A Glimpse into the New Year

A beautiful sight

A beautiful sight

We started into the new school year this week. We are still quite into summer mode, but we are getting our feet wet with school work too. The kids checked out all of their new curriculum as it came in so there were no new surprises. Sunday afternoon, we went over some of the changes for this year.

1. Each kiddo will have a monthly work plan.
2. Each kiddo is responsible for documenting his/her work done during the day in his/her planner.
3. We will meet once a week to look at how each person is progressing on the work plan.

Beyond those few changes, everything has pretty much remained the same. We started Monday off by designing a cover page for the main lesson books and learning how to use the new computer. The older two kids are pretty excited to start emailing friends on their own accounts. So far the schedule is shaping up. We begin the morning at the YMCA so that I can get a workout in. I pretty much stopped exercising regularly when I began homeschooling. If you are new to homeschooling, I highly recommend that you DO NOT STOP EXERCISING! You really need that time to yourself to regroup each day. We started going everyday this summer and so far it is working well. They play games while they are there and have a quiet start to the day. We come home and get to work. Everyone has a plastic bin with books in it.

We are working in the kitchen for the most part. The kids move about the house throughout the day. Last year, the kids wrapped up most of their work before lunch time. Unfortunately, we are starting our school day later this year which means they will have to work some in the afternoons too. Hopefully, it will not be too bad. So far, they finish up their work while sitting at an activity. For example, Sims worked on his math while waiting on Sawyer and Parks at gymnastics today.

Grade 3

Grade 3

Grade 1

Grade 1

Grade 5

Grade 5

Sawyer working on the computer

Sawyer working on the computer

Of course this is only the first week. We will see how it all works out this year in the weeks to come!

Sims and Parks playing war to practice greater than and less than

Sims and Parks playing war to practice greater than and less than


Get Out the Planner….Part Two

In my last post, I spoke about the philosophies we tend to follow in our home in regards to schooling.  Today, let’s get into the nitty gritty…curriculum.

For the first time, we are going to loosely follow a science curriculum.  I have chosen the R.E.A.L Odyssey Earth and Science program and the chemistry program.  Both programs appear fairly hands on with lots of labs-which is a big plus for us.  My plan is to have the Earth and Science curriculum out with all of the needed materials available.  We will go over the big picture lesson together and then they will be able to pick which labs they want to follow up with.  I plan to do chemistry during a block, or maybe two, later in the year. 

The kids are in three very different grades.  This year we will have a first, third and fifth grader!  Parks’ main curriculum will come from the Institute for Excellence’s Primary Art of Language program.  I plan to use the program with a Waldorf Twist.  He will use his main lesson book for the work and we will go through it using folk tales and fairy tales.  For math, he will continue with Singapore math along with Montessori math using materials.  I found a new reading and spelling program this summer that I am very excited to get into.  We already started the reading program and so far it is terrific.  The programs are by Sound Foundations.  The reading program is called Dancing Bears and the spelling is called Apples and Pears. 

The mighty third grader is going to delve into Waldorf Essential’s third year program which focuses on the Jewish religion and the Old Testament.  The fifth grade Waldorf Essential’s program is filled with adventures from ancient civilizations, Greek mythology and geometry.  Along with their Waldorf curriculum, they will do teaching textbooks for math along with Montessori math and Apples and Pears for spelling.  Together, they will also use Institute for Excellence in Writing to begin some more formal writing. 

I am still trying to narrow down which chapter books we will read together.  If you have suggestion, I would love to hear them!  I would love to find a few books with themes that will flow with what they are learning. 


A Whole is Simply the Sum of Its Parts

So what do prime numbers, factoring, multiples and division all have in common?  Why do we learn them?

Welcome to the second math block of the year!  In the first math block, Sims worked on prime numbers, factoring, complex multiplication, long division and reviewing addition/subtraction.  The second math block focuses mainly on, you guessed it, FRACTIONS!  When I think of fractions, I mainly think how many parts of a whole.  However, as I review fractions to teach them to Sims, I am amazed at how much more there is to them and how they bring everything we’ve done so far this year together,

First, we focused on the simple things such as how to name them.  For a child with dyslexia, we had to focus quite a bit on the “ths” sound at the end of tenths and hundredths.  Next we discussed all the places we casually use fractions in our daily lives; such as distance, cooking, filling the gas tank and of course money.  In Montessori, we use circles and look at how to break up circles into pieces.  In Waldorf, we use a fraction tree.  Since we use both methods, we did both.  Then, Sims took it a step further and made a fraction hand.  I was pretty impressed with his idea and it worked well.

Over the next few weeks, we will begin working with fractions more in-depth.  We will bring in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of fractions.  The fun of fourth grade math.

Fraction Hand1, 1/5,1/10, 1/20

 Fraction Hand
1, 1/5,1/10, 1/20

Fraction Tree with Roots1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8. 1/16, 1//6. 1/12

Fraction Tree with Roots
1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8. 1/16, 1//6. 1/12

Montessori Fraction Circle

Montessori Fraction Circle



A Schedule? What?

ImageMany people ask me about our schedule.  We are out and about a good bit (however, that amount extremely less than last year!).  I remember at one conference, Andrew Pudewa of IEW said that his kids were more like car schoolers than homeschoolers.  I felt this way last year.  In fact, if we were in the car-then the kids were working.

Waldorf schooling focuses quite a bit on rhythm.  Montessori focuses on allowing the kids to have an extended period of uninterrupted time in order to complete their research and work.  Well formally, we don’t fall into either of these of these.  However, we do use aspects of these.

As far as Montessori, the kids get daily periods of uninterrupted time to research and complete their work.  They get to chose what work they want to do and when they want to do the work.  They each have four to five basic items to complete daily (math, grammar, journal, reading and lessons).  Beyond the basics, I give general ideas and the kids can run with them.  An example is Sims’ most recent month.  In his curriculum by Waldorf Essentials, he is to research his state.  We went to the library to look up NC and to decide what to research.  He chose the history of NC, NC geography and the Native American tribe of the Cherokee