Monthly Archives: January 2012

Montessori Monday–Knobless Cylinders

Knobless Cylinders 2

Last week, I introduced Dora to the knobless cylinders. Though she has expressed absolutely no interest in working with the knobbed cylinders, she loved working with the knobless cylinders. They are the perfect tool for teaching about variations in height and width, as well as the accompanying descriptive labels, such as “wide”, “thin”, “tall”, “short”, “large”, “small”, etc. We also did a lot of what Montessorians call “extensions”. The use of the word “extension” in regards to the Montessori Method seems to refer simply to using materials for anything other than their original intended purpose (please someone correct me if I am wrong, I could not find a definition anywhere). At our house, we call this “playing with blocks” and it is something that we excel at. We combined the cylinders in various fashions, created patterns with them, and made designs with them. I even had fun creating “math problems” for myself while Dora was doing her own thing, but refusing to let me go anywhere else. Here are some photos of the work we did:

Knobless Cylinders 4

Knobless Cylinders 3

Knobless Cylinders 5

Here are my “math problems”. I decided to create various numbers of stacks of the blue cylinders while having as few blocks left over as possible. After finally deciding to assign each block a value (the shortest block equaling 1, the next shortest block 2, and so on), it was much easier to do. I found that the total number represented by all ten blocks is 55. Therefore, there would be one block left when I created 2, 3, or 4 stacks, but none leftover if I created 5 stacks, thereby using knobless cylinders to illustrate the concept of factorization. Now that I have amazed and stunned you with my incredible math prowess, here are the photos of the towers that I built to support my hypothesis.Knobless Cylinders 7

Knobless Cylinders 6

Knobless Cylinders 8

Knobless Cylinders 9 As always, I am linking this post to:

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

Preschool at Home–Sense of Sight

Lightbox 2

Though the week started off a bit rough, it finished on a really good note in regards to homeschooling. Dora and I looked at the sense of sight this week and did some really fun projects. The biggest hit, hands down, was the light box. I had read about several bloggers using light boxes with younger kids, but had wondered if Dora would be too old to warrant the cost. Then a few other projects came up where a light box would be really beneficial for us to have, so I took the plunge and bought the Porta-Trace 10″ x 12″ Stainless Steel Lightbox with Two 8 watt, 5000°K. Lamps. Once it arrived, I realized that we didn’t have a lot of the fun stuff that I have seen other bloggers use with light boxes, because I am slowly, but surely, trying to purge our house of plastic. So first I brought over our marbles, which looked really cool and were just fun to roll around on the lightbox.

Lightbox 1

We did have some plastic color paddles left over from last year’s study of color, which worked really well with the light box. The colors came out really true with the light box, so when the paddles were held together, they blended perfectly. This really helped to cement Dora’s knowledge of mixing primary colors.

Lightbox 4

I also got out some acrylic gems that I have for collage work, as well as some wooden buttons. Dora felt that those needed to be studied with a magnifying glass.

Lightbox 9

Dora then asked for a pitcher and some glasses and ended up turning the experience into a light-filled pouring exercise!

Lightbox 10

Finally, we used the Haba Kaleidoscope Blocks. I just love the way Haba blocks are so consistently made. We have a variety of their sets, plus some of their marble runs and they all mix and match perfectly. After we played with the Haba blocks on the light table, we took a red, yellow, and green block and stacked them on the floor like a stop light. I then proceeded to shine a flashlight through the various colors while Dora drove her bus around and sometimes obeyed the “traffic signal”, while other times preferring to repeatedly “break the law” so her bus would be “put in jail” (which the bus would then proceed to crash out of – which I guess is what I deserve for building a bus-jail out of wooden blocks, what was I thinking?).

We were supposed to go to the eye doctor for our “fieldtrip”, but the exam had to be rescheduled, though we did go to two eye glass stores looking for glasses for Primo, where Dora begged me to buy her some glasses (little realizing that her wish may soon come true and she’ll have her first lesson in being careful about what you wish for). For our new literature selections this week, we read three books. Our first selection was Elmer by David McKee, which is all about being yourself. At first, I was little worried that it was going to be too preachy as several books with that theme are, but all of a sudden, a surprising and silly event occurred that had both Dora and I laughing. The book finished on a light-hearted note, reminding us all to be ourselves, without hitting us over the head with the message. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this was our favorite read-aloud for this “school” year, thus far.

 We also read Sight (Five Senses) from the senses series that we have been reading. Once again, the book conveyed the topic simply and enjoyably. Finally we read Spotted Yellow Frogs: Fold-out Fun with Patterns, Colors, 3-D Shapes, Animals for math, which is one of the weirdest books that I have ever read and that I can’t really recommend. I’ve decided that this whole “Living Math” approach to math is just not for us. Honestly, I’d rather use workbooks than read unenjoyable books in an effort to teach math. Many of the books that are recommended to teach math using a “Living Math” approach are either really hard to find (and sometimes very expensive as a result) or just not enjoyable. The author will decide to teach a math concept and write a book around the concept rather than have a story, from which a math concept evolves. In my mind, this difference is what distinguishes a book from being just a “book”, as opposed to literature. So I am just going to start sticking with using the Montessori approach to teaching math and if I find a book that looks good and happens to teach a math concept, great, but I’m not going to exert myself trying to find “Living Math” books anymore.

How about you? Have any of you used “Living Books” to teach math? If so, did it work well for you and if it did, do you have a good list of recommended books?

Disclosure: Several item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

I’m linking this post to The Play Academy at NurtureStore and…

    Shibley Smiles Classified: Mom Science Sundayabc button


  For the Kids Friday   No Time For Flash Cards

Labels: Montessori, Preschool, This and That, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Getting Hacked


I’ve been a bit quiet this week as I have been very busy trying to prevent all of our accounts from being hacked. I mentioned last week that my husband’s e-mail was hacked. Well, the hacker learned some information through that e-mail account that enabled him to greatly complicate our lives. Fortunately, we’ve managed to stay one step ahead of him and protect our financial information (at least we think so, this may come back to bite us in the butt in a couple of months if/when the hacker sells our information). Our hacker has even taken to trying to extort confidential information about my husband’s company and threatening our family. I’m not sure if our hacker is just kind of lame or what, but he bragged a lot, publicly. This allowed me to figure out who he was. I really know a lot about him and his family, more than I should know about anyone that I am not directly related to. At first, it was so easy to track him down, I thought that surely I was wrong, but time and time again, we have had his identity verified.

Another interesting thing that I’ve learned is that no one seems to give a rat’s ass about the fact that I have tracked down a crook, which is probably why our hacker doesn’t feel the need to better conceal his identity (that, or he’s really stupid). We have not been this hacker’s first victims and we will not be his last. He also steals/sells credit card numbers, does/deals drugs, and so forth. I guess he is just too small time, but multiple reports to the police and FBI have been ignored (realizing that I have already done all the footwork and handed him to them on a silver platter). Calls and e-mails to the large companies involved in the hacking have resulted in nothing but frustration. Essentially the companies don’t seem to care, unless you know how the hacker hacked your account (meaning that you do their work for them). I really have found the lack of accountability of certain corporations to be incredible and the lack of any police presence in cyberspace is just scary. The whole incident has left me feeling incredibly vulnerable and both my husband and I have contemplated removing ourselves from cyberspace rather than risk dealing with this type of event ever again.

If my experience hasn’t convinced you that cyber crime is becoming more of a problem every day, take a look at these scary statistics from Wikipedia:

A survey of college students in 2010, supported by UK’s Association of Chief Police Officers, indicated a high level of interest in beginning hacking: “23% of ‘uni’ students have hacked into IT systems […] 32% thought hacking was ‘cool’ […] 28% considered it to be easy.”

I thought I would share a few things that I have learned from our experience.

  1. Understand that you are pretty much alone if your are attacked by a hacker or other cyber criminal. The cops won’t come help you anytime soon and software company tech support employees are infamous for their inability to help you (heck, face it, you’re lucky if they speak your native language in a comprehensible fashion). For all intents and purposes, calling tech support is generally a waste of your time. Sometimes tech support employees will even make matters worse. If you have to call to get your account closed, check up on the account. Don’t assume that because an tech support employee assured you that the account was closed, it was.
  2. Read up on cyber crime and keep abreast of the latest trends in regards to cyber security. Maybe even attend hacker conventions and join their forums (under assumed names with e-mail accounts created solely for the forums).
  3. Only get your e-mail accounts from companies that use a 2-step verification processes. Gmail and Facebook are the only ones that I know of that use this process at this point in time. I realize that Facebook is not really an e-mail account, but it is a similar means to communicate. (This option can found on Gmail by going to account settings/”accounts and import”/”change password recovery options” and on Facebook under account settings/security.)
  4. Make sure that you use the 2-step verification process! Yes, it’s a pain. It makes it difficult if you want to read e-mail or login into something on another computer or your phone, but that is the point. A hacker cannot hack these types of accounts, because they cannot be used on any computer, but your own without a specially generated password. A hacker cannot lock you out of your account, because he cannot change your e-mail contact information without a code from a text message sent to your phone or other e-mail account. (Realize that within two years of me writing this post, a 2-step verification process will probably be old hat for hackers, you will always have to keep one step a head of them).
  5. When using Facebook or Gmail online, view them using https only. (This can be found on Gmail under account settings/general and on Facebook under account settings/security.)
  6. If you or your kids engage in online gaming, have a special e-mail account just for gaming. Post as little personal information as possible on these accounts.
  7. Do not use credit cards or Paypal to pay for online gaming accounts. Buy pre-paid cards from local retailers and pay for your membership with those instead. Yes, it’s a pain, but if someone hacks your gaming account, they can run up all sorts of charges if your Paypal or credit card information is stored in your account.
  8. Be sure that your or your kid’s gamer tag is not part of your e-mail address (i.e. gamer tag is joesmith and e-mail is
  9. Make your passwords difficult to hack. Not only should you use capitals, numerals, and special characters, but try to make your passwords as long as possible. Longer passwords are harder to crack, because of the sheer number of permutations that exist compared to a shorter password. Never use your name as part of your password!
  10. Do not use your name for login names. This way, if someone hacks your e-mail account, he still has to work hard just to get your login information, much less your password.

Both my husband and I have opted to maintain our cyber presence, but we have learned a lot through this incident. We have gotten lax as we have gotten older and not kept up with technology like we used to. Hopefully this post will spare someone else from the nightmare that we have been going through this week.

Stay vigilant and let’s take the internet back from criminals!

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Preschool at Home–The Sense of Hearing

Snowpocalypse 2012 3

This week has been insane for us! Mr. Mo had to go to Whistler, Canada for a meeting for work. I know, I know, it is hard to feel sorry for someone who has to go to a ski resort for a meeting. This was really bad though, as a HUGE storm rolled into the area the very day he had to leave. Fortunately, he was able to get a ride with a co-worker that is very skilled in winter driving (he is even skilled at dodging all the bad winter drivers that reside in Seattle – majorly important here). Meanwhile, however, I was home alone with all five kids and a HUGE storm rolling. Did I mention that it was HUGE? We’re talking snopocalypse 2012 here! At first it was all pretty and nice and we played in the snow, made snowmen, snow slides, snow dogs, snow angels, etc. We even tormented Gohan and Primo by throwing snowballs at their windows, since they were poopyheads and wouldn’t come out and play in the snow. Then, the snow became not so fun. It turned to ice, not sure exactly how. Everything got covered in ice, then it snowed again, then things kind of melted, then things froze again. So we had ice on top of snow on top of ice on top of snow (got that?). In Seattle, that means “snowbound”. You know how it goes, I had no desire to go anywhere, but the minute I realized that we were snowbound, the cabin fever set in and the LONGEST day of my ENTIRE life started. Then Secunda and Tertia started arguing like they were preschoolers or something. Then the power went out. Ugh! Then Mr. Mo’s co-worker somehow managed to get Mr. Mo home from Canada. Then the power came back on. Yay! Then we learned that someone had totally hacked a bunch of Mr. Mo’s internet accounts. Boo!

Caitlin and Vivi in Snow 1

We were not entirely without homeschooling during the power outage and snopocalypse. We played tons of board games, read a lot of books, and I pulled out some of the Steve Spangler science items that I keep on hand just for emergencies such as this. We made giant jelly marbles, which we soaked in water that we had colored purple with some of the color fizzers. Secunda even went so far as to experiment with poking with the marbles with toothpicks and freezing them, which Dora found fascinating.

Jelly Marbles 1

Jelly Marbles 3

Jelly Marbles 4

Jelly Marbles 5

And because we didn’t have enough snow to keep us occupied, we also made Insta-snow.


As I mentioned last week, Dora and I started studying the five senses last week. The sense of smell didn’t go over so well last week, as I mentioned in my post about smelling bottles. This week, however, the book I ordered for the smell unit arrived and thankfully that went over very well. It was a scratch-n-sniff book, which I honestly had forgot even existed. It was called Little Bunny Follows His Nose, and was originally published in 1971. According to some reviewers, they’ve removed some of the best scents, but when I read this book to Dora, you would have thought I had just shown her the secret to eternal youth or something. She thought the book was the coolest thing since sliced bread. I read that book, many, many times this week. The reason the book went over so much better than the smelling bottles is that the scents in the book are very subtle, so no headaches for either of us.

Sound Cubes

This week, we also studied the sense of hearing. All in all, it was a good unit. We worked with sound cubes, which Dora loved and was quite skilled at matching. We read the Hearing (Five Senses) (last week, we read the sense of smell book from the series, which is entitled Smell (Five Senses)). These books are written at the perfect level to introduce Dora to the senses, there is one book for each sense. She has been really engaged by each one, thus far. In addition, we read/sang My Favorite Things, which we both really loved (seriously, how could anyone not enjoy singing that song?).  The book has the lyrics, which can just be read as a poem, assuming you can resist belting out your best imitation of Julie Andrews. Each page is beautifully illustrated with gentle drawings and now is one of my favorite things.

For math we worked with the first tray of the geometric cabinet. I know, I know, all you Montessorians, the geometric cabinet is a sensorial work! In my mind, a lot of the sensorial work overlaps with math. Geometry is a math subject, so I am going to call some sensorial work “math work” for now on. And this is my domain, so I get to make the rules (ha ha! get the pun, it’s my “domain”, but it is also my “domain”, as in my web address! Aren’t I punny?). For you non-Montessorians, the geometric cabinet is a cabinet with six drawers of different shapes. The drawer we worked with was various sizes of circles and we just kind of introduced the drawer and discussed circles and Dora lined them up in order of smallest to biggest. Then we read 12 Ways to Get to 11, which is a highly reviewed book, but honestly I didn’t think it was that great. For one thing, counting to 11 gets old really fast, so I really didn’t want to do it on each two-page spread. Secondly I just found parts of it to be confusing. For instance, one two-page spread reads, “In the hen yard, five eggs, three cracking open, two beaks poking out, and one just hatched.” Which to me means that 3 out of 5 of the eggs are cracking open, two of which have a beak poking out, and one of which is hatched. Instead it means that there are five eggs, plus three cracking eggs, plus two eggs with beaks poking out, plus one just hatched egg, which equals 11 eggs in all. Anyway, the book just didn’t click with us. Dora didn’t even want to read it to begin with and I kind of had to bribe her to get her to let me read it to her.

Watercolor Painting 1

We art, Dora has been doing a lot of watercolor painting with Stockmar Watercolor Paints. I’m going to say that when these arrived, I had no idea how to mix them and there were no instructions. I did some research and really didn’t find much help on the internet. I finally just started mixing small amounts of the paints into jars of water until I achieved the desired concentration. These paints are very expensive, but as everyone will tell you, they will last forever, because you use so little of the actual paint to make a jar of paint. The jars and holder were a separate item. You could just use recycled jars or storage tubs that you already own to store your paints. You don’t throw them out every time you mix up a batch of paint, though I am unsure of how long they can be stored. I’ll try to post and update about how long we end up storing ours for. Even Secunda and Tertia have joined in on the fun with these paints. I personally have been frustrated with my inability to achieve the exact color I want by blending paints (like how hard is it to make brown?!?!), but I seem to be the only one feeling that way, so I think it is just me being a bit too OCD-ish.

Child Sized Masterpieces

Dora has also been playing with the Child-size Masterpiece cards a lot the last couple of months and is already on Level 3, Advanced!

Pike's Place Market 1

Our fieldtrip was supposed to be to go to a Seattle Symphony kids’ concert, but once Dora learned that we would be going to watch other people sing and dance, instead of other people watching her sing and dance, she wanted nothing to do with such audacity. Last week, however, we did go to Pike’s Place Market to try to smell a variety of smells. Unfortunately, the only one we really smelled was the fish market and they weren’t even throwing fish around (they are kind of famous for their fish throwing there, yep, one of Seattle’s claim to fame is that we have famous fish throwers, yep….). Honestly, I’ve never quite seen the appeal of Pike’s Place Market. It is like a giant farmer’s market, but inside. I find it kind of depressing and the parking borders on downright scary. They do have some quaint little shops, but whenever I have been there, the shops are too crowded for me to go in (we’re talking the middle of January here, so what it is like in the summer, I don’t know, maybe less crowded as everyone wants to be outside instead????). There was a used bookstore there that I really wanted to go into, but I just couldn’t get in without having to shove people aside. They had some really nice quality children’s classic books in their window though, so I gave some serious contemplation to forcing my way in, but neither Dora nor I are good in crowds.

And that, my dear readers is our week in a not-so-short synopsis. How was your week? I know a lot of other places that don’t usually get snow have been getting it, while places that usually get snow aren’t. Global warming/cooling/chaos I guess????

Disclosure: Several item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

I’m linking this post to The Play Academy at NurtureStore and…

Chestnut Grove Academy  Shibley Smiles Classified: Mom

    No Time For Flash Cards

  For the Kids Fridayabc button   Science Sunday

Labels: Montessori, Preschool, Things To Do Around Seattle, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Our New Homeschool Space and a Link-Up

For a variety of reasons, this school year has found me without an office or homeschool space. To complicate matters, it has become apparent that Dora has some sensory issues, so we wanted some space to set up some sensory equipment for her. So over winter break, I finally decided to get rid of our formal living room and dining room (we never had set up the formal dining room anyway). We moved the living room furniture to the family room, which now looks much nicer and really is more comfortable to watch TV or sit by the fire in.

I thought I’d show off our new arrangement. I’m also adding a link-up at the bottom of this post for others to show off their homeschool spaces. Our space is not 100% complete, Secunda and I plan to paint the walls, but haven’t decided on a color. Also, one thing to keep in mind, if this seems over the top, is that Dora currently does not have a bedroom – she sleeps in our room and has a very few toys in our room, but for the most part, this is all of her toys. Dora has definitely been playing, exploring, and learning much more with this new arrangement. Even Gohan has taken to doing all of his bookwork in the room, because of the comfy bean bag chairs!

This first photo is of what I consider the most important change, it’s a Haba Piratos Swing Seat. It is hammock swing that mounts in the ceiling. Dora loves to swing and when she gets stressed out, swinging can be the best way to calm her down. This indoor swing spares us from going outside in all sorts of nasty weather, but also, the hammock style of swing can be very soothing to kids with any sort of sensory issues.

Homeschool - Playroom 12

My second favorite change is this rug, it is a Hands Around the World Rug. I love the bright colors, the peaceful theme, and that the continents are colored by the Montessori coloring system. This means that the rug colors will match all continent mapping activities that we do. 

Homeschool - Playroom 8

The third and final product that we bought specifically for this room change, was two Jaxx Cocoon Jr.chairs. These chairs are filled with foam, not beans. They are extremely comfortable and make for a great place to cozy up and read books with Dora. They are also fun to lay on. I bought them specifically for Dora to have a place to crash into, literally. Thus far, she still favors crashing into me instead.

Homeschool - Playroom 13

Next are some of our bookcases, that we already owned. The top shelves of these bookcases house all of my homeschooling supplies on top (i.e. teacher guides, materials for future use, idea books, etc.). The lower shelves have our sensorial and practical life materials (oh yeah, that is the chicken butt on the floor!).Homeschool - Playroom 5

This set of bookcases is home to Dora’s language arts and math materials. The big black thing on the right is a desk apprentice from Staples. It stores most of Gohan’s materials. The window ledge above these shelves also has some of his science materials (safely out of Dora’s reach). Homeschool - Playroom 6

These buckets hold all of Dora’s blocks and Haba Ball Track Construction Set pieces (otherwise known as a marble run).Homeschool - Playroom 7

This is Dora’s kitchen/grocery store area with her little play table, which is used for a variety of activities. The phone on the wall is actually a bank that Secunda bought a long time ago and was going to donate to Goodwill. Dora uses that phone to “call” people so much, I can’t tell you how much use it has gotten!Homeschool - Playroom 9

This is Dora’s dress-up area. The green storage piece also houses a few role playing toys.Homeschool - Playroom 10

This area needs the most to be improved upon. On the sides are various indoor physical activity materials, which are a must in the Pacific Northwest. I have not found a good way to corral all of these things, so they are stacked kind of willy-nilly. If anyone knows of any good storage for these types of things, please comment below. The shelves contain all of our art supplies, Dora’s musical instruments, and her science materials. I believe that I will add more wall shelves above all of the physical activity materials in order to get more storage for science materials, which we definitely need. I don’t think we will be keeping that bouncy horse for long, I feel bad, as it was a Christmas present, intended to replace her rocking horse that she had outgrown (and was in danger of hurting herself on by falling backwards while rocking). This horse plays sounds and is like a giant stuffed animal, but has yet to garner more than a few minutes of her attention. The trampoline also takes up a lot of space and is used very little, but sometimes when she is being super hyper feeling very energetic, I get her to jump on it and set a “record” for the most number of jumps ever. In general, she does not use much of the physical activity equipment, except the balls, which are technically stored in the purple bucket, but usually are located all over the house.  Homeschool - Playroom 11

And that is our new homeschool space/play room. As Dora grows older, I’m sure it will eventually morph back into a living room, but for the time being, this is the best use of our space. What about you, do you have a special room for homeschooling? I know a lot of homeschoolers have blogged about their learning/playing spaces, but I don’t think there has ever been a link up for it. So I thought I’d host a one-time link up for people to share their homeschooling spaces. So, if you have posted about your homeschooling space, please add your link below (please be sure to link to the actual post and not just your home page).

Ironically, I am linking my link up to another link up from Chestnut Grove Academy, Brag Time Thursday. Our new space is something I really feel like bragging about, it took a lot of thought and time to put together. If you are interested in reading about other homeschooler’s brag-worthy activities, check out the link-up at:

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.


Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Smell Bottles

Smelling Bottles

Last week, Dora studied the sense of smell. I didn’t post a weekly wrap-up, because the unit was cut a bit short. One task that we did complete, however, was matching smell bottles. I put a cotton ball into each bottle and then dropped a few drops of various extracts on to each cotton ball. The extracts I used were vanilla, cinnamon, peppermint, orange, rum, and anise. Each pair had one black-topped bottle and one white-topped bottle, but I also added colored stickers to the bottoms of the bottles for control of error.

Dora was easily able to match the bottles. I must emphasize, however, that we learned the hard way that extracts are just too strong for those of us with a strong sense of smell. If I were to do this again, I’d use more mildly scented things such as pine needles, orange peel, etc. This would require opaque bottles, so that she couldn’t see the objects, but would be more pleasant for both of us. Both Dora and I had horrid headaches by the end of the activity. Neither of us had any desire to do any other of the sense of smell activities that I had planned, such as making scented play dough or painting with spices.

As always, I’m linking this post to:

Labels: Montessori
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Blog Theme Changes

Those of you that read Homeschool Mo on the actual blog site, as opposed to a reader, may have noticed that I completely changed the layout. I did this because I wanted a layout that was more truly representative of me and our homeschool. When I first started blogging, it seemed like all of the “good” bloggers had these lovely electronic-scrapbook-style blog layouts. As I wanted to be a “good” blogger so that I could easily supplement out family’s income (uhm, yeah, you read that correctly, I had read a blog article about how easy it was to make a couple hundred bucks a month, just by starting a blog and as this was written by a blogger, who must have done it, it must be true, right? – HA! anyway….) I felt compelled to design my own electronic-scrapbooking layout.

Over time, it has become apparent that blogging is not the means to easy street that the article I read lead me to believe. I continue to blog now, because I enjoy blogging. I enjoy documenting our homeschool. I enjoy engaging with other bloggers, parents, teachers, and homeschoolers. I enjoy belonging to the blogging community. I enjoy all that I learn by reading lots of blogs. I enjoy the different perspectives that I would never be exposed to if I didn’t blog. I enjoy the fact that blogging compels me to think and write more. I enjoy that blogging makes me more organized in our homeschooling, as I want to be able to report on how things have gone. What money I have made, has been very little, on very few occasions, and I do not have the time, energy, or desire to do what it takes to change that. So I will be blogging for myself for now on. Which means, I want a design that more truly reflects me and our homeschool, which is not this nice lovely homeschooler/bird with her little chickadees all in a row.

I also have come to the conclusion that I should be a bit more honest when I post about out projects. I should be more forthcoming about the many bumps in the road that we encounter. Secunda and Tertia have started teasing me, asking me if I am going to blog about the various projects that I try that don’t work out so well and somewhere along the line, they and Mr. Mo started teasing me to change my blog name to “It could have gone better….” I’m not going to go to all the trouble of changing my blog name, but I did add the phrase as my tagline, and I am going to start being more forthcoming about things. Sure, we may have ended up with a very nice looking project, but it may have fallen apart the minute after I photographed it or it may have taken several attempts to get it right or Dora or Gohan may have hated the process or it may have entailed two hours of cleaning up afterwards or…. These are the types of things that I want be more honest about for now on.

I partly feel the need to be more honest after seeing the look on the face of the daughter of one of my blogging buddies. You see, in December, 2010, we tried experimenting with burning frankincense and myrrh. I blogged about the experience, but failed to mention how bad the stuff smelled (I didn’t actually praise the smell, but I also didn’t go so far as to say that it smells like @#&!). After that, my blogging buddy from Life’s Adventures, Anna-Marie, said that she was going to do it this year (she was the one who inspired me to buy the stuff in the first place). Then, Anna-Marie blogged about the experience and she was a bit more honest than me, and her daughter’s face said it all (bottom of the post). One the one hand, I laughed so hard, my stomach muscles hurt after seeing her daughter’s expression, on the other hand, I felt guilty for not being more truthful in my post and perhaps sparing their poor olfactory senses. Frankincense and myrrh smell awful! Why the stuff was so highly valued in olden times, is beyond me (at times it was worth more than gold!). If I ever figure out how to time travel, I’m going back in time and sell them some Febreeze or something!

Anyhoo, this is my attempt at explaining my new look. Hopefully it will give people a better idea of what my blog’s really about, when they first come to my site and hopefully, it won’t scare anyone away…


Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

How Memory Works

I received an e-mail today about another infographic from This one is about how memory works and I thought could be especially useful for those of us who have students that have troubles with retaining what they’ve learned.

How Memory Works
Via: Online Colleges Blog

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–My Montessori Birthday

Pouring Bird SeedSince we were studying winter birds last week, I let Dora practice pouring bird seed for a practical life skills activity. She just loves pouring activities, which is nice, because there are not many things that she will do by herself for any length of time. I gave her an assortment of cups and bowls to pour into and pitchers to pour from.

I also presented the zipper dressing frame to Dora. She knows how to unzip, but even then, needs to be reminded to hold the fabric if the zipper snags at all. I was hoping that she would really take to the dressing frames as she seems to have very little interest in learning to dress herself. Unfortunately, she had zero interest in the dressing frame. I guess I am supposed to take this as a sign that this is not the appropriate sensitive period for her and put the frames away for awhile. Sigh, adhering to one’s philosophic principles can be frustrating at times.

Vivi's First Attempt With Insets

Dora caught me opening the package with the metal insets in it and then insisted on working with them. I was amazed at how well she was able to do the work. Above is a photo of her very first attempts with using the insets. On the left, you can see where she used the outer frame of the inset to trace a near-perfect oval. On the right, she used the inset, itself, and you can see at the top, the point where she had to figure out how to navigate around her hand that was holding the inset. Her solution was to let go of it, which caused the inset to move around. Obviously, we’ll need to work on that.

Homeschool - Playroom 3

How did we afford all of these new Montessori materials, you ask? I’m glad you asked! This year for my birthday (I’m now 43, if you must know), I asked for Montessori supplies for Dora. I’ve become extremely passionate about the Montessori method of education. It is ironic, because I actually attended a public school Montessori kindergarten way back in the 70’s. My parents were so underwhelmed by the school, they pulled me out of public school and sent me to private school until they were able to move to an area with better schools. I well remembered the school and agreed with their assessment, so had never, for even a moment, in the last nineteen years, considered using Montessori methods in our homeschool. Then I started reading blogs and finding fun activities to do with Dora and wouldn’t you know it, they were Montessori inspired? So I did some research and have come to the conclusion that the school I attended just did a really, really, really bad job of implementing the Montessori method.

