Monthly Archives: September 2012

Montessori Monday–Baking Apples With Your Preschooler

Last week, Dora and I baked some apples. She was able to help in so many ways, she practically ended up making them herself!

Peeling Apples
Peeling apples
Coring Apples 1
Lining up the apple corer
Coring Apples 2
Coring the apples
Measuring Raisins
Measuring the ingredients
Mixing Apples
Mixing the ingredients

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Labels: Montessori, Preschool
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Inspired Reptile Unit for Preschoolers

Montessori Inspired Reptile Unit 2

This week, Dora and I studied reptiles. I even learned some new things, such as what a “carapace” and a “plastron” are and that some snakes give birth to live babies! We first started this unit several weeks ago, when we went on a field trip to a reptile zoo. Dora remembered a lot from that field trip and was able to see how it all tied in with what we were studying at home. We started the week off by reading some introductory books, then assembled the Montessori turtle puzzle from our zoology set. Montessori Reptile Puzzle

We then went on to make snakes, using Model Magic. Dora hasn’t really been exposed to Model Magic, because I’ve found that kids in her age group go through it like they do air. The stuff is a bit expensive to go through a big tub in one day. This particular set of Model Magic that I purchased, is a Model Magic Class Pack and comes with 75 one-ounce packets. I prefer the smaller packets as less tends to get wasted and kids can get several colors without opening a bunch of 8 ounce packets that they won’t finish (I haven’t found that Model Magic stores well, once opened, like I have heard claimed that it can). What I hadn’t realized, until we started working with the set, was that it only includes red, blue, yellow, and white (in my opinion, the photo makes it look like it includes other colors). This is ended up being a good thing, as I mentioned previously that Dora is extremely interested in learning how to make secondary colors from primary colors. For some reason, she seemed to grasp the concept better when using Model Magic (maybe because it is more hands on and takes longer to blend the colors?). We even tackled learning to make brown!

Model Magic Snakes

Dora really, really, really liked working with Model Magic, much more so than play dough. I must admit that I am also partial to its soft, airy texture. I had the idea to use seed beads to make eyes on my snake. You can see that Dora took the concept and ran with it, making a green pumpkin and red abominable snowman (I have no idea how she even knows what an abominable snowman is). I didn’t get a picture of this, because I was too busy playing with her, but she later went on to make a whole snake family, complete with a nest of eggs (she really didn’t like the fact that reptiles do not take care of their young and wanted a traditional, nuclear family made up of snakes – the snakes even went out for pancakes, which we don’t even do as a family!). Dora spent quite a bit of time happily making and remaking snakes and playing with her creations. Now she is super excited to be able to paint her dried creations tomorrow, which she never could do with play dough. She has had some experience with working with pottery clay in her art class and likes being able to paint that, but hates the feel of clay, so for us, Model Magic is a better option.

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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, Montessori, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Lovely Books About Mammals

As I stated last Friday, Dora and I spent last week looking at mammals. I had chosen two books to accompany our unit, but we also read a third book that I decided to lump in with the unit, as it is a wonderful book and it’s main characters are mammals (I know I am stretching it a bit here, but just roll with me here). The first book we read was About Mammals: A Guide For Children by Cathryn P. Sill. I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. I had been kind of dreading it, assuming it was going to be like all the other supposedly interesting, but actually terribly boring, preschool science books that seem to be in abundance in the preschool book market. Instead, this book was very simply written, yet managed to convey what was really special about mammals. The text actually flows more like a poem than a text book. What we both really loved about this book, however, was the drawings. The drawings in this book are just absolutely superb! They are incredibly realistic depictions of common mammals of the United States shown in evocative scenes.

Next we read, Me . . . Jane. I had purchased this book, because I feel that Jane Goodall played, and continues to play, a major role in our society’s current understanding of animal psychology, conservation, and ecology. At the same time, I had been dreading this book also, just because I find that a lot of Jane Goodall fans tend to be, shall we say, a bit on the extreme side. I was amazed that this book was nothing like that at all. It was truly about Jane Goodall, as a child, with very little of the story being focusing on her work as an adult. Instead, the story focuses on how Jane Goodall became “Jane Goodall”. It is about the life experiences and opportunities that she had as a child that shaped and molded the adult that she became. Her curiosity as a child was a wondrous thing that all children can relate to. The illustrations are child-like ink and watercolors. The pages with text on them have illustrations in the background that resemble nature journal drawings. Dora’s favorite part of the book, however, was being able to see the photograph of Jane’s stuffed chimpanzee, Jubilee, looked when Jane is holding it as a baby, compared to the photograph with her holding it as a child. That chimp saw some serious loving (and honestly looks a bit diseased in the 2nd photo). Finally, we read Hairy Maclary Scattercat, which I had purchased, thinking it was a Halloween book for some odd reason (maybe because the picture on the cover looks Halloweeny? Or maybe because I am beginning to have “senior moments”?). The book is actually about a dog, named Hairy Maclary. For some reason, known only to himself, Hairy Maclary decides that on this particular day, he is going to torture cats, who are just minding their own business, by chasing them. At this point, I will point out that a) Hairy Maclary should be on a leash and b) chasing cats and scaring them is not actually funny. Still, I decided to roll with it a bit and I am glad that I did. In the end, Hairy Maclary gets what’s coming to him, he makes the mistake of trying to chase a cat that is too big, tough, and mean for him. He ends up being chased all the way home by that cat, with his tail between his legs. I hesitated a bit to recommend this book, simply because Hairy Maclary is being a bully, even if he is cute in the way he goes about it, but not only does the ending satisfy my desire for cat-justice everywhere, the vocabulary is this book is so unusual, I just had to recommend it. The text is written at an age-appropriate level, but the author uses the rhythm of the story to introduce children to more advanced vocabulary such as “bumptious”, “bellicose”, and “boisterous”.

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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

Montessori Monday–Knobbed Cylinders and Water Transferring With an Eyedropper

Montessori Knobbed Cylinders at Homeschool Mo 1

This week, Dora actually decided all on her own to work with the knobbed cylinders! She really seems to have an aversion to a lot of the sensorial materials, so I was quite excited by this. I am trying to follow her lead, but am feeling unsure about whether or not she will ever be interested in them. Maybe some kids never take to Montessori materials? I would like to believe that this isn’t the case and that I just need to be more patient. Anyway, Dora did really well with the knobbed cylinders when we removed them and set them down on the table in order. So I suggested that we mix them up and that did not go over so well (can we say understatement here?). At first she was just putting the cylinders in the holes without even realizing that they weren’t in the correct holes.

Montessori Knobbed Cylinders at Homeschool Mo 3

Then she put a short one where a long one should be and it just fell in and she was completely flabbergasted. Control of error at work! Remembering that she hadn’t used these materials and months, I gently said, “Hmmm, something doesn’t look quite right, does it?” She concurred and spent quite a bit of time trying to get the cylinders in the correct order. Finally, she reached her frustration threshold and fell apart (it didn’t help that she was starting to come down with a cold at that point).

Montessori Knobbed Cylinders at Homeschool Mo 2

We also did some water transferring using eye dropper bottles and colored water. The colors were made with Stockmar’s primary colored watercolor paint, so when she transferred the colored water into the glasses that I had set out, she could make true secondary colors.

Transferring Colored Water with Eye Droppers to Make Secondary Colors at Homeschool Mo 2

Dora then became completely obsessed with making secondary, but just couldn’t seem to remember which colors made which. I didn’t realize she was coming down with a cold at this point, so was getting pretty frustrated with having to repeat myself a bazillion times. So I tried making a couple of resources to help her remember how to make secondary colors. First I made a chart with addition and equal signs (for a child who has no idea what “plus” and “equals” means – not my smartest move).

Mixing Primary Colors to Make secondary Colors at Homeschool Mo 1

Then I tried showing her how to make a color wheel and though we managed to successfully make one, it just seemed to confuse her more. I think that the ten year age-gap between children, has made me forget what is reasonable to expect of a child of a certain age. For me, I think this compounded by the fact that I have four children between the ages of 14-21. Mixing primary colors seems so simplistic when my other children are doing things like learning to drive, trying to get jobs, move out of state, and so forth. I need to remember that they didn’t know how to make secondary colors at this age either. In fact, some kids that are Dora’s age don’t even know the names of all the colors yet. By the way, she accidentally added red to her green, which is why it doesn’t look like a true green, Stockmar paints are wonderful for making true colors (and no, I am not affiliated with them in any way).

Mixing Primary Colors to Make secondary Colors at Homeschool Mo 2

Anyway, I guess I can say that this wasn’t one of my more stellar homeschooling weeks and I am keenly feeling my lack of formal Montessori training (I’ve taken one class online that was wonderful, but it doesn’t even begin to compare to all the training a certified Montessori teacher goes through). In fact, I’ll be honest and say that this was such an un-stellar week, I even began to consider sending Dora to school. “What is with such blasphemy?!?!” you ask. Well, I am finding it very difficult to meet her needs since she has no siblings. I know that sounds backwards, but when I four little ones, I hadn’t realized how big a role siblings filled in our homeschool and how much time they played together. Dora has no kids in her age group to model skills for her (a big part of Montessori). Also, Dora only has me to play with, unless we arrange a playdate or go somewhere and I can only stand to play so much “My Little Pony” before I start developing eye twitches. In the long run, I am still 100% 95% 90% 85% 82% committed to homeschooling Dora and using the Montessori method, but this was a week that really put my belief system to the test.

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

Mammal Unit–“My Body” Collage

Mammals Unit at Homeschool Mo 2

This week, Dora and I looked at mammals. We read some great books, which I will post more about later. We then reviewed the basket of mammals that I had assembled from our letter boxes. One concept that I really wanted to impress upon her was that humans are mammals also. So for our craft project we made a collage outline of her body. I traced her body while she laid on the paper. Then we used buttons, fabric, yarn, and colored pasta to decorate her body. She also wanted to glue artificial flowers all over, because she likes flowers so much. While we did not get into labeling her internal organs or anything like that, we did discuss the easily identifiable traits that she has in common with other mammals. BTW, her hands are red, because that is her “nail polish”.

My Body Collage at Homeschool Mo

We also assembled and labeled a Montessori “parts of a horse” puzzle.

Montessori Parts of a Horse Puzzle Labeling at Homeschool Mo

She definitely has the concept of mammals down. Tonight, when Mr. Mo came home, the first thing she said to him was, “Daddy, did you know that you’re a mammal, just like a raccoon? And Mommy is a mammal, and Primo is a mammal, and Secunda is a mammal,  and….”

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Labels: Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Introduction to Zoology

Last week, I introduced Dora to zoology. First we read What’s Alive? and discussed the traits of living, non-living, and once-living things. Then we sorted a living vs. non-living basket that I had created for her, using items from our letter boxes.

Living vs Non-Living Basket from Homeschool Mo

We then played the Wheres Mama Game, which was a challenge and took two days to complete, but which Dora was very excited to do.

What's Inside Animals X-ray Set at Homeschool Mo 7

Finally, we looked at these What’s Inside Animals? cards. These cards are pretty freaky. If you look at them without any backlight source, one side will show the animal and the other side will show the animal’s skeleton. If you look at the cards with a backlight source, such as a light box, however, you will see the image of the animal with it’s skeleton showing through. They even include photos of humans, which are shown above and below and which I found to be a bit disconcerting, but cool at the same time. Dora just thought they were cool.

What's Inside Animals X-ray Set at Homeschool Mo 8

What's Inside Animals X-ray Set at Homeschool Mo 5

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: Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Homeschooling Through High School–It’s PSAT Time Again!

Fall has yet to officially begin, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t too early to start thinking about the PSAT. For those of you who did not take the PSAT in high school, the PSAT is a Preliminary SAT. It gives your child a chance to practice for the SAT in a real testing situation. In addition, it will help give your student an idea of what type of SAT score he will get, so that he can start looking into appropriate colleges.

The practice your child gets is important, but equally important, is that the PSAT score is used to enter your student in the National Merit Scholarship Program. The National Merit Scholarship is not a particularly large scholarship, but it looks very good on student transcripts and can open the door for other scholarships. The one thing that I learned the hard way, is that if your child is trying for a National Merit Scholarship, make sure that he takes the PSAT in his junior year. I took it during my sophomore year and did not retake it during my junior year, so was not eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program, despite having scores that probably would have earned a scholarship.

The PSAT is the only standardized test used for the college application process that your child will have to register for and take at a school. All other tests can be registered for online and are administered in a variety of locations, usually on the weekends. On the other hand, the PSAT is often administered during school hours. On top of that, the PSAT is administered once, and only once, a year. So if your child is sick, he will either have to forgo the PSAT altogether or do the best he can while ill.

This year, school’s will have the option to administer the test on Wednesday, October 17th, or Saturday, October 20th. To register for the test, you will need to speak with a principal or counselor at a local high school. I have heard that private schools are often easier to work with than public schools. My children have tested at the local public school. In order for us to register, we had to go to the student store during the school’s lunch hour. It felt awkward, but we lived to tell the tale. When the test date arrived, they had to find the appropriate classroom, once again, a bit awkward. I do wish that the PSAT was administered through a test center, like the SAT, ACT, AP tests, etc. Look here to find a school near you that is administering the test.

One VERY IMPORTANT note is that your child must enter your state’s homeschool code on the test where it asks for the school code. The test administrator will tell the students what the school code is, but it will be the code for the school, not for homeschoolers. If your child enters the school’s code instead of the homeschool code, his test scores will be sent to the school instead of to your home. In addition, have your child make sure that no “helpful” test administrator erases his code and enters the school’s code instead (they honestly believe that your child entered the wrong code and are trying to help your child). Officially, they should not be doing that, but I have heard of it happening to several people.

If your child would like to start being contacted by colleges, be sure he checks “yes” for the Student Search Service. I highly recommend this service as your child will receive information from schools that he might not have considered before. Plus, it is kind of nice to see all of the flyers and not just rely on reading about schools in the various college list books.

Finally, be sure to double check all of this information and more at the College Board’s official PSAT homeschool page (you can ignore their advice to call the local school during June before the test is administered – the school personnel are frantically trying to finish up the current school year and are equally frantic the first two weeks of the school year – I have found that calling during these two time periods just results in having a conversation with an annoyed person who hasn’t even begun to think about the PSAT).

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Labels: High School
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Assembling a Flashlight, Paper Punching, and Spindles, Oh My!

Assembling a Flashlight 2

This week, Dora and I started her preschool work officially. She really loves having a room just for her homeschooling work. She was very enthusiastic about the trays I had set out and even did some other work that had been out all summer, but she was never interested in. Our first project of the week was a flashlight tray. To mix things up I put out two flashlights, one that uses “D” batteries and one that uses “AA” batteries. I am really glad that I set out both flashlights! I had thought that the smaller flashlight would appeal to Dora more, which was true, but I had not realized how much harder that flashlight was to assemble. The spring on the top was very springy and she just couldn’t master pushing down on it, while turning it at the same time. You can see in the above photos that she was very determined to master this and tried a variety of approaches. What you don’t get to see, is her falling apart, because she just couldn’t put the top on, no matter how hard she tried (I did not take pictures of this, as I was trying to help and comfort her). She was eventually able to assemble the “DD” flashlight, but it was just a consolation prize, as far as she was concerned. In the photo below, you can see how I laid out he tray.

Assembling a Flashlight 1

We also tackled paper punching. Dora was not able to use the regular hole puncher, but fortunately I had set out some scrapbooking paper punches also. She spent hours on this activity. She would punch out a whole bunch of shapes and then glue them onto another piece of cardstock. I even promised to buy some more punches soon.

Paper Punching 1

For math, she did some spindle box work. She pretty much has this work down pat and I will probably be retiring this from our shelves soon, which makes me feel a bit melancholy.

Spindle Box Work 1

She also worked with the red rods. She got them lined up, but not quite in order. I asked her if something didn’t look quite right and she said, “Oh yeah”. She then proceeded to take one of the smaller rods and add it to a longer rod to make the longer rod the right length for the slot she had put it in. It was a creative solution and a great introduction to addition, if not quite the intention of the activity!

Red Rods Work 1
She worked with the graded nuts and bolts board and I was surprised by how much her fine motor skills have improved since spring!

Nuts and Bolts Board

Finally, she brought out the sound cubes, which really surprised me as she usually is very resistant to all of the auditory, tactile, and olfactory sensorial work.

Sound Cubes

This is another item that I will probably retire soon as it really is rather easy for her. Sigh… I know all to well how quickly kids grow up, given that Primo is turning 21 this week, and I am actually looking forward to Dora becoming more independent, but still it makes me a bit sad to be finished with any of her preschool supplies.

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

Kidoozie Rocket Zoomer Set

Stomp Rockets

At the end of our field trip to the Museum of Flight, we stopped in the gift shop. I usually avoid gift shops like the plague, but since my father was a pilot, I always have had a soft spot in my heart for the Museum of Flight’s gift shop. Actually, I was kind of excited by my finds there. I actually found an airplane-themed gift bag (my parents were just in town and it was my Dad’s birthday, so the timing was perfect)! I also let Dora pick out one item for herself. She wanted to get a foam rocket launcher set. The museum carried several brands. We settled on the Kidoozie Rocket Zoomer set, partially, because they looked cooler and partially, because they didn’t fly as high as the other rockets – they are actually intended for younger children. We have such a small yard, I didn’t want any that flew too high, as I didn’t want them going over our fences.

Dora loved playing with them, but much to my surprise, actually had quite a bit of trouble stomping on them at first. I had not expected them to be an exercise in coordination, but they most definitely were! So I was even more glad that I bought a set for younger children as I think the older kids’ sets require even more coordination to launch them. We have had one fin come off, but I was able to hot glue it back on fairly easily.

Dora has experimented with putting various other items into the launcher, such as flowers and rocks, and has learned quite a bit about air pressure from playing with the set.

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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: Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Wordless Wednesday–Houghton Beach in September

Houghton Beach 9

Houghton Beach 6

Houghton Beach 2

Houghton Beach 3

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Labels: Things To Do Around Seattle, Wordless Wednesday
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff