Category Archives: Language Arts

Waldorf–Inspired Poetry, Song, and Movement Books for Preschool and Kindergarten

One thing that has proven extremely frustrating for me while pursuing information about Waldorf-inspired education, is the inability to see previews of Waldorf books before I order them. My library system carries very few of the books, so I can’t peruse them that way, unless I want to deal with an interlibrary loan, which may or may not get filled and even if it does get filled, usually takes months to receive. Then, many of the stores that sell Waldorf books have a “no refund” policy on books or charge restocking fees or only give store credit. So I’ve ended up purchasing several books that I have regretted. In an effort to help other people avoid the same pitfalls, I thought I would try to give you all the previews and information that the online Waldorf stores do not provide. I do want to note that many books were written many years ago, before computers were available, and had to be self-published. Also, some books were written by Waldorf pioneers, who have since passed on. I am going to be honest and tell you if the typography on such books leaves something to be desired, but I  mean no disrespect to the authors’ hard work.

Today I am only going to be discussing the books of songs and poetry, which often form the very foundation of a Waldorf-inspired preschool or kindergarten education. The three things that I have found most lacking in these books are good typography, indexes, and accompanying CD’s (I can read music, but I prefer, whenever possible, to listen to someone else sing a song before I sing it to Dora).

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Dancing As We Sing CoverLet Us Form a Ring CoverAcorn Hill Waldorf Kindergarten and Nursery has released two anthologies, which are distributed by The Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN)Dancing As We Sing and Let Us Form a Ring were written with the Waldorf teacher very much in mind and are more appropriate for larger groups of children than are available in most homeschools. They both provide a variety of seasonal and other circle plays and singing games. Each circle play/singing game is comprised of several poems and songs put together, tied by a theme. There are some movement directions provided for the teacher. It so happens that Dora and I are very good at improvising with circle games, so these work very well for us and I have a soft spot in my heart for these two books. At the same time, I must acknowledge that the print quality of these books is not great. The music and lyrics are handwritten and the poems are typed. The tables of contents leave much to be desired. There are no indexes. I am unable to find a copyright date or ISBN number for either book. Each is spiral bound, with a cardstock-like cover. The books are not illustrated. They measure 8.5” x 11” and are 70 pages each. Each book does have a companion CD available. These sample pages are from Let Us Form a Ring:Let Us Form a Ring 3Let Us Form a Ring 4 Go back to the top of the list of books




A Child’s Seasonal Treasury (ISBN #978-1-300-11492-5), by Betty Jones is a 2nd edition  book, with a 2012 copyright. It is a softback book, that measures 11” x 8.5”, and is 139 pages long. It has beautiful, color illustrations and very professional typography (a cheaper black and white version is also available). It has a complete table of contents, and “Subject and Title Index”, as well as an “Index of First Lines”.  The poems, songs, riddles, and activities are grouped by season (there is also one category for all year round) and then sub-categorized by “verses and poems”, “fingerplays and riddles”, etc. The crafts are good for inspiration, but I don’t consider the directions to be sufficient to consider this a craft book. The recipes are well-written. Unfortunately, there is no companion CD available, that I am aware of. Here are some sample pages from this book:A Child's Seasonal Treasury 1A Child's Seasonal Treasury 5 Go back to the top of the list of books




Clump-a-Dump and Snickle-Snack (ISBN #978-0-936132-23-5), by Johanne Russ, is a 8” x 5.5” booklet of 47 pages of songs. There is no companion CD offered. The copyright is from 1966. It has a complete table of contents and due to the nature of the book, an index is unnecessary. It is a black and white collection of pentatonic songs, with a couple of basic illustrations. The music and lyrics appear to be done by hand. While the lyrics are neatly done, the music is a bit hard on the eyes. Here is a sample page:Clump-A-Dump and Snickle-Snack Go back to the top of the list of books




A Day Full of Song (ISBN #978-0-9816159-7-4), is a book from The Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN). It has a 2009 copyright. It is spiral-bound, measures 8.5” x 7”, and is 64 pages long. It contains a collection of 42 original work songs in the mood of the fifth from a Waldorf kindergarten. It has a complete table of contents and due to the nature of the book, an index is unnecessary. A companion CD is available. The entire book is done in black and white, with some cute illustrations throughout. The music and lyrics, though very neatly done and easily legible, do appear to be done by hand. Here is a sample page:A Day Full of Song Go back to the top of the list of books




Gesture Games for Spring and Summer (ISBN #978-0-972223-80-5) and Gesture Games for Autumn and Winter (ISBN #978-0-972223-89-8) are both written by Wilma Ellersiek. They are translated and edited versions from The Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (WECAN) and were published in 2005 and 2007, respectively. They are 8.5” x 11” softbound books with spiral ring covers and are about 140 pages each. They are printed in black and white, with illustrations showing the gestures. The text is professionally printed, but the music looks suspiciously like it may have been done by hand, though it is easily readable. Companion CD’s are available. They have complete table of contents and due to the nature of the books, indexes are unnecessary. Wilma Ellersiek has also written two other books of note. The first, Dancing Hand, Trotting Pony (ISBN #978-0-979623-28-8), is a collection of gesture games, songs, and movement games. Unfortunately there is no CD to accompany Dancing Hand, Trotting Pony. Giving Love, Bringing Joy (ISBN #978-0-979623-26-4) has an accompanying CD, but the book is comprised mostly of lullabies. Here are some sample pages from the Gesture Games for Spring and Summer book:Gesture Games of Spring and Summer 1Gesture Games of Spring and Summer 3 Go back to the top of the list of books




Golden Beetle Books publishes a series of four handbooks, entitled Lono & Coco Boato, Snowdrop and Ulba Bulba, Silver Story of Silver Stork, and The Flower Flamers and The Earthy Men. The books are 5.5” x 4” and are about 100 pages long. They are bound in pretty, shiny cardstock and tied closed with pretty ribbons. They are obviously self-published, though lovingly so (there is even some glitter on some pages!). They have some cute illustrations, but the photographs are of poor quality. Unfortunately, the print borders on the microscopic at times, so the books can be a real strain on the eyes (I do have 20/20 vision, BTW). They have table of contents, but no indexes. No companion CD’s are available. These books are greatly loved by many Waldorfians, so I hate to disparage them, but I have not brought myself to use them yet, simply because of the hard-to-read print. I would love to see someone professionally re-edit and reprint them as the stories are quite cute and the books exude a deep love for children. Here are a couple of double-page spread samples:Lono and Coco Boato 1Lono and Coco Boato 2 Go back to the top of the list of books




Let’s Dance and Sing (ISBN #978-0-936132-82-2), by Kundry Willwerth, is a spiral bound book, with a card stock-ish cover. It measures 8.5” x 11” and is 55 pages long. It contains 13 circle play/game types of arrangements with drama, music, and movement intertwined. It is has many beautiful and elaborate black and white illustrations. The music appears to be hand written, but most of the lyrics are printed.in a professional manner. There is a good table of contents and an index is unnecessary. The third printing copyright is from 2012.Let's Dance and Sing 1Let's Dance and Sing2 Go back to the top of the list of books




A Lifetime of Joy (ISBN #0-9722238-6-X) contains a collection of circle games, finger games, songs, verses, and puppet plays. It is a softbound book with a 2005 copyright. It measures 8.5” x 11” and is 113 pages long. The music and lyrics are handwritten, though easy to read. The rest of the book is professionally printed. The book contains a thorough table of contents, but no index. Here are some sample pages from the book:A Lifetime of Joy 1A Lifetime of Joy 3 Go back to the top of the list of books




Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures CoverMovement Journeys and Circle Adventures, like the Acorn Hill anthologies, was written with the Waldorf teacher very much in mind and is more appropriate for larger groups of children than are available in most homeschools. It provides a variety of seasonal and other circle plays and singing games. Each circle play/singing game is comprised of several poems and songs put together, tied by a theme. There are many movement directions provided for the teacher. As I mentioned previously, I have a soft spot in my heart for circle games, but once again, I must admit that this book is not the most professionally printed book in the world. It is more professionally printed than the Acorn Hill anthologies, however, with all of the music and lyrics printed in a professional manner. The table of contents is fairly thorough, but no index is provided. There is an accompanying CD. It is a comb-bound book, with a cardstock-ish cover. It has a 2006 copyright, but no ISBN number that I can find. There are no illustrations. The book measures 8.5” x 11” and is 113 pages long.Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures 1Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures 3 Go back to the top of the list of books




Naturally You Can Sing publishes song books that were arranged and sung by Mary Thienes-Schunemann. Each book has a an accompanying CD included. The book I refer to the most is Sing a Song of Seasons (ISBN #978-097083970-1). The books measure 8.5” x 11” and are spiral bound with stiff, semi-laminated-like, covers. The copyrights vary with each book, but are from the early 2000’s. Each book is about 60 pages long. The printing is very professional and the book includes adorable black and white drawings. The books have complete table of contents and some have an alphabetical-order list of the songs in the back of the book. Here is a sample page from Sing a Song of Seasons:Sing a Song of Seasons Go back to the top of the list of books




Pentatonic Songs, by Elisabeth Lebret is a 38 page, 8.5” x 5.5” booklet of pentatonic songs. There is no companion CD offered. It has a 1985 copyright. It has a complete table of contents and due to the nature of the book, an index is unnecessary. It is a black and white collection of pentatonic songs, with a couple of basic illustrations. The lyrics were typed and the music appears to be done by hand. Unfortunately, the print quality seems more like the pages were photocopied, so overall, the book can be a strain on the eyes. Here is a sample page:Pentatonic Songs Go back to the top of the list of books




****The Singing Year (ISBN #978-1-903458-39-6), by Candy Verney is a very thorough song book that includes a CD. Were I to have to choose one, and only one, book from this list, this book would be it. The songs are grouped by season, with an extra section devoted to “Anytime”. It is a black and white, softbound book with a 2006 copyright. It measures 8” x 10” and is 136 pages long. It has a thorough table of contents and an index of first lines. It is very professionally printed, with a scattering of illustrations throughout the book. The end of each section of the book contains a small nature study and seasonal craft section. Here are some sample pages from this book:The Singing Year 1The Singing Year 2 Go back to the top of the list of books




Wynstone Press offers a 6 book set of poetry, songs, and stories. Four of the books are seasonal books. The books are softback and measure 8.5” x 6”. They all have original copyrights from 1978, with various revisions and final reprints in 2010 (except Gateways, which, at least for my copy, was reprinted in 2005). The books are all black and white, with professional typography, and no illustrations. They have good table of contents, which are in alphabetical order, rather than page order, so are kind of like indexes??? Though I do have one Seasonal Songs collection CD from Wynstones School, it does not appear to correlate whatsoever with the books.

Spring (ISBN #978-0-946206-46-9) – 88 pages longSummer (ISBN #978-0-946206-47-6) – 112 pages longAutumn (ISBN #978-0-946206-48-3) – 88 pages longWinter (ISBN #978-0-946206-49-0) – 96 pages longSpindrift (ISBN #978-0-946206-50-6) is the largest of the books, at 224 pages, and contains a very general collection of songs, poems, and stories.Gateways (ISBN #978-0-946206-51-3) is 96 pages long and offers songs and poems about mornings, evenings, and fairytales (not the full fairytale). Here is a sample two-page spread from the Spring book:Spring Go back to the top of the list of books




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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.

Maureen

Labels: Circle Time, Kindergarten, Language Arts, Music, Poetry, Preschool, Waldorf
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Homeschool Mother’s Journal–Changing Our Approach to Language Arts

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In my life this week… I got a ticket! When the officer approached my car, I was actually sincere when I asked, “Is there a problem officer?” as I knew I hadn’t broken any laws. Well, it ends up that our car registration expired in May! I don’t know how neither Mr. Mo nor I noticed this, it is not like us at all. I was so embarrassed, it felt like the first time I had an overdue library book (thanks to one of my children!), I’ve never let my tabs expire in my 28 years of driving. For some reason, having expired tabs seemed more criminal than speeding. Plus, I was right in front of the gymnastics school and a grocery store. Tons of people were walking by and giving me curious looks. I felt sure that they were thinking that I was horrible criminal and were gleefully waiting to watch me hauled off to jail in cuffs. I didn’t actually start the waterworks, but I was so upset, the police officer became apparently distraught himself. I still feel like I can’t wash the “driving with expired tabs” scent off of me. Plus, the ticket was for $216!!! In our homeschool this week…I started our new Charlotte Mason-ish approach to language arts with both Dora and Gohan. I call it “Charlotte Mason-ish”, because I am using Waldorf materials with Dora. I started using L M N O P and All the Letters A to Z, which is a Waldorf  alphabet book. It has one poem and illustration for each letter. Whereas Dora would have nothing to do with Montessori alphabet baskets or sandpaper letters, she begs me to read more than one poem a day from this book and spends a lot of time reflecting on the illustration and the words in the poem. Since I started reading this book to her, she has been talking about her A,B,C’s a lot and pointing out letters when she sees one that she recognizes. I cannot believe what a difference one book has made for her! 

Coating Leaves in Beeswax 2

We also continued to look at autumn leaves. We preserved some leaves by dipping them in melted beeswax. This was the first time that I had ever done this. The hardest part of the activity was keeping the wax at the right temperature. If I left the burner on too long, even on the lowest heat setting, the wax would start to boil. I was worried that this would cause the wax to burn, so I turned the burner off every time the wax started to boil. There would come a point, however, when the wax would get too cold and this would cause the wax to cake on the leaves. The finished leaves feel very smooth, not waxy at all, and look beautiful.

Coating Leaves in Beeswax 3

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… In addition to the usual drama, music and co-op classes, Dora started taking gymnastics with one of her homeschooled friends at a local gymnastics school. It’s an hour long, so Dora was exhausted by the end of class, but by the next morning, she was raring to go again. We had planned to go to our homeschool group’s park day today, but no one else was attending. We may look into joining another homeschool group that has weekly “meetings” in an old building that has a giant lawn to play on. The building is huge, with wooden floors and a stage, so there is lots of room to run around if it is too rainy to play outside. Plus they have some toys there and kids bring board games and so forth. We had tried attending the group once before and I was turned off by the long drive to get there. Also,  no one would play with Dora at the time. I want to try it again, though, as Dora is older and has much better social skills now. Plus, since we have been driving so far to attend park days recently, this drive doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

Ebright Park 1

My favorite thing this week was… The temperatures finally dropped to a normal range for this time of year. I could feel a nip in the air, a gentle reminder that winter is not far away.

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Labels: Language Arts, Nature Study, Waldorf, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday–Sowing Grass Seeds and Other Montessori-Inspired Activities

Sowing Grass Seed

Early last week, I finally read in the news what I should have read weeks ago, rain was coming to Seattle, real rain. It was finally time to over seed the lawn! Not only had much of our lawn met an untimely demise, due to this summer’s lack of rain, but I’m trying to slowly replace all our lawn with Ecolawn. Ecolawn is a drought resistant grass, requiring very little watering during the summer months, and grows much slower, so only needs to be mowed a couple of times a year. I’ve grown a few test patches and love the stuff, so I had a couple of bags that I wanted to use once I knew rain was on the way. As usual, Dora wanted to be where I was, doing what I was doing, so she got to learn how to sow grass seed! She greatly enjoyed the activity, though ended up accidentally throwing grass seed at me, which caused me to break out in hives all over.

We also received a book in the mail that I had been debating buying for some time, the SENSEsational Alphabet Multi Sensory Book. It teaches the alphabet by using multiple senses, but is quite expensive. Dora has really hated the Montessori sandpaper letters and letter baskets, so I finally broke down and bought the book. It is a great book! First of all, the child can press the letter and hear the letter and key word pronounced. Then each key word has a tactile or olfactory aspect to it (the zipper for the letter “Z” can be zipped, the feather for the letter “F” can be touched, the apple for the letter “A” is a scratch and sniff, etc.). In addition, each letter and key word is written in braille and the accompanying ASL (American Sign Language) sign is shown. The company now also makes SENSEsational Alphabet Touch and Feel Picture Cards, which are much cheaper, but I opted for the book, because I wanted Dora to be able to hear the letters pronounced. Another item that came in the mail was Beleduc’s Flower Power Game, which teaches how to use primary colors to make secondary colors. In order to win, the child must use red/magenta, blue, and yellow colored disks to make a green, orange, and purple flower. As I mentioned previously, Dora is very focused on color mixing right now and this game seemed to be the final element that she needed in order to be able to remember how to make secondary colors.

Matching Brown Stairs to Cards

Then Dora continued or her “surprise mom” whirl wind, by getting out the brown stairs control cards, laying them out in a random order, and matching every brown stair to its corresponding card. I’d had long given up on getting her interested in the control cards for the brown stairs or pink tower, so was completely shocked when she did this!

Power of Two Cube

Finally, she brought out and completed the Power of Two Cube all by herself! 

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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: Language Arts, Montessori, Phonics and Reading, Summer, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We Will Be Reading Wednesday–Homeschool Curriculum Choices for 2012-13

I originally had planned out a nice little “mom reading time” post for this week, but as the school year has officially started or will be starting soon for people, it seems like every other homeschool blogger is posting their curriculum choices for the year. So I felt compelled to post about Gohan’s curriculum choices for this year. Each year, I hand select curriculum options, schooling options, outside classes options, etc. for each of my children. I now have three children in college, so this is getting to be less of a chore. I don’t do this because I’m a great mom who puts so much effort in to preparing lessons, I do this because this will make the whole school year easier for me. For me, in the long run, using the best curriculum and schooling choices that I can find for each individual child, even though it means having to do all new school/co-op researching and all new lesson planning each and every year, takes less time than trying to reuse curriculum from one child to the next. If I don’t use individually hand-picked selections, I spend the year pounding my head against the wall, wondering why one child can’t learn from the same book his or her older sibling did.

 

This year, Gohan will be doing much more bookwork than usual as he is hoping to go to a very competitive public STEM school for 9th-12th grades. He has a lot of catching up to do, because of his learning disabilities (not sure how well this is going to work, but it is what he really wants). His curriculum plan is:


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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: Language Arts, Social Studies
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.

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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

Montessori Mondays–Language Trays

Catergories Tray

Last week, I ended up setting out several trays to occupy Dora while my finger healed. One of the trays was what I call a “language tray”. I don’t know if these are actually a Montessori thing or not, but they seem like they should be and they use Montessori materials, so I am calling them Montessori. A lot of materials for teaching language are on paper – cards, lotto games, worksheets, matching puzzle pieces, etc., but Dora has made it very clear to me that she is only interested in truly hands-on learning. She has rejected all of the puzzles and lotto games, turned her nose up at flashcards and worksheets, and generally made it clear that paper is not useful to her for learning language skills (unless it is in the form of a book). At the same time, she evidences some of the problems with language that both Primo and Gohan struggled with at this age and they both ended up having language processing disorders. So I am trying to work a lot on language skills with her. Right now, I am trying to get her to map words using as many neural pathways as possible (i.e. an apple can be associated in the brain as a fruit, as something associated with the fall, as something red, as something roundish, as a type of pie, etc.). The more neural pathways a person uses to access language, the easier word retrieval is and the more fluent speech is. So first I made a go-togethers tray, with simple objects that go together (i.e. moon/sun, bat/ball). This tray proved to be a real challenge for her and I realized that I needed to step backwards a bit. So I made a categories tray instead, using four objects for each category and having three categories on each tray. She struggled a bit at first, but is getting the hang of it now.

Alphabet Box

For the objects, I simply used objects that I have in our alphabet box. I first read about alphabet boxes on Counting Coconuts, when Dora was about one-years-old. I knew as soon as I read about it, that I wanted to make one for her. So I have been collecting objects for over two years now and have a very extensive collection (we have many more objects than most alphabet boxes have, but I knew I wanted to use miniatures for other language activities, so I bought extra). Mari-Ann, of Counting Coconuts, does an excellent job of telling you how to set up an alphabet box and where you can get miniatures for your box, so if you are looking to set up your box, head on over there. My Boys’ Teacher at What DID We Do All Day? also has an excellent post about other ways to use your miniatures. After reading her post, I’m realizing that I need another storage box so that I can start working on blends and digraphs.

Cutting Necklaces

I also set out a basket of cheap bead necklaces to let her cut them up. She had already cut some of them and had started working on some of her nicer necklaces, so I was hoping that by isolating these beads with the scissors, she would stick to cutting only the cheap beads. I’m afraid that it didn’t work and neither did any of our attempts to talk with her about why she couldn’t cut some things up. She took the fact that she could cut these beads as permission to cut up anything and everything. When she started cutting up the pants she was wearing, we finally had to take the scissors away and put them up out of her reach for a while.

Metal Inset Tray

On another tray, I set out a metal inset with some paper, in hopes of enticing Dora to give the insets a try. It worked like a charm. She immediately started using the insets.

Tonging Marbles

I also put out some tongs with bath dots and showed her how to tong marbles on to the dots. Though it did not present much of a challenge for her, she really enjoyed it, so I still have it out this week.

Cyliners Extension

Finally, we did some cylinder work, putting the knobless cylinders in the knobbed cylinder blocks. Dora thought I had completely lost my mind when I first started trying to do this, but she quickly joined in (what she doesn’t realize is that I lost my mind a long time ago, so I don’t have anything left to lose).

How about you? Did you get in any Montessori work last week? I’m linking this post, as always, to Living Montessori Now, your source for Montessori inspiration 24 hours/day, 7 days/week!

Labels: Language Arts, Montessori, Preschool
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Preschool at Home–Studying Corn

In honor of Thanksgiving, we studied corn this week. For science, we used this “From Seed to Plant Specimen Center” from Lakeshore Learning. Dora really enjoyed trying to figure out which seed, leaf, and fruit/vegetable went together. If you buy this set, do yourself a favor and somehow mark the leaves so that you know which one is which. They come in little baggies that are labeled, but if you take them all out of the baggies without marking them in some way, some of them are hard to figure out. The seeds are very easy to identify, as are the fruit/vegetable cards, which are color-coded anyway. It took a large group effort for us to match all of the leaves though.
Corn Art
For our art project, we made corn prints with bubble wrap. We cut the bubble wrap into a corn cob shape, which Dora then painted. We placed a piece of paper on top of the painted bubble wrap and used a rolling pin to make a to fully press the paper onto the bubble wrap. Later, I made some corn leaves, which Dora glued onto the corn prints.
Our literature focus this week was The Littlest Pilgrim, which is not a Thanksgiving book, per se. This book had been highly recommended to me, but I was quite disappointed. While the book is not offensive per se, it teaches a lesson that is contrary to what I believe and to how I am raising Dora. The book is about a little girl, named Mini, who is the littlest pilgrim in her village. Each two page spread discusses all of the things that she is too little to do. At the end, she learns that the one thing that she is not too little to do is make friends. I found this to be rather disappointing. I am spending so much effort using Montessori methods and materials to help Dora learn the skills to be as independent and capable as possible and this book teaches that little children aren’t capable of doing anything useful. So this book will be added to our donation pile. 
Fire Station TourFor our fieldtrip, we did not go anywhere corn-related. Our local homeschool group had scheduled a tour of a fire station, so we joined them for that. Originally, the tour had been advertised as being for ages 8-10, then it seemed like only younger children were going, so I signed Dora up. Unfortunately, the change in age range was not communicated to the fire station instructor, so the instruction level was at a much higher level than was really appropriate for Dora. She did really well, behavior-wise, and with attempting to answer questions. She did, however, get a bit confused. The whole afternoon after the tour, I had to check every single door to see if it was hot before I was allowed to open it! When we finally were able to go see the fire equipment, it was very impressive, but the whole area was a bit much for Dora. When I tried to put her in the fire truck to have a turn, she totally freaked out. Then she asked to go back in it and freaked out again. I couldn’t even get a picture of her in the truck. We actually had to leave at that point, because she was just wore out from being over-stimulated.
H Basket
In other areas, we continue to work through our alphabet baskets and are on the letter “H”. In case you missed a previous post about this, I fill a basket with objects that begin with our letter of the week, a capital and lowercase sandpaper letter, and a Leapfrog Magnetic Alphabet letter. We then discuss the sound the letter makes in relation to the objects, listen to Leapfrog pronounce the letter, and finger trace the sandpaper letters. We also continue to use Handwriting Without Tear’s wooden letter pieces, play dough letter set, and chalkboard.
Art Display 2
I’ve started putting out art prints from Child Size Masterpieces of Steps 1, 2, 3 – Level 1 Easy. I’m going to start implementing all of the elements from the curriculum soon, but for now am just putting out one print in a clear acrylic frame every couple of weeks. Dora has been very interested in all of the prints, except for the one I put out last week, which was a modern art piece (the photo above is from several weeks ago).
Our School Shelves
In addition, I’ve been setting out one music tray a week, with themed instruments. Dora already goes to a Kindermusik class every week, so we don’t a super lot with these instruments, but I like for her to explore some different concepts in addition to what they teach in class sometimes. For this week, I set out a tray of instruments that are all played by shaking them – a woodpecker, maracas, and a tambourine.
Finally, you may note that there is a globe on her shelves. That is brand new. I absolutely love the way Montessori geography objects are all colored exactly the same way, no matter what the object is (i.e. Asia is always yellow, whether it’s a globe, map puzzle, wall map, etc.). So I have just started the most basic geography introduction, by putting out the globe and showing her where we live.
Dora has been doing lots of math also, but that is a separate post unto itself. I’ll try to post about some of it next week. We are going to be taking all of next week off from homeschooling, just because we’re homeschoolers, so we can. I actually have rather mixed feelings about Thanksgiving and we usually do not make a big fuss about it around here, other than enjoying Mr. Mo being home for an extra two days (this year he is working on a Christmas-release product, so we will consider ourselves lucky if we even see him over Thanksgiving, but he will be taking three weeks off at Christmas and for part of January!).
What about you? Do you celebrate Thanksgiving and if so, how?
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.
I’m linking this post to The Play Academy at NurtureStoreFootprints in the Butter’s Reading Aloud Challenge, and…

Chestnut Grove Academy
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Labels: Language Arts, Literature, Montessori, Preschool, Science, Social Studies
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

“B” and Beach Animal Studies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         This week, Dora focused on the letter “B”. She seemed to have a better comprehension of the “buh” sound than she had with the “A” sounds.

I have encountered a bit of a quandary. I just learned that in Montessori schools, they teach lowercase letters first since the majority of letters in books are lowercase, which makes perfect sense. In addition, Explode the Code, the phonics program I intend to be Dora’s main program, also emphasizes lowercase letters first. Yet, Bob’s Books, which I also plan to use, emphasizes upper and lower case letters equally. At the same time, I am a big fan of the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum, which starts by teaching uppercase letters first, as they are the easiest to form and letter reversals are less likely to occur. In the end, I decided to teach both upper and lower case letters when we are working on pre-reading skills and upper case only when we are working on pre-writing skills. Hopefully this will not leave her too confused!

In regards to Gohan’s Language Arts, I have encountered many quandaries, but I will post about them next week, when I hope to have them resolved.

For literature this week, I read Good Night, Little Sea Otter (as an FYI, I read many books to her every week, we just have one book that we emphasize each week). Good Night, Little Sea Otter is a very sweet and tender book about a sea otter who seems to be trying to put off his bedtime by saying good night to everybody and everything. This was a bit of an ironic book for us, as we are currently having a terrible time with Dora pulling all sorts of tricks to delay her bedtime. The pictures in Good Night, Little Sea Otter seemed, at first, to be almost too sweet and cute. Later in the week, however we went to the Seattle Aquarium and spent a long time watching the sea otters swim and play. And lo and behold,  they  really are as cute as Little Sea Otter is.Aquarium 9

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Dora was utterly fascinated with the Seattle Aquarium this time (sorry for blurry photos, I had to use my iPhone for these photos – long story). A few of the fish scared her, but for the most part, she loved it. We stayed there until she became loopy with fatigue. The Seattle Waterfront continues to get nicer and nicer every time I visit, though I do wish they could do something about the many homeless people. I feel incredibly sorry that the people are homeless, but some of them are just downright scary.

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For an art project this week, we made a collage of Little Sea Otter sleeping in a kelp bed (I had no idea that otters anchored themselves in kelp so that they didn’t float away while they were asleep). We used sand paper to represent the beach and shiny origami paper to represent the water. We used green tissue paper to make kelp and glued shells to the “sandy beach”. Dora insisted on some piles of sea weed on the sand, as it does wash ashore (which she is correct about). We made Little Sea Otter and his mama out of pompoms and googly eyes. Dora insisted on mounting all of this on orange construction paper, which made the scene a bit less beach-like, but over all we were both very happy with the project.

I’m linking this post to Nurture Store’s Play Academy and Footprints in the Butter Read Aloud Challenge and:

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Labels: High School, Language Arts, Preschool, This and That, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Reading The Apple Pie Tree and Learning the Letter “A”

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Last week, I introduced Dora to a slightly structured study of the alphabet. We worked on the letter “A”. This study definitely taught me a lot about Dora’s learning style and temperament. Essentially, she made it quite clear that we will be doing things her way and that way did not include many of the things that I had made the mistake of thinking were good ideas.

One item that I had been looking forward to using was the alphabet box. I first learned about this from Counting Coconuts. My alphabet box essentially is a hardware storage drawer unit, with one little drawer for each letter. Each drawer is then filled with miniature items whose names start with the letter. In the case of vowels, I am trying to emphasize short vowel sounds, but am also mentioning the long vowel sound.

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I filled a basket with all of the items from the “A” drawer, a sandpaper letter “A”, and a Leap Frog Magnetic Alphabet letter “A”. I purchased our sandpaper letters from Polliwog Learning Products, LLC, which is an Etsy store that I learned about from Counting Coconuts’ list of recommended Montessori resources.

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At first, Dora threw the basket across the room, because she thought that I was just getting out toys for her “school time”. Once we moved on and did some other things, she was able to understand how the “toys” fit into everything and was no longer insulted by the basket. The products that really clicked with her were the Handwriting Without Tears Wood Letters and Roll-A-Dough Letters. She immediately grasped the concept of using these items and was able to make the letters when the cards were in front of her.

For literature, we read The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe  Hall. We were studying apples this week, – it was just a coincidence that were also working on the letter “A”. The Apple Pie Tree was an excellent choice for Dora as it discussed what happens to an apple tree through the seasons. Dora is very interested in seasons right now and trying to understand what order they come in and what type of weather we have with each season.

I’m linking this post to Footprints in the Butter Read Aloud Challenge and:

Tot School

Labels: Language Arts, Preschool
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Time to Enroll in the Book It! Program for 2011-12

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The Book It! program from Pizza Hut rewards kids in grades K-6 with free personal pizzas for meeting reading goals each month during the “school year”. Registration is currently open for the 2011-12 school year. The homeschool enrollment page is . The deadline to register is September 1st, 2011. The site also has printables, goal setting helps, and more.

Labels: Freebies, Language Arts, Literature, Phonics and Reading
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff