Monthly Archives: March 2012

Painting With Tissue Paper

Tissue Paper Painting 4

We’ve been experimenting with the process of painting with tissue paper and I think we have finally mastered it.The first secret that we learned is that you need bleeding tissue paper. I have no idea why they even make such a thing as I cannot think of any other reason a person would want tissue paper that bleeds.

Tissue Paper Painting 1

Other than that, the process that worked best for us was to first lay dry tissue paper out on to dry paper (we used watercolor paper, you need some sort of stronger that can handle getting wet without ripping).




Tissue Paper Painting 2Then use a spray bottle to mist all of the tissue paper with water.







Tissue Paper Painting 6Then use another piece of paper on top to press the wet tissue paper. This top paper actually looked prettier in our case. The bottom paper got a bit scratched up from us lifting up all of the wet tissue paper. I think this process makes some beautiful paper to use for other crafts, but you can also do some specific designs, just like painting with watercolors, just note that the colors will run some and your hands will get messy from lifting up the tissue paper!

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Labels: Arts and Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Butterfly Life Cycle Craft Project

Butterfly Life Cycle Art Project

Today, Dora and I made this butterfly lifecycle craft project. The idea comes from here at the Sewing School blog. The butterfly egg is represented by a lima bean. The caterpillar and butterfly are represented by pasta. Due to a grocery shopping mishap, we did not have the correct pasta for the chrysalis, and had to use a shell instead. I actually felt the shell looked more like a chrysalis than the pasta and if I was doing this again, I think I would try to use shells for each stage instead.

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Labels: Arts and Crafts, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Rainbow Sensory Tub

Rainbow Rice Tub 1

Last week, I broke down and set up a sensory tub for Dora. I was inspired by this post from Share and Remember. I felt the need for some cherry rainbow-ness in our household and wanted Dora to be able to practice pouring with dry ingredients. I included various metal, wood, and glass pouring and scooping implements. The problem we had with this sensory tub was the food coloring coming off the rice. The gel food coloring that I used did not come off, but the liquid food coloring, while easier to work with and yielding brighter colors, came off very easily and dyed everything it came in contact with. I will note that the liquid food coloring that I used was from a neon pack of colors, so not the usual colors. I don’t know if that was the problem or what. Almost immediately, I had to take the wooden tools out of the tub, as they were being turned blue. Finally, Dora said she wanted me to throw the tub out, as it was “yucky” (meaning turning her hands blue). In the post, Stacy mentions using liquid watercolors and I think I will try that if I ever decide to do something like this again.Mir‏ror Polishing 2

We also did some mirror cleaning, which I had never done in this way before. I got the tablet from Montessori Services. The child wipes the tablet with a wet cloth, applies it to the surface, then wipes the surface clean with a dry rag. It is very easy to see where the polish was applied. It did a very good job of polishing Dora’s handheld mirrors and Dora really enjoyed examining herself in her newly cleaned mirrors.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

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

Weekly Wrap-Up – Ladybugs and Middle School Montessori Methods

Ladybugs 1

I’ve decided that I’m going to try doing more of a general wrap-up on Fridays that includes both Dora and Gohan, rather than trying to do two separate posts like I have been doing for some time. As Dora is getting older and I am incorporating Montessori into out lives, their “schooling” isn’t as separate as it once was.

Ladybug and Butterfly Puzzles

Dora did focus on ladybugs this week. Our ladybugs arrived when our worms did, but were already hatched. They are still in the larva stage, but I expect them to go into the pupa stage sometime this week. We’ve had many more of the larvae survive this time. Last year, when we tried this, the larvae were very cannibalistic and ate each other, such that only two lived. I also brought out the insect puzzles that we have, which are only a butterfly and ladybug. I am hesitant to buy more, since Dora is so fearful of insects. In fact, we had planned to go to the Seattle Bug Safari, which is an insect zoo that I have never been to, but Dora was too scared to go. She now is comfortable with the three sets of insects that we are currently raising, so I’m very glad that we did this unit, which has allowed her to somewhat get over her complete terror of bugs.

In fact, we read Ladybug Girl this week and Dora is totally enthralled with Ladybug Girl. We went to the bookstore and bought two more books in the series, plus the last remaining Ladybug Girl doll. Jacky Davis and David Soman, the authors and illustrator, really have captured the spirit and personality of girls in this age group. Ladybug Girl is an excellent and realistic hero role model for young girls.

Ladybug Fingerprint Art

For our craft, we made finger print lady bugs on a “branch” background. Dora really enjoyed this activity, especially adding the details to the ladybugs.


Meanwhile, I am still trying to transition to more of a Montessori method with Gohan. Missing all of the Montessori foundation, is providing and added challenge, but I am going to try to use as many of the Montessori principles as I can. I find it interesting that in many ways, Maria Montessori, a developer of school curriculum and philosophy, was also one of the first unschoolers. While she believed in presenting a prepared environment and in having teachers present concepts to children, she did not believe in forcing children to do anything. Montessori students were free to learn what they wanted, when they wanted. Obviously, she was not an unschooler as homeschooled unschoolers are, in that living and learning were still took place in two separate environments, but certainly she was more of an unschooler than I am. So I am currently struggling with how much control over his own education that I am willing to give Gohan. Were I to completely absolve him of any school responsibilities and trust him to learn as he saw fit, he assures me that he would spend the day on Skype, chatting and gaming with his friends. I am not comfortable with such a schedule, so I am still assigning him some work.

He is currently working through the ETC pre-algebra cards. The cards are very basic and only require about 10 minutes of work from him. Yet, I find that they almost always result in serving as conversation starters for Gohan and I. As a result, he is actually learning more and having greater understanding, than when he was working through the textbook.

I have come up with what I hope is a good solution for the language arts conundrum that I found myself facing. I honestly believe that the best way to learn composition, vocabulary, and grammar is to read good literature. Yet, though Gohan is now reading, he is still not up to reading super challenging books. I finally decided that I will continue to have him read one book of his choice, but I am also going to have him start listening to audio books of higher quality literature. I will allow him to select this literature also, but he will only be able to chose from a list of about 25 books. We will then come back to grammar, composition, and vocabulary studies when he is in 10th and/or 11th grade, in order to finish preparing for the SAT and college.

That is a brief glimpse of our week? What about your week? Anyone else going through an educational approach identity crises right now?

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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.


Labels: Language Arts, Math, Montessori, Science, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Artwork Cards to Supplement Your Art History Studies

Van Gogh

I have mentioned before that I am using Child-Size Masterpieces for art history and appreciation with Dora. The Child-Size Masterpieces series is well-thought out in that the author has pulled together cards to work together, either as representative of a concept, artist, or art style. She has also added labels and lots of facts on the backs of the cards. The cards have their limitations, however, in that there are only eight sets total, which is not enough for pre-school – grade 8. The author does recommend supplementing the series with other art postcards, which I had planned to do as I got a chance.


Recently, however, I found these sets of art post cards from Montessori-n-Such, who I am not an affiliate for. The cards are grouped together by color and are $10.50 a set, with 26 cards of a famous artwork in each set. As we have been continuing to read the Katie series by James Mayhew, I have been setting out two cards to supplement each Katie book. I have had no problem finding multiple options for each artist thus far. Each card is made of sturdy cardstock and actually is a postcard that you could mail, if you were so inclined.

How about you? Do you know of any other good sources for art cards?

Labels: Arts and Crafts, Montessori
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday: Color Mixing

Color Mixing 3

Last week we did we some color mixing with watercolors. At first we used pipettes, but the pipettes took up so much of the paint at once that Dora would go through the paint in three tries. Then, my order from Specialty Bottle arrived and we were able to switch to eye dropper bottles. The eye droppers required a lot more fine motor control than the pipettes did and didn’t use so much paint at once. I have to say that if you are ever looking for bottles or other containers, Specialty Bottle has the best prices and selection that I have found (and no I am not an affiliate for them, so do not make anything for referring them).

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Labels: Montessori
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Weekly Wrap-Up–Attempting Middle School Montessori

As I’ve dug more deeply in to the science of the Montessori Method, I’ve found myself regretting that I didn’t use it with Gohan. I believe he would have greatly benefitted from the approach. I have looked into switching his studies, such that we are using more of a Montessori approach, but have hit many stumbling blocks. The first being that Montessori did not design curriculum materials for middle schoolers. As such, there is very little out there (at least that I have been able to find). I’ve only found one blog that is about using Montessori in middle and high school and it tends to focus more on high school-level math.
It ends up that one aspect of Gohan’s education that I was doing in a Montessori-ish fashion already is history. Gohan reads the Cartoon History of the Universe 1 Vol. 1-7 , but I also have him use Pandia Press’ timeline and accompanying sticker pack. My only gripe with this timeline is that it doesn’t start until 6000 B.C., thereby making it impossible to add any evolution material to the timeline. So at first, Gohan had to handwrite the events, giving his timeline a fairly cluttered look. Originally, I was storing the timelines in a binder, but now I have them mounted on the wall in our playroom/homeschool room. I felt that keeping them in a binder detracted somewhat from the visual impression of the passage of time that timelines are intended to give.
Levi's Timeline 2
Levi's Timeline
Language Arts is a big question mark in regards to using Montessori materials with middle schoolers. My general opinion is that it is too late in the game to switch Gohan to using the Montessori grammar materials. It seems like he’d lose too much time just learning to use the materials. We’re using AVKO’s “If it is to be, it is up to me to do it” program for spelling and I won’t even consider switching that for a minute – his spelling skills are growing in leaps and bounds. He is finishing up Vocabulary From the Roots: Book A. He has done okay with this program, but not great. The best that I can tell, Montessori’s method of teaching vocabulary is labeling things (nomenclature cards, labeling puzzles, etc.) and discussion (reading also I assume), which I don’t think is enough if Gohan is to do well on the SAT (yes, I’m teaching to the test in our homeschool, which is very sad). If Gohan were a voracious reader, I would not worry about vocabulary, but he is anything but. I need to clarify better with him about what goals he has for college. If he is unsure, I may just hold off on further vocabulary study until he is closer to taking the SAT and hopefully more intrinsically motivated. I really haven’t found anything Montessorian for teaching composition and just wish that I knew of some way that I could teach my kids how to write essays without them hating it every step of the way. For literature, Gohan is currently reading TimeRiders and seems to be enjoying it well enough.
We switched up Gohan’s math, yet again! Saxon wasn’t confusing him, but he was hating it. Every day was a battle to get him to do it. Math is still his least favorite subject, when it used to be his favorite. I didn’t want him to hate it anymore than he already was, so I decided to take the plunge and use the Montessori materials that I could find. I purchased ETC’s pre-algebra work set, which I would love to link to, but their site is down and has been down for days (you can view it at Allison’s Montessori). The program is designed for 9-12 year olds, but it is truly pre-algebra. I intend to supplement it with some hand’s on work by using some of the Montessori materials to illustrate advanced concepts and maybe some computer sites or DVD’s. Right now, Gohan is much happier with this program, mostly because of the lighter work load. That is fine with me, as long as he actually retains the concepts.
In fact, the pre-algebra program being aimed at 9-12 year-olds, brings up a topic that I have become quite curious about. Based on all my research and getting to know people who have taught and been taught with the Montessori Method, it seems that Montessori children work at a very advanced level. Quite frankly, by age 12, they have covered more in some subjects than I did by the time I graduated university. What I wonder is what happens to kids with learning disabilities? Is the idea that kids don’t have learning disabilities with Montessori? Or do they just work at their own pace, no matter where the rest of the class is at? Or what?
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
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Preschool at Home–Wiggling Worms


This week Dora and I began a short entomology unit by studying earthworms. I had ordered earthworms, ladybugs, and caterpillars from Insect Lore and was surprised when they all arrived on the same day, just a few days after I ordered them. They usually take weeks to arrive, so we started the unit a bit earlier than I had originally planned. I already had all of the habitats from last year, except for the earthworm habitat. I decided to replace last year’s habitat, as it had not stored very well. Instead, I bought Insect Lore Earthworm Nursery. The worms arrive as vermipods, which are earthworm cocoons. The flyer says the vermipods may hatch over a period of time, some hatching immediately, some taking weeks. Thus far, none of ours have hatched. The photo above was taken through the hole where the magnifying eye piece rests, as my camera just couldn’t handle taking photos through the plastic chamber.

I also purchased the accompanying Insect Lore Earthworm Life Cycle Stages set, which I was worried might scare Dora, as I found them a bit gross myself (though tried very hard not to let on to that). She seemed fine with them, in fact she posed with them by hooking them in various “fancy ways”, as if they were beads to assemble and not worm models.

Worm Life Cycle

For our craft project, we made “worm trails”. For some reason, I thought I had read about others doing this, but I could not find any directions on how to do it. So, I had to wing it. It took awhile to get something that resembled any sort of worm trail, but we got a nice picture and had fun experimenting. To achieve our end result, we poured various colors of tempera paint onto a paper plate in blobs, such that it filled the plate. Then we put tons of cut up pieces of string into the paint. We really had to use a paintbrush to push the string into the paint, otherwise it would not absorb the paint.

Worm Painting 1

We then used the paint brush to lift the string onto the paper. We found that dragging the string resulted in smears, rather than trails. So for the result we were looking for, I had to lift all the strings off of the paper with my fingers (Dora wouldn’t touch the yucky string). I could have turned this into a practical life activity, by having her use tweezers to remove the strings, but I didn’t think of that until later. I thought the end result was colorful and interesting and somewhat resembled the marks worms would leave behind, if they rolled in paint. 

Worm Painting 2

I had a few books on earthworms for us to read, but none of them were worth mentioning. I also had a couple of books that were intended to help Dora see that just because a creature looks different from us, doesn’t mean we need to be scared of it. She is very scared of bugs, so I was trying to ease her fears. The only one of the these books that we really enjoyed was The Gruffalo, which actually perpetuated the concept of “scary” looking things being scary. Even though the book did the opposite of what I intended, I couldn’t help but laugh at this unexpected twist (I think Mr. Mo and I enjoyed the book more than Dora did). In all, the book was a cute read that teaches kids to use their noggins. I would say that the word play seemed to go a bit over Dora’s head, so I would recommend it more for slightly older children (Amazon recommends it for ages 5+).

What about you? Have you studied earthworms before? If so, how long did the vermipods take to hatch?

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.

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Beneath the Rowan Tree Toys In The Dryerabc button

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No Time For Flash Cards

Science Sunday


Labels: Literature, Preschool, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Light Box Fun and Fiascos

Light Table Blokus

So we’ve still been having fun playing with our light box, as you can see in the photo above, where we were playing with the Blokus game pieces on the light box. So much fun, in fact, that I decided to build a box to sit on top of Dora’s little table. Yeah, I know, uh oh! “Maureen” and “build” in one sentence spells “trouble”. Forever the optimist, however, I continue to think of myself as a DIY’er-in-training. I actually spent a lot of time and care designing the box, cutting the wood, and painting the wood. I even cut the piece of acrylic without it cracking, which is not easy. I measured twice and cut once, and all of that. Then I tried to finish it all up by attaching the final pieces. I started hammering a nail into the main board, the most basic task of the whole building process. Easy peasy, right? I hit the nail once, twice, thrice and whammo! the ENTIRE board cracked apart. Seriously! Countless hours of work were thrown away by that one fateful nail. I have no idea why it cracked. It was scrap lumber, so maybe it was too old? I was very disappointed, to say the least. I considered buying new wood and redoing the ruined part, but it was just too much work to contemplate for my sad and weary self.

Light Table Viscosity Toys 1

Anyway, we have still been having fun with our small light box. In all honesty, I am kind of glad that it happened because I was beginning to feel uncomfortable with the thought of using so much plastic with the light table. The fact is, a lot of the fun light table stuff is plastic and I’ve been trying to avoid plastic. I’ll never get rid of it all, that’s not practical, especially given that the rest of the family is not on board with this, but I don’t need to go building an open-invitation to plastic to come over for a house warming party.

Light Table 9

Lightbox 12Lightbox 14

Lightbox 15 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, Summer, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff