Category Archives: This and That

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.

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

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

Montessori Monday–Knobbed Cylinders and Water Transferring With an Eyedropper

Montessori Knobbed Cylinders at Homeschool Mo 1

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

Montessori Knobbed Cylinders at Homeschool Mo 3

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

Montessori Knobbed Cylinders at Homeschool Mo 2

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

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

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

Mixing Primary Colors to Make secondary Colors at Homeschool Mo 1

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

Mixing Primary Colors to Make secondary Colors at Homeschool Mo 2

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

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

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

Assembling a Flashlight 2

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

Assembling a Flashlight 1

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

Paper Punching 1

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

Spindle Box Work 1

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

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

Nuts and Bolts Board

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

Sound Cubes

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

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

Our Homeschool Schedule


Another topic a lot of homeschool bloggers have been tackling lately, is scheduling. I’ve never wanted to post our schedule, simply because we don’t have much of one. Then I started reading all these posts by homeschoolers who start schooling by 8 AM and I felt that I should throw in my two cents, just to somewhat even things out. I’d hate for a new  homeschooler to totally stress themselves out, just because they were trying to adhere to a strict schedule, “like all the other homeschoolers do”, not realizing that those homeschoolers only represent a portion of the homeschooling community.

Sun Rising over Lake Tochigi-ken, Japan

Honestly, our schedule has varied every year, depending on that school year’s various commitments and demands. I will also be honest and start right out by saying that, as much as I love watching sunrises and aspire to be a “morning person”, I am a night owl (which is why some of my posts are time-stamped with 2 or even 3 AM). Not only that, but every time I try to stick to an early morning routine, I find that rather than getting the “me” time that I need, my younger children get up earlier than usual. I don’t know how they know that I am up, they would do this even when I had a basement office and they were on the 2nd story of our townhome. I think it is caused by the same unexplained phenomenon that occurs when a mom tries to go to bathroom and suddenly all her children need her at that very moment.


So this would be our rough outline of a daily schedule, if I was forced to make a daily schedule. Honestly, we have different activities through out the week, so each days varies, but this gives you a general idea.

  • 8 AM: Dora and I get up, dressed, and fed (Dora would prefer this to be 7 AM, so we kind of have some morning battles during which I can be heard mumbling, “Just five more minutes…” and she yells at me, “It’s time to get up!”)

  • 9 AM: Gohan arises and I do my household chores for the day (I can’t do them in the afternoons or evenings, because Dora is a morning person and is very grouchy from about 5 PM onwards)

  • 10 AM – 2 PM: attend various classes, co-ops, field trips, activities, park days, play dates, etc.

  • 2 – 4 PM: Gohan does bookwork, while Dora and I work in the Montessori room

  • 4 – 5 PM : Review Gohan’s bookwork and help him wherever he needs it, give him the day’s spelling test, etc.

  • 5 – 9 PM: Gohan does his chores and has martial arts classes, I shuttle him around, attend meetings, etc., I will put together some sort of dinner and we eat at 7:30 PM-ish, which is when Mr. Mo gets home from work (our dinners don’t look much like other homeschooler’s dinners either, I rarely use a crockpot, refuse to cook with meat, and have GI problems that have recently rendered me practically unable to have an appetite and who wants to cook, when nothing sounds good?) Dora and I bathe and get ready for bed and Dora goes to sleep by 9 PM (ideally)

  • 9 PM – 12 AM (ideally): blogging, e-mail, lesson planning, paperwork, etc. (if I am lucky, I might fit in a little bit of pleasure reading) (See this owl? This is what I look like at midnight most nights – if I wasn’t already homeschooling, I’d have to homeschool just so my kids wouldn’t be tardy every single day)MP900407217[1]

In regards to my exercise, which is usually a core component of my life, whether it be martial arts, jogging, biking, or some other activity, my GI difficulties have been making it impossible for me to exercise for about six months or so. I do hope to get back to that soon and that is one thing I am actually willing to get up early for, albeit begrudgingly (and with much grumbling).

What about yourself? Do you have a schedule that you adhere to or do you fly by the seat of your pants? Are you a morning person or night owl or neither? What about your kids? My boys are night owls and my girls are morning people, while my husband is a morning person and I am a night owl. Go figure!

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Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday – Face Painting

Face Painting 1
I would have never though to face painting as being a Montessori activity, but my mind was changed by Dora’s recent exploration of the activity. Last month, Dora was introduced to face painting at our local children’s museum. Up until this point, I had  managed to divert her attention from the face paints there. I honestly did not feel comfortable with her using face paints from a communal set and I worried that she might be allergic to the paint, as my children tend to have sensitive skin. She did not break out from the face paint, but I still could not get over my aversion to using a communal set of face paints. So I purchased a set for our home. I had hoped to find the same brand of face paint sticks that the museum uses, but couldn’t find any without wrappers (perhaps they peel them before setting them out?). So after a lot of research, I purchased the Klutz Face Painting Kit, because it uses Wolfe Brothers brand face paints and from my research, this seemed like the best brand. As soon as it arrived, I separated the paints from the book, as I wanted Dora to be able to feel free to explore her face and how she could alter her appearance and not feel constrained to doing more traditional face painting designs, such as the ones shown in the book. She has been using the paints every day since they arrived and I am going to need to order more soon. I am going to try the Wolfe Brothers’ brand sticks this time though.
The one thing that I not appreciated about face painting, was how much sensory input and fine motor skills are involved in painting your own face. Dora was mesmerized by trying to figure out how to paint what she wanted on her face by looking at her reflection. Face painting requires the child to use the visual and tactile senses in tandem and in an unique manner. For the most part, Dora has been painting her face in dark colors, in an effort to be a “scary dragon” and “scare” everyone in the household. One day, she painted her face with a more exotic design. It made her look really freaky, but kind of cool at the same time.
Face Painting 2
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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, Summer, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday – Another Fun Game for Tactile Sense Work

Months ago, I posted about Ruff’s House, a great game that we have found works better for us for working on tactile skills than the traditional Montessori materials do (i.e. Ruff’s House can work as a much cheaper alternative to the fabric boxes, grading tablets, and baric tablets) . We now have found a second, more challenging game, called Laundry Jumble Game. In this game, the child draws a card that shows them (no reading required) which laundry item they need to find in the “washing machine”. Since many of the fabrics feel very similar, one really needs to use one’s hands to explore each item’s shape. If the player retrieves the correct laundry item, he gets to keep the card. He then puts the laundry item back in to the “washing machine”, the next player draws a card, and so on. 

Please note my left sidebar for all the awesome link-ups that I am participating in.

Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

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

Happy 4th of July and Taking a Short Blogging Break


I just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve decided to take this week off from blog posting, blog reading, Pinteresting, Facebooking, etc. There is no major reason for this, I just kind of feel like I need a week off and with the 4th of July coming up, it seemed like a good time to do that. I hope that all my U.S. readers have a wonderful 4th of July and that everyone else has a great week!

Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday – Summer Light Box Fun


Putty Bubble TitleI’ve blogged before about the fun we’ve had playing with our light box, in particular, we enjoy playing with translucent homemade putty on the light box. We haven’t brought the light box out as much recently, but as the rain here has continued almost endlessly, we’ve been getting more creative with our indoor fun. So the other day, Dora asked me to make some putty for the light box. She had completely forgotten about some of the things we did with it. When I got out the straws to make bubbles in the putty, she was incredibly amazed. First she tried poking it with her finger, Putty Bubble 1then she asked to try to blow bubbles herself and this time she was able to blow them all by herself! Putty Bubble 3Finally, she felt the need to arm herself with an oven mitt for some reason, that I still don’t quite understand…

Putty Bubble 5

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

Tertia Has Graduated and Gohan is Freakishly Flexible

Levi is Flexible

Last week, Tertia completed her final exams at the community college. She has attended community college for the last two years of high school through a special program in our state. In the last two years, she earned a veterinary assistant certificate, a small animal massage therapist license, and is half way through her associates degree in business. She also has two jobs and volunteers with numerous animal rescue programs. All in all, I feel very confident in her ability to manage in the adult world, even though she hasn’t even turned 18 yet. She is definitely mature for her age in many ways and I am very proud to be her mother. I also am now officially homeschooling one child, with a preschooler in tow.

So why do I have a photo of Gohan on this post, instead of Tertia? Well, she won’t let me take any photos of her and if she ever did condescend to having her photo taken, she’d kill me if I posted it on my blog. This photo of Gohan was actually taken in the car while we were waiting for Mr. Mo to settle the tab for Tertia’s graduation celebration dinner. For some reason, I had never known that Gohan could wrap his legs around his head like this. It looks like his legs are someone’s else’s, but those really are his legs! The whole contortion looked so weird to me that I had to concoct some reason to post a photo of it. And no, he did not inherit this talent from me, it made me hurt just looking at him do that!

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Labels: This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff