Monthly Archives: April 2012

Montessori Monday–Vegetable Gardening

Strawberries 1

This week, Dora and I did some thinning of our vegetable garden. The carrots are super crowded, because she just dumped all of the seeds when we were planting. Fortunately, the pumpkin plants are more spread out. I actually planted the strawberries by myself. They arrived as tiny starts. We were supposed to get 50, but I only got about 35 out of them, of which only about 25 have taken root.

Apple Blossoms 1

Amazingly, Dora’s apple tree is doing really well, for having just been planted. It looks like it will be budding soon.

Apple Sorting Set

I also set out a fruit tonging/sorting set. Though she has sorting down, she doesn’t have much patience for spooning, tonging, chopsticking, etc. these days. So she ended up just using her hands to sort the set.

What about you? Are you doing any fun Montessori activities in your house?

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

Vegetable Printing

Vegetable Stamping 2

This week, Dora and I have been focusing on gardening, so I thought we would try vegetable stamping. The first complication we ran into is that she wouldn’t use some of the vegetables, because they felt “yucky” or were too “stinky”. Once I removed the offending produce, she gave it a try. She quickly decided, however, that painting the actual vegetables was a better art form.

Vegetable Stamping 3

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Labels: Arts and Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

He’s So Chippin’ Cute!

Chipmunk 4

I posted in the past about our issues with getting rats in our rock wall when we try to grow a garden. So I wasn’t completely surprised a couple of weeks ago, when a flurry creature ran out of our rock wall, though our vegetable garden hasn’t even started producing yet. As I watched the creature run by, however, I realized that it was no rat. It was a chipmunk! Dora is a huge fan of the Chipmunks movies, so she was very excited by this development. I wasn’t so sure, knowing nothing about chipmunks other than that they have funny voices. I did some research, and though a couple of websites predicted an immediate and tortuous death for anyone with a chipmunk in their backyard, most seemed to think they were pretty harmless and could even be beneficial. The biggest concern seemed to be that they might tunnel. Well obviously this wasn’t a concern for us, as this fellow had settled on our rock wall as his a home. Further research reassured me that rabies in such small animals was very rare in our area. So I decided to relax and even took some photos of him. Unfortunately, we have seen neither hide, nor hair of him for the last two days and I am very worried that he has met his demise.

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Labels: Gardening
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

An Option to Montessori Tactile Activities

One problem that we have encountered with using the Montessori method in our house is that Dora will not, under any circumstances, wear a blindfold. She also loves to peek when trying to match items, so asking her to close her eyes has not been an option for us either. This has made using the fabric boxes, thermal tablets, baric tablets, and grading tablets very difficult, to say the least. Recently, I stumbled upon a game, called Ruff’s House, from Learning Resources. The game is essentially a plastic (eek, plastic, I know!) doghouse with a little stuffed dog, and twelve pairs of bones that have different textures. The doghouse has a rubber flap opening that allows a player to reach in the doghouse without seeing what’s inside. You put one from each pair of bones in the house and the other bones in a pile. The player choses a bone from the pile and then tries to find its match inside the house. The materials that the bones are made from include satin, fleece, corduroy, spikey plastic, smooth plastic, and more. Dora had a lot of trouble with this game at first, but can match them all now (most of the time).

After playing this game, I realized that a similar game could be made with a drawstring bag and the various Montessori boxes and tablets, much like the matching common objects and geometric solids bags that people use.

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money 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

Trees Montessori Style

Tallest Tree Stacking Tower 1

As we continued with our tree theme, I brought out a set of cardboard stacking blocks, which I had bought months ago from a consignment shop. The set replaced and older set, which had been used and abused, such that it was falling apart. Dora seems to like these cardboard blocks much more than the pink tower, probably because she can knock them over after she has built with them. I, of course, prefer the pink tower blocks because of the added challenge of the blocks all being the same color. This added challenge became extremely apparent this week. While she still struggles to build the pink tower, she built this new cardboard tower of blocks in about 10 seconds flat. Another aspect that I about the pink tower is that it can be combined with the brown stairs for various extension activities. Nonetheless, cardboard building blocks, such as these also play a roll in our household. One thing that was kind of neat with these particular blocks was that they formed a tree on one side.

Tree Puzzle

We also used a Montessori tree puzzle to study the parts of a tree. Finally, Dora planted her dwarf apple tree, which I posted about earlier. We didn’t do any other Montessori-related activities, because we were too busy enjoying the sunshine!

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

Faux Cherry Blossom Branch

Cherry Blossom Art 1

As we finished up our study of trees this week, we made a faux cherry blossom branch. Actually, the branch, itself, was real – I cut it from our cherry tree after it stopped blooming. I then dried it front of the fireplace as it was too rainy to dry it in the sun and too small to dry it in the oven. I then put dots of glue from the hot glue gun on the branch, wherever there had been a bud before. Dora then crumpled pink tissue paper up and put it in the glue. I think it looks very pretty, though I just noticed that in some of the close up photos, you can see some hot glue gun “strings” still (errrr!).

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Labels: Arts and Crafts
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Forest Friends Accessories

Gnomies 1

Recently, we bought Dora a set of Gnomies, which she calls her “forest friends” or “dollies”, depending on her mood. Gnomies aren’t cheap, but they are really high quality. Also, I consider the price a reasonable investment given that I plan to to use them with a toy tree house , in lieu of a grammar farm when the time comes to teach Dora grammar (I was inspired to do this by this post at Kathy’s Montessori Life).

Stepping Stones and Baskets

I also decided to start making some other items to accessorize the tree house, which Dora will be getting for her birthday. So I started teaching myself to needle felt by making a set of stepping stones for the dolls. I also picked up some cheap baskets at a craft store and Dora uses those to put things in for the dolls to carry. The dolls don’t have hands that open and close, but their arms bend very nicely and she can easily secure baskets on the dolls’ arms.

Felt Flowers

Dora was using the stepping stones as pillows for her dolls, so I thought I would make some leaf and flower blankets out of wool felt. I blanket stitched all around these to give them a bit more oomph. I also needle felted the centers of the flowers. In order to get the wool roving to stick to the felt, I found that I had to needle felt on both sides of the flower. This made the flower nice and soft in the center. So, Dora immediately decided that flowers made better pillows than stepping stones. Which means that I ended up making five flower “pillows” and five leaf “blankets” and now Dora using the stepping stones to make paths for her dolls.

Felt Leaves

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Labels: Arts and Crafts, DIY, Homemade Toys
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesdays

Once again, due to changes in the kids routines and my interests, I’m finding myself trying to re-evaluate the best way to blog about our homeschooling life. I am finding that just posting about one topic at a time works better for me than attempting to write weekly wrap-ups. So I am going to start trying to establish a rhythm, blogging about certain topics on certain days of the week. Wednesdays, I plan to write about what we are reading. I like the idea of posting about what Dora, Gohan, and I are reading in one post. In addition, Dora is starting to branch out more in her reading requests and is not wanting to read the carefully chosen books that I have set out for her, which usually tie into our weekly science theme. So it no longer makes sense to post about her reads with her other work.

I personally am now reading the latest issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. I’ve subscribed to this magazine for many years. I love mysteries and I love short stories. Short stories really fit into my lifestyle as they usually only take about 15-30 minutes to read, which is about all the time I ever get to read in one sitting. With novels, I tend to get caught up in the story and then feel resentful when Dora needs me and I have to put my book down (yes, I suffer from Nerd Girl Problem #45).

Last week, I also finished The Son of Neptune, by Rick Riordan. I started reading the Percy Jackson series long before the movie came out. In fact, I haven’t seen the movie and don’t plan to. The Son of Neptune is book #2 in the second “Percy Jackson” series, otherwise known as the Heroes of Olympus Series, which focuses more on the Roman gods. I have enjoyed this series as much as the first series, though I have not taken to Riordan’s other series about the Egyptian gods, called the Kane Chronicles.

Gohan and I are listening to a recording of The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper.I’m having Gohan do 20+ minutes of reading of whatever he wants, plus 20 minutes of listening to more age-appropriate literature selections of his choosing (he chooses a book from a list that I have compiled). This way, he gets reading practice in, but also is being exposed to more challenging literature. This book was well-recommended and was his choice, but if I had been familiar with it beforehand, I would not have recommended it for him. It is a good story, but uses early 20th-century English/British terminology, which he is often not familiar with. In addition, there is a good deal of thinking and reflecting and not a whole lot of action, not to mention virtually, no humor. All in all, the writing style reminds me a lot of The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James, which is considered a high school level read. Yet, the plot would not be appropriate for high schoolers. Honestly, though I am enjoying the book, I am a bit baffled about why it is on so many people’s “recommended reading for middle schoolers” lists. I am having to really review each day’s “reading” with Gohan to make sure he is following the story.

Meanwhile, Dora is obsessed with fairy tales. We have recently moved beyond Fujikawa’s fairy tale collection to A Treasury of Children’s Literature, edited by Armand Eisen, which has slightly longer and more in-depth versions of the stories, not to mention a larger variety of literature selections. Dora takes fairy tales very seriously and they affect many decisions she makes throughout the day. For instance, today we went for a short hike to look for wildflowers. She really wanted to this, but when I mistakenly referred to the area that we would be hiking in as “the woods”, she suddenly started worrying about encountering The Big Bad Wolf. Finally she took a deep breath, raised her head, clutched my hand, whispered, “I am going to be brave,” and entered “the woods” (those two words should be read in an ominous tone). She also often re-enacts fairy tales, using her dolls to act out the stories. Two other books that Dora and I have read together that I can recommend are Otis, by Loren Long, and How Many Feet in the Bed?, by Diane Johnston Hamm. On the one hand, Otis is another book about the tired-out theme of modern technology vs. preserving traditional ways of doing things. On the other hand, the story is quite different from any other book that I have read. I like that the author manages to reconcile the fact that while traditional ways of doing things may still have a place in our life, it doesn’t mean that one can’t move forward with technology.

How Many Feet in the Bed? is a cute tale about a family taking some time to cuddle in the parents’ bed in the morning. It also teaches skip-counting by two’s.

What about you? Have you been reading any good reads? Do you have any to recommend? I’m always on the lookout for good books, my “to read” pile and list are ridiculously long!

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

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

Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Visiting the Seattle Japanese Garden in the Spring

Japanese Gardens in the Spring 1

Dora and I went to the Seattle Japanese Garden this week, while Gohan was doing his annual standardized testing. I had thought that as part of our tree studies, we would look at the cherry trees, assuming there would be many in a Japanese garden. While, cherry blossoms abound in the Seattle area, there was nary a one to be found in the gardens… Or so I thought at first. It ends up that there are some cherry trees in the Japanese Gardens, in fact they even have their own plaque, but they do not look like the cherry tree blossoms that I am used to. The ones that we have around Seattle, which ironically do not produce cherries BTW, look like these (photo source Wikipedia):

The cherry trees that are at the Seattle Japanese Gardens, look like these:

Japanese Gardens in the Spring 4

Japanese Gardens in the Spring 5

A close-up of the plaque that Dora is “reading” in the photo above,  

Japanese Gardens in the Spring 7

The photos don’t quite make it clear, but the Mt. Fuji Cherry blossoms are about four times larger than the ones that we usually see.

Another major attraction of the Japanese Gardens is the koi pond, which really is large enough to be called a lake. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to feed the koi during the cooler months, but Dora spent about half an hour watching the koi anyway.

Japanese Gardens in the Spring 10

The turtles in the pond are alive and will eventually move, if you watch them long enough.

Japanese Gardens in the Spring 12

I’m not sure what the source for the stream that runs through the Japanese Garden is, but the water seemed to be flowing faster now than it has been in the fall.

Japanese Gardens in the Spring 2

This was the first time that Dora was able to navigate the stepping stones by herself and she was rather proud of herself for it. There are several places where you can either cross the by  bridge or stepping stones. Needless to say, Dora always chose the stepping stones.

Japanese Gardens in the Spring 3

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Labels: Nature Study, Things To Do Around Seattle
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Growing Dwarf Fruit Trees in Suburbia

Planting an Apple Tree

Dora and I are currently looking at trees in preparation for Earth Day and Arbor Day. As part of this study, we went to the nursery and bought an apple tree for Dora to plant. We have a very small yard, so it might seem a bit crazy for us to be planting an apple tree. A few years ago, however, I learned about dwarf fruit trees. Since then, I have vowed to eventually have a mini orchard in our yard. We currently have a peach tree, an apple tree, and a cherry tree. The cherry tree, however, is a sour cherry tree, which I did not realize when I bought it. I think I am going to get rid of it, as we just don’t use sour cherries and don’t have the extra space. In addition to dwarf fruit trees, we are once again trying to raise a vegetable garden. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember that I gave this up before, as we got rats from our rock wall, which abuts a city street. I have now learned some new techniques for preventing rats, so am giving this a go again. I also hope to start raising chickens in a couple of years. Eventually, I’d like to have an urban farm. I am a bit constrained by our homeowner’s association and city ordinances, but as this recession continues year, after year, and people are becoming more and more eco-conscious, not to mention health-conscious, I have noticed that our city is letting up some on the rules regarding urban farming. In fact, they are in the process of creating a community garden, so if the rats return, at least we’ll have that option! Smile

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Labels: Gardening, Montessori, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff