6 - 12, Cosmic Education, Favorite Books, Montessori Materials, Montessori Theory, Science, Theory and Practice

Moon-tessori (haha, couldn’t resist)

“You’re great at this homeschooling thing because you’re a teacher… I don’t think I could do it because I don’t know much about anything.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this phrase since we started homeschooling two months ago, coming from the most capable and well-prepared mothers in my circle of friends.  So here’s a little secret… I don’t know everything.  Heck, I don’t know most things!  But I don’t let that hold me back from learning and sharing with my children.  Here’s an example of how I facilitate learning, and how you can, too!

The moon is a topic that seems to keep coming up in the Full Montessori household.  Over the past few months we’ve read several fiction and non-fiction books about the moon (links at the bottom of this post) and we play games trying to find different shapes (a rabbit, and old man) on its surface.  Seven-year-old Zachary had been asking why the moon changes through the month, so I knew it was prime time for a moon lesson.

Truth be told, even after 12 years as a Montessori guide, I could never quite grasp HOW the moon moved in relationship with the Earth, why the lighted part changed throughout the month, or how to tell when the lighted part was growing or shrinking.  But the beauty of being a guide is that you don’t have to know everything, you just have to “learn ahead of your children” (I love that Charlotte Mason phrase).

So, I found these two extremely helpful videos and FINALLY understood how it all works (thank you, Google)!

Then I dragged my kids to the craft store to buy a foam sphere (without telling them what it would be for); printed, cut, and laminated these free Moon Phases cards; and practiced the Moon/Earth/Sun demonstration when my kids weren’t around.  Yes, sometimes it takes That. Much. Work.

But, you know what?  It was so worth it!  I invited my son to sit down and told him his head was the Earth (my three-year-old daughter wasn’t interested, because, hello concrete thinker!).  I then began slowly moving the moon around his head, and he saw how the lighted part of the white sphere grew from waxing crescent to first quarter.  His eyes widened and his mouth stretched into a knowing smile.  I continued moving the moon around his head and I could tell he was enjoying the discovery process as much as I had.  When we were done and I had casually sprinkled the terms for the moon phases into the demonstration, he got up and went downstairs to play with his sister.

I waited for a lull in their play and pulled out the moon phases cards.  I told him we were going to play a moon game and put the “New Moon” card on the rug.  I lined up the other cards randomly on the edge of the rug and said, “Hmm, which card might go next?”  Eager to apply his knowledge, he quickly fished out the Waxing Crescent card and completed the entire cycle on his own.  He mixed up Waning Crescent and Waning Gibbous, but I didn’t say anything.  I just offered the control chart and he caught his mistake on his own.

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If you’re a Montessorian, you might be wondering why I used the control cards for the lesson (heresy!!).  If you must know, my son has little tolerance for three-part cards.  They just don’t resonate with how he learns.  If he knows the information, he isn’t the type of child who will humor you with busy work just to show you what he knows.  And if he doesn’t know something, he wants to get straight to the knowledge and understanding part right away – and three-part cards just don’t give him that.  I knew (from experience) that if I went through the whole rigamarole of having him lay out the picture cards, finding the corresponding labels, and then using the control cards to check, I’d lose him for sure.

There are about a thousand different ways to help your child solidify their knowledge of the moon phases, or any other concept they’re curious about.  My intention here was to illustrate how I go about preparing myself to facilitate my children’s learning – and often, my own!

it is not enough quote

Favorite moon books:

Fiction: Luna and the Moon Rabbit, Kitten’s First Full Moon

Non-fiction: Jump Into Science: Moon, The Moon Book

The books mentioned above are affiliate links.  Purchasing through these links helps support the quality work you enjoy on this blog, at no cost to you.  Thank you!

Montessori Materials, Montessori Theory

When Help Is A Hindrance

Few clean-ups seem as overwhelming as that of the Montessori fractions.  The halves through sevenths are easy enough for most children, but the 27 hard-to-distinguish red wedges that make up the eighths, ninths, and tenths can leave even Elementary children feeling stuck and discouraged. Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 7.03.31 AMI’ve inherited Montessori fractions in several of my classrooms, and I’ve often found that a well-meaning predecessor had written the corresponding value on the underside of each fraction piece.  At first glance, this might seem helpful.  It sure makes cleaning up those pesky fractions a lot quicker!

So, why did Dr. Montessori design the fraction pieces without labels?  Did she harbor some evil desire to torment children and their over-worked adult guides?  Or did she observe that leaving the fractions unlabeled led to the development of problem-solving skills through creative use of the child’s knowledge?

The answer becomes clear when we consider Dr. Montessori’s advice: “Every unnecessary help is a hindrance to the child’s development.”

Is writing the values on the underside of the fraction pieces really necessary?  Or, by doing so, are we preventing the child from developing essential skills?  If we don’t want to be a hindrance to their development, but we need them to eventually clean up, what can we do to guide a child who’s feeling discouraged by this overwhelming task? IMG_0573

When a child is faced with sorting a pile of unlabeled slim red wedges, it’s enough to help him recall that two eighths are equivalent to – or take up the same space as – one fourth.  Depending on the child’s prior knowledge, you can ask, “What do you know about equivalences?” or “What do you know about the relationship between fourths and eighths?”

If the child is younger and doesn’t know this information, simply guide him in a sensorial exploration.  Invite the child to bring out the fourths inset, ask him to remove one fourth, and show how the space within the inset serves as an objective control of error.  When fractions other than two eighths are placed within the space vacated by the fourth, you will see a gap.  Only two eighths will fit perfectly within the space of the missing fourth.

The monumental clean-up now becomes a fun puzzle that satisfies the child’s love of precision and bolsters his self-confidence.  You can back away, returning only if he needs guidance to find the relationship between fifths and tenths, or thirds and ninths (children familiar with equivalences will likely make the connections on their own).IMG_0577Take a moment to observe the child’s concentration, enjoy his smile of accomplishment, and know that you helped him move one step closer towards reaching his full potential as a creative problem-solver.

 

 

 

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!

Montessori Materials

Simple Is Better

egg-and-cupMost commercial toys try to cram a lot of “bang for their buck”. Imagine, with just one toy, your child will be able to learn colors, numbers and shapes! She’ll practice sorting and stacking while listening to classical music, and each time she does it right, the toy will light up and shout out “Good job!”

This sounds like a great toy, right? Wrong! The best toys are the simplest ones… Click here to find out why and watch a short video!

Favorite Books, Montessori Materials, On Parenting, Practical Life, Science, Social and Emotional Learning

Food for Thought

I’m reading an excellent book called Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, published in 1978. The author is not a scientist, and never claims to be. He doesn’t have answers, just observations and questions that most of us have never even thought to ponder.
 
There’s a section that talks about how television messes with your senses.
 
Think about it: On your screen, you’re watching a shot of two people walking on a distant hillside, yet you can clearly hear what they’re saying (when in reality you shouldn’t). But what you can’t hear are the ambient sounds that your brain would normally expect to hear if you were standing where the scene is being shot. Meanwhile, you’re “smelling some chicken roasting in the kitchen and you’re drinking a beer.”
 
The author points out that, “Television has attached two of your sensory modes to a distant spot, altered their natural arrangement to each other, but left other aspects of your sensory apparatus at home in present time… [This] takes on importance when we understand that the average person submits to this condition for four hours every day [it’s currently five for adults, 4.5 for kids], and while in this state is receiving important information about life. All of the information is narrowed to fit the sensory transmission limits of the medium and distorted by the sensory disconnections in the human.
 
“One can imagine the emergence of a new psychological syndrome: ‘sensory schizophrenia.’ The cure will involve exercises to resynchronize wildly confused senses with each other, with the mind, and with the world.”
 
The author’s 1978 description of “sensory schizophrenia” immediately made me think of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), defined in the book The Out-Of-Sync Child as “a common problem in which the central nervous system misinterprets messages from the senses.” So, I tried seeing if any studies had been done on the relationship between TV and SPD. None. Yay science.
 
What I DID find were several forum threads where parents discuss their SPD child’s relationship with TV. In every single thread, over and over, parents mentioned how, from the time their kids were babies, they fed them while the child watched TV. They also mention how at home they have the TV on ALL THE TIME because the adult likes (needs?) background noise.
 
The author’s suggested cure, “exercises to resynchronize wildly confused senses” made me think of Montessori’s beautiful Practical Life and Sensorial materials, which engage all of the senses and help re-center (or indeed, “normalize”) the child.
 
Food for thought… (Just don’t eat it in front of the TV.)
This post contains affiliate links.
Montessori Materials, Practical Life

The Five Keys to Making Montessori Materials

banana2Last week we talked about preparing our home to help our children be successful. This week, let’s focus on Montessori materials. How hard is it to make them? What should you keep in mind?

Click here to learn more and watch a short video!

Montessori Materials, Montessori Theory

Environment As Teacher

“The environment itself will teach the child, if every error he makes is manifest to him, without the intervention of a parent or teacher, who should remain a quiet observer of all that happens.”

– Dr. Maria Montessori

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!

 

Montessori Materials, Practical Life

Is Plastic Really Fantastic?

containersIs your child careless with his toys? Do you wish he would show more respect for his eating and drinking utensils? Are you as tired of saying, “Be gentle!” as he is of hearing it? Then maybe it’s time to introduce some fragile objects into his life!

Young children are surrounded by plastic because it’s convenient, sturdy, and affordable. But for all its benefits, plastic has a huge negative impact on your child’s development.

Find out why plastic isn’t fantastic, and what IS, by clicking here!

Montessori Materials, Montessori Theory, On Parenting, Social and Emotional Learning

Now You See It…

Welcome to Theory Thursday, where Jeanne-Marie Paynel (from Voila Montessori) and I team up to share our knowledge and love of all things Montessori through text and video!

obj-perm-boxI recently received this question from a client: “My 8-month old freaks out every time I am out of her sight. I can’t even go to the bathroom by myself! What’s going on and how can I help her understand that I’m coming back?”

This is very normal behavior for babies around the second half of their first year of life. They are discovering “object permanence”, which is a fancy way of saying that people and things still exist when they’re out of view. With this new awareness comes a new anxiety in the baby’s mind: they know the person or object still exists, but they don’t know when they will return!

Learn which Montessori material is ideal for this phase of development, and why, by clicking here!