Every time I find myself saying, “Well, I like it all, except for this or that…” I end up realizing that the only parts of the Montessori method that I don’t like are the ones that I don’t understand. For instance, using all the beads in math seemed silly to me, until I started reading more about them. Now, I realize that these materials will help Dora to not only learn her math facts, but to be able to do things such as truly visualize quantities and many other math concepts (by visualizing quantities, I mean that if she sees a group of four marbles, she doesn’t need to count each marble to know that there are four).

At this point, my only complaints with the Montessori method are that I didn’t use it with my older children, and that it is so hard to find resources that teach me how to implement the method. I have neither the time, nor the funds, nor the desire, to become a certified Montessori teacher. I just want a crash course in the basics to use with Dora. I learn a lot from reading other blogs and I have found a few books that are helpful, but thus far I haven’t found the perfect guide for me. So many of the books are either geared towards convincing parents that Montessori works or helping parents make Montessori supplies at home or are written for parents of babies/toddlers. I have many of the real supplies, even if they aren’t the fanciest version, but I just need to know how to use them. Thus far the most helpful book that I have found has been Basic Montessori: Learning Activities For Under-Fives.

As always, I am linking this post to the one of the best Montessori blogs out there (if not THE best), Living Montessori Now, from whom I have learned so much.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Montessori, Preschool
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Preschool at Home–Winter Birds

Bird Treats

We kind of, sort of, studied winter birds this week. We made some bird treats using suet, peanut butter, and bird seed. Don’t they just look yummy! (That is sarcasm, in case it wasn’t obvious. If you’ve never worked with suet before, it is rendered beef fat and for some reason it is the “thing” to put into bird treats, though I doubt you will ever find these birds eating cows in the wild. Anyway, the stuff is greasier than anything that I ever worked with before. I had to wash my hands about 25 times to get it off of them. Then I had to clip all of my nails super short as the stuff had worked it’s way under my nails. Then I realized that my hands still had some suet on them, so I washed them about 10 more times. So I highly recommend using rubber gloves if you are going to work with it.) Unfortunately, there do not appear to be any winter birds in the area, so the treats remain untouched. I have been informed by a friend that if you want to feed birds that winter over, you need to start feeding them before winter sets in, so that they know where food is. I guess we may have to take our treats down to the duck pond that is right by our house (not even squirrels seem to be investigating our trees).

Bird Puzzle

In addition to this messy craft project, we did a Montessori bird puzzle and Dora then insisted on not only doing all of the puzzles in the animal puzzle cabinet, but doing all of the puzzle activity cards that are labeled with the body parts’ names, some of which I didn’t even know how to pronounce! Finally, we finished the forest section of Maurice Pledger’s Animal World and are almost completely done with the book. We were supposed to go bird watching, but had to get some medical tests done instead. So no field trip this week, though we did go to our homeschool support group’s young kids’ park day.

Dora took one look at The Burgess Bird Book for Children and declared it “boring”. Nothing I said could induce her to give it a chance, so for our new literature selection for the week, we read poetry from The Classic Treasury of Children’s Poetry instead. She was not able to sit for some of the longer poems, but enjoyed many of the shorter ones, especially the ones that she had heard previously while watching Maurice Sendak’s Little Bear. It was like she thought the book had some magical ability to channel Little Bear or something. As soon as I read one of the poems that had been in Little Bear, she would sit up in a “I know that poem” way, and then her face would light up with joy and excitement when she realized it was from Little Bear.

Long Red Rods

For math, we read Anno’s Counting Book and played with the long red rods. Dora understood the concept of the long red rods, but since she did not line them up at the bottom, she was not really able to accurately compare the length of them all. In the above photo, she took them out of the stand, in order, and I lined up the first few, trying to demonstrate the process to her, but she just was not ready for that step yet. She did really enjoy working with the red rods, however, much more than the brown stairs or pink tower. In regards to Anno’s counting book, one thing that I really liked about the book was the way he managed to work the flow of the seasons into a wordless counting “story”.

Disclosure: Several item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

I’m linking this post to The Play Academy at NurtureStoreChestnut Grove Academy

 Favorite Resource This Week Science Sunday

For the Kids Fridayabc button Classified: Mom No Time For Flash Cards

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