Monthly Archives: November 2012

November Nature Study – Mushrooms and Moss

Mushrooms and Moss 19

For the month of November, we focused on mushrooms and moss, both of which are plentiful right now with all of the rain that we have been getting.

Spore Print 1

One of the projects I decided that I’d like to try was  making a spore print. This kind of freaked out Mr. Mo, who was sure that I would bring in a poisonous mushroom and kill us all or that I’d release some sort of mushroom plague on the house and mushrooms would start growing everywhere. Of course, I could not really reassure him, as I really don’t know much about mushrooms, so that didn’t help. At first he didn’t even know I was bringing all sorts of mushrooms into the house, but once he found out, I had to agree to contain my spore experiments to our garage. Therefore, I’d like to note that it is he who is to blame if Dora never becomes a famous scientist.

Spore Print 3

Firstly, I really have to recommend that one read up on making spore prints before trying it. I didn’t and first I tried pressing mushrooms in our nature journal with a dictionary on top. This resulted in ruining several pages of our nature journal. Then I decided to get hardcore and brought out the leaf press. I squashed those suckers good and a whole bunch of disgusting stuff oozed out the side of the press. Secunda was with me and brilliantly observed, “I don’t think that is supposed to happen.” I had to concur and must confess that those mushrooms are still sitting in our leaf press, as I am a bit afraid to find out what is in there.

Mushrooms and Moss 2

Finally, I decided to look up some instructions, which I despise doing. It ends up that to make a mushroom spore print, you just set a “mature” mushroom on top of a piece of paper and let the mushroom do everything (some people suggest adding a drop of water to the mushroom once you’ve set it down). I can tell you, it is much less disgusting than trying to press mushrooms. The first interesting note that I learned about making spore prints is that it is best to try two prints for each mushroom, one on black paper and one on white paper (the prints on black paper looked better in real life, my camera really did not like taking photos of black paper). Also, do not move the mushroom for 12-24 hours and you should ideally cover each mushroom with a cup or something, so that the air currents don’t mess up your print. Finally, this technique does not work for all mushrooms, it all depends on how they “deploy” their spores.

Mushrooms and Moss 23

The summary of our month is that Dora was not remotely interested in moss, but did enjoy helping me find mushrooms (for those who would like to know, there were no fairies in this tree stump, which really bummed me out, because it is a totally perfect fairy house). Also, we found some very funky black mushrooms that I thought were dog pooh at first. Their insides were white and kind of reminded me of jellyfish. Were Dora a bit older, I would have bothered to do more research and try to figure out what type of mushroom they were, but I was too busy trying to prevent Dora from pouring all her marbles onto the wood floor for the millionth time (even though every time she did this, she’d later accidentally step on one of the marbles and hurt herself – obviously she does not have the concept of cause and consequence down yet).

Sammamish River 1

The two exciting notes about our nature study this month was that we saw a river otter, while looking for beavers (the otter swam way too fast for me to get a photo of it, so I am kindly including a photo of a duck that we saw instead). We also saw a coyote while walking in our homeschool co-op’s parking lot (please excuse the quality of this photo, it was taken with my phone, from a safe distance). Unlike all the coyotes that I ever saw when I was growing up in San Diego, this coyote was sleek, glossy, and down right cute. In fact, it looked so good, I would not be surprised if you told me that someone took it to the groomers that morning. Why the coyote was walking around the parking lot in the middle of the day, I have no idea, but it was fun to see and was not remotely hostile. What about you? Did you have an exciting nature encounters this month?


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Labels: Nature Study
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Where We’ll Be Going With Montessori From Here

Blue and Red Bars 2

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday! Mine was pretty horrible. I’ll spare you the details, but the Thursday night before Thanksgiving was the worst night of my entire life. I spent much of it under the belief that Mr. Mo was dead. Fortunately, he did not die, but the experience was incredibly traumatic. I spent most of the week recovering physically and emotionally from the it and I’m not sure that I’ll ever be the same.

Montessori Wooden Counters and Cards

Also, Secunda has moved back in with us. She was attending an out-of-state school to study to become an ASL interpreter. She has always gotten “A’s” in her ASL classes from the various professors at the college here and she was receiving “A’s” in all of her other classes, but she was practically failing ASL at the new university. She had tried speaking with the professor and getting tutoring and everything that she could think of, all to no avail. In fact, if anything, her efforts earned her an even lower grade (24% on the midterm, for which she studied her heart out). Unfortunately, there were no grading rubrics and the grading was very subjective, so there wasn’t a lot that could be done immediately to fight the grade. She is filing a grievance against the professor, but in the interim, there was no point in continuing at the university, because this one class was a “make it or break it” class for the program that she was in. She could not move forth with her studies if she did not receive a “B” or higher. Anything less than a “B” would mean attending at least one extra year of university, meanwhile paying “out of state” tuition prices. So she is back here and going to attend a local college and major in interior design instead! It is a bit disconcerting that one person had the power to completely derail her life’s goals and dreams, but she has recovered from the ordeal fairly well.

Pink Tower 4

But, how does this all relate to Montessori, you ask? Well, we had to give up my office/Dora’s homeschooling room, so that Secunda could have a room to sleep in. So now our living room/dining room is Gohan/Dora’s homeschooling room and Dora’s play room (Dora currently sleeps in our bedroom and does not have a bedroom of her own to store toys in). So space is at a premium around here with five adults, one teenager, one preschooler, one dog, and two cats. I have already had to get rid of some of the larger, less-used Montessori materials. So I am having to do some deep reflection on how to proceed with Dora’s homeschooling from this point onwards. I am determined to make Montessori work for math. At the moment, I still have room for all of the culture materials that we already owned (culture in Montessori covers science and social studies). If I keep the math materials in check and limit any new culture materials purchases, I should be able to stick to Montessori for culture. In regards to practical life, we really have already reached a point where Dora is using real materials to do real work for the most part. So I will probably get rid of our remaining practical life materials, which are for teaching wood working skills. I will then try to make more of an effort to include woodworking into our regular work and have Dora use the real tools and wood in our garage (we do have a good kids tool set left over from Gohan). I might even start taking Dora to the local Home Depot and Lowe’s kids’ classes. Finally, I had already determined that the Montessori method is not a good match for Dora for language arts, which is actually proving to be fortunate, as there just is not room for those materials.

Constructive Triangle Work 1

Anyway, through all of the chaos of the last two weeks, we did manage to get some work done. Dora suddenly decided that she wanted to work with the constructive triangles. She barreled through all the boxes, only slowing down when we got to the blue constructive triangles. She had a lot of trouble with these until I got out the rectangle box of constructive triangles to model how the triangles could go together to form shapes.

Constructive Triangle Work 2

As you can see in the photos at the top and in the middle of this post, Dora has also continued to work with the red and blue rods, wooden counters, and pink tower.

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


I’m going to be taking a blogging vacation until after Thanksgiving. Secunda is home for the holiday and Mr. Mo will be taking the week off. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving | Thanksgiving | Forward this Picture

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Using Stabilo Woody Crayons for Nature Journals

Nature Journal - Water Color Crayons

I have posted in the past about how much I love Stabilo Woody crayons, but even I was impressed by how well they worked when I used them to draw a tree for our nature study a couple of weeks ago. Dora and I were drawing together in our our kitchen and I was looking at some trees that line the road behind our house. It only took me about five minutes to sketch the tree above. I then went over the drawing with a watercolor brush – the crayons also function as watercolor crayons. I was really happy with the way the colors blended. It was a little hard for me, personally, to draw with them as they are so chunky, since they are designed for children, but they are easy for Dora to work with. I also like that Dora can use them to do rough sketches when we are in the field and then use water to achieve the water color look once we get home, as opposed to trying to carry a set of water color paints into the field.

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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, Nature Study
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Light Table Exploration

Light Table Work 21

A couple of weeks back, I was very excited to see that Constructive Playthings was carrying a translucent block set. As soon as I saw the picture of the set, I knew it was the set I had been looking for! I had seen the translucent block set last February on another blog. After seeing it, I really, really, really wanted that block set (for Dora, of course)! The only problem was that I could not find it anywhere in the United States and with exchange rates and shipping the set would have cost $250+ U.S. to purchase from a European vendor. Now, Constructive Playthings has the set for $80! (No, I am not an affiliate for Constructive Playthings). As soon as the set arrived, I ripped open the box and got out the light table and mirrors so that I could check it out Dora could explore with it. Honestly, I had more fun photographing the set than Dora did playing with it, but she did like it, a lot.

Light Table Work 20

Light Table Work 22

I also brought out some of our Steve Spangler Colorful Growing Orbs, which I also had fun photographing Dora also had fun playing play with. (I’m not affiliated with Steve Spangler either, though if he feels like sending me a goody box, I would be glad to play with everything have my daughter work with all of the materials.)

Light Table Work 11

Light Table Work 16

Dora even took the blocks and orbs off of the light table to explore some more (after I finished having fun photography them, of course). Dora even did a lot of transferring work with the orbs, which it ends up make an excellent tea party snack (little did you know!). It also ends up that if you stick them in a miniature vase, they make a really funny sound as they go through the neck of the bottle (a sound that leaves immature people, such as myself, laughing in hysterics – no, it did not sound like a fart, I’m not that immature, it just sounded really, really funny, you can even ask Dora, if you don’t believe me).

Light Table Work 7

Light Table Work 9

All in all, I was very happy with the amount of sensory work that I, I mean Dora, did with these items. They will make a wonderful addition to our play things come this winter, when the weather gets gloomy and the days get short. I can hardly wait! (Note to Santa, I’d like to add “a large light table that I don’t have to share” to my Christmas list.)

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Labels: Montessori, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal–The Election Is Finally Over, Thank Goodness!

Making a Calico Corn Necklace 3

In our homeschool this week…Gohan was too sick this week to do any schooling. So Dora got a lot more quality time with me. With the short hours of daylight, these made for some long days. Fortunately, I had a few rabbits to pull our from under my hat. Firstly, we made a calico corn necklace. I read many sets of instructions for making these and I have decided that all appear to have been cut and pasted from one source. None of them tell you how to actually remove the corn from the husks – it ends up that you can just pop them off with your fingers. They all claim that you need to soak the corn in water just over night – after 48 hours, our corn was almost as hard as it was when I first put it in the water, so I finally microwaved the bowl of water and corn for five minutes and the corn softened right up. Then we were able to easily thread the corn with a sewing needle. Dora was even able to do some of it by herself.

Making a Calico Corn Necklace 1

Calico Corn Necklace 2

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… Dora wanted to go to the Children’s Museum, but since she has turned four, she is no longer allowed to go into her favorite part of our local museum. So we traveled to Everett to renew our membership with the Imagine Children’s Museum. This is one cool museum, it even has a roof top playground to go on, if it happens to stop raining long enough while you are there.

Imagine Children's Museum 2

Imagine Children's Museum 4Imagine Children's Museum 3Imagine Children's Museum 5Imagine Children's Museum 8We also took Secunda’s dog for a hike at Evans Creek Preserve, a new park that just opened in our area. It was very nice to enjoy some of the last sunny days of the season, though the temps were dropping into the mid-40’s.Evans Creek Preserve 1

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

Our November Nature Study Poem

Thanks to the inspiration of Charlotte Mason, I have been adding a lot more poetry to our homeschool. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how receptive to poetry Dora has become. In addition to our A, B, C, poems and our weekly poems, I’ve decided to read one poem a month about nature (I will read it multiple times during the month, of course). This first year is going to be easy, as I am using poetry from Around the Year: A Picture Book, by Elsa Beskow, which has one poem for each month of the year. Though I may excerpt her poetry here, I cannot emphasize enough that these poems are meant to be read while enjoying the illustrations that accompany each poem in the book. The poem we are reading this month is, strangely enough, entitled “November”.

Grey is November,
cold as cold.
Stormy November,
wind and rain.
No snow.
No ice.
No glittering sun.
Grey is November,
except by the bright fire
with a story,
a cushion for the cat,
the dark shut outside
and the light in flames
where mysteries lie
and we dream.

This poem really doesn’t gel with my idea of November. Firstly, autumn’s colors are still lingering and the gray has not quite settled in for the season yet. Secondly, I find November to be such a month of expectancy, a month of pre-fervor, would you, for the holidays, that I don’t think it matters much what the weather is like outside (assuming that one is not in the path of the likes of Hurricane Sandy). So I cannot think of November as anything, but cheerful, but that is me… I know certain other locals whom are already bemoaning the 21 days of rain that we’ve endured this fall (I’ve been told by the aforementioned locals that it is 21 days, but have not bothered to confirm this figure myself). Such locals, who have already cast their eyes towards warmer shores, would probably feel that this poem is quite appropriate for November. I do not mean to mock these locals by the way, the gray days here used to cause me into all sorts of despair, then one day, I suddenly found myself embracing them. What about you, do you feel that November is depressingly gray or do you like it?

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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, Nature Study
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–A Whole World of People

This week, Dora and I began an official study of geography. We will be covering the seven continents, using geography boxes, but I first wanted to give her a general introduction to geography. We started with a couple of books that introduced her to the idea that there are people all over the world who are so much like us, while being so different from us at the same time. She is very familiar with cultural differences, thanks to our living in a very multicultural area, but the idea that there are people far, far away from us, is very new to her. Our first book, by Mem Fox, was Whoever You Are. The books’ illustrations are a bit unusual, bordering on strange at times. Still, strange illustrations do not make the book bad, just a bit abstract. Both of us have really enjoyed the book. Dora has been very intrigued by the various children with skinned knees and the page where the mom (grandma? aunt?) saying “good-bye” to the child, with tears in both of their eyes.

We also read the book, People, by Peter Spier. This award-winning book is an excellent jumping-off point for teaching children just how diverse our world is. Dora likes to just sit and look through the book and to see what things people in various places do and eat. I believe that this book addresses many important issues at a level that children can understand, but I do want to issue a couple of warnings about this book.

People 4

Firstly, the title page, has a naked man and woman on it, showing their backsides. I am guessing they are supposed to be Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden??? We actually find the image to be quite amusing, but we are liberal heathens and I did not want anyone to read this book, based on my recommendation, and be offended. People - 1

There is also a picture of a grave, with a sentence that that discusses the fact that all humans die. I warn you about this, as death may not be a topic you want to discuss with your child right now. Dora finds the idea that I will die one day to be extremely distressing. I don’t think that she has yet realized that she, too, will die one day. Since she gets so upset whenever she thinks of me dying, I just briskly skim that page and move on when we read the book. Since she has never been to a funeral, I do not think that she comprehends what she is seeing when she looks at the image. People - 3

There is also an illustration of extreme poverty, which you may or may not feel comfortable with exposing your child to at this point in time. For my part, I tried to point out the differences between the image of the poor area and where we live. I also tried to discuss with her the extreme poverty I witnessed on a trip to Mazatlan. This concept seemed to be a bit too esoteric for Dora and I’m pretty sure that all she heard was “blah, blah, blah, blah”, but I tried.

People - 2Finally, there is an image of group of kids bullying a girl, which Dora found to be upsetting. Once again., I mention this as I don’t want to recommend a book and have people be unpleasantly surprised. I feel that the positives of this book far out-weigh any of the negatives, but I want to have full disclosure, if that is at all possible.

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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–Knobless Cylinder Pattern Cards

Knobbed Cyliner Work 1
This week was a “meh” week in our homeschool. So we didn’t do much Montessori work. The one thing that we did quite a bit of, was working with knobless cylinders pattern cards. The pattern cards that we own are from ETC Montessori, who I am not affiliated with. I do not print and laminate materials anymore, partly because my laminator broke, and partly because I’m sick of doing it. So I buy my materials pre-laminated or do without, which means we don’t have a lot of paper materials. These cards were a good investment though. Another reason I couldn’t have printed these is that they are 11” x 17”. Previously, I tried a .pdf set of knobless cylinder pattern cards that printed on regular printer paper and felt that the printouts were too crowded as they did not have enough room to fit more than two sets of cylinders on one card. The 11” x 17” advanced cards use all four sets of cylinders on one card.
Knobbed Cyliner Work 2
I am not sure what is up with Dora in regards to sensorial materials. She seems to think that she can’t do the work, but then is 100% capable of doing the work, once I can convince her to do it. She even has fun once she stops crying that she can’t do it. I feel like an ogre and tell her she only needs to try the activity. I’d even just skip it all, as she’s only four, after all, except that she asks to homeschool! I’m not sure why we have to have so many dramatics about it. Has anyone else dealt with this with their child? If so, what did you do to change the atmosphere in your homeschool?
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Labels: Montessori, Summer, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Homeschool Mother’s Journal–Adapting to a New Schedule

Ladybug Girl Costume 2

In my life this week…Halloween was pretty non-eventful, Dora dressed as Ladybug Girl and while everyone thought she made a cute ladybug, I was very disappointed that no one had heard of Ladybug Girl.

Shaving Cream Car Wash

Mr. Mo’s new job is very demanding, though he enjoys it much more than his previous position. So, for all intents and purposes, I have become a single parent during the work week. Fortunately, at this point in time, he is not having to work weekends. I also only have one little now, so it is not quite as exhausting as it used to be. Between Mr. Mo’s work schedule and the bad weather starting up, I realized that I had started to wander into “overscheduled” mode. It became apparent that both Dora and I need one day a week as a “just-stay-home day”. In fact, we stayed home almost all of yesterday and today and I was inspired by this pin to set up a shaving cream car wash for Dora. She spent hours playing with it! It was a great sensorial experience, all her toy cars got cleaned, and I was able to do some house cleaning.

In our homeschool this week… I had posted previously that Dora raised her own pumpkin this year. We also got several pumpkins from other classes and events, but Dora didn’t want to carve any of them. So, I asked her if she would like to try to grow pumpkins from the pumpkin she planted last spring, like the boy in Pumpkin Jack did. She was quite excited to do it, so we just tossed her pumpkin into one of our raised beds. Hopefully, this experiment will work, despite the pumpkin not being carved. Gohan Was Promoted to Green Belt

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… Gohan had his taekwondo belt test over the weekend and it ran forever, but he was promoted to green belt!

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…This is actually a poem. I have started reading a select poem to Dora every week, several times a week. This particular poem was very relevant to our life. We have had a lot of chickadees in our backyard and the best that we can tell, they appear to be eating up all of the grass seed that we so carefully sowed a few weeks back! This poem comes from A Journey Through Time in Verse and Rhyme, which I have found to be an excellent collection of children’s poetry for all occasions. The author of this poem is unknown.

We’ve ploughed our fields
We’ve sown our seed
We’ve made all neat and gay.
       Then take a bit, and leave a bit
       Away, birds, away!

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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, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff