Monthly Archives: September 2011

Montessori Monday–Polishing Pennies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Continuing our use of the piggy bank that I blogged about last week, we polished all of Dora’s pennies this week. I had read about this activity numerous times and thought that Dora would really enjoy getting her pennies all bright an shiny. I was correct about that aspect. What did not go so well, was the actual practical skills application, the activity became more of a science experiment.

From other people’s directions, I set Dora up with the pennies, lemon juice, some salt, and a toothbrush. I then showed her how to dip the toothbrush in the lemon juice, then the salt, then scrub the pennies. She thought this was lots of fun, but after about two pennies, she accidentally skipped the salt, and couldn’t help but notice how the penny miraculously got shiny with a drop of lemon juice. Needless to say, this observation resulted in her dripping lemon juice on more pennies and then finally, just dumping pennies by the handful into the lemon juice.

The pennies came out super shiny, it was amazing! I then rinsed the pennies and set them on a towel to dry. We were both amazed to see the next day that pennies looked dirty again! Plus they now how whitish splotches on them. After Googling this activity, I am wondering if I should not have rinsed the pennies and if we should have dried off the pennies with a towel. Well, we can try this again. We tried it the next day with just vinegar and once again they came out super shiny, but were grimy and splotchy looking the next day.

Anybody else have any ideas about what we’re doing wrong or why this is happening. I’m linking this post to:

Labels: Montessori, Preschool
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

“B” and Beach Animal Studies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         This week, Dora focused on the letter “B”. She seemed to have a better comprehension of the “buh” sound than she had with the “A” sounds.

I have encountered a bit of a quandary. I just learned that in Montessori schools, they teach lowercase letters first since the majority of letters in books are lowercase, which makes perfect sense. In addition, Explode the Code, the phonics program I intend to be Dora’s main program, also emphasizes lowercase letters first. Yet, Bob’s Books, which I also plan to use, emphasizes upper and lower case letters equally. At the same time, I am a big fan of the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum, which starts by teaching uppercase letters first, as they are the easiest to form and letter reversals are less likely to occur. In the end, I decided to teach both upper and lower case letters when we are working on pre-reading skills and upper case only when we are working on pre-writing skills. Hopefully this will not leave her too confused!

In regards to Gohan’s Language Arts, I have encountered many quandaries, but I will post about them next week, when I hope to have them resolved.

For literature this week, I read Good Night, Little Sea Otter (as an FYI, I read many books to her every week, we just have one book that we emphasize each week). Good Night, Little Sea Otter is a very sweet and tender book about a sea otter who seems to be trying to put off his bedtime by saying good night to everybody and everything. This was a bit of an ironic book for us, as we are currently having a terrible time with Dora pulling all sorts of tricks to delay her bedtime. The pictures in Good Night, Little Sea Otter seemed, at first, to be almost too sweet and cute. Later in the week, however we went to the Seattle Aquarium and spent a long time watching the sea otters swim and play. And lo and behold,  they  really are as cute as Little Sea Otter is.Aquarium 9

Aquarium 8Aquarium 6

Dora was utterly fascinated with the Seattle Aquarium this time (sorry for blurry photos, I had to use my iPhone for these photos – long story). A few of the fish scared her, but for the most part, she loved it. We stayed there until she became loopy with fatigue. The Seattle Waterfront continues to get nicer and nicer every time I visit, though I do wish they could do something about the many homeless people. I feel incredibly sorry that the people are homeless, but some of them are just downright scary.


For an art project this week, we made a collage of Little Sea Otter sleeping in a kelp bed (I had no idea that otters anchored themselves in kelp so that they didn’t float away while they were asleep). We used sand paper to represent the beach and shiny origami paper to represent the water. We used green tissue paper to make kelp and glued shells to the “sandy beach”. Dora insisted on some piles of sea weed on the sand, as it does wash ashore (which she is correct about). We made Little Sea Otter and his mama out of pompoms and googly eyes. Dora insisted on mounting all of this on orange construction paper, which made the scene a bit less beach-like, but over all we were both very happy with the project.

I’m linking this post to Nurture Store’s Play Academy and Footprints in the Butter Read Aloud Challenge and:

Favorite Resource This WeekChestnut Grove Academy Field Trip Friday Blog Hop

Labels: High School, Language Arts, Preschool, This and That, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Making Apple Muffins and Playing with Piggy Banks

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Last week, a lot of people asked if we tried to do any cooking with apples last. We did, I just failed to mention it. We made these apple muffins. It was a new recipe for us and I followed the advice of some of the commenters and doubled the amount of cinnamon and apples. Well, that was just too many apples for my taste. What muffin there was, however, was delicious! I’m going to make them again with double the cinnamon and the regular amount of apples.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Dora is a big apple eater. She has recently decided that she doesn’t like the peel, though. So we use a apple peeler, which I have removed the slicing blade from (we don’t like skinny slices of apples anyway). I mount an apple on the peeler and she turns it, removing the peel. I then use a knife to trim off any excess peel, because if there is even the tiniest bit of peel on one of her slices, she will have a big ‘ol hissyfit. Then I help her line up an apple corer and she cores and divides the apple. Even though I sometimes feel like a madwoman for allowing her to use such sharp kitchen tools, I think part of why she eats so many apples is that she really enjoys being in charge of preparing her own food as much as possible.


This week’s practical life activity is putting pennies in this bank that I purchased from Montessori Services. I already had one large piggy bank and she loved putting pennies in it, but I purchased this one, because in addition to the challenge of putting pennies in it, the front is a snap opening. She has been having trouble with snaps, so I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to practice. She loves to fill the bank, open the snap, dump the pennies, close the snap, and start all over. Plus, it is just the right size for her to carry around with her. She really loves it!


How about you? Did you do any great apple or practical life activities? If so, please mention them in the comments, I’m always looking for new ideas. I’m linking this post to:


Labels: Montessori, Preschool, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Apple Art for the Week

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         As I mentioned in my previous post, Dora has pretty well established who is in charge around here in regards to her homeschooling preschool, and it isn’t me. I had thought it would be cute to make some prints using apples. She really likes painting with a variety of brushes, texturizers, and materials, so I assumed apples would be a great addition. Well, here is her print and as you may or may not be able to tell, it went like this.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Me: “See you dip that apple in the paint and stamp it on the paper”.

Dora: Takes apple, dips it in paint, makes one print and then proceeds to smear the paint everywhere, which still would have been fine had she not then thrown the apple across the table and said, “I don’t like this!”

Sigh… later in the week, we reached a point where I was desperate to find something to keep her entertained for a while, so I got out the Stockmar Modeling Beeswax. Honestly, I have never had much luck with modeling beeswax, but Dora was completely enthralled with the stuff. Once we soaked it in hot water for a while, it really did become quite malleable. Ironically, a couple of my older kids came in, asked what we were doing, and sat for a while to work with the wax. More ironically, Dora wanted to make wax apples!

I’m linking this post to


Favorite Resource This Week

Labels: Arts and Crafts, High School, This and That, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Homeschool Bill Introduced to Congress

On September 14, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren introduced H.R. 2910, which is being called the “Family Educational Privacy Extension Act”. The bill would require parental consent to release the records of homeschool students. Personally, I’m at a loss as to why we need such a bill, it seems like a no-brainer to me, but I’m sure someone, somewhere abused a family’s rights such that we now need this bill. That’s bureaucracy for you.

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Museum Day is September 24th


Saturday, September 24th, is Museum Day, which is an annual event, hosted by Smithsonian Magazine. During Museum Day, you can gain free admission for you and one guest to one of the many participating museums across the country. Go to the official Museum Day site to learn more and get your free tickets.

Labels: Field Trips, Freebies
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Reading The Apple Pie Tree and Learning the Letter “A”


Last week, I introduced Dora to a slightly structured study of the alphabet. We worked on the letter “A”. This study definitely taught me a lot about Dora’s learning style and temperament. Essentially, she made it quite clear that we will be doing things her way and that way did not include many of the things that I had made the mistake of thinking were good ideas.

One item that I had been looking forward to using was the alphabet box. I first learned about this from Counting Coconuts. My alphabet box essentially is a hardware storage drawer unit, with one little drawer for each letter. Each drawer is then filled with miniature items whose names start with the letter. In the case of vowels, I am trying to emphasize short vowel sounds, but am also mentioning the long vowel sound.


I filled a basket with all of the items from the “A” drawer, a sandpaper letter “A”, and a Leap Frog Magnetic Alphabet letter “A”. I purchased our sandpaper letters from Polliwog Learning Products, LLC, which is an Etsy store that I learned about from Counting Coconuts’ list of recommended Montessori resources.


At first, Dora threw the basket across the room, because she thought that I was just getting out toys for her “school time”. Once we moved on and did some other things, she was able to understand how the “toys” fit into everything and was no longer insulted by the basket. The products that really clicked with her were the Handwriting Without Tears Wood Letters and Roll-A-Dough Letters. She immediately grasped the concept of using these items and was able to make the letters when the cards were in front of her.

For literature, we read The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe  Hall. We were studying apples this week, – it was just a coincidence that were also working on the letter “A”. The Apple Pie Tree was an excellent choice for Dora as it discussed what happens to an apple tree through the seasons. Dora is very interested in seasons right now and trying to understand what order they come in and what type of weather we have with each season.

I’m linking this post to Footprints in the Butter Read Aloud Challenge and:

Tot School

Labels: Language Arts, Preschool
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Aquarium Gravel and Sensory Tubs

MP900321132[1]I recently posted that I used red aquarium gravel in our September sensory tub. I had read about many other bloggers using colored gravel for sensory tubs and didn’t think twice about it. Unfortunately, I should have thought twice about it and I wanted to post a follow up with the scary story that resulted from this lack of thinking on my part, so that other people might avoid what happened to us.

As I mentioned previously, Dora often spills sensory tub items on the ground. Well, today she was playing with Gohan, and for some reason she lay her face down on the ground where the aquarium gravel was. A few minutes later she came upstairs and one side of her face was completely red and puffy, with weird red lines crisscrossing her skin, and her eye was swollen halfway shut.

I immediately recognized this as an allergic reaction and after talking to Gohan, decided that it had to have been from laying on the gravel. I washed her face, which helped bring down the swelling a lot, but I still had to give her some children’s Benadryl to clear up the rest of the swelling. Afterwards, I called our doctor’s office just to double check whether or not I should do anything more.

The nurse pointed out to me, that we really had no way of knowing what had caused the reaction as that type of gravel has so many things in it. This got me to thinking and I realized that it was kind of crazy of me to not think about this being a potential problem. Several people in our family already have sensitivities to red dyes, but even without that, I try to be so careful about what chemicals I expose Dora to and yet I never thought twice about letting her play with this aquarium gravel. Who knows what sort of quality control and chemical laws they have for aquarium gravel!?!?!?

Anyway, I am not trying to criticize anyone else that uses colored aquarium gravel in their sensory tubs. I merely felt obligated to post about this story so that anyone who read my previous post and thought it was a good idea, would be making an informed decision.

Labels: Montessori, Summer, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Fieldtrip to St. Edward State Park

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         This week I took Dora to St. Edward State Park. Though this park is on the eastside of Seattle, it is quite a drive for us, so I had only been there once before many, many years ago.

Ironically, we went there to pick apples as there does not appear to be any real apple orchards within an hour’s drive of us. This is especially strange, given that Washington State produces 42% of the apples grown in the United States.

I had been told by a friend that there were apple trees at this park and she theorized that the priests had originally had an orchard and that their trees were left to go wild. Once I saw the apple trees, however, I remembered that I had seen similarly planted apple trees in other state parks as well. I have not been able to find anything that explains why there are apple trees in at least some, if not all, of Washington State parks, but my theory is that is because apples are the official state fruit.


Sadly, these apple trees were completely barren. There weren’t even any partially eaten apples on the ground. I have no good explanation for this. I have heard this has not been a good year for apples in Western Washington, due to the harsh and long winter we had, but I would have at least expected some evidence of apples.


Fortunately, this park is a wonderful park with lots of hiking trails and a really cool playground and Dora spent two hours there, despite the lack of apples. The park has a bit of interesting history to it.

In the late 1920s, the archbishop of Seattle donated the property to the Diocese of Seattle for use as a seminary by the Sulpician Order of Catholic Priests. In 1931, St. Edward Seminary was constructed. In the fall of 1977, because of declining enrollment and changes in the education of seminarians, the diocese sold 316 acres, including the seminary, to the state for use as a state park. In 1978, the property was dedicated and received its current name.

Unfortunately, the seminary has fallen into disrepair, so it is not open for touring. The outside of the building, while somewhat run down, is quite beautiful and gives one an idea of all the potential the building holds if funding is ever obtained to restore it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         The best part of the trip for Dora was enjoying the sheer volume of dandelion puffs to blow and make wishes on, which is the one thing that Dora considers imperative for a successful nature outing.

How about your area? Do you have orchards near you? If so, are you getting out and harvesting some of the season’s fruits?

I am linking this post to:

Chestnut Grove Academy Field Trip Friday Blog Hop

Labels: High School, This and That, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Wordless Wednesday – What We Found at the Park Today


Labels: Wordless Wednesday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff