Sunday, February 28, 2010


I spent 2 hours tonight pulling together the materials for this week... and I'm not even sure we'll head into the room tomorrow!

*keels over*

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Week 4 review, week 5 preview

We had one really good day this week, the others were mediocre. I definitely felt like we needed this weekend break, though. We have the choice of getting back into the room on Monday, but I'm going to have to ponder whether I'd rather delay until Tuesday.

Nugget is very much looking for what's new these days, and I think it's preventing her from going back to things she's seen once. So now that I've tried it both ways, I think I prefer making most changes over our break. I imagine I'll need to swap out the language material more often (like rotating letters every day), but I'm going to aim to make practical life and science changes weekly and sensorial changes even less often.

So over this weekend, I'll get the sensorial to a place that I'd like it to stay for a while. I'll add Cylinder Block #4. I think I'll reduce the 6 Sound Cylinders to 3 (I'd had it at 6 because I didn't expect her to try matching). I still have in reserve the Red Rods (STILL waiting for the back ordered stand for them), the Baric Cylinders (those are HARD), a mystery bag (not sure if she'd get the concept), and the Knobless Cylinders. I also need to finish the color shade matching, although she's not terribly interested in that right now. I wish I could think of a better way to display it. And I'm thinking about making sensorial balloons (deflated balloons filled with different textured items to feel and match, like beans and popcorn kernels and flour).

I'm a bit torn about introducing the Red Rods; I'm not sure she'd grasp lining them up with their bottoms even, and I don't really have space for them without the stand. So I guess those will stay back. I'm also unsure about the Knobless Cylinders, mostly because they seem like a nice, easy thing to be able to add in once Sprout comes... but I guess, if I'm following the idea that she should be allowed to pick her own direction, that they should go out.

Practical life.... I think I want to keep a weekly rotation going here. I have one shelf to dedicate to practical life, so I can have out 2-4 activities. She's been completely ignoring the dressing items, so I'll probably remove those. She also completely ignored wet pouring all week, so that'll be gone. Maybe folding? Oooh, maybe a funnel for solids. I've also received prints of the yoga cards from Montessori by Hand and have a nice little basket for them, so I'll start by putting about 3 out and slowly add cards. Nugget LOVES her gymnastics class, and I think she'll really love the yoga. I'm also hoping it'll provide the opportunity to take a more physical break during our work time.

Language. I guess I'll keep working through Sandpaper Letters and beginning sound cards until I've verified that she remembers all the letter shapes and their sounds (since it's been a few months since we've worked on them officially). Of course, we're still doing language work outside of the classroom, like I Spy, rhymes, and recognizing beginning and ending sounds in random words. She so loved that animal set-up that I think I'll do another one. I've got a bunch of arctic animals, and that's easy to make -- white for ice, blue for water.

Science! Well, I've got the animal and botany puzzles tucked back. She's been into puzzles lately. I guess, if I'm putting it all on the table... those should come out. More experimental-type activities, I'd like to rotate weekly. I'll put sink and float away, but maybe something where I have a "boat" that floats and she adds weights (coins, etc) one-by-one until it sinks?

Geography, I'm going to continue holding back on even though I have a nearly-completed sandpaper globe and the continents puzzle. That's definitely something that can wait; it's still pretty abstract for her at this stage.

This next week will be the start of our second month doing this! Amazing!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Week 4, day 4: Sick day

New materials: green shade matching, rough & smooth matching, Sound Cylinders, Cylinder Block #3, picture cards for beginning sounds. (I'll put pictures up later today.)

Nugget caught my husband's sniffles, so we only spent about 30 minutes in the room today. Once again, she spent most of her time asking what was new. I'm hoping to get most all of the Sensorial material that I'm going to have out for the medium-term out by next week, so that the work available will be more stable.

Nugget went right to the Sandpaper Letters. A few evenings ago, I bought the picture set for beginning consonant sounds from Montessori for Everyone. It's the sort of thing that I could have made on my own, but I don't have the time and energy to sink into that right now. It's really nice to have another option. The PDF arrived soon after my order, and it was easy to print and use. We won't use the sounds for X -- they aren't the true "cks" sound. But nothing starts with that anyway, so... what're you going to do? It is a little frustrating that the vowel set is nearly as expensive as the much-larger consonant set, though -- I probably won't spring for that.

I'm thinking about using the Pink material from Montessori for Everyone, too -- Nugget will probably be getting into that around when I've got an infant, so I really doubt I'll have the energy for it then, either. :) They also have some really nice free materials on their website. And if you fan them on Facebook, they have pretty interesting Montessori-related updates.

I set out 4 letters for Nugget -- b, m, r, and w. These are letters she's worked with on the animal beginning sounds activity, and I thought they sounded fairly different. I didn't realize until we started working that she pronounces 'r' and 'w' very similarly. But, with one exception ('watermelon', which went under 'r'), she matched everything correctly and without difficulty. I want to work through all the letters, to make sure she knows all of them... I'm trying to figure out a way to do that faster than working with a couple letters at a time. The Sandpaper Letters are so huge, I can't see having them all out.... maybe I break out the Moveable Alphabet and have her choose the appropriate starting sound?

After the letters, she chose the 3 rough and smooth tablets I set out (smooth, roughest, middle). She didn't want to use the blindfold, though, so this didn't work out very well. She felt and matched, but by look, not feel. I tried putting the tablets under our second rug and having her reach under, but I couldn't get the concept across to her. Another case of just a tad too young.

Next, Nugget pulled out the Sound Cylinders. I set out one full set of 6, intending for her to just shake and listen. But some of them sound very similar, and she started matching them up on her own. I didn't want her matching things that aren't actually the same, so I pulled out the second box of Sound Cylinders. We matched (close enough, at least -- even I can't tell the difference between some, but I have tin ears) and we talked about softer and louder.

She moved to the Smelling Bottles (just sniffing them) and Cylinder Block #3 (which she did once with no difficulty). She poked at one container and did the animal beginning sounds once. But she was really done, so we moved on to some arts & crafts.

I've got some thinking to do about the frequency of introducing new materials and how to keep her engaged in materials that she's seen before. She's a neophile -- takes after her mom. :)

Opinions on geometric items

Now that we're almost a month into our Montessori work, I'm considering filling in our supplies a bit. I'm pretty sure I want to get some Geometric Solids, but the prices for them on the Montessori sites are pretty high. I've found some sets of wooden solids online which include nearly all of the typical Montessori solids and more (except for the egg shape, strangely, but I think that would be pretty easy to find in a craft store, especially around Easter). My only real concern is that I think these are smaller than the Montessori solids -- they're about 2-3 inches.

If you have the Geometric Solids, do you like them? What size are they, and what do you think about that size?

I'm also pondering the Geometric Cabinet. Buying one is likely out of our price range, but I'm considering making a version. It would take quite a bit of effort, though, and I want to make sure we'd get a fair amount of use out of it. Do you have one? Does it get used regularly and for a variety of activities?

Any other materials you use and love in your homeschooling?

Adding capacity

We didn't have any Montessori time on Thursday because it was Daddy-Daughter Day. While they were out shopping, though, they picked up some more shelves for the room. Since I've made the decision to keep more of the Sensorial materials out, we needed some extra space. I'm amazed at how fast the shelves fill up!

We're still using the plastic shelving from Target, built 2-high instead of 4-high. That makes the top shelf a great height for my short kid. We figure that, down the line, when we've got 2 kids' worth of stuff in there and Nugget is taller, we can cut the legs of the shelves down and stack them 3-high: top for Nugget, bottom for Sprout, and middle for both.

I'm loving the wooden trays from Michaels. What I didn't realize at first was that they have two sizes, and I had to go back yesterday to buy more smaller ones. I use the smaller ones for most things, and the bigger ones for especially large activities (cutting and gluing needed a large tray). I also have some of the plastic finger painting trays. Those are nearly too big for Nugget to move on her own, but they're great for very large activities (animal beginning/ending sounds) or wet/messy activities (like sink and float).

There's still more room-arranging to be done; I only got one set of shelves in, and I need to put in a second. But that's going to require moving the (rarely used) computer desk. And baby stuff is going to need to start claiming room in there, too...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Week 4, day 3: Mid-week perk-up and pondering on being stingy with materials

New material: some Sandpaper Letters, matching Smelling Bottles, blue shade matching, blindfold.

Things perked up today! The first half was so-so, but we broke the ice and had some fun starting about mid-way through.

Nugget certainly started out enthusiastically. I was still making my breakfast and hadn't even mentioned doing Montessori today when she took off into the Montessori room. When she got into the room, she spotted the Sandpaper Letters that I'd put out next to the animal beginning/ending sound activity. All hope of a relaxed breakfast was lost at that point -- she HAD to work with them immediately. My lovely husband finished making my breakfast and brought it into the room for me so that Nugget could get right into the language material.

We didn't do anything extraordinary with the Sandpaper Letters -- I just showed Nugget how to run her finger over each and then had her find the animals that had each beginning sound. (I'd just put out the letters we'd need -- about 8 of them.) She matched the sounds perfectly, but the tracing was hard. She uses way too much pressure with her fingers. I need to figure out a way to work more on a soft touch with her.

After that, she was poking around, asking what else was new. (As people have mentioned, putting something new out each day makes her expect it. I'm still not sure which method we're going to use long-term.) I mentioned that the Smelling Bottles were a bit different (they're in a covered box, so she couldn't see the change). Last night, I selected 3 of the most distinct smells (almond, clove, cumin) and filled 3 blue-topped bottles with those smells, as well. I wanted to introduce the idea of matching the smells with a smaller set than the full 6. Sure enough, this was difficult for Nugget. She still doesn't quite get the idea of these more abstract matching games. I think she just needs to get a bit older. Until then, the Smelling Bottles with fun smells will be enough.

Her next choice was the new blue color shade matching. Once again, she was quite good with this, making one or two mistakes but recognizing and correcting them independently. The red shades she did without error.

She moved on to sink and float and then helped me with 2 Cylinder Blocks (I disassembled, she reassembled). Once again, she did this without a problem. I'm kind of reluctant to bring out #3 because I'd hoped to spread this material out over a greater period of time, but it seems really easy for her and I think that's why she doesn't choose it. I'm wondering if introducing a third (and possibly a fourth) would make it more interesting, or if she just isn't in the mind space for this right now.

Nugget chose to cut and glue for a while, then started to fade. Another mom on the Montessori homeschooling thread in the Mothering forums had suggested blindfolded rough and smooth as a change of pace, so I pulled out the blindfold for the first time. This is when the giggles started.

So we did blindfolded rough and smooth (is this rough or smooth? is this more rough or less rough?), blindfolded jingle/no-jingle bells, and I did a Cylinder Block blindfolded (she didn't want to give it a shot). I thought it was pretty fun!

Next, I started the Pink Tower bunny ears extension, which Nugget helped with a bit. But she decided she wanted to do the caterpillar extension, so she moved onto that pretty quickly. These extensions are also no problem for her.

We went to put the Pink Tower away, but Nugget wanted to build it up high again. So we built it back on the shelf, with me lifting her up to put the blocks on top while she giggled away.

Next, she handed me the Brown Stair (in correct order) while I laid it out in a somewhat-caterpillar-like shape. And then she spent just a few minutes on containers before breaking off and wanted to be read to.

I hadn't really expected us to spend much time on Montessori work, so I didn't precisely note when we started. But I think it was about an hour. Nugget bounced around a lot, but I think that's because I'm not finding a sweet spot in difficulty level.

I'm kind of torn. I'd wanted to enforce moving through the materials slowly. But I'm concerned that I'm moving too slowly. There are some things she's clearly just not ready for -- Smelling Bottle matching, for instance. But other things I feel like I'm holding back on just to hold back -- like the rest of the Cylinder Blocks. I want these materials to last us; I have a probably unrealistic fear of running out of activities! I suppose the answer is that if we "run out of activities", then she's likely ready to move on to more complex things.

But now that I've written that out, I realize how ridiculous it is. The idea of Montessori is to let her move through these materials at her own pace. If she might be ready, I should expose her to them and let her needs drive what she chooses -- not my stinginess.

How do you ration the materials for your kid?

Edited to add:
I've thought about this for a bit, talked it out with my husband, and glanced over the 18 page list that I printed out of materials and extensions. My concerns really come down to running out of Sensorial materials -- she's not ready for math yet, science and geography aren't very material-intensive and have endless variety, and language... well, if she runs out of language, then she can read, and that's not exactly a bad thing! So this is just an unrealistic hang-up of mine that I need to get past.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Safari Toobs

So, I spent over an hour on Sunday night and 30 minutes tonight attempting to identify the 80+ Safari miniature animals that I got in the various Toobs. I was on my literal LAST animal -- a shark -- when my husband (who was helping over my shoulder as he ironed) flipped the shark over to get a better look.

"Hey, look, it's written on here!"

So I flip one, and squint, and angle it just right under the light... and sure enough, it's marked "China" and "SeaWorld" and ... "Leopard shark".

I rip into the bag of whales and dolphins I just painstakingly identified... and they're all marked. The penguins? Marked. Galapagos, monkeys -- all marked. Only the big cats aren't.

/me kicks myself

(Side note: I did pretty well!)

Week 4, day 2: Taking it easy

No new materials today.

We did get back into the Montessori room, but I took it easy on purpose. Nugget chose the animal beginning sounds first, but wasn't really into it. I tried a few tricks, but I really think I need to swap out this material.

She then took a break to jump in the piles of clean laundry my husband and I were folding. Hmm. Should have had her match socks and called it Practical Life. :)

Then she and I both went back to the material: a quick stop at sink and float, "helping" me build the Brown Stair with Pink Tower (she mostly does this independently, just needs me to start it), Smelling Bottles, and finally some cutting and tearing. We have the Fiskars beginning scissors, which I thought I'd heard good things about. But I tried them out myself, and they ARE tough to use. Any suggestions for good first scissors?

The materials I have out right now just aren't grabbing her this week. I'm going to make a couple swaps tonight, and hopefully get a good last few days in the room.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Week 4, day 1: Half-hearted

New material: three new animals in beginning/ending sound identification,

color shade matching,

pouring into a small-necked container,

cutting and gluing,

and sink and float returns, by popular demand!

So... today was half-hearted, all around. As I mentioned before, we only had one day off this "weekend". And I think that was a mistake. I think it does both of us -- but mostly me -- good to have a few days off to refresh and, in my case, to think of new material.

Nugget's first choice was the new color shade matching. This is my way of preparing her for Color Box #3. I've skipped Color Boxes #1 and #2 because she knows all those colors, but I'm not quite sure she's ready for lighter/darker. I figured the first step was to make sure she could identify the differences between the shades. I picked up paint chips in all the major colors, then glued a piece of each color to a clothespin. (Right now I just have the reds prepared, but I'll bring in other colors each week.) She clips the clothespin to the matching shade, which also helps with finger strength.

Nugget needed help with this, because her fingers aren't strong enough to do the clothespin one-handed. I ended up holding the paint chip while she clipped the clothespin on. She mixed up two shades on her first go-round, but noticed the mistake when we reviewed them at the end and corrected it.

Next, she moved to the collage station -- cutting and gluing. I put this out after she had such a blast with collage last week. Again, her hand/finger strength isn't great enough to use the scissors one-handed, so I held the paper strip while she cut. I think I need to look for a new set of beginning scissors to see if they're easier for her to use.

Once she cut for a bit and moved into gluing, I assumed she'd be busy for a while and ducked out to take a shower. That totally broke her concentration and she stopped her collage after 3 pieces. I tried to pull her into the beginning/ending sounds (where I'd added 3 new animals), but she didn't want to do that independently. I worked with her on it once when I got out of the shower, but we never got back into the groove.

I needed a few more minutes to myself to work up a grocery list, and she'd been begging for sink or float (any time she sees pouring, she asks if it's sink or float). So I pulled that out and she happily worked with that for a few minutes, but just one go-through.

We'll see if we go back in tomorrow. We probably should -- another single day off won't change anything. Should just get back into things. I think I'm just feeling particularly tired tonight. A good night's sleep (and hopefully a change of position from Sprout, because I'm currently getting some painful knee-into-stomach pops) may improve things.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Week 3 review, week 4 preview

Not much of a break this week! We got that bonus day in on Saturday and DH has yet another doctor's appointment tomorrow morning, so we may have time to pop in the room before the library's storytime. So only one day off.

Week 3 went pretty well, I think! Nugget absolutely loved the beginning and ending sounds, toothpicks, and Smelling Bottles. She's still excited and runs toward the room whenever I suggest doing some Montessori. And she still asks for the sink and float material back. :)

I'm simply happy that we're going into week 4. Things were so rough in the beginning, but we just needed to push through it and start to find our own rhythm. We're not totally there, of course! But I can see progress, and that makes it all worth it.

This week I'm going to keep a lot of the existing materials out because she's actively working on so many of them. I'm tempted to replace the animal beginning/ending sounds, but the fact that she works with them every time for so long makes me think she's still getting something out of them. Maybe I'll try to add in a few of the more obscure animals.

I do need to make some environmental changes. The lighting in there is just terrible -- and now the overhead in that section of the room is burned out. I need a new bulb in there, a brighter bulb in the floor lamp, and maybe even a couple more lamps. Ugh. It's just so dark back there. No natural light whatsoever. Well, we do what we can!

Awesome Safari haul!

I've been slowly collecting Safari miniatures, in the form of their 12-piece Toob collection. I got one with a 50% off coupon at Michaels (North American wildlife), then found some on sale at TJ Maxx (Galapagos, Big Cats, Monkeys and Apes).

When I was at SeaWorld today, I saw that they had a build-your-own Toob in the Wild Arctic store. For $10, you can fill either a traditional tube or a small plastic case with loose Safari animals -- sharks, whales, penguins, etc.

I wasn't sure if the price would work out, so I started to fill one of the cases to see how many I could get in there.

(There are 26 in the picture -- I let Nugget have the double polar bear and seal to play with.)

I ended up filling the case with 28 animals -- every unique one that I could find, and two doubles. Piece-for-piece, it's about the same price as buying them with a coupon (24 vs 28 pieces). But I got animals from a variety of toobs, and in great enough quantities that I won't need to buy the Whales and Dolphins, Sharks, and Penguins.

I'm quite happy with my little haul! Maybe I'll make up another beginning/ending sound exercise for Nugget for next week.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Week 3, day 4: Bonus day!

I didn't expect we'd have any time in the room day, but my husband once again offered to try sleeping in the guest/storage/baby room, so we had access to the Montessori area (and could be a bit louder around the house!).

Nugget's first stop was the Smelling Bottles. After she gave them all a first sniff, I pulled two out at a time. I let her sniff one, named it, then let her sniff the other and named it. Then I mixed the two up and picked one randomly for her to smell, then asked her what the smell was. She was surprisingly good at this! I didn't expect any of them to hit, but she got nearly all of them. I guess she really might be ready to start matching.

Next, she pulled out the animal beginning/ending sounds. She alternated ending and beginning, finally doing the ending sounds 5 times and the beginning sounds 4 times, for a total time investment of 30 minutes (!). She could have kept going, too, but I was totally bored. I'm slowly working on getting her to do this more independently, but she wants me there just as someone to either be the voice of the animal or the voice of the person helping the animal find its sound.

Nugget (as animal): I need help finding my sound!
Me: Okay. Your name is....
Nugget: Moose!
Me: And your beginning sound is...
Nugget: Mmm! (Puts animal on the "m")

When I finally backed completely out of it, she did, too.

She then went to the toothpicks, while I did the jingle/non-jingle bells. After one iteration of that, we swapped. Then she went to containers while I did Cylinder Blocks.

After quite a while, I moved on to building the Brown Stair. Nugget decided to help when I was about half done and, of course, put the smallest one next in line. But then she independently corrected when she went to place the next stair, and completed the rest of it by herself. Yea!

Then she matched the Pink Tower cubes to the Brown Stair (always a favorite). When we put the Pink Tower away, I decided to put it away built. She can't reach the top then (it's on a shelf), so I had to boost her up to put the last 4 or 5 on top. She found this terrifically amusing, and got a case of the giggles that made the delicate placement difficult. And then THAT led to hiccups, which made it even HARDER, and made her giggle more... all in all, very amusing all around.

And then to finish it up, I rolled up my rug... and she rolled up hers! As much as any kid does at their first attempt, I imagine. But at least she tried. That's new!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Week 3, day 3: Focus on language

No new material today.

Our typical morning work time was taken by a midwife visit. But we got a short work period in today, thanks to my husband offering to take his nap in the guest/storage/future baby room (can you tell we're a bit behind on baby preparations?).

Nugget's first stop was the Smelling Bottles. I enjoy the challenge of identifying each smell for her, so it's a bit of a game for me, too.

Nugget next chose the rhyming cards, which I'd reduced from 6 to 3 after she seemed a bit overwhelmed last time. She blew through those, so I pulled out the other 3, and then the final 3. She was totally on top of these today!

After that, she went to wet pouring. Finally! That kept her attention for quite a while -- back and forth, back and forth. She'd pour carefully and slowly a few times, then get incrementally faster and hold the pitchers further apart, until there was a spill. Then she'd clean it up, ask me why it spilled, then start all over again going slowly and carefully.... for a while. That was really interesting to observe. It was like she was testing the tolerances of the pitchers and her ability.

The next thing to catch her attention was the animal sound activity. She started with ending sounds, then flipped the scene to beginning sounds when she'd finished. Then back to ending, then beginning, and finally back to ending! I was laughing to myself at each flip by the end. She's definitely improving at ending sounds, although it's still a challenge for her to hear that last sound without a strong emphasis.

That ended our formal work time -- about 30 minutes. But once we started in on other play, she still wanted to do some I Spy (mostly beginning, with a few ending sounds). She also spent some time being various animals and trying to "find [her] sound" like we do with the animal activity. So I'd count a bit more informal work time today.

Overall, a nice, short work time to finish up the week. Still no real interest in Sensorial, other than the Smelling Bottles, even when I actively try to engage her. Kind of unexpected, looking at the typical sensitive period ages. Just another example that "typical" doesn't necessarily mean your kid, I guess. A typical classroom sample size of 30 is very different from a homeschool sample size of (in this case) one.

Oh, and I'd love to report on Nugget's growing food and drink independence thanks to the mini-fridge, but.... we had to return it. After a full day, it still hadn't cooled to a safe temperature. We've done some looking, and it seems that most inexpensive fridges aren't made to store perishables -- they just cool 20-25 degrees below room temperature to chill your soda. That's not really going to work if we want to keep cheese and meat in there. So... we're unsure about the next step. Have to give it some thought.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Medium-term plan

I spent a quiet morning today trying to work out the direction our Montessori work should take in the medium-term (next few months). Sprout is due at the end of March/early April and I'd like to be able to continue our Montessori time with a newborn, even if it's reduced. I don't think finding some time during the day to get into the work area will be the problem; I think I just won't have a lot of energy in the evenings to plan out the next day or next week and pull together activities.

I started out with a list that I found online of Montessori work. (I tried to dig into my history, but I can't find the source of this! If anyone knows where I found "Montessori record keeping.doc", please comment!) The list is a pretty complete overview of the Montessori work and various extensions. I made some changes for things that we didn't purchase (Geometric Cabinet, for instance), and added some things that I know we want to work with.

I then went back through the list, reviewed what we'd already done, and looked at what Nugget may be ready for soon.

Here's my plan:

Sensorial: more Pink Tower extensions, matching Smelling Bottles, Cylinder Block #3 (and working with all 3 together), matching color shades, Touch Tablets, Sound Cylinders

Language: more pre-reading, start Pink series

Geography: three elements, sandpaper globe, colored globe, continent puzzle, fabric map with animals

Science: make a boat sink with coins, using a magnifying glass, sorting magnetic/non-magnetic, living/non-living, plant/animal, animal and botany puzzles

Art: scissors, collage

Practical Life: spooning/pouring to a line, folding napkin, pin punching, sorting coins, yoga cards

It's a general plan, at least. It should be enough for me to be able to glance at it and choose something appropriate to put out.

Some of these will need some advance preparation. For instance, my sandpaper globe is nearly done, but the colored one isn't even started. I need to start putting some time in the evenings toward these activities.

I'm thinking of investing money instead of time into Language. I could make cards for the Pink series, but I could also go over to Montessori for Everyone and buy the whole set, ready to print. Normally, I'd choose time over money, but a newborn kind of changes that balance.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Week 3, day 2: Smelling bottles

New materials: smelling bottles, "bunny ears" Pink Tower extension, new rhyming cards, ending sounds animal matching.

Nugget has been asking for the smelling bottles for ages now; she LOVES to smell the spices in the cupboard. I finally got them out and set up this morning. I didn't want to jump right into smell matching, so I just put out one set of 6 with all different smells. I chose cinnamon, clove, ginger, cumin, vanilla, and almond.

When she realized what I was doing (filling the bottles with spices), she couldn't wait to get into the Montessori room. I gave her the box of bottles in the kitchen and she dashed back to the room with them.

We sat at the table and just smelled them for a while. We talked a little about what the spices were, but mostly just enjoyed them. Down the line, I plan to extend this into smell matching (as it's intended) and then into smell identification (matching a smell to a picture/name of the spice).

Next, Nugget noticed that I'd put out new rhyming cards (6 new ones, as opposed to 3 last time). She needed help with the logistics of this -- laying out the ones with the blue border, then choosing one card without the border to match. Then, I made the mistake (?) of showing her that I'd color-coded the back to allow her to self-check her work; she then wanted to just randomly choose a pair and compare the backs. I had to take over running the activity to keep her on-task with rhyming, and she did so-so. I guess I might want to set out a color-matching activity pretty soon (I've got one in the works).

She moved on to the animals again, and went immediately into play. I took this to mean that the beginning sounds were no longer a challenge/interesting. I'd expected this, and created another scene on the back for ending sounds. Sure enough, this got her interest back and was much more difficult. She's only starting to be able to hear the ending sounds, but it isn't completely beyond her. This is where I'll probably start to focus my efforts.

Next, she chose the toothpicks (twice) and the smelling bottles again. I tried to interest her in the new Pink Tower extension, but she didn't want to do it until she requested it as the running bunny ears. So we did that, her bringing the cubes across the room. We nearly had to stop; she threw the blocks to me a few times (just a few inches, but still). But we managed to finish the extension once.

I'd been offering the Cylinder Blocks multiple times a day, with no interest. I found this surprising, since I thought those would be a big hit. So I decided to try upping the difficulty by showing her how to do two at once. Sure enough, this grabbed her attention. She did the combined blocks 2 or 3 times.

She finished up with the toothpicks, the clear favorite this week. Total work time was about 50 minutes.

In a (very) small sample size, having one or two new (or slightly changed) activities a day seems to be drawing her in pretty effectively. I'm not sure I can keep it up, but I'm going to give it a shot for a while and see how things go.

Yesterday and today, Nugget has also started using glue and scissors. I introduced collages yesterday, tearing construction paper and gluing it down. This is the first time she's effectively used glue from a bottle. And today, she asked to use scissors, so I pulled out the safety scissors. Her form is pretty terrible, but she's cutting independently. I figure it'll straighten out as she gets more practice.

I'd love to set out a station for these skills to let her do them independently. That might be a nice Practical Life addition next week.

As for around-the-house Practical Life, we picked up a dorm-sized fridge on clearance at Target. Nugget is tiny for her age, and isn't strong enough to open our fridge. This small one should allow us to leave milk, water, fruit, veggies, cheese, and breakfast available for her to self-serve. This was an idea we'd batted around for a while, but with Sprout due soon, that ability seems even more useful.

Speaking of Sprout, with him due in 3-7 weeks, I've got to get serious about having a Montessori plan in place for the newborn stage. I'd prefer not to have to take time off, but I know that we probably will. I'd like to have a general plan laid out of new materials to introduce, and I'll need to take some of this pre-baby time to prepare language materials. Since we won't have Montessori time tomorrow (Daddy-Daughter Day!), I'll put some time into that tonight... while watching the Olympics. :) Hopefully I'll have enough details worked out to post more about that tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Week 3, day 1: First language materials

Wow, we actually had a good first day of the week in the Montessori room!

New materials:

putting toothpicks in holes,

wet pouring,

Pink Tower extension,

beginning sounds,

and rhyming cards.

In the Practical Life area, I removed all of the Valentine's themed materials. This meant swapping out containers and trays. I left the jingle bells, containers, and dressing materials. I added wet pouring (which she had no interest in, and didn't even ask for a demonstration) and putting toothpicks into the holes of a cheese shaker. Last week, when I had the pipe cleaners in this shaker for her to put beads on, she was only interested in inserting and removing the pipe cleaners on the few times that she engaged with the materials. I figured this might be more interesting.

In Sensorial, I added a Pink Tower extension, inspired by this post at "What DID we do all day?". I cut squares the size of the Pink Tower cubes out of pink construction paper, laid them out on posterboard in an interesting pattern, and glued them down. I covered it with contact paper for extra durability (although I didn't cover the entire back, and after one use it's got a dent/tear already). I thought Nugget might like this because she enjoys matching the Pink Tower cubes up to the side of a built Brown Stair.

And I put out our first Language material! Nugget's been interested in letters and sounds for quite a while now, and knows her letter shapes/names/basic sounds. She also can do beginning sounds in words, and has been playing around with rhymes for the last few weeks. So I didn't want to start in the beginning of the program, but I also didn't want to push too far and skip over something she hadn't quite mastered. So I decided to start with beginning sounds and rhyming.

I had some rhyming cards that I'd bought, but I really didn't like them. First off, with some of the pictures it was hard to tell exactly what word they were going for. Second, the cards had a number of different background colors. So you could just match yellow card to yellow card, without paying attention to the rhyme. So I decided to make some rhymes using pictures that I knew Nugget would understand quickly. The pairs that went out today were dog/frog, cat/bat, and cake/rake. I have 6 more pairs waiting in the closet.

For beginning sounds, I knew Nugget wouldn't be terribly interested in straight matching. I vaguely remembered a post on another Montessori mom blog about putting animal miniatures into "dens" based on the first letter in their name (if anyone knows where this post is, I'd love to link to it!). I knew I wanted to start buying some Safari toobs for use in continent boxes later one. So I decided to try to combine those, and bought the North American wildlife toob with a 50% off coupon at Michaels. (You should've seen me trying to sneak through the store without Nugget seeing the toob -- I knew she'd want it as a toy if she didn't see it in the Montessori context first.)

I made things a little more elaborate than they needed to be -- I ended up making a little scene with a river, mountains, forest, and grassland. I picked 9 or 10 of the animals that I was pretty sure she'd know and positioned them around vaguely where they'd live, then glued down their beginning letters.

When we went into the Montessori room, she took a quick look around and was immediately drawn to the animals (of course). We looked through the animals and reviewed their names (she needed help with otter and elk). Then I explained the idea behind the material, and she got to work.

As I expected, this wasn't difficult for her at all. She put all of the animals in their appropriate places, and then spent about 15-20 minutes moving them around, asking me about the animals, talking about what they eat and live, finding their letters again, etc. I know it's not traditionally Montessori, but it never really degenerated into full-on play (she was using them appropriately and learning things). I'm going to consider this to be in the same vein as the farm in a Montessori classroom. :)

The spell of the animals was broken when I had to leave the room to get a drink of water. She moved on to the rhyming cards (again, easy), then the toothpicks (which she did twice and even managed to remove the screw-on lid -- a first!).

She wandered a bit, and I offered to demonstrate the Pink Tower extension. After the demonstration, though, she wasn't interested in doing it. She moved on to the snap frame (too frustrating), then back to the animals.

I got the Pink Tower extension out to take a picture, and she decided she wanted to help me build it.

But that was the last of her interest in it.

She finished up with the containers and another visit to the animals.

By then, I was pooped! We'd been working for an hour and 15 minutes! So I laid down on the bed, and that seemed to signal to her that the work time was over.

All in all, I'm very pleased with how things went. She really enjoyed the Language material, and I think this will open up a bunch of new and interesting activities. I think the Pink Tower extensions will be engaging to her on another day. And I'm happy to be starting to take up shelf space with these new materials, squeezing out the tray-based Practical Life.

I have to admit, tray-based Practical Life is my least favorite. I can see how it's beneficial for her fine motor skills, but I'm not terribly interested in setting them up, and she doesn't seem to get a whole lot out of them. Maybe I just haven't hit the sweet spot in difficultly yet. In any case, I'll keep rotating them in and out. And I'm going to be working more on the around-the-house Practical Life materials. That seems really useful to me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

New week coming....

I spent about 2 hours tonight working on new materials on top of a very busy day, and now I'm too wiped to take and upload pictures. I'll have pictures and a summary of our first day back tomorrow.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Week 2 review, week 3 preview

We only had 3 real work days this week, which I'm not really happy about. But life intervenes, and with a little one due soon, that's only going to get worse. So I either need to be ok with it, or try harder to get us in the room even on days when we're not running on a usual schedule.

Those days we were in the room were meh. Nugget was more active and imaginative, which meant she didn't want to engage with the materials in a "normal" way. I'm happy with my use of the Running Tower, and I think that sort of extension of the materials is a good trick to have.

None of the Practical Life materials really seemed to engage her -- except the containers. I'm constantly keeping my eyes open for additions to her collection, but no luck so far. I wonder if a latches board would be as interesting. I need to un-Valentines the Practical Life stuff, and I'll probably take the opportunity to swap most everything. The dressing frames and containers will stay, but I think I'll turn the beads-and-pipecleaners into dropping toothpicks through the shaker holes, change spooning to wet pouring, and replace the stamps with.... something.

For Sensorial, I think I'll put the bells away and add the Smelling Bottles. She's been waiting for those, and I'm really curious to try them as well. Everything else will stay; I'm hoping to just let Sensorial grow as much as possible. Hmm. Maybe the bells should stay out, then.... I guess I kind of like the idea of bringing things like the bells and Smelling Bottles out intermittently to keep them special. But then she can't choose them freely when her sensitive period strikes. Thoughts?

I'm definitely going to try some Language materials. I've got 9 pairs of rhyming cards, and I'll start with a subset of those. I'll put up pictures of those and my word list a bit later.

Nugget's already really good at beginning sounds, but I might try a review of that before moving on to ending sounds. I'm not going to use miniatures, as is usual. I love the idea, but I KNOW that it would degenerate into play. So I'm going to stick to pictures. Although... I think I read on a blog somewhere about putting animals into "caves" based on the sounds in their names. I think Nugget would get a real kick out of that, so I'm going to keep that idea in my back pocket.

I think my biggest goal for this next week is just to get more time in the room. And that is all about my own motivation. I have to either push through the exhaustion or be more flexible about finding time in other parts of the day. It's not going to be any easier in a month or two. :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Yummy Practical Life

So maybe we didn't get into the Montessori room, but that doesn't mean things got completely neglected today...

We did the yummiest of the Practical Life -- baking (and cleaning)!

Today we made chocolate chip banana muffins. Nugget got to cut up the bananas with a plastic knife, add ingredients, mix, and taste!

Once the muffins went in the oven, I started cleaning the biggest bowl since it doesn't fit in the dishwasher. Nugget asked if she could help -- well, of course! So I filled up the sink with bubbles and gave a quick presentation on washing, rinsing, and setting out to dry. She then proceeded to wash the couple dishes I had set out and ask for more. She ended up washing all of them!

Now we're reading books, waiting for them to cool so that we can enjoy the muffins of our labor.

I have to say, I'm not the best at doing things like this around the house with Nugget. I shy away from the mess and extra work. Which isn't like me at all! -- I'm not a naturally neat person, and this is the last hang-up I would have expected that I'd have with kids.

So I'm making a concerted effort to get her more involved in cooking (and messy artwork). Every few weeks she gets to help her Daddy make grumblecakes (pancakes made with crushed graham crackers), and it's always a highlight of her day. So since I do nearly all of the rest of the cooking, it's up to me to involve her more in my day-to-day meal preparation.

We have a Learning Tower, which is a HUGE help. I'm thinking of outfitting her with her own set of smaller-sized utensils for her birthday (in early May) -- some from the kitchen aisle, some from For Small Hands (thanks to another mom on a Montessori homeschooling thread for the idea!). I'm thinking a few mixing bowls that aren't as deep as the ones I have (being short for her age, she can barely see into those), some smaller mixing spoons and whisks, and maybe some specialty tools (an egg slicer for cutting her strawberries, etc). We'll see what I can pull together.

Another lost day

My pregnant body completely gave out on me today. I barely slept on Wednesday night and didn't slow down nearly enough on Thursday, so I paid for it today. I got up with Nugget at 7am, but went right back to bed and didn't get up again until 11am. With my husband going to bed at noon for his pre-work nap, we won't have access to the room again until around 4pm. Maybe we'll get some work in after that.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Nothing today

Today was Daddy-Daughter Day, and they were off early in the morning for some fun. So no time for Montessori, but hopefully tomorrow morning.

While they were out, my husband did ask Nugget about her Montessori work and whether she was enjoying it. She said that she was having a lot of fun, and specifically mentioned building the Tower with me. She said that her favorite material was "all of them", but that's typical for her. :) She also mentioned -- again! -- the smelling bottles. That's been an obsession, even though she's never used them. I think those might have to come out soon.

I'm working on some rhyming cards for next week. I bought some used and have seen some online, but I really didn't like any of them. I could see Nugget getting confused about what some of the pictures were supposed to be portraying. So I've made a point on these to use photographs and make sure that they're words that I think she'll know right away. We'll see how it goes, I guess!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Week 2, day 3: the running materials

Nugget's still more active than usual, but less so than yesterday. I decided to give a shot at making the activities more physical, anyway.

While I showered, I tried to interest her in the Cylinder Blocks, to no avail.

When I got out, I asked if she wanted to do the Running Tower. Her eyes got wide. "What's the Running Tower?"

I set up a rug on the other side of the room and told Nugget that we were going to build the Pink Tower, but that she had to race to get each piece. Starting with the base -- ready, set, go!

I sat on the rug and cheered her on as she ran back and forth. This kid loves races (my husband runs marathons, and Nugget loved participating in a kids' race at his last one). So she got a total kick out of this.

And she did the Tower great, too! She got 2 blocks out of order, but swapped them with no problem.

Then we pushed it over and built the Tower on its side. She demonstrated the same problem with that as she has with the Brown Stair -- putting pieces on the opposite side of the largest block. So maybe working on the Tower horizontally would be a good step on the way to the Brown Stair.

Nugget wanted to build the Running Tower again, so we did that to move it back to the shelf. This time, she brought me the last 4 blocks in one delivery and had no interest in finishing the build.

Next, I suggested doing Running Bells. I put out 2 rugs, one on each side of the room and each with a container -- one marked for jingle bells, one for non-jingle bells. In the middle, I had the bucket of mixed bells.

Her job was to pick one, shake it, and run it to the correct rug/container. She did about 5, but was getting visibly tired. I can't blame her -- she'd done a lot of running for her! And then she needed a potty break, and that finished our work day.

All in all, about 20-30 minutes. I'd call it pretty successful -- we found a new, fun way to do the Pink Tower. I can be pretty sure that she's got the upright Tower concept down pat -- it just isn't very interesting to her right now. I might try the horizontal Tower a few times soon to help her with the concept of building in a line.

Tomorrow we may or may not have Montessori time, but we should have some Friday before our weekend break.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Week 2, day 2: purposefully short visit

Nugget woke up very go-go-go-active this morning, spending her time doing things like running around in circles, jumping on the bed, and throwing various balls and soft frisbees around the house. This is pretty unusual for her -- she's always been slow at and relatively uninterested in gross motor skills, and much more into sitting quietly to be read to or doing puzzles. That's why I chose Montessori for her.

But sometimes she gets into these phases where she goes (for her) crazy. Sometimes it's a day or two, sometimes it's a few weeks. But I know that getting her to sit still for things is practically impossible while it's going on.

So I purposefully didn't invite her into the Montessori area this morning; I figured I'd let her choose it herself if she wanted. A bit later in the morning, while I was showering, she and my husband wandered into the area and she decided to work for a little bit. She apparently chose the bells and did them perfectly a couple of times. Then the containers -- no surprise -- while telling some elaborate story about the little snapping container (which is book-shaped) being a book about Daddy's patients and how they did their Montessori work after Daddy checked them out.

Then I worked on the Pink Tower for a while to see if I could draw her into it, even choosing to allow (and then demonstrating) knocking it down to add a point of interest. She got involved a time or two for short periods, and demonstrated a strong grasp of noticing and correcting errors in the construction.

Things petered out after that, for a total of maybe 20 minutes. It was as much as I could have hoped for, with her as gross-motor as she was today. Hmm. Maybe if she's still in this state tomorrow, I can work in some of the across-the-room activities. I don't really have anything out for matching, but maybe fetching Pink Tower blocks from the other side of the room.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Week 2, day 1: another rough start

We were able to get started a day early this week because my husband got home later in the morning than he usually does. I like that it worked out like that, since we weren't able to do anything on Friday, which means we're 3 days out from our last school time.

I swapped out a lot of the practical life. In fact, all I left were the containers, stamping, and snap frame. I added (sorry for the dark pictures; I was taking these early in the morning as Nugget was just waking up):

Cylinder Block #2,

spooning individual counters into ice cube molds,

sorting jingle bells from non-jingle bells (half have the internal jinglers removed),

homemade rough and smooth boards,

threading heart-shaped beads onto pipe cleaners,

and a buttoning frame and buckle.

I thought things seemed pretty positive going into it. Nugget slept in a bit, she was in a good mood in the morning, and she eagerly trotted off to the Montessori area as soon as I suggested it.

Once inside, though, things deteriorated. She flitted from item to item, trying things once (or only half doing them) before moving on. That wasn't so bad, I'd half expected it. She had trouble with the buttons, and gave up nearly immediately. She placed the counters in the ice cube tray with both her fingers and the spoon. She gave a quick try at the beads and pipe cleaners, but didn't have immediate success and moved on quickly (she's threaded beads this size before). She did the bells once, and gave a quick visit to the rough/smooth boards.

But then she decided she wanted to do the Brown Stair.

Only she didn't really want to do it. She wanted me to do it. She picked the first 2 or 3 blocks correctly, but then jumped right to the smallest. And she wouldn't try others, or work to correct what she'd done. She just wanted me to put out the next one or ask me if it was right. Every time I suggested putting it away and doing something else, she freaked out that she wanted to do the Brown Stair.

I finally got fed up and took a shower (right next to our Montessori area). While I was in there, she worked a bit with the containers. That seemed to help her calm down a bit, enough to try Cylinder Block #2. But when she wasn't even very interested in that (did it once, then wanted to carry around the smallest cylinder), I got her out of the room.

So. I'm wondering if the deterioration is due to us being out of the Montessori area and mindset for 3 days (I know I've heard that even in Montessori schools, the first day or two after the weekend can be rough) or whether it's the sudden influx of new materials.

I'll see how things progress this week. Next week, I may try having no new materials on the first day after our break, but instead introducing one new material each day after that. My husband has suggested having a small Montessori annex somewhere else in the house that we could access even on days when he's sleeping, so that we could have one or two materials out for her to work with during the break. He thinks that might soften the re-entry into Montessori work in the beginning of the week.

Hmm. I'm also having vague thoughts that she might enjoy some more traditionally academic activities. She's already a master at beginning sounds/letters and has been getting a kick out of rhymes for the last few weeks. She really loves Language Arts sorts of things. It might be something interesting to try, something different from the Practical Life and Sensorial that don't seem to be grabbing her right now.

Lots of logistical questions yet. I'm a bit frustrated, but I think a lot of that is being tired (and feeling very pregnant -- 33 weeks!). I'm not really excited about going back to it tomorrow, but I know I've got to keep moving or we'll never get past these hiccups.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Week 1, day 5: Unexpected work time

Nugget asked me to go into the school area so that she could be my teacher. We only had about 20 minutes in there, but she chose the small containers (again telling stories about the mice that live in them), sink and float, and the snap frame (which she's mastered).

First week review, second week preview

I've been thinking back over our first week of this adventure. Even though the beginning was rough, I'm really glad to have week one behind us.

I've learned:
- that it's not going to be perfect from the beginning, so it's better for me to jump in and start SOMEWHERE.
- to relax and have fun with things!
- that a little assistance (especially for such a young kid) can kick-start interest in an ignored area.
- to let her have some flexibility with the materials, especially things like story-telling while working.

I've been reassured (after some fears those first few days) that this method is very compatible with how Nugget thinks and works. She flitted around a lot when she was grumpy and everything was new, but the last day or two she settled down and was working a lot more like I had expected, given her day-to-day personality.

I've been surprised at the difficulty she has with some of the materials (the Pink Tower, specifically). She's done nesting/stacking blocks before, so I'm not sure what's different about the Tower. Perhaps that they're closer in size, or all the same color? Or maybe she's just not interested at the moment and can't concentrate on it, or doesn't want to build it correctly?

Next week, I'm going to extend our Sensorial area a bit. I'll definitely put out Cylinder Block #2, probably the rough/smooth boards, and possibly one of the "games" (smelling bottles or sound/no sound bells). I'll also up the difficulty of some of the Practical Life -- I'm going to change out the spoon in our spooning activity (from a nice, deep measuring spoon to something a bit trickier), switch from the buttoning ribbon to a buttoning frame, and switch from dry to wet pouring. As a freshening activity in the middle of the week (something fun to do together, not necessarily Montessori), I'm thinking of working in some activities with animal tracks.

I think the next few weeks will be a time for me to figure out how many and the best way to introduce new activities -- all at once in the beginning of the week, or spread out each day. There are advantages and disadvantages of each, and I just need to see which works best for her.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Week 1, day 4: Sink or float

New material: sink or float

Yesterday, at the end of our work time, Nugget was asking about things sinking and floating. I think it was in the context of wondering if the Pink Tower would sink or float -- which I am NOT going to investigate! :)

But I offered to set up a sink/float material for her for this morning. I wandered around the house in the evening, gathering up small things that I wouldn't mind getting wet. I ended up with a screw, coin, Duplo block, string bracket, and a few more random things. No Pink Tower cube!

This material was her first stop this morning. I filled the small pitcher and allowed her to pour the water into the container, using the towel for a few rouge drops that ended up on the tray. I tried to get her to predict what each item would do, but she was much more interested in putting things into the water -- and who could blame her?!

After each item, she sorted it into a paper onto which I'd drawn something sinking and something floating (as best I could).

She really loved this, and repeated it at least 3 times in the morning (and again a time or two to demonstrate for Daddy in the afternoon).

That took up most of our short-ish work period (maybe 20-30 minutes). We worked together on the Cylinder Block a time or two, then I tried to entice her to the Pink Tower again. She really wanted to do the extension where we lay the Pink Tower next to the Brown Stair, which required we assemble the Brown Stair. I helped -- she gets especially lost if she gets one in the wrong order. But we did it together, and she set about to laying the Pink Tower next to it on her own.

We "check our work" by making a finger spider run up and down the stairs.

Lastly, she pretended to be the teacher and helped me assemble the Pink Tower (she picked the next block and I placed it).

It was a shortened work time -- we had someplace to be in the morning -- and most of the work choices were driven by me. But we still had fun, and I think sink/float was a real hit.

It might be a few days before we work again. The midwife is coming over tomorrow morning, and my husband sleeps in our Montessori room/master bedroom during the day over the weekend. We might grab a bit of time here and there if she wants, but my plan is to be back Tuesday with some new activities!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Week 1, day 3: She finally discovers the Cylinder Blocks

No new activities today.

Nugget followed me into our room again as I was heading for a shower and asked to do some Montessori work. We both were in a pretty good mood because she and my husband snuck out when she woke up and got Dunkin Donuts while I slept in. That's gotta start any day off well!

I suggested that we start with the Cylinder Block, which she readily agreed to. I've been surprised that she hasn't gone for this before -- she loved using one at the Montessori open house, and it's right up her alley. We sat down and worked on it together -- both of us taking pieces out, her putting them back. Unsurprisingly, she did quite well. I noticed her taking a few different approaches to putting it together. Sometimes she would pick up a piece and move it around until she found the spot. Sometimes she would pick a piece and algorithmically try each empty slot from one end to the other until it fit. And sometimes she would fill in from biggest to smallest or vice versa. It was like she was trying different approaches to find out what was the most efficient. :)

She worked on that for 10-15 minutes, starting to weave a story about the Block from about halfway through.

After that, we moved to the Brown Stair at her request. But she didn't really want to work on it. She chose the largest piece correctly, but then picked the smallest and was done.

I hopped in the shower then, leaving my husband to keep an eye on things. She made a brief pass at a number of items -- she buttoned a few pieces, used the tongs a bit, and poured a few times. I've got the basic pitcher-to-pitcher dry pouring out, but she mastered that a while ago. I need to move to something a bit tougher. Ooo, that'll free up those colorful heart-shaped beads I have in there now! Maybe that would make a good sorting or stringing activity...

When I got out of the shower, she was back into her basket of containers and telling a story about how a mouse lived in each one. That lasted for a while.

Next, she moved to the spooning and telling a story about baking a sugarplum. She spooned nearly all of the rice, then used her fingers as she got down to the end and couldn't scoop up the rice well. And at the very last, she dumped the remainder from one container to the other. I didn't have a problem with that. She then spooned the rice BACK to the original container, and then did it a third time about halfway. All the while, she talked about the sugarplum she was baking and the sprinkles she was adding.

Lastly, I tried to interest her in the stamping activity (because she had moved on to stamping on the pad I take notes on). We did this together for a little bit, but she wasn't terribly interested.

All in all, we "worked" for about 45-60 minutes and I feel like she spent a very nice amount of time on a few of the materials. Things were a lot more relaxed and like playing. But she used the materials appropriately, used either the table or mat (although I'm still rolling and unrolling it), and put things away when she was done.

This is a lot more the way I expected she would work from the beginning. It's a lot closer to her normal personality than the first few days were.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Week 1, day 2: The Brown Stair appears

New materials: 1 new container in the basket, Brown Stair,



snap dressing frame.

Nugget is obsessed with the Brown Stair. I had planned to bring it out toward the end of this week, and talked to her yesterday about working on the Pink Tower a bit more before the Brown Stair came out.

Last night, my husband built the Pink Tower. I decided to keep it up, thinking that seeing it built correctly would help Nugget work with it (I've been displaying it disassembled, as recommended in the Homfray videos).

When I was showering, Nugget walked into the Montessori area (which is near our shower) and saw the assembled Pink Tower. She thought that since Daddy had succeeded in building it, the Brown Stair could come out. And she started begging for it. And begging.

So I got it out when I was done showering. She and I assembled it together, me reminding her to "choose the biggest one that's left" but not offering a yes/no on her choices (though she kept asking for validation). And we (mostly she) built it!

Then we built the Pink Tower the same way, me offering "find the biggest left" and her choosing and correcting. Next, we lined the Pink Tower up next to the Brown Stair, which she really seemed to enjoy!

She didn't really have an interest in anything else -- some got a quick try, but nothing lasting. Oh, except for that new container! It's a small wooden box whose lid slides in and out on little tracks. She worked with that for quite a while and finally succeeded! And then she kept taking it apart and reassembling it (it took quite a bit of effort each time). And the whole time, she told a story about there being a bunny inside it who made noise.

I'm feeling a bit better today. We seemed to have a good time when I stopped over-thinking my attempts to be a real Montessori guide. And I don't think much was lost for that. I can always step back more as we get more comfortable with how this all works.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Week 1, day 1: The first day!

I made a last-minute decision to have our first day with the Montessori materials this morning. My husband had to stay at work late (he works weekend nights), so we had the house to ourself for the morning and nothing planned. I had nearly all of the materials ready, and I thought that just jumping in might keep me from another evening of over-thinking/over-planning.

Spoiler: it didn't go great. But as the day has gone on, it's become clear that Nugget is having a rough toddler day. She's been grumpy and short-tempered, and not even a surprise stop for hot chocolate improved anything -- so you know it's pretty bad. So maybe the bad first morning wasn't entirely my doing.

Here's our set-up (and my apologies for the poor pictures -- it's rainy and overcast here, and the lighting in that room isn't great on the brightest of days):

As you can see, we have mostly plastic shelves built just 2 high. This is a great height for my short kid. We have a small Ikea table and chairs. I put out a minimum of activities; I didn't want her to be too overwhelmed.

For Sensorial, I had the Pink Tower and Cylinder Block #1.

For Practical Life, I had:

a selection of small containers for her to open and close,

spooning pink rice,

using tongs on porcupine balls,

and buttoning felt squares.

While we were eating breakfast (chocolate chip muffins!) on the couch, I spoke to Nugget a bit about doing Montessori work. She's familiar with some of the materials from seeing them in catalogs and at a Montessori open house. She's done Practical Life activities before, so knows about trays and returning materials and the rug. I told her about having me show her a new activity first -- I get a turn, then she gets a turn, then she can do it any time she wants (taking turns is a newly developed skill for her, thanks to the toddler version of Candyland).

When we went into the room, she ping-ponged around a lot, as I expected. She made a half-hearted go at all of the activities, but was distracted, impatient, and rough with the materials.

Some things I need to think about:

- How useful is the rug? She's not coordinated enough to roll/unroll it herself and it takes up a lot of the floor space. I like the idea of containing the work in one area, but with just one person working there, it seems like just an extra complication.

- How complete should I be when demonstrating? Some Montessori authors emphasize that I should complete an entire work cycle with the material before allowing Nugget her turn. But the Homfray videos mention allowing the child to take over when they've grasped the purpose of the activity. When I was demonstrating spooning (Nugget's first choice of activity), I moved 2-3 spoonfuls while she stood next to me, asking for a turn. When I let her step in, she pouring the destination bowl's rice back into the source bowl, spooned 2-3 spoonfuls herself, then poured them back. Did she feel that since I only moved some of the rice, she was only to move part of it? Or was she just done with the activity?

- Where is the line between exploring a material that should be allowed, improper use that should be corrected through another presentation at another time, and improper use that needs to be stopped? For instance, she used the tongs to move the balls out of the bucket, but her fingers to move them back. I counted that as exploring that should be allowed. She didn't build the Pink Tower correctly, instead constructing the first half and then building 'ears' and a 'nose' with the smallest cubes. I counted that as something to correct with another presentation later. When she started pushing at the Pink Tower with her feet, I attempted to stop that immediately. Looking back, those seem like pretty appropriate responses. But there were other occasions that I wasn't so sure about.

- Should I really do these presentations with a minimum of words? I'm used to talking Nugget through things. She's a very verbal kid, herself. Theoretically, I understand the advantages of doing a silent presentation. But she seems to pay LESS attention when I'm silent than when I speak.

And then there's the hardest question. How do I balance being a mom (encouraging, goofy) with being a Montessori guide (stepping back, demonstrating a seriousness and respect for the materials)? I think I did it entirely wrong and ended up acting too distant and quiet and disengaged. Maybe what I need to do is just be me-as-a-mom in there for now, and slowly step back as she grows in ability and understanding of the environment and goals.

I've got two more Practical Life activities to put out for tomorrow morning. I'm debating putting out the Brown Stair -- I don't think she's ready for it (having not completed the Pink Tower yet), but it's an activity she's kind of latched onto. It might just be something fun. There's the Botany and Zoology puzzles I could put out that she's been looking forward to. And I do think I'll try to be a lot more relaxed -- a lot more "mom" than "guide". I can put all the effort in the world into trying to be an ideal Montessori guide, but if Nugget's not enjoying her time in there, it's not worth anything.
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