Monthly Archives: May 2012

Look Who We Saw At the Park!

Pine Lake Park 1

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Labels: Wordless Wednesday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Polishing Sunglasses and Using a Hex Bolt Board

Polishing Sunglasses

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day, I certainly did! If anything, it was a bit too hot for my tastes, though. The sun has been showing itself around here a lot lately. Unfortunately, Dora inherited my light sensitivity, so on sunny days, like today, she wears sunglasses a lot of the time that she is outside. She owns several pairs of sunglasses, which we keep in various places so that we always have one on hand when we need it. Since we have been studying the sun, I thought it would be fun for her to clean her sunglasses, so I set up a tray with several pairs of sunglasses and a microfiber cloth. She would wet the sunglasses with water from the faucet and then dry them with the cloth. They came out looking perfect! (I don’t recommend this cleaning method for expensive or prescription sunglasses though.)

Hex Wrench Board

We’ve also been doing a lot of work around the house lately. Our house is almost 8 years old and as such, some things are needing to be replaced or repaired. Also, Secunda just moved out, which has meant that we’ve been doing some room rearranging (I’m going to have my own office soon!). So, Dora has been watching me doing a lot around the house and is wanting to be able to help. Unfortunately, she just doesn’t have the dexterity to use a screwdriver yet. So I brought out this hex board that I bought last year from Montessori Services. She couldn’t do it then, but was able to master it now with a bit of guidance from me (which is the perfect level of challenge in my opinion). She has been doing the board a lot and clearly is interested in learning to use hand tools and do some woodworking right now (in other words, she’s in a Montessori sensitive period for this type of work right now). I’ll have to see what I can come up with for her.

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Labels: Montessori
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Pipe Cleaner Sun

Styrofoam Sun Tray 2

This week, Dora and I continued to look at space, focusing on the sun. We watched a BrainPOP Jr. episode about the sun and then made a Styrofoam and pipe cleaner sun. I spray painted the foam yellow earlier in the week and cut the pipe cleaners in half. Poking the pipe cleaners in the foam created a very interesting tactile sensation as we could feel the Styrofoam crunching. Dora found the sensation to be a bit disconcerting and eventually wanted me to be the one to inset the pipe cleaners so that she could remove them. For all you Montessorians out there, the fine motor skills required to stick the pipe cleaners into the foam would qualify this activity as practical life work also.

Styrofoam Sun Tray 1

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

Using Manipulatives to Teach Addition and Subtraction of Negative Integers and Variables

Zero

I believe that I have previously mentioned that Gohan has a language-based learning disability. When Gohan was originally diagnosed, he was quite advanced for math, but we had been warned that as he got into more advanced math, he might start exhibiting signs of dyscalculia also. Sure enough, in 6th grade, math started to become more of a challenge for Gohan. This year I switched to a Montessori curriculum for Gohan’s math, mid-year, and it has been working well. One thing he has struggled with, however, is subtracting negative integers. Recently, the program also started covering subtraction of negative variables and Gohan just kind of fell apart. So I did some research online and came up with a method of teaching this concept using manipulatives. We tried it today and it went fairly well. To do this, you need two colors of beads, beans, buttons, gems, etc. for integers and two colors of the item of your choice for the variables (if you want to teach variables also). We used glass gems on the light box. The yellow gems stand for negative units and the red gems stand for positive units. We started out with five negative units and five positive units, which offset each other and thereby equal zero (you can start with any number, as long as you have an equal number of positive and negative and your child must understand that –5 + 5 = 0).

Zero Plus Two

The next step shows the very first integer in our equation, 2. We have the original 5 yellow and 5 red, plus 2 more red, resulting in a total of +2.

Zero Plus Two Minus Negative Two

The next step shows 2 – (-2) = 4. We literally took away two of the negative units. So now we have three negative units and 7 positive units, for a total of 4.

Zero Plus Two Minus Negative Two Minus Four

We then take away 4 positive units: 2 – (-2) – 4 = 0.

Zero Plus Two Minus Negative Two Minus Four Plus Negative Three

Finally, we add (-3). The end equation being: 2 – (-2) – 4 + (-3) = (-3).

Zero Plus ZeroX

I then moved on to using turquoise gems to represent negative “x’s” and purple gems to represent positive “x’s” (sorry the photos don’t show the purple better Sad smile). Once again, I started with 5 positive and 5 negative gems. So, the above photo shows 0 + 0x.

Zero Plus ZeroX Plus X

The next photo shows 0 + x = x, since I added one positive purple “x” gem, but no unit gems.

Zero Plus ZeroX Plus X Minus Negative Two

We then subtracted (-2), taking away two negative unit gems, resulting in: 0 + x – (-2) = x + 2.

Zero Plus ZeroX Plus X Minus Negative Two Minus Negative Four X

The next step was to subtract four negative “x’s”. So the equation now reads 0 + x – (-2) – (-4x) = 5x + 2.

