).  The lesson went on to have us draw several things that started with a circle.

The boys are in a holding pattern on fractions right now because we are working on decimal fractions.  They keep them fresh by doing a few cards from our Nienhuis fractions activity sets once a week.  Above is a picture of a page from Me Too's notebook.  He is practicing adding mixed numbers with unlike denominators.

The boys play the violin seriously.  They have lessons with a violin teacher once a week and practice with me every day.  They play piano less seriously.  They have a lesson with me once a week and practice most days on their own.  Kal-El also plays the cornet even less seriously and plays sometimes, on his own.  He does play well enough to rehearse two or three times with his Dad's sixth grade band and play in their December concert.  We finished the Montessori music albums long ago.  I haven't been doing anything fancy with their music theory since that time.  I teach the appropriate music theory as it comes up in their violin music.  Also, once a week, they have to do a couple of pages of the music theory book that is a part of their piano series (we use Alfred's).  When we run out of pages in those, they do pages out of the Schaum Note Spellers Books. 

We always have some fun command cards floating around the classroom that encourage us to get our hands into the geometry materials.  The boys usually pick some of these about once a week. This year they keep choosing the Cube Up! cards again and again.  They are almost through all of these which will force them to move on to something else.

The boys have been very eager to bake.  This is almost like a "going out" in that I help them, but they do all of the planning.  They like to dig through my Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook to pick out projects.  We usually wind up making something that looks like the picture in the Martha book using recipe's from my The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Martha's recipes always seem to involve 32 steps and call for 9 sticks of butter to make the same cake as in the Test Kitchen book, but the test kitchen cakes always taste better.   For the cake above, Kal-El also decided to look up cake decorating videos on YouTube and found a tutorial.  He watched it and taught himself how to do some piping on his cake.  

This weekend Me Too make a three-layer devil's food cake (ATK) with chocolate ganache two ways (MS, whipped cold for the inside, poured warm for the outside).  Above he is learning how to trace and cut his parchment paper.

Here he is pouring and spreading the ganache.  We have a lot left over but discovered we can chill it, scoop it, and roll it in stuff (cocoa powder, coconut, chopped nuts) to make truffles.  

That is what a week looks like in our homeschool.  Just take the daily works and multiply by four.  Don't forget that Friday is our "going out" day.  We only do work IN the school room on Friday's if we have weeklies to mop up.  We had coop twice this month.  On other Fridays we went to a play and had youth symphony auditions.  Next month we are going to the symphony and to the ballet.  

Monday, April 11, 2016

Simple Machines: Levers

For our simple machines work I am combining the relevant lessons from Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding and the lesson planning guides that came with my simple machines,   

This post does contain affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting our homeschool.

The BFSU basically says to "go big or go home" and suggests lifting the teacher's desk, while the teacher is sitting on it, with a brick and a 2x4.  Very Montessori in spirit a la the big impressions left by key experiences and charts.  We don't have the kind of furniture they had in mind for that so I put our full set of  Power Blocks in a box.  This weighs about 50 lbs.    We started by trying to lift the box with just our bodies.  Not surprisingly my 48 lb child could not lift the 50 lb box.

Next we tried with the recommended brick and 2x4.  We have lift off!  By the way, we experimented again a different day and found that a cylindrical fulcrum worked a lot better if you can find one.

We experimented with changing the position of the fulcrum thereby creating lever arms of differing lengths.

The distance that we were able to lift the load varied according to the lengths of the lever arms.  The boys measured and recorded the heights we were able to achieve.

I found levers all over the house and some of them were small enough to put on a rug.  Others were not.

It was hard to figure out how some of these function AS levers without a little help.  I contacted my friend Jennifer at the Montessori Print Shop and she sent me her downloadable file for simple machine cards.  I received this free of charge so that I could use them and tell you about them here.  

We started with the cards that had the load, effort, and fulcrum labeled and matched them to the real levers we had in the house.  I was able to find an example of just about everything pictured (except my bicep is not nearly that big).  Eventually the boys realized that the levers could be classified according to the position of these parts and they classified them under the picture and definition cards that come with the set.

Then we moved on to using the simple machine models in our classroom.  First we worked with a simple lever.  

 The boys used some labels I made to label the parts of the lever as well as the eventual parts of the equation they would discover (Fxd=fxD).

I'm so sorry about the quality of these pictures.  The boys love to do their work in front of the window and the contrast there makes it impossible for me to take pictures that look lit.  

Here Kal-El is using one of the Montessori Print Shop card sets to classify the different levers and then labeling the parts.  The MPS printable has the labels as part of the file but I amped things up a little.  I don't like picking up pieces of paper that tiny.  I made our out of some Woodsie shapes and Foamies shapes I already had and didn't even need to cut.  I wrote the letters on with a permanent marker.

Here you can see he's matched the control cards with the cards he labeled.  In this post we've only use the cards from the set that have to do with levers.  You can see the complete list of what is included here. For the levers we used definition cards, lever-class definition cards, unlabeled photographic cards of levers, labeled photographic cards of levers, line-drawn images of each class of lever, and a control chart for the classes of levers.   As we study more simple machines we will use more card sets and eventually be identifying the levers from among mixed sets.

They used the lever-part labels to label the parts on our actual levers after labeling the photographs.

Truman likes to label levers too.  #montessoridog

...but it makes him tired.

When he is not busy labeling levers, Truman likes napping and playing with the football the Easter Bunny brought him.

Next we moved on from the simple lever to the "fulcrum balance."  This clever little model has sliding platforms so you can discover how to reach equilibrium by changing the distance of the platforms from the fulcrum.  As per the instructions that came with the model I labelled the platforms "1" and "2" and also drew intersecting lines to mark the center of each platform.

The first day we simply explored how to balance two objects of differing weights and observed which of the two was closer to the fulcrum.  We also observed that if you change the distance of one object from the fulcrum you also had to change the other.

You can't really use this particular model to learn Fxd=f=D (explanation).  I tried this with brass weights and measured distances. The reason is that center of gravity has to be below the fulcrum (torque=mass x gravity x length explanation).  But what you CAN do (as suggested in the BFSU) is make a hanging balance using a ruler, string, and use paperclips for weights.

The boys were able to use this hanging balance to balance differing amounts of paperclips at various distances.  I labeled the different sides of the balance "A" and "B" with a dry erase marker to keep things consistent.

Instead of telling them the equation, the boys were allowed to discover it.  Have I ever mentioned that BFSU is very Montessori?  They recorded all of their data in their notebooks.  

I recorded the same data on our whiteboard.  The squares in the question mark columns were originally blank.  We just recorded the weights and distances.  After they were all recorded I asked the boys to multiply the weight times the distance on each side of the balance for each example.  They discovered that the products were identical and wrote the equation.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wrapping Things Up

We wrapped up a lot of work today.  The timing couldn't have been better.  I didn't plan for these things to work out this way, but they did.  Today was our last day of school before our spring break.

Today Me Too spontaneously asked if he could do his racks and tubes equations on paper instead of with the material.  He said he thought "it would be faster."  Above is the first equation he did.  He did it on his own, and abstractly.  We celebrated HARD.  I don't have to help my kids move the beads on those boards ever again!   I am so happy.  I am apparently past the sensitive period for helping kids move beads on boards.

Kal-El finished the last of the logical analysis cards in the ETC sentence analysis set.  He found them very difficult when he started them and now finds them easy.  These cards ask you to read one of Aesop's fables, find a sentence that meets their criteria, and analyze the sentence with the box of arrows.  It would say things like, "Read The Fox and the Crow and find a sentence that has at least a simple subject, simple predicate, and an adverbial of degree."   Now that he's finished with these we will work through the ETC 9-12 Grammar Curriculum cards.  I blogged about how I am using those here.  We'll be getting into verb tenses very quickly.

Kal-El also finished Vocabu-Lit: Building Vocabulary Through Literature: Book D (this link and those that follow are affiliate links) today.  I mentioned a different day that he had decided that instead of alternating vocabulary and spelling throughout the year, he wanted to just get the vocabulary workbook finished and then do the spelling.  He will now get back into All About Spelling after the break.  

Today we finished all of the work I had planned on levers.  Levers was the first and most complicated section of the simple machine work we are doing.  We can move on to inclined planes after the break and that and the rest of the work should go relatively quickly.  I have been working on a post about our levers work as we have been going along.  I will post that after the break so that everyone doesn't miss it while enjoying some time off.

We also completed the section in the KotU albums on wind this week.  I'm excited to move on to water.  We'll be busy building our river model over the break.

We had a great week of school.  We learned how to do the geometric multiplication work on graph paper.  We also started operations with decimals.  We are so close to the end of our current Spanish package I can taste it.  I'm excited to move on into the next "learning system box" because I only ever used the first box when I taught school.  It will be fun to travel into some new territory.  We are enjoying being out of ancient history and into the Middle Ages with Story of the World.  I always wish that we would go through one book a year with this but it never happens.  For example, once we got to chapter three Christianity Comes to Rome we became mired for weeks.  We are still working on it.  This took us down a long rabbit hole with several branches.  We are learning about medieval monasteries and the structure of the Catholic Church.  These leads us into Gregorian chant and also medieval book making.  The book making lead us into paper making and calligraphy.  The boys are working on making their own books.  They've made the paper, they are working on their calligraphy, and we have a kit for binding the books by hand.  They also plan to "illuminate" their manuscripts.  All of this, of course, led us into how the Bible came to us which lead us back to types of writing and the Rosetta stone.  Next thing I knew, I was giving the Fourth Great Lesson for the second time this year.  Like the levers, I have been writing a post on all of this as we go and will post it when they boys finish their books.  I find it more valuable to do the work they are interested in than get through SOTW on a schedule but we may be finishing the series when they are in college.