Favorite Books, Language Development, Montessori Theory

BOTW: Kingdom of the Sun

The only thing I like more than discovering good children’s books is sharing them with others.  I’m starting these “Book of the Week” (BOTW) posts to spread the joy of quality children’s literature and will try to post a new book every weekend. (This post contains an affiliate link.)

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“Where do the names of the planets come from?”, asked 7-year-old Zachary.  I knew they were first named after Greek gods and then were changed to the equivalent Roman gods, but didn’t know much else.  Then I found Kingdom of the Sun, where we learned that Aristotle, the astronomer who originally gave the planets the names of Greek gods, “did his best to match the character the gods were supposed to have with what he knew about the planets – their speed, brightness, and color.”

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This sets the stage for the rest of the book, in which the author beautifully personifies each planet.  Thus, Mercury is “forced to lurk unseen in the dazzle of [the Sun’s] brilliance” while Venus “blazes like a brilliant diamond”.  Personification gives way to scientific facts, but the inspiring prose is maintained throughout the book.  The planet Jupiter, whose god persona used thunder and lightning to indicate anger, informs us that “immense electric sparks inject [his] clouds with jagged lightning.”

The Sun and Moon also make an appearance, the former reminding us that his “daily sky-ride is only an illusion” and the latter describing itself as a “somber rock… transformed into beautiful shimmering silver.”

The gorgeous full-color illustrations of the gods and planets have gold-foil accents and include the astrological symbols for each heavenly body.  The author’s use of descriptive language is ideal for expanding the vocabulary of young elementary children (whom Dr. Montessori described as being “lovers of words”).

We had a few minutes to spare before leaving for Zachary’s swim practice, so I offered to read two entries.  He became so smitten with the book that we ended up reading six planet stories before getting in the car; he then begged me to take the book with us so I could read him a couple more while we waited for practice to start!

I loved the combination of mythology, science, and lyrical prose – a true collection of cosmic tales that can inspire much research and creativity.  I hope you enjoy Kingdom of the Sun as much as we have!

Language Development, Montessori Materials, Montessori Theory

Tricks of the Three-Period Lesson

3plIn an earlier article we discussed the basics of using the Three-Period Lesson to introduce vocabulary. Did you try it with your child? How did it go?

Veteran Montessori guides will tell you that when you give a child a lesson, things don’t always go the way you expect them to. You might have noticed this when you tried doing the Three-Period Lesson with your child. If things didn’t go exactly as you planned, don’t fret! Click here to read a helpful article and watch the video to learn great tips that will guide you and your child towards success!

Language Development, Montessori Theory

Three Steps to Academic Success

3-period-fruitThirty thousand. 30,000! That’s the number of words scientists say you should be speaking to your child daily to increase his chances of academic success. Most parents reach and exceed this magic number, but how do you know if your child is really benefiting from your efforts? Do you feel you might be choosing the wrong words or confusing your child by rambling?

I’m about to share with you a simple but powerful Montessori technique that will put your worries to rest.  To find out what it is, and to watch a short instructional video about it, click here!

Language Development, Practical Life, Science

If You Only Do ONE Montessori Activity…

Spreading-Cream-CheeseI challenge you to think of one activity that exposes your child to math, language and science, while helping her develop concentration, motor skills, and delayed gratification. It’s not found in workbooks, and you probably won’t see it taking place regularly in most schools (unless they’re Montessori schools).

If you want to know what it is, click here!

Language Development, Montessori Materials

On Our Shelves: materials for a 9-month-old and a 4-year-old

I recently posted a picture of 9-month-old Nadia’s shelves on my Facebook page, and several people wrote to me asking for links to her toys and materials.  I hope this helps you when you set up your baby’s shelves!

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Top row of cubbies (left to right):

Takane ball: I made the ball for Zachary when he was a baby, and both kids have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of it.  I used this tutorial from Beautiful Sun Montessori, but there are many other tutorials out there if you search for “takane ball instructions”.  I have very basic sewing skills, so if you have a sewing machine (and time), you can make one, too!

Wooden grasping toys: Ours were gifts from my lovely A-to-I trained friends, and Nadia has loved them since she was a tiny baby (I rotate them in and out).  You can find them on Etsy.

Wooden car: We have a set of wooden cars made by the German toy company Grimm.cars  They are sturdy and lots of fun for toddlers to crash!  For Nadia I rotate one at a time, but when Zachary was a toddler he enjoyed racing them with mommy and daddy.  You can find them here.

Fabric shapes: Our lovely babysitter hand-stitched different shapes and stuffed them with cotton.  She used a solid fabric on one side and a patterned fabric on the other.  It’s an easy DIY project that could also be done with different textures of fabric (such as corduroy, denim, etc.)

Basket o’ rattles: These are different noise makers we’ve picked up along the way… A maraca from Mexico, a wicker rattle with pieces of tin inside, a doll with a rattle inside, and a couple of Hape rattles, including this funny one (link).

Bottom row of cubbies (left to right):

Object permanence box: She LOVED this from the moment I took it out of the box. The quality is remarkably good for the price, and we just switched out the object-permplastic ball it came with for a sturdier wooden ball because it has a more pleasing sound when it hits the bottom of the box.  Here’s the link. 

Peg and two rings: The peg comes from this Melissa & Doug toy (link) that we got as a gift, which she’s still too young to use, and the rings are napkin rings from the local thrift store.  I have different kinds of rings (metal, wood, ceramic) that I switch out for variety.

Geometric shape puzzle: The shapes are part of a Melissa & Doug three-puzzle set that includes six animals and three shapes.  I think the set I have is discontinued but this is a great alternative (link).

Wooden nesting/stacking bowls: They’re also from the Grimm compabowlsny, and they are one of her favorite toys.  We had a three-year old friend come over to play, and she had a great time stacking them, so it’s a toy with plenty of growth potential!  The wood is beautiful and very high quality.  You can find them here (link).

Geometric solids: These belong to the Hape Shape Sorter (link). shape-sorter She’s not old enough to understand sorting yet, but she likes how the shapes rattle (they have little balls inside).  Once she’s old enough to sort, she’ll already be familiar with the shapes!

If you’re curious about some of the materials on the top shelf that my 4-year old son uses, they are as follows:

World globe: I really like this one from Reprologe (link) because it has the tilting andglobe swiveling base that allows you to see the South Pole without having to flip the base over.  It has raised topography and up-to-date political geography.  The reviews are mixed on Amazon because sometimes the meridians don’t line up, but ours is defect-free and it’s been a HUGE hit with Zachary.

Sandpaper letters: These lower-case cursive letters (link) are a great investment, since the children use them from the time they’re learning sounds (around 2.5/3 years of age) until they’re perfecting their handwriting (lower elementary).

Basket of objects: These are miniature objects I’ve collected though the years, including animals, furniture and cooking utensils.  These are also a great investment, since you use them for language development when they’re toddlers, then Sound Games at 2.5 years of age, and then as inspiration for writing words with the Moveable Alphabet.

Moveable Alphabet: I am in love with this medium cursive alphabet (link)!  The letters mov-alphare made out of wood, they are sturdy and attractive, and they have a nicer weight than the more expensive plastic ones from Nienhuis that most AMI classrooms have.  Plus, each compartment has its corresponding letter printed on it, for easy clean-up (another thing that more expensive plastic model don’t have).  For a homeschooling family, I think this is the ideal Moveable Alphabet.

Feel free to drop me a note if you have any questions about any of these materials, including how I present them to the children!

Disclaimer: Some of these links are affiliate links, and The Full Montessori will get a few pennies from your purchase through Amazon.  Thank you for your support!

 

Language Development, Montessori Theory, On Parenting, Practical Life, Science

Bathroom Botany

I was sitting outside, enjoying a bit of sunshine, when Zachary walked out of the bathroom and approached me with an inquisitive look. “Mom, can plants grow with pee?”

The question from my just-turned-four year old caught me off guard.

“Uh, I’m not sure.”

He reasoned: “Well, pee comes from water, right?  So maybe they can.”

“Huh.  Maybe they can.”  And then I realized the potential this question had.

“Hey, do you want to do an experiment?  We can try to see if plants will grow if we water them with urine.”  His face lit up and he followed me inside.

beansWe hunted for some cotton, six glass jars, a handful of beans, masking tape and a Sharpie.  I showed him how to separate the cotton and prepare one jar – cotton layer, three beans, and another cotton layer.  Then he prepared all the rest on his own.  I asked him what sounds were in the words “agua” and “pipi” (he’s bilingual), and carefully wrote the words in cursive as he watched.  And then, because he had just used the bathroom, I invited him to drink a big glass of water.

An hour later, we were ready to start watering!  We separated the glass jars based on their labels, collected his urine, and I showed him how to use a dropper to get the same amount of liquid into each jar.

We have three jars that are being watered with tap water (our control group) and three being watered with urine.   Every day, he reads the labels, separates the jars, and uses the dropper to provide equal hydration to all the beans.dropper

It’s been a week, and we’re waiting with bated breath for the results of our experiment!

Apart from learning whether his hypothesis was correct or not, there’s SO MUCH peripheral learning taking place with this activity!  He’s perfecting his use of a dropper, learning how to set up a controlled experiment, reading labels, sorting & classifying, practicing proper hygiene, developing persistence, delaying gratification, and experiencing the beauty of botany!  Once our beans germinate, there will be new vocabulary, comparisons, and conclusions.

Children are natural scientists, and with a little help from us they can develop skills that will last a lifetime!

“We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.” – Dr. Maria Montessori

 

 

Language Development, Montessori Materials, Montessori Theory, Science

Extensions

One of the activities I felt was lacking in my child’s previous Montessori experience was the use of extensions.  No, I’m not talking about artificial hair pieces!  Extensions are activities that are introduced after the initial presentation with a material, in order to encourage the child to re-visit the material and solidify the skills and/or concepts it’s designed to provide.

Yesterday, my son came out of his new school with a huge smile, holding this painting:

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This is a perfect example of an extension.  In his classroom, there’s a tree puzzle (aff link), used to give three-year olds the names of the parts of a tree.  Once the child has mastered the puzzle (which Zach probably did at his old school), there’s not much he’ll spontaneously do with it.  And most children won’t voluntarily re-visit a material once they’ve figured it out.

Zachary’s new teacher invited Zachary to build the puzzle on top of a white sheet of paper, and trace the outline.  Then, she showed him how to use finger paints to create all the different parts of the tree.  This forced Zachary to slow down and really analyze the shapes of the tree parts and the relationship between them.

When I asked him to tell me about his painting, he pointed out the roots, trunk, branches and leaves.  Through this enjoyable activity (which probably kept him focused for a while), he learned new words and became aware of the relationship between the parts, while enjoying some fun finger painting!

Language Development, Montessori Materials, On Parenting, Practical Life, Science

Getting Back on the Montessori Wagon

With the birth or our daughter, I found myself slacking off in the “Montessori parenting” department.  Gone are the days when Zach and I could spend 30 minutes cooking together, and my patience and resolve are minimal these days due to sleep deprivation and meeting the needs of a tiny human 24/7.

When I started noticing that my 3-year old was acting a little like an entitled brat, I knew that the changes to his lifestyle were to blame; I realized I had to modify his environment, routine, and expectations to nip this issue in the bud.

After cutting myself some slack for the first six weeks of Nadia’s life (the hugely important symbiotic period), I decided to take some baby steps to provide Zach with the activities and stability he needs.  Here’s what I’ve done and how I’ve done it:

Practical Life:

Our meals are a lot simpler now that I have to juggle a baby, but I am trying to include Zachary in the meal prep at least twice a week.  It can be as simple as scooping frozen peas into a pot of water, but at least he feels like he’s contributed to the evening meal.  I’m also encouraging him to dress himself, because we had gotten into the habit during the school year of helping him with his clothes to speed up the process and be on time for school (yes, even Montessori teachers take shortcuts!)  He has been helping my husband with simple repairs around the house and has been helping me with things like bringing the box of wipes during the baby’s diaper change.

Responsibilities (aka, chores):

To help Zach feel less entitled and more of a contributing member of the family, while avoiding becoming a nag about chores, I wanted to set up a Responsibilities Chart.  I don’t have time to make my own, and online at first all I found were sticker charts that reward children for behaviors that shouldn’t need to be rewarded.  Then I found this AWESOME chart called “Do-N-Slide”.  FullSizeRender

It comes with a label for each day of the week, along with about two dozen pictures of child-friendly chores most three-year olds can do on their own.  I picked out the ones that were relevant to our home, Zach and I talked about them together, and then I invited him to choose five chores for one day.  He slipped them in his chart and as he completed them, he moved them from the “To Do” side to the “All Done” side.  Some chores he was already familiar with (like clearing the table) while others required a brief presentation and some patience (like putting the clean laundry in his closet).

I have to make sure the environment is set up for him to be successful (i.e. make sure the watering can is on the porch, leave his laundry in a basket in his room, and clear a space on the kitchen counter so he can successfully place his dish and cup there) but a little effort on my part goes a long way!

Toys and books:

Zach’s toys and books were getting out of hand.  We got him a few extra toys to keep him entertained while I cared for his sister, but they somehow all ended up on his limited shelf space, which made for some massive chaos!  He was being careless and messy, and it was stressing me out.  Seriously, who needs Duplos AND Legos?!  His books were in two massive piles in the bathroom and in his bedroom, and he would only request the same few books over and over.  FullSizeRender_1

After a particularly stressful incident involving clean-up (or lack thereof), I hit rock bottom and put about half his toys in a storage box.  I made careful choices about what to leave out: Legos, train set, wooden blocks, a numbers activity, a shapes activity, a science activity, a geography puzzle, a few crayons and blank paper, two airplanes and a bus, and the sandpaper letters.  I also carefully selected a few quality books and placed them facing outwards in his new bookshelf.

The change was positive: He began playing with the blocks and then the geometry material, both of which he hadn’t touched in weeks, and he also repeated the science experiment three times.  Eventually, he asked for one of the toys in the storage box, so I invited him to pick one toy to put away for each toy he wanted to take out.  This has worked beautifully and I’m a lot less stressed because there’s a lot less mess!

Montessori activities:

I chose to keep Zach home over the summer instead of sending him to Montessori summer camp so we wouldn’t have to rush in the morning and so he could bond with his sister.  While this was the right decision for us, it also meant that the burden of keeping him going on his burgeoning reading, writing and math skills would lay on me. He had *just* started reading three-letter words when school let out for the summer, but I know he still doesn’t know all the letters of the alphabet.

He was not the least bit interested in doing three-period lessons and kept rejecting any activity that reminded him of school, so a few days ago I introduced the “sound of the day”.  Based on whatever conversation we’re having as a family in the morning, I’ll pick a sound from the Sandpaper Letter box and feature it in a see-through napkin holder (for example, we had read a book about a “giggling gull” so the sound of the day became the “g”).  The entire family takes turns tracing the letter and we all think of words that start with that letter.  Then, throughout the day, I’ll casually bring Zach’s attention back to the letter ifFullSizeRender_2 he uses a word that starts with that same sound.  It’s worked BRILLIANTLY and is a low-stress way of introducing the sounds!

I also put together a simple “Float or Sink” activity with objects I had around the house, and have started introducing the concept of numbers through making and labeling Duplo stacks (in lieu of the Number Rods).  I’m working on other easy-to-make activities like matching hardware store paint chips at a distance and then later finding objects around the house that are the same color as the paint chips; assorted punching activities; and a couple of sewing activities.  I’ll try to post them as we try them out.

Getting back on the Montessori wagon after lowering our standards hasn’t been a walk in the park, but when I feel like throwing in the towel after butting heads with a three-year old I think of the long-term repercussions, and it gives me the strength to take a deep breath, walk away to regroup, and try again later.