Zero Plus ZeroX Plus X Minus Negative Two Minus Negative Four X Plus Three

The next step was to add 3 positive unit gems, resulting in: 0 + x – (-2) – (-4x) + 3 = 5x + 5

Zero Plus ZeroX Plus X Minus Negative Two Minus Negative Four X Plus Three Plus Negative Two X

We’re almost done! We now add back some of those negative x’s, getting: 0 + x – (-2) – (-4x) + 3 + (-2x) = 3x + 5

Zero Plus ZeroX Plus X Minus Negative Two Minus Negative Four X Plus Three Plus Negative Two X Minus Three X

Our final step was to subtract some of the positive “x’s” (yes, even my head was spinning at this point!). So we end up with: 0 + x – (-2) – (-4x) + 3 + (-2x) – 3x = 0x + 5, or simply, 5.

Hopefully, this makes some sense written out. Working with the gems in person, Gohan was able to understand the concept much better. By the end of the day, he was getting about 90% of these types of equations correct. Now, I just need to cross my fingers that it sticks (one of the joys of learning disabilities is that what a child knows today and what a child knows tomorrow are not always one and the same).

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Labels: Math
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Hammering Golf Tees

Hammering Golf Tees

Last week was an off week in regards to homeschooling. My parents were here part of the week, Gohan was in two play productions, and Dora had some doctor appointments. I had planned to introduce the concept of the universe to her, but she wasn’t too interested in discussing anything astronomical.

She was, however, interested in destroying things. In an effort to redirect her actions in a more positive direction, I brought out her wooden mallet, some golf tees, and a florist foam block. At first Dora was having a blast pounding away at this thing, but then she got upset due to all of the mess that the florist block was creating (dust and bits flying everywhere). Previously, I posted about doing this activity with the foam covered in felt. I didn’t do that this time, because the felt can only be used once and it seemed wasteful. Despite this drawback, I will cover the foam with felt the next time that we do this. It definitely is a sanity-saver around here.

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Labels: Montessori
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

DIY Children’s Bowling/Skittle Set

Bowling Set 3

Recently, I made Dora a bowling/skittles set. I purchased unfinished 5” tall bowling pins and a 3” wood ball from Casey’s Wood Products. I intentionally had a large bowling ball/pin ratio as I wanted this to be a game that Dora could be successful at from the beginning. If I want to make it harder, later, I can just space the pins a bit farther away from each other.

As I am still on a “no-plastic and non-toxic” crusade right now, I used non-toxic soy-based paints, which I bought from Dick Blick, to paint the pins and ball. I have also seen these soy paints at several craft stores, sometimes for great prices, sometimes for insane prices, so I recommend shopping around some. The paints dried with a very flat, matte finish, which I was not too happy with. so I polished all the pieces with my handy-dandy Daddy Van’s All Natural Beeswax Furniture Polish (Lavender & Sweet Orange). At first, this left the pieces so oily that I was worried I would have to strip the paint and start all over, but by the next morning, the polish had been absorbed and all that was left was a nice, glossy finish.

Originally, I had planned to paint the pins white with small blue and red stripes, like the pins at bowling alleys look like (or used to look like anyway). Dora decided, however, that she wanted to help me paint the set, so we ended up with the pins being different colors. Since I had only set out red, white, and blue paint, the set looks like I made it for the 4th of July or something. It would be a fun game to play with outside on the 4th… Bowling Set 1

The only complaint I have with the end result is that the white pins are getting marked by the red and blue pins and ball. So I’d recommend that if you decide to attempt making a similar set, you use colors that are of a similar intensity (i.e. don’t mix dark and light colors).

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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: Arts and Crafts, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Garden-Themed Books

I guess I should start of this post with an assurance that we are all alive and well here on the Eastside of Seattle. I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t even know rioting was going on until it had already subsided. It’s amazing how one can have no idea that utter chaos is going on just across the lake.

I have no new interesting reads to report for Gohan or me this week, we’re still reading the same old, same old. I did find a couple of garden-themed books for Dora that we’ve enjoyed. The first was the classic, The Carrot Seed, written by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Crockett Johnson (who is also the author of the Harold and the Purple Crayon series). Interestingly, none of my other children enjoyed this book, but Dora has been completely enamored with it. The story is a simple one of a child who is rewarded for believing, even when no one else does. I do have to say that I don’t quite understand why the parents are so sure that the carrot won’t grow, it makes them look kind of stupid in my opinion, but the story wouldn’t have been very inspiring if it were not for their lack of belief, so I’ve chosen to ignore their stupidity for the time being.

Dora and I also read Jo MacDonald Had a Garden, written by Mary Quattlebaum and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. The story is told/sung to the tune of Old MacDonald, but talks and teaches about gardens instead. Not only is the tune catchy (catchy enough to have been around for more than a hundred years to be exact), but the illustrations are beautiful.

Another fun book that I have been reading to Dora has been Perfect Square, by Michael Hall. This book might not be so appealing to other kids, but Dora is obsessed with perfect squares, thanks to potty training and toilet paper (a long and boring story that I will spare you). In this book, the square starts out perfect, but then is torn, cut, shredded, etc. into some not-so-perfect creations that are perfectly creative. I won’t give away the ending, but I will add that the book also teaches about the days of the week and colors. The book is quite unique and I suspect that people will either love it or hate it, with very few in the middle ground.

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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: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff