Category Archives: Montessori

Montessori Monday–Working With Cut-Out Labeled Fraction Circles

Cut-Out Labeled Fraction Circles 1

I have to be honest and say that Dora has seriously started to rebel against using Montessori materials. Plus, she seems to be learning things in other ways much better, such as through imaginative play and listening to literature and music (for instance, I was quite surprised last week to learn that she could do basic addition, which we haven’t remotely begun to address in our “homeschooling”). Ironically, the child who really seems to thrive with the Montessori method is Gohan. Unfortunately, Gohan is in 8th grade and Montessori did not develop a curriculum for high school. At times, however, Montessori seems to the only way for him to learn a concept. Previously, I posted that I used a Montessori-inspired approach to teach Gohan how to subtract negative integers. That was in May and he hasn’t had any trouble with working with negative integers since! I only taught him the concept using the manipulatives once and it just clicked.

Cut-Out Labeled Fraction Circles 3

Last month, he began struggling with fraction word problems. He was doing review work of concepts that he mastered two years ago, or so I thought. Clearly he didn’t really understand the concepts, however, as he was unable to do the word problems. So, I finally broke down and bought some cut-out labeled fraction circles. I wanted the cut-out fraction circles, as opposed to the metal fraction circles, because a) they take up less space, and b) the metal fraction circles only go up to tenths, while the cut-out fraction circles go up to twentieths, and c) this method doesn’t work as well with knobbed pieces. Were I to do this again, I’d buy .pdf files and just print out the pieces. I taught Gohan how to do just one problem using the fraction circles and he hasn’t had any trouble with fractions since!

Cut-Out Labeled Fraction Circles 4

The problem was a pretty straight forward one. It was “What is 2/3 of 3/14?” So we laid out three 1/14 pieces. Just looking at the pieces made the answer pretty obvious, but we worked out the whole problem just to be sure. We separated 2 of the 3 pieces (or 2/3), which was 2/14. Of course, Gohan needed to reduce the problem and that he can do easily in his head, but we completed the final step using the fraction pieces, because I wanted him to really see how the paper worked answers and manipulative worked answers are the 100% the same. The 1/7 piece fit over the two 1/14 pieces perfectly. So we had our answer of 1/7! I really, really, wish I had understood how Montessori worked when Gohan was younger. He would have benefitted so much from using manipulatives to learn everything.

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Labels: Math, Montessori
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

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

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

Montessori Monday–Geometric Cabinet, Teen Boards, and More Montessori Math

Geometric Tray #2 - 2

For the first time ever, Dora wanted to work with the geometric cabinet. The geometric cabinet is actually considered a sensorial material in Montessori education. It teaches visual discrimination, while also working on the pincer grasp, and introducing children to geometric terms. Dora has not wanted anything to do with the geometric cabinet, until this week. She breezed through the first drawer, but had some problems with the second drawer, as illustrated in the  photo above (she doesn’t understand why I don’t want her just to force pieces into their spaces, my method seems so fussy and time consuming!). Even after struggling with the second drawer, she wanted to do more, so I brought out the third drawer, which was pretty challenging for her. We only worked with putting the pieces back into their spaces and using general terms (for instance, I used the term “triangle” for all of second drawer, instead of terms such as “isosceles triangle” or “obtuse triangle”).

Geometric Tray #3 - 1

It took a bit of encouragement on my part,

Teen Boards

but Dora finally agreed to work with the teen boards. I used the beads in conjunction with the boards, as this was really an introduction lesson (I had presented the teen boards to her before, but she totally forgot everything, since she has not wanted to work with them in so long). She grasped the pattern of the teen boards, but I’m still not sure she understands the “one and ten makes eleven” concept (I don’t want to give the impression that I am worried about it or pushing her to learn it quicker). 

Montessori Wooden Counters and Cards

She also worked with the wooden counters and cards. She knows most of her number symbols, but is confusing the pairs “2” & “5” and “6” & “9”, which seems pretty age appropriate. She is easily able to count, with one-to-one correspondence, up to ten. 

Spindle Rods

She also worked with the spindle box some. The spindle box is easier than the wooden counters and cards, however, as two being next to one and so forth gives her some guidance, so she doesn’t confuse the symbols.

Red and Blue Number Bars

I also gave her the very first introductory presentation to the blue and red counting bars. She was much more interested in these than the long red rods. I could see that the gears were spinning in her head when I showed her these rods. Clearly, they presented a new concept to her, though I am not sure what it was (I didn’t show her that the one rod with the nine rod equals the ten rod or anything of that sort).  

Completed Color Box 4 Grading

Finally, we completed grading all of color box 4. Honestly, this gave me a headache! I have always had good vision, but maybe my color discrepancy skills aren’t what they should be, because I had a really hard time sorting the browns and purples. I cannot imagine doing color box 3, which has seven grades of each color! Of course, I didn’t buy the highest quality color tablets, so maybe that was part of the problem… The color variances look more obvious in this picture than they did when we were working with them.

It was a good week overall in regards to Dora’s using the Montessori materials. It is all beginning to click with her and she is asking to use the materials on the weekends too! I really enjoy seeing her make the connections between one activity and another. I doubt I will ever give any thought to switching to a different method of teaching math until she is in middle school. I really wish I had used the Montessori method with Gohan. I greatly suspect that if he had been taught with Montessori materials from the beginning, it would have saved him a lot of frustration. As is, I am giving great consideration to buying the fraction circles for him. He has memorized how to work with fractions, but the fraction word problems in pre-algebra are tripping him up. He is not understanding when he is supposed to multiply or divide with fractions. For instance,   if he got a problem that said, “Johnny took 2/3 of the apples and Mary took 3/4 of Johnny’s apples, what fraction of the apples does Mary have now?” he would not know if he should multiply or divide the fractions. When I was in pre-algebra, I was just taught that the word “of” means to multiply when working with fractions. So, I’d know that in order to solve the above problem, I’d multiply 2/3 x 3/4, just because of the word “of”. That is not exactly a true understanding of what is happening and I’d like for Gohan to have a better understanding of how fractions work.

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

Montessori Monday–Color Box 4 and Teen Bead Hanger

Color Box 4

When I first started looking into using the Montessori method with Dora, she already knew most of her colors, so the first color box, which consist of just red, yellow, and blue, was definitely too remedial for her. I also suspected that the second color box, which consists of 11 pairs of basic color tiles, would be too easy for her and we wouldn’t get much use out of it. Yet, I felt that color box 3, which has seven shades of nine colors, which the child grades in order of darkest to lightest, would prove to be too difficult for her. Color box 4, on the other hand, only has four shades of eight colors, but also has a matching tile for each tile for a total of 64 tiles. I felt that given our limited budget, color box 4 was the best bang for our buck. A couple of months ago, I tried having Dora grade just one set of colors and that was way too hard for her. So this week, I presented her a tray with two shades of several colors. I went with the most extreme shades, darkest vs. lightest. She was able to do this tray fairly easily. In a few weeks, I will add a middle shade and see if we can’t slowly, but surely build up to grading the whole box. I have found that proper lighting is very important for this work. In some rooms of our house, it is impossible to tell some of the shades apart from each other.

Teen Bead Bar Hanger

Dora has also started choosing to work on more math work! She completed the teen bead hanger many times and has it down pat now. I’m not sure if she has memorized the order or if she truly understands the idea of “10 and 1 make 11”. I’ve been encouraging her to try the teen boards, which I think would help to cement the knowledge, but thus far she is resisting my efforts. She also continues to love to do the hundreds board, up until 20.

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Labels: Math, Montessori, Summer, This and That
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

Montessori Monday: Math Work

Hundreds Board

I have a confession to make. During the last two weeks, I almost gave up on using the Montessori method with Dora. She seemed to have come to hate working in my office and refused to do anything there. So I tried to move some materials out into the playroom, but then she threw a fit and screamed that she didn’t want to do any of this “stuff” anymore. Finally, I started trying to take pictures of the materials in order to sell them, as they require a lot of storage space. Dora had an absolute fit and insisted that she never said she didn’t want to use the materials and that she promised she would work with them. It was then that completely surprised me! She saw some of the more advanced materials that I had set out to sell. She asked what they were and I decided that since I was getting rid of everything anyway, it wouldn’t hurt to let her do some of the materials out of order. First she really wanted to try the hundreds board. Though she finds the teen bead bars and teens boards to be very frustrating, she had no problem filling in the hundreds board all the way up to twenty!

Using a Balance 4

She then asked to use a balance that I had purchased to use with Gohan to help with illustrating equations to him. It was somewhat of an expensive balance, but I decided that she is old enough now that she probably wouldn’t break it. Not only did she do tons of experiments with the balance, she even did some practical life work with it! It has a built in weights set that comes with tweezers to lift out the weights. She loved using the tweezers to take the weights in and out and did that over and over again. She also experimented with putting the weights away in different orders and I realized that the weight set was essentially a mini version of the knobbed cylinders. She had no problem sorting the weights, even though she still struggles with sorting the knobbed cylinders. I’m not sure why she was able to do these so much more easily, perhaps because they were shiny and new? Like the knobless cylinders, the color and texture remain the same for each cylinder, so there were no other clues for her to use to figure out how to sort them…

Using a Balance 6

Finally, she asked to do the most difficult bolt board that we own. Previously, I had told her that she couldn’t do it until she could master the other bolt boards, because her frustration threshold is so low when she can’t do something. Then this week she said, “Mama, let me show you that I can do it.” So I opened the board and let her go for it. Not only could she easily sort the bolts by size into the correct slot, she could easily manipulate the flathead screwdriver, all while talking on the phone with my parents!!!!

Flathead Screwdriver Grading Bolt Board 1

So now I am left wondering if the problem was that I had not been leaving out challenging enough materials. She didn’t seem to have mastered the earlier materials and as I mentioned, gets easily frustrated when she can’t do something, so I had made a point of not setting out too difficult of materials. Now I don’t know what to think. Either she needed more of a challenge or she hit some developmental milestone, because suddenly she was able to do all sorts of activities that she wasn’t able to do last week.

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

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