Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Etymology: Free Command Card Link

This week I have been on a search for the perfect etymological dictionary.  An etymological dictionary a recommended resource for any Montessori classroom, particularly at the  9-12 age. Etymology is yet another example of how Montessori students learn with many subjects interconnected.  They may encounter an interesting word during a botany or math work and then when they look at the etymology they are also exploring world history as well as maturing their spelling, vocabulary, and pronunciation.

Fortunately if you have right teacher you don't always have to attend a Montessori school or homeschool to learn in a fantastic way.  While on my dictionary search I stumbled across a blog post by Alycia Zimmerman, a a third grade gifted and talented classroom teacher in New York City:

Exploring Etymologies:  The Story of our Words by Alycia Zimmerman

What she did with her class looks a lot like the way my boys learn.  I encourage you to click over and read her blog post.  I was really inspired.  In fact, I started giving our language shelves a mini-makeover.

I don't think I've found a perfect etymological dictionary yet, but I've ordered the two books Alycia Zimmerman recommended:

In a Word: 750 Words and Their Fascinating Stories and Origins
Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms

We already have a good Merriam-Webster Children's Dictionary and Scholastic Children's Thesaurus  on our shelves.  I am adding the Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary.  (A dictionary, thesaurus, rhyming dictionary and etymological dictionary are all standard recommended supplies for an upper elementary Montessori classroom and are listed on the language supplies list in the KotU albums.)

I will be looking into the books that got Alycia Zimmerman's students so fired up about etymology:

Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster

Her students were also doing a lot of reading about Greek mythology which we already have covered.  We've just hit the Greeks in our SOTW work and the boys have been gobbling up all of the recommended literature.  I can't speak highly enough about all of the "additional literature" recommendations in the The Story of the World Activity Books.  The boys are devouring 10-15 history books a week thanks to those.

I think when I get this all put together it will be time to take out our Marie's Words and figure out how we are going to use those (Rotating display? In the box?  On a ring?  If you search for these on the internet you'll find a lot of blog posts with ideas.  I haven't decided yet.).  There is also a now an app for these!

And finally, we have some command cards.  Command cards are sometimes a solution that Montessori homeschooling families use to help with inspiring ideas for follow up work.  In a traditional Montessori classroom the child might have 20-30 classmates.  They observe their classmates doing many different projects and it gives them ideas, keeps them aware of their options, and inspires them to do work of their own.  Since it is just the three of us kicking around in here, command cards often are a partial substitute.  Ms. Zimmerman sent her students home with a list of 20 open-ended project ideas to choose from.  If you cut up a list of ideas or project starters, voila, you have command cards.  However, they weren't in the format that we typically use in our homeschool.  Many of you will just want the list and you can access that directly on Ms. Zimmerman's blog post.  I wound up reformatting the list into a "ETC-style" card format.  I cut and pasted the projects in, but they are in a larger font, have added images, and are labelled on the top right so that misplaced cards can find their way home.   I am sharing the link to my file below.  It is in Google Drive.

Link to Etymology command cards I formatted.  Again, these are Ms. Zimmerman's exact project ideas.  All I did was reformat them into the style that we would use on our shelves in our home.  All credit belongs to her.  They are for personal use.

The way Google Drive used to work, you could click on the link and immediately print from the page that comes up.  It seems that you now have to do some additional clicking and/or perhaps put the file in your own Google Drive.  I think it has something to do with the first page that comes up being some sort of "preview."  It will work, just experiment.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Whole Tone Scales

Somebody wasn't happy that the Tone Bars weren't out and took it upon himself to set them up.

Next we took out the red glass beads and I asked him to start with the first tone bar (G) and then build a scale using all whole steps.  He played it.  Then, I asked him to start on the G# and do the same thing.  He played it.  I asked him to start on the A and do the same thing.  He observed that even though we had a different starting point we used the same bars that we did when we built the scale on the A.  Then he predicted that this would happen if we used any starting note from the first scale.  He quickly realized that although we have 12 potential starting points, there are only two possible sets for the whole tone scale.  

It would probably be more consistent with the rest of the Montessori music materials if I were to make green and white scale pattern strips for all of the scales we plan to learn (major, minor(s), chromatic...which would be all white by the way, whole tone, pentatonic, and octatonic).  However my boys didn't need them for chromatic and whole tone.  Also, I was inventing this lesson on the fly.  It is a lot easier to grab glass beads that pull a two-color oversized laminated scale strip out of my hat.

Afterward he built some major scales using the scale strip.  It looks like we have E major up there.

To stimulate some more practice building major scales I added an extra point of interest.  After building the scale with the strip the boys can mount the scale on the Scale Ladder.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Presentation, demand

You know your kid really loves learning about history when you walk into the school room to start your day and they greet you with signage that has presentation demands.  Kal-El was anxious to start studying ancient Rome.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Daffodils, and Scalpels, and Magiscopes, Oh My!

The boys became very intimate with daffodils today.  Does anybody else feel bad when they say that daffodils have inferior ovaries?

Me Too labeling his daffodil parts

Yesterday I dissected and labeled the first daffodil.  Today the boys did their own with their own dissection kits.  It took some convincing to stop Me Too from going outside with his scalpel to cut his daffodil.  I told him that scissors would do the trick.  Our dissection tool sets are the 17-piece "Advanced Dissection Tools" from Home Science Tools.  I am not happy with the case.  It doesn't fit the tools well.  A lot of things are just shoved on top before you close the lid.  It does hold the scalpel and scissors nicely and safely and for that reason I would stick with this set again.  The "basic"  and "deluxe" sets have what look to be nicer cases BUT the scalpels are not housed safely and safety is the most important thing when you have a first grader using a scalpel.  Bear in mind that the "basic" set is not stainless steel and is the only set offered that will rust.  Their other sets are stainless.

Kal-El was so pleased with his dissection tools that he labeled his tools right along with his daffodil.  He did it without my help so I missed the opportunity to improve his vocabulary (and spelling).  Next time I'll have to let him know that his "poackers" (pokers) are called "teasing needles," his "nails" are really "pins," and his "tweezers" are "forceps."  My favorite part of his work is the "leftofers" section (leftovers).  Apparently he had some pieces left after he was done dissecting.

When they were finished we grabbed the Magiscope.  Without electricity or preparing slides were were able to get up close and personal with the parts of our daffodils.  In the photo above Kal-El was looking at the calyx.  I took a closer picture (below) so you could see how easy it was to throw this into any clear container (container only necessary in order to keep the lumirod clean) and put it on the deck.

Bulky item, no problem.  If an item is too large we can just remove the optical tube and use it without the stand.

I took a photo through the eyepiece with my iPad so you can see the calyx.  We have all the different lenses but haven't explored with anything beyond our 5x eyepiece and 4x objective (giving us 20x magnification).  If we used our 10x eyepiece and 40x objective we would have 400x magnification, enough to see bacteria, blood cells and protazoan.  Click here for more information on Magiscope lenses.

Me Too's favorite part was looking at the ovules in the ovary.  He loved this work and looked at every part of the daffodil under the Magiscope.  I learned something new today as well.  I learned that if I didn't want the vignette effect I could pinch zoom in.

This was just a part of our work today.  In order to keep myself blogging I thought I would try just posting some of our work instead of feeling like I need to show a whole day, week, or write a big post on a particular topic.  I hope to do those other things as well, but just not quite as often as I was.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Finally...warm enough for some botany

We have had a bad case of spring fever this week.  The boys are doing a lot of their schoolwork outside, on the porch, on the patio, on the lawn, up trees...  The dog is ecstatic.  I've been waiting, waiting, waiting...and when we returned from spring break our hundreds of daffodils had bloomed!  We can dig back into some "from our own yard" hands on botany.   

We've done more than once, but the last time I posted about it was three years and two days ago.  The weather is a little different this year.  The variety of daffodil we dissected last time hasn't bloomed yet and I somehow also had tulips.  I don't know if the two extra days will make the difference or if the squirrels finally finished off all of the tulips.  

Today we reviewed the story of the flower, the parts of the flower, the parts of the pistil, and the parts of the stamin as well as types of venation, types of stems, and growth habits of stems.  I read definitions out in the field and the boys determined that we had a flower growing on a single, rigid stem on a plant with parallel leaf venation.  They determined that the flower was complete with an inferior ovary (below the corolla).  This type of daffodils are interesting because they have a "cup" in addition to individual petals. We noted the cup today, but did not get into types of petals.

Tomorrow we are going to do this again.  I demonstrated today.  I demonstrated how to cut the flower, dissect the parts and label them. Tomorrow the boys will be in the driver's seat and will each choose and dissect their own flower.

I planted these en masse so we were able to observe all of the daffodil flowers facing east early this morning and facing south late this evening following the sun.

The boys and I had a meeting today and decided that this spring, summer, and fall we are going to dissect and examine all of the interesting plants we find in our yard and accessible parts of our neighborhood.  The dissection trays are going to see a lot of action.  The boys were so very very excited to find all the eggs in the ovary and wanted to go plant them right away.  I explained that the pollen hadn't been transferred by an insect and traveled down the pistil to be fertilized yet because it was so early.  I told them that we could do this again later this summer and we might find something different inside the ovary.  They are excited to examine seeds and roots when we plant and harvest our garden again.  

I also told them that they were going to have to be detectives.  Some flowers are complete and some are incomplete.  We are going to find both and they are going to have to tell me what the incomplete flowers are missing.  Me Too literally quivered at the thought of this responsibility.  They also have a mission to find what types of things we do NOT in our garden so that we can, if at all possible, plant some for next year.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

School Day

I am having trouble with our camera.  I think it's the external flash.  I haven't been photographing our work lately which makes me less likely to blog.  So, this week I picked ONE day, Monday, and took pictures of most of our work.  This way you can see what things are looking like around here, or at least how they looked on Monday.  I took all of these photos with my iPad so the quality is not great.

Copywork from  Writing with Ease.  

Circling multiples of different numbers on a printed hundred board.  This is part of the traditional Montessori elementary sequence for multiples.  You can read a great post about the multiples with good pictures over at Lycee International Montessori.

We pulled out the Leprechan's Luck multiplication facts game for St. Patrick's day and the boys have been playing it daily ever since.

The Leprechan's Luck game reminded them of the division race game (division facts) so we've been playing this daily too.  You can read more about these games in this post.  I suspect they choose them every day because the winner gets three M&M's, second place two, and third one.  If Mom get's second place (Me Too ALWAYS gets first place) she gives one of her M&M's to the second place winner.   They were already good with their multiplication and division facts, but now they are getting FAST.

Me Too seems to finally understand long multiplication on the large bead frame well enough that I don't have to sit right next to him.  Here he is perusing our form drawing idea book to find a fresh way to decorate between his equations.

Kal-el is working a long division equation from our racks and tubes set without the racks and tubes.  Just old-fashioned long division.

He is slowly working his way through the grammar boxes.  I haven't been pushing these so it will take a while.  No worries.

He made a Waseca stencil map of Europe.  All of his The Story of the World work has brought new meaning to the rivers on these maps and he likes to trace them and label them.

I gave the presentations introducing the measurement of angles.  The boys really liked this and were tripping over each other to put different fraction pieces (pies AND squares) onto the protractor.  

Then Kal-El wanted some obtuse angles to measure and brought out triangles from the geometric cabinet.

Me Too likes to fill out the fraction tickets.  If I made these again I think I would leave off the line that is supposed to go under the answer.  Me Too insists on using it as his fraction bar.  He also refuses to write "zero" instead of "zero sevenths" because he says the latter is "more interesting."

Sunday, March 15, 2015

School Days

Me Too working with the sticks after a presentation on consecutive and adjacent line segments. 

We are having a wonderful school year.  I am so happy that we have the freedom to homeschool and live in a state where we can do so without having to waste our time on standardized tests or submitting "work" to a "certified teacher" for a stamp of approval.  We are busy learning!

I have been soaking up the days and living in the moment.  My hands have been busy helping move beads on the racks and tubes boards for not one but two students, participating in the "Bank Game," reading history books and playing "Simón dice" with two boys who need to learn the names of their body parts in Spanish.  I have been drawing right alongside them while we work through our new drawing tutorials.  My hands have been too busy to hold a camera lately.  Today's post will have fewer photos than usual and only of some of our newer works.

Me Too finding the value of the bead tower (KotU Squaring and Cubing, Game Two)

Kal-El building the rectangles for the third squaring and cubing game.

Here he has separated the square of each number at the top and replaced it with a bead square.  The child notes that as the squares increase in size the remaining rectangles decrease in size.  Then you do some computing that involves adding the values of the squares and rectangles and then for some mysterious reason subtract to find the differences between adjacent rectangles.  Then you subtract the differences of adjacent differences.  All of the differences eventually come to "two."  Kal-El pointed out that if you keep going they all come to zero.  You are supposed to stop when you reach the twos.  I don't understand the point of this, but I was educated using traditional math not Montessori math and perhaps don't have the skills to understand why.  Determined that my kids shall not have that problem we did the exercise as in the album.  They didn't seem to be bothered by it.  At any rate, they didn't say "so?" at the end like I did in my head.  Maybe I'll figure out why it's important as we go through the rest of the sequence.  I have been reading through my album and feeling perplexed.  Thankfully Abbie's son is a few lessons ahead of us.  Her pictures and the links to videos she provided have cleared everything up for me.

I tweaked both boys' work plans.  I made myself a work plan, on pink paper, complete with pink paperclips.  Kal-El has started using a work journal.  We are doing a lot of spelling, vocabulary, writing, long division, long multiplication, fractions, Bible study, history, art, geography, and Spanish.   Me Too is barreling through reading presentations as fast as I can present them.  We have done many, many read-alouds.  We recently finished Pollyanna.  Kal-El in particular seems to have found that book to be life-changing.  It was Me Too that I was hoping it would rub off on.   A favorite Me Too quote often repeated by his uncle is, "I don't like fun."  A recent task card asked him to recount a time when he was glad and he said, "I've never been glad."  If anyone could benefit from playing the "glad game" it's THAT KID.  We are listening to A Christmas Carol in the car.  "Bah Humbug" suits Me Too's sensibilities just fine.   We are also in the middle of Little House.  Me Too says he doesn't like it.  Kal-El says they are living his dream life (off the grid). I tried reading that to them a few years ago but had to stop because Kal-El became too upset whenever it told of the children misbehaving.  The boys love the "supplemental literature" suggested for each Story of the World chapter so we have been reading a lot of old fables and fairy tales from India, China, and the Middle East.  This week it will be ancient Africa. We made the recipes provided in SotW for that chapter and they were VERY good.

We have been learning about Mozart and singing "Eine Kliene Nachtmusik." It is "performance" season around here.  The boys have been busy playing recitals and music festivals.  Every time I try to record them for the blog we have some kind of musical disaster.  I guess their talents are meant to remain private for now.  In the meantime, I'll keep trying.  In addition to the violin Kal-El has been experimenting with the trumpet and played taps at the end of the cub scout Blue and Gold dinner in February.  The boys have been busy with their dad building their cars for the Pinewood derby.    Kal-El scored his first basket in a basketball game in the last game of the season.

I'll end with a little clip from the "boy who doesn't like fun" and "has never been glad."  Wink.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Antonym Key Experience

Just a picture of the antonym key experience today.   A photo that I am now noticing looked a lot better on the camera than on the blog.  Yuck.  Sorry.  This presentation is from the Cultivating Dharma language album which you can access for free through the link.  The Keys of the Universe albums are my go-to albums but there doesn't happen to be a presentation for antonyms.  Frankly, kids will have learned about "opposites" long before lower elementary without having had a formal lesson on it.  I mainly did this presentation to teach the word "antonym."

I think we've finished all of the word study work in the albums now.  I just bought the ETC Word Study set (Abbie, over 2300 cards.  You BET I bought it laminated.) to use as light review work into the future.  I don't necessarily want to go through that section of the album again, but without 20 other classmates at different age levels the boys won't get the indirect review that they would in a traditional Montessori school.  This is one of the ways I adapt for that.

It is also about time for Kal-El to start the "verb conjugation" section of the language album.  KotU will eventually have printables available for that, but not quite yet. I am adverse to making materials right now so I also bought the verb conjugation sets from ETC (6-9, 9-12, overview).  I don't expect they'll match the albums very closely, but I'll let you know how it looks.  I'm expecting a box any day now.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Second Work Table

As much as I dislike giving up the floor space I added a second work table to the school room.  The boys spend a very good percentage of their day fighting.  Even with our floor table (chowki) on hand there were still too many times when we run out of space at the big table.  Since we started our art curriculum Me Too has been doing a lot of complaining that Kal-El shakes the table too much when he shades (He does.  It's like an earthquake.)  I don't like the kids working specifically on art or handwriting on a chowki.

Divine intervention helped.  I bought this table for Me Too's room but had never taken it out of the box.  Shortly after I bought it I bought Kal-El a desk for his room.  Once I saw how much Kal-El enjoyed his desk drawers I thought that Me Too should have a desk rather than a table.  I tried to sell this on Craigslist but no one bought it.  I think it was because it was still in the box.  Since it has been discontinued I couldn't find a picture to use and people don't buy things like this without a picture.  I've been thinking about it sitting in the garage and thought I'd give it a try.  I figured if it were at least assembled I could now sell it if I didn't like it.  One day in and I know it is going to stay.

I paid $40 for this at Target when they must have been clearancing them out (Elliot Kids "Grow With Me" table).  The table top is 24"x33".  It is a shame that it was discontinued because it's pretty neat.  The legs are each in two pieces with a hinge between the two.  If I ever want to make the table taller I lift up the top, straighten the legs at the hinge, and put the top back on.  It is kitchen table height when the legs are extended.  It also has a dowel to hold a roll of easel paper and a guide to direct it across the table top.  I didn't take pictures today in all of its "configurations" because none of you can buy it anyway.  Perhaps you'll see those features in action sometime in the future.  The closest thing you can buy at this time would be the Carolina "Grow With You" table at Pottery Barn.  It doesn't have hinged legs but rather comes with two sets of legs so you can change them.