Saturday, March 27, 2010

Week 8, day 3: Just a few minutes

This doesn't really even count as a day, but Nugget grabbed some time in the room while I got ready for the morning and DH got ready for bed (he works night shifts). She chose to do the counting activity and then pulled out the Sandpaper Letters for the first time in a while! She told DH what their sounds were and traced them (I wasn't hovering, so I don't know if she traced them correctly). I didn't really think kids would choose the Sandpaper Letters just to trace them, but... there you go!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Week 8, day 2: Super-Mom

We got into the room today, but I can't say I'm on top of my game. I've been having mild to moderate contractions for a few days now because Sprout's head is tilted to one side. So I'm trying to pay attention to Nugget's Montessori, do the positioning exercises the midwives recommended, and encourage/work through the contractions.

Nugget's been interested in counting, so I added the 0-5 Sandpaper Numbers to her Small Number Rods. I'm not sure I love the idea behind the Number Rods, and Nugget didn't seem to be making the connection. I know she can count, I just don't think the idea of the Rods resonates with her. So I set out counters to associate with the numbers. This interested her a lot more, but she wasn't able to set the numbers out in the correct order when she worked with them on her own.

My solution was a sheet of paper with the 0-5 numbers written on it. As a control of error in this introductory phase, I put dots for her to place the counters onto.

She enjoyed this a lot and did it multiple times in a row.

The other stuff she did today is a bit fuzzy. They were brief stops; I think the puzzles, I Spy book, marbles, flower arranging, Sandpaper Globe, Sound Bottles, and Smelling Bottles. I could have stretched out her interactions with each of these except for the afore-mentioned distractions.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Week 8: Her choice

As I mentioned before, I haven't pushed or even suggested going into the Montessori room lately. Nugget has just been too scattered and I've been too wiped to spend my evenings making new materials (39 weeks, 3 days today!). She's been spending lots of time playing on our bed lately, usually being a worm or a snake or a bird or serving up picnics. Our Montessori materials are in our master bedroom, so she's been seeing the materials; she just hasn't chosen to use them.

This morning, I left Nugget playing on my husband and I's bed while I took a shower . When I came out, she had settled at the little table in the Montessori area and was doing puzzles. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to see if she wanted to do some work. So I removed the turtle pin punching and put out a Stegosaurus suction shape with marbles. I've wanted to have one of these out for Practical Life for ages, but I've had no luck finding the shapes at a store! I was finally able to pick up a set of 3 from the Montessori Swap Yahoo group. I just put out the marbles for Nugget to place with her fingers; I'll have to see if I can dig up an appropriately sized set of tongs or some such later today. As I expected, Nugget got a kick out of the silliness of "decorating" her Stegosaurus.

While she did the marbles, I unrolled a rug and worked on changing her food chain activity a bit. Setting out the entire chain in order to sort the herbivore/carnivore/omnivore cards was too much for her to manage on her own, so I put out three pieces of construction paper -- one with a leaf, one with a drumstick, and one with both. I showed her how to lay out the sorting areas and then place each card in its appropriate spot. She did perfectly on this, and still really enjoys seeing what each animal eats.

I thought, since there were no more new materials, that Nugget might disengage at this point. But she pulled out the texture balloons and we played with those for a while. Then she wanted to do the Mystery Bag, which she's gotten so much better at! She uses it appropriately and always finds the right object.

I decided to put out one more new activity -- the Small Number Rods. I just put out 1-5, and showed Nugget how to arrange them from smallest at the top to biggest at the bottom. In a few days I'll pull out the Sandpaper Letters and start associating the rods with the numbers. She's into a counting phase these days, so I think this might be a good time to introduce this.

After the Number Rods, she did the marbles again and some more puzzles. Then she went to the animal beginning sounds activity and ran through that with no problem at all (expect needing to be reminded of the names of a couple of the more unfamiliar animals).

She now wanted to pretend to be a duck in a pond (our blue striped rug often is her pond; the brown striped one is a mud puddle). I suggested we pull out the Knobbed Cylinders and do all 4 so that when they were done, she could jump into the middle and pretend it was her pond. I was shocked that she thought that was a great idea! She brought out the Cylinder Blocks (counting each one as she did so) and we disassembled and reassembled them (I made a show of helping, but she really did nearly all of it herself). Then she jumped into the middle, jumped out, and removed all the cylinders AGAIN! My husband was really getting a kick out of listening to this because she pretends each cylinder is a baby looking for its home or its mommy. I think he said Maria Montessori would be spinning in her grave. :) But I'm happy, because Nugget was doing the activity on her own and enjoying it!

The last item she chose was tonging Easter eggs, and she did that quite a few times. We finally finished up about 90 minutes after we started! We had a great time in the room, and I'm feeling so much more positive about the whole thing. I'm so glad that she chose to start working on her own. I might even have a bit more motivation to get a few more materials made before Sprout comes.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Week 7 review

No, I haven't had the baby or dropped off the face of the earth. But I am 39 weeks today and have totally lost steam. My idea of a good morning with Nugget is being able to lay on her toddler bed with my eyes closed while she pretends to be a fish next to me.

So between the end-of-pregnancy blahs and Nugget being in a very imaginative, scattered phase, getting into the Montessori room requires more effort and energy than I have available.

I think, from now until things are settled after Sprout's arrival, I'm just going to let any time in the room happen on its own. Since I'll be spending some time in bed after he comes and the Montessori stuff is in that room, she may get into it more for a while.

On another note, have you seen Postcrossing? I think this is a great way to get some additions for our future continent boxes! So far I've just sent off my initial 5 postcards -- to England, France, Brazil, Russia, and China. I put in my profile that we were a homeschooling family looking for insight into daily life, and asked for day-in-the-life info or a favorite recipe. I'm excited to see what we get -- and from where!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Week 7, day 2: New animal cards

Well, Nugget and I worked with the new animal food cards today, but nothing else. I'd make these a few nights ago to compliment the food chain activity but hadn't pulled them out until now.

There are 4 cards for each herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore. The top picture is the animal; the bottom pictures are the sorts of foods the animal eats (I owe a great debt to Wikipedia).

We laid out the food chain, then worked to identify where each animal fit. Nugget is still working on terminology, but she really enjoys learning what the animals eat!

Spring break

We've ended up pretty much taking the week off -- not by any overarching plan, but just on the basis of how each day has gone. I'm thinking we might get into the room later this afternoon, but I'm going to play it by ear.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I got nothin'

Today is a complete miss. My husband has come down with food poisoning or something like it, so he's been a mess all day. I'm having all kinds of (relatively) painless but annoying contractions that mean I'm moving slowly and awkwardly and not sleeping well. Nugget is fine, but spent the day in total imagination-land, jumping from one subject to another every 30 seconds.

It wasn't a good day to try to get into the room, so we didn't.

And it's a bit of a shame, because I worked for over 2 hours last night putting together some food chain cards -- a picture of an animal, and then 3-4 pictures of the type of foods it eats. I made 4 each of herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores, and was planning an activity for Nugget to determine which was which.

I have no idea what tomorrow holds.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I spend way more time making materials than she spends using them.

As long as she gets something out of them, it's not a bad trade-off. Just... strange.

Week 7, day 1: Food chain

Back into the swing of things... for a while, at least. :)

Nugget worked exclusively with the new materials today, so I'll just show pictures of those.

In Practical Life, as always she got new flowers and new yoga cards. I also went back to basics with a tonging activity. Nugget chose to both use her hands

and the tongs.

I also put out pin-punching with some pieces of foam as the backing, some construction paper with a picture of a turtle, and a push pin. The goal is to poke enough holes along the lines to punch out the shape. My understanding is that this is done a lot with maps in Montessori schools.

Nugget isn't quite old enough to grasp the idea that a lot of little holes will add up to punching the entire thing out. She just wanted the turtle out NOW. I got her to do some punching (some on the line, some not), and I did some while she was working on another activity. My hope is that each of us will work on this a bit throughout the week, and at the end, we'll have gotten far enough that the turtle will be punched out for her.

After a while, though, she just wanted to push the pin into the backing. That was just fine with me.

I put out two (semi-)new Sensorial works. I added two new texture balloons -- popcorn kernels (which are very similar in feel to the barley, so it's a bit tricky) and pompoms. I also put out a Stereognostic Bag filled with household items, because I figured the wooden shapes I have would be too similar to work well as an introduction to the idea. I managed to find a number of distinct, paired items, and put one of each in the bag and one in the bowl.

I picked one at a time from the bowl and asked her to find its match in the bag. It took her about half the items to get the hang of this -- first she wanted to pull all of them out, then she wanted to look in the bag to find them. But by the time we were half through (and it probably helps that the number of items was greatly reduced by this time), she understood the concept. The second time she did it, though, she pulled the items from the bag, THEN found the matching one in the bowl. *lol* Oh, well.

The last new item was in Science, the food chain I'd mentioned. The tray contains a sun, some arrows, and piles of cards (plants, herbivores, carnivores, omnivores).

When Nugget chose this, I pulled out a rug and we talked as I laid out the chain.

I had planned to leave the omnivores for another time, but I knew she'd be curious about what people are. And although her Dad is an herbivore, she and I are definite omnivores. So, at the last minute, I pulled out the omnivore cards and included them.

She was very interested in this as we talked about it, and loved pretending to be various animals and eating different things. We've talked about it a few more times throughout the day, and she's got an amazingly good grasp on the idea (for example, she knew that a jellyfish was a carnivore). The terminology sometimes slips away (or she "forgets" it), but the concept seems solid in her head.

I'm thinking about doing an activity where I have a picture of an animal as well as pictures of what it eats, and having her sort based on that. Maybe after that we can add in some more complexity -- scavengers, decomposers, etc. I also think she'd get a kick out of learning about the various biomes and what lives in them.

Ah, my animal-obsessed daughter. She could spend all day pretending to be animals, learning about animals, watching animals... I bet if I put pictures of animals on the Pink Tower, I could even get her to do that activity! *lol*

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Week 6 review, week 7 preview

Remember how I said I was going to be more prepared for the next week and not leave all my preparations for the last evening?

Yeah.... that didn't happen.

I think I've been expecting that Sprout will arrive before we get back into the room, so my exhaustion and evening contractions took priority in my brain over new activities.

Well, he's got one more night, but it looks likely that we'll be headed into the room tomorrow. So I spent this evening pulling some new stuff together.

I'm still planning on trying my best to ignore the Sensorial material unless she heads there herself. I added two new textures to the texture balloons, which I bet she'll notice. And I know she'll notice the mystery bag, filled with fairly distinct items.

I haven't done much in the Language area, just moved all the Sandpaper Letters out.

Practical Life is getting new flowers for arranging, new yoga cards, a pin-punching activity (she LOVES making holes in cardboard with a pen, so I think this will be up her alley), and Easter egg tonging.

I'm still waiting on the Small Number Rods from Montessori Outlet (supposed to ship Wednesday, then supposed to ship Friday, now... who knows?) to start Math.

Science-wise, I'd thought to continue with animal classification. But I don't think that will mean too much to her yet. However, she does constantly ask what animals like to eat. So I'm going to try a food chain activity.

I'll try to get pictures tomorrow, when there's some more light in the room. But I'm feeling pretty positive about most areas (wish I had more Language out, but I also want to get to bed at some point :) ).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Week 6, day 3: Desert animal activity

Nugget has been begging and begging and begging for another animal activity, so I whipped one together last night even though I was exhausted. I had hit Joann's yesterday with a big pile of coupons and totally stocked up on Safari Toobs, so I pulled out the Desert set since that was the easiest environment I could figure to create (just brown paint and a few brown construction paper rocks). I also bought a small wooden box to store the animals in as an extra point of interest (she loves finding things hidden in little containers).

I didn't have time to make the beginning sound letters, so when Nugget found the activity, that was our first order of business. We pulled out each animal, identified it, and determined what letter it started with (I had removed an animal or two whose sound was difficult to figure out). I then made small stickers of each of those letters and let Nugget choose where to put the sticker (i.e., where the animal would live).

We set all that up (no problems for her identifying sounds and letters) and then spent some time talking about the different animals. Her favorite question is what they eat. Thank goodness for Wikipedia!

When we were done, we scrubbed the sea shell a bit again (vague interest on her part), then she pulled out the animals again while I chose to do the shape puzzles. Nugget helped me with that and did one on her own. I really don't like this set -- the cards and the shapes are both slippery, so any little bump on her part disturbs everything she's already set out. I wonder if I should glue some nonskid mat pieces to one side of each piece.

Nugget moved over to the bed to pretend to be a scorpion while I pulled out some I Spy Phonics books. I haven't had a chance to look at these closely, but we made up our own I Spy for each page. Nugget doesn't quite get the idea -- she'll take a turn saying, "I spy something that starts with the letter.... duh." But then when I can't find anything and ask her what it is, she'll come up with something that starts with D but isn't in the picture at all. And then she tries to fudge it. For instance, she said she spied a ... um .... doll. I asked her where the doll was, and she looked around for a while... then claimed the toy horse was a horse doll. *lol* We did this for a little while, but she wasn't so interested.

She took a quick break while I played with the Red Rods. I'd put those out the other day, but hadn't had a chance to look at them closely. Nugget was intrigued by this, and helped me align the bottoms of all the rods. Then we stood the tallest up to see if it or she was taller (it was!), and, after a demonstration, she moved the smallest up and down the line to see that the difference between the rods was constant.

She turned to a puzzle while I built towers with the Knobless Cylinders. Her contribution to this was to knock them down and then help me return them to their boxes. :)

Finally, Nugget wanted to work with the texture balloons again. And she actually chose to use the blindfold! We matched and did same/different.

All together, about an hour in the room today. I hadn't really been looking forward to it -- it seemed like all she wanted was new materials, and I was still a bit frustrated by the Sensorial issue (although I was trying not to be). But today went pretty well, and I think I'm making progress on letting go of my expectations re: her reduced interest in Sensorial and Practical Life and increased interest in Language and Science. I'm really anxious for my backordered Small Number Rods to arrive (they were supposed to ship on Wednesday, but I haven't heard anything from Montessori Outlet -- so annoying!) to see if she's ready for moving into Mathematics. She's been doing more unprompted counting these days, so I'm just waiting waiting waiting for the material to arrive to see what she thinks of it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Week 6, day 2: A wash

Well, this week isn't our best. We had school time on Monday, but Tuesday we had a bunch of appointments and Wednesday we took advantage of a nice day squeezed in between cold days and rainy days to make a trip to the Magic Kingdom. We got into the room for a bit this morning, but Nugget's sniffles were on their way to turning into a full-blown fever and she only spent about 15 minutes working.

She's made a half-hearted attempt or two at scrubbing the sea shell (I rubbed it with dirt the other night to make her efforts at cleaning it more purposeful), but she's really not interested.

The texture balloons are still a hit. Last night, I added plastic baggies filled with the same materials as is in the balloons. That way, she could match what she could see to what she could feel.

She also chose to do the new letters. I had out all of the vowels and their noun cards, and she did as well as I expected -- got most of them, but had more trouble than with the consonants.

Her final choice was living/non-living cards. We defined living as "grows, eats food, has babies". She added "goes away" to that, which I think is the result of a conversation we had a few months ago about plants dying once they're picked. There were a couple that we had to talk about, but she seems to have the concept down pretty well.

I've been taking notes on supplies I need and ideas for the next step in different areas, so I'm feeling better about being more prepared for next week. I'm just going to let this week be a wash -- try to get some more time in, but not worry too much about it -- and move forward more in language, science, and maybe even math in the next week or two.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Week 6, day 1: Textures

New material: texture balloons, flower arranging, scrubbing, Knobless Cylinder extensions, new Sandpaper Letters (the last of the consonants!).

I spent way too long getting ready for this week last night. I hadn't done any preparation the other evenings during our break, and I had to rush to put things together. I don't want to end up in that position again -- I was totally wiped and burned out, and I don't think I did a great job of choosing materials. I really need to keep a list through the week of what I might want to put out the next, and spread the preparation out over a few evenings.

In any case, things got done. For Practical Life, I swapped the yoga cards, removed the funnel pouring, and added flower arranging and scrubbing.

Flower arranging is one of the activities from way back in the day, before I had official Montessori materials or work time. She's always loved it. I took advantage of a sale at Joanns to pick up some new flower bunches and set those out today. It's simple but enjoyable for her -- she puts a stem in each small vase and then scatters the vases around the Montessori area.

Now that she's done funnel work with the sugar, I'm looking forward to extending her skill to using liquid and adding in pouring to a line. Then she'll be able to fill the small vases with water, and we can use real flowers! Of course, then I have to worry about the cats eating them....

I also put out our first scrubbing activity. It's simple -- toothbrush, soapy water, big seashell, and cloth.

I'd expected this to be a bigger hit, but Nugget tried it once, briefly, and was done. Maybe if I got the shell visibly dirty, so that there was some point to cleaning it?

I also added some Knobless Cylinder extensions available from A Bit of This and A Bit of That. Unfortunately, her cylinders must be a slightly different size than mine, because although the smaller cylinders fit just right, the bigger circles are different enough to be noticeable. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about that. I really like her patterns, and I don't really have the time/energy to go making my own.

Of course, this is kind of a moot point -- I tried to interest Nugget in these (both by offering them and by working on them myself), and although she half-heartedly added a few, she really didn't want to do it.

I really just need to give up on these spatial Sensorial activities. I tried three times to interest her in other ways. First, a Pink Tower extension where I built the tower, had her close her eyes, and removed one of the cubes. The idea was that she would show me where it was missing from. Did it once, wanted nothing else to do with it. I tried showing her that the small block was the difference between the sizes of other blocks. She moved the block up and down the tower but showed no real interest. And then I tried building a Pink Tower + Brown Stair extension, which she first tried to get me to stop doing, then half heartedly added the top one or two.

It's just not her thing. I think that finally got through to me today. The problem is, I hate having these core Montessori activities staring at me day after day. I feel like I have to try to get her involved in them. But that's my vow for today -- I will drop my pushing of the Sensorial materials. I will pretend that they aren't even there.

Well... except that I'll set out the Red Rods soon. We're short on space, so I've been waiting for the back-ordered stand from Montessori Outlet. I called them (again!) today, to hear that Color Tablet box 4 and the Small Numerical Rods should ship this week, but the stand isn't expected until late April. Guess it's time to start asking other Montessori suppliers if they think their stand will work for these rods. In the meantime, maybe I can find the space for them somewhere.

The Sensorial activity she really enjoyed was the texture balloons.

I filled 4 pairs of red and blue balloons with flour, oatmeal, dry barley, and beads. Nugget chose to do this activity multiple times today, and we did it a bunch of different ways. We matched, held two and said if they were the same or different, ranked them by "bumpiness", and identified their contents by feel. Sometimes I was the "teacher", sometimes she was the "teacher", so we both did all these activities multiple times. She got quite a kick of of this!

Nugget also chose to do yoga, Sandpaper Letters, and some puzzles.

We spent about an hour in the room, and it was getting close to time to go to storytime at the library. She was starting to get antsy, but we could have extended our time a bit. But when I was taking down the Pink Tower + Brown Stair build, one of the larger Pink Tower cubes fell out of my hand and smacked her in the back. Those things are HEAVY! The poor girl was rightfully upset, and that ended our Montessori day then and there.

We probably won't have any time in the room tomorrow. Later in the week I want to put out some vowel Sandpaper Letters and noun cards. She's also asking for another animal activity, so I want to come up with something for that. I have the Desert Toob that I could do in the same vein as the Arctic and North American, but I'm not really feeling it. I'd like to think up something new.

Since she loves Loves LOVES animals so much, I think I really should move into living/non-living and then further into animal studies. I think she'd get a real kick out of trying to identify the various types of frogs and turtles in the Toob or sorting animals by where they live. I think that's much more up her alley than playing with blocks -- no matter how traditionally Montessori they might be.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Week 5 review, week 6 preview

I think last week went well for getting back on track for more stability! I'm going to keep that up this week. I've got some new items to put out for tomorrow, but then things will stay stable (except for the language materials).

Most of what I'm adding is Sensorial -- some Knobless Cylinder extensions, texture balloon matching, and a mystery bag. I also did a swap of the main Practical Life activity -- funnel pouring to scrubbing a seashell -- and new yoga cards.

In Language, we've got one more day's worth of consonant Sandpaper Letters and noun cards. After that, I think I'll put out the vowels and associated cards. At that point, I can be sure that she can recognize all the letters and their sounds and that she can hear those sounds at the beginning of words.

So I guess, after that, I'll need to work on some activities for ending and middle sounds. There's I Spy, of course (a constant through our day), but I'd like to have some activities for her to work through.

I think Nugget will be kind of disappointed that I don't have another animal sound activity out, but I'm really burned out tonight. I've been working on the room for 90 minutes, and I'm not sure where the time went! I don't feel like I've made that many changes!

Part of it is that I just tonight decided that we'd try to grab some time in the room tomorrow. We won't be around Tuesday morning (various appointments), so I need to get in there when I can this week.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Week 5, day 5: A few minutes here, a few minutes there

Again, I didn't plan to get into the room today. But I was cleaning the kitchen and Nugget was playing with some stuffed animals, and suddenly I realized that I hadn't heard her in a while. I checked her room and the playroom, but finally found her in the Montessori room!

She'd pulled out the new Sandpaper Letters I set out and the noun cards, and was busily matching by beginning sound. How fabulous!

She did those just fine and then did a few puzzles. We didn't have time to go any further because my husband got home from work and needed to head to bed.

I had been a bit torn about her recent jaunts into the room to do the puzzles. We purposefully separated the Montessori area from the rest of the house to keep it special. That she was going in there more frequently but for shorter bursts only for the puzzles -- even though I love what the recentering does for her -- causes me some concern that I won't be able to get the longer work cycles out of her when we do "school time".

But seeing her chose another activity besides the puzzles (the letters, in this case) gives me hope that she's choosing to use the room when she's in a receptive state for a particular skill.

If things worked out that we spent 1-2 hours a day, 2-4 times a week in the Montessori room together and that she felt free to choose to work in there independently for short bursts, I think that would be just perfect.

There've been some interesting posts up on other Montessori blogs recently about length and frequency of work time (for instance, this one from Walk Beside Me and this one from What DID We Do All Day), so this is a topic that's been on my mind. I'm trying to figure out how to balance the benefits that I believe come from a consistent and extended work period (one of the reasons I chose Montessori) with the flexibility that our family wants in our day to day life (one of the reasons we chose homeschooling). Add into that that we're just beginning all this, so I lean toward being less flexible in order to establish a good pattern and work habits... and, on the flip side, that we've got a newborn due any day now which will, of necessity, disrupt things for a while.

All that to say... I have no idea what I'm doing. *lol*

Friday, March 5, 2010

Week 5, day 4: Recentering

Although I hadn't scheduled any official Montessori time for a few days, Nugget has gone into the room on her own a few times recently. It seems the animal and botany puzzles have become her recentering activity of the moment.

This changes frequently -- for a while it was jigsaw puzzles or stamps or books. Right now it's telling stories to herself while doing the same puzzles over and over again. It's interesting to watch. She goes into the activity scattered and easily aggravated. Then she becomes totally involved in what she's going and starts to talk to herself. Occasionally, she'll pop out with a question for one of us. If you listen to what she's muttering and asking, you'll sometimes notice that she's kind of reviewing the day. Questions about things from earlier will come out of nowhere.

She worked on this for nearly an hour, distracted only when her Dad woke up from his nap.

After a break for some play time, I made up a game using some beanbags she was throwing around. I wrote all the letters on a huge sheet of packing paper, then handed her a bag and gave it a name ("This is a mommy bag. This is a bunny bag.") Her job was to take the beanbag to the letter sound that the word started with. We did this for quite a while, and I was able to nail down the few letters she needs help with (hearing a/e, i/e, and r/w, recognizing b/d/p). This'll be a great help for the next few weeks; I can feel like we're making progress in the language area instead of just review.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Week 5, day 3: Stability

I didn't change a thing last night. When I woke up, I realized that I hadn't swapped the Sandpaper Letters, and started to do that... but then I remembered that she hadn't chosen the Letters yesterday, so I didn't need to change them.

Nugget ran for the room early this morning -- she and her Daddy made chocolate chip pancakes and as soon as she'd had her fill of those, she dashed into our bedroom asking to do Montessori.

Of course, she chose the animals first. I got smart this time and used my sticker maker to make the letter labels repositionable (I'd glued them down last time), so I moved those around on her before she started. She, of course, did just fine. Again, igloo is a bit of a sticking point, but if she thinks about it for a second, she gets it.

Next, the Sandpaper Letters. We did g, j, n, and v. And because the noun pictures are in a small, wooden treasure chest, she told a story about a pirate while she was doing it. Again, no problem with any of those letters or sounds.

I suggested she do all 4 Cylinder Blocks so that she could crawl into the middle of them when she'd finished. She chose our blue striped rug so that it would be a pond (when she choses the brown striped rug, it's a muddy pit). I pulled the cylinders out, she put them all back. This time, the story started out being about heffalumps and woozles looking for their houses, but turned into mommy and daddy and baby cylinders finding where they lived. She did all four without any help from me.

She took a small break to hop on the bed, while I pulled out double sets of the Knobless Cylinders to make into various patterns. She helped a bit, but doesn't really have any interest in this. She's never been the sort of kid to be interested in blocks, and that seems to extend to the Sensorial block-like items.

Nugget tried the color shade matching, choosing to do the purple. (Note: although the display looks great on the shelf, the picture frames holding the clothespins all fall over when she carries it.) She mixed up a few, and wasn't really interested.

She chose to pour with the funnel next. She does it perfectly nearly every time -- except once, when she makes a terrific mess. Well, it means she gets to push the sugar around with her little broom and dustpan. She still can't sweep it into a pile, but she enjoys trying.

Her Daddy did some yoga with her next, and then it was back to the animals. Then we did puzzles -- she would pick one for her and one for me. These are significantly easier for her than they were yesterday. She did nearly all of them, then gave a cursory effort at the dressing items.

And, by then, it had been an hour and 15 minutes and she was done. So we snuggled and huggled for a while to give her a chance to recharge. There's been a few days when she's seemed pretty drained at the end of our Montessori time, and she's spent the rest of the morning easily frustrated and irritable. I'm not sure how much of that is just having a bad day and how much is the mental drain, but I'm going to put an effort into a wind-down time at the end of our work. It's a small sample size, but she's doing much better today -- even after our work time, she's choosing to play independently and working things out on her own (except I just jinxed it, and now she's having a small breakdown).

All in all, a good day. If we finish the week on this note, I'd be happy. We probably won't get any time in tomorrow because of Daddy-Daughter Day, and Friday is a midwife visit during our usual Montessori time. We might get some afternoon work time, or we might not.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Week 5, day 2: Arctic animals

New material: new Sandpaper Letters and noun cards, arctic beginning sound matching

Today went pretty much as I expected. Nugget was drawn immediately to the new arctic animals, and she did them just fine. There was a slight confusion with igloo (e or i), but we got that straightened out and all the rest went without problem.

Since this was the first time these animals were out, we spent a while talking about each, looking at photographs, and watching videos (like building an igloo and dog sledding).

After she disengaged with that activity, she wandered for a bit, asking what was new and looking at the Sandpaper Letters, yoga cards, and color shades. She settled on the Knobless Cylinders, doing the remaining 3 boxes. We built towers of the green and red, then worked to arrange the blue in height order (identical diameters, differing heights). That wasn't easy for her, plus she was starting to disengage.

She went back to the animals, but was starting to break down. I sat down at a distance and tried to stay uninvolved, but she started to remove the animals from the activity and I had to step in and get her to put it away.

She took about a 10 minute break to wear her cardboard wings and pretend to be a bee in a honey tree (that's the theme for today, apparently) while I stepped back. After that, she funnel poured for about 5 minutes, then spent some time digging in the orange sugar. Then my husband came home from his run and I had to get her hands cleaned up. Nugget tried to show her daddy the animal activity, but she just wanted to play with them. Her concentration was shot; that was the end of our work time.

As I'd expected, she only really wanted to work with new materials. Like I said, I think it's going to take a while for her to readjust to the idea that things are more stable.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Week 5, day 1: Putting it all on the table (or shelves, as the case may be)

I feel like a lot has changed since the last pictures of our Montessori environment, so I took some overview shots today.

This is our little corner of the master bedroom. (Yes, I know the last picture like this had the cat in it, too. He's the into-everything type.)

The Practical Life shelf is to the left on the picture. It has a funnel-pouring activity and yoga cards on the top shelf, dressing items and containers on the bottom shelf.

The funnel pouring has some orange sugar. I wanted to use dry barley, which would be a lot easier to clean up. But my funnel kept clogging on it (a great reminder to always test activities before setting them out). The orange sugar looks neat and pours well, but is definitely harder to clean up.

The yoga cards are from Montessori by Hand, as mentioned previously. I only have the 6 easiest of the 25 total cards out right now.

This is the Sensorial area, against the back in the overview picture. I have a small Ikea shelf to hold all the Cylinder Blocks and the Pink Tower extension sheets next to it. The first plastic shelf holds the Pink Tower, Knobless Cylinders, and Brown Stair. The top of the second plastic shelf has color matching; the bottom has rough and smooth, a blindfold, Smelling Bottles, and Sound Cylinders.

This is a close-up of the color shade matching. I'm happier with how it's presented now, although it's still not perfect.

Here's 3 of my homemade rough and smooth boards. This is the smooth, roughest, and middle grade. I have two other in-between grades tucked away.

This is the Language shelf. It's pretty empty today because I wanted to review some letters before putting out the next animal activity; that will go on the bottom. The top has 4 Sandpaper Letters and a treasure chest filled with coordinating noun cards. You can kinda-sorta see our rugs, rolled up in the corner space between the Sensorial and Language shelves.

These are the Math and Science shelves. Right now, the top has a shape puzzle and the bottom has our animal and botany puzzles.

I bought the shape puzzle set on sale at some discount store recently.

And finally, just a shot of our little table that Nugget does most of her work at. You can see my notebook on it; I take notes during each session about what she chooses and anything that strikes me (if something seems too easy or too hard, if the environment isn't working for her).

So, how did Nugget do with all this new stuff to go through? Much better than I expected, actually! I thought we'd have one of those days when she bounces from one thing to the next without spending any time on them. She checked out everything new, of course, but actually worked through everything.

I think the colorful box lids of the Knobless Cylinders grabbed her attention. That was what she pulled out first; the yellow box. I showed her how to line them up biggest to smallest and how to build a tower. Like the other size-based Sensorial items (Pink Tower, Brown Stair), she did them well but without much interest.

She did the funnel pouring once. That vase is way too tall, but I don't really have another option.

Then she spent 20 minutes working through each puzzle in order. She sat at her table, I sat on the bed and worked on the week's grocery list. She'd ask for help ("Mommy, can you help me with this? I need some help...."), but if I gave her an extra 5 seconds, she'd get it herself. That's just the phase she's in -- in Montessori and in daily life. The tree puzzle was by far the most difficult, but she finally got it. I was a little worried a few times -- she's got awkward and over-enthusiastic toddler hands, and those puzzles are made of pretty thin wood. But no damage so far....

Nugget spent some time wandering after the puzzles. She poked at the Sound Cylinders and the Sandpaper Letters before trying the shape puzzle. She tried the bird shape first, but got frustrated pretty quickly. I encouraged her to flip the sheet over and try the train, and I sat with her while she worked through it. Then we went back to the bird and completed that with some encouragement.

She went back to the Sandpaper Letters; I'd set out c, f, p, and s. She recognized each one and had no problem matching the noun cards. She did them all perfectly the first time.

Then she poured a few times -- cleanly for a while, then things got a bit messy. Next, we did the yoga cards together. That was pretty fun, and I was really happy with her body awareness. She's pretty slow on gross motor in general, but she enjoys things like gymnastics and yoga.

The wandering started again... poking at the Knobless Cylinders... wandering... looking at the color shade matching... wandering....

She settled in with the Sound Cylinders briefly. I reduced the number from 6 to 3, but two of them still sound too much alike. I might make our own, more distinct version and move to these laster. We at least talked a bit about loud and quiet.

Nugget started to wander again, and I pulled out Cylinder Block #4. She worked on some containers while I did that -- and it is tough! In Cylinder Block #4, all of the cylinders are the same diameter, but different heights. If you put a too-short cylinder in a too-deep hole, you have to turn the whole thing over and dump all of them out.

When I finished with Cylinder Block #4, I put all four out in a square and worked with them all at the same time. Nugget wasn't happy with me when I started out, but she finally settled in to watch... and then started to help... and then took over. And she did it just fine. She had to tell a story during it, of course. :) Something about an animal digging a hole? Her "reward" for finishing all four was to be able to climb in the middle of them and pretend it was a muddy hole.

And that pretty much ended our day. All together, about an hour and fifteen minutes. As I said, I was happy with her level of concentration given all of the new material.

Tomorrow, most of what's out will stay constant. I'll put out some new letters and, hopefully, another animal beginning sound activity (this depends on my energy level tonight which, so far, is pretty low). I think I'll set out another shape pattern card, as well.

We'll see how she reacts to a day in a nearly-identical set-up. I think it'll take at least a week or two for her to get used to this idea, so I'm going to go into it not expecting too much.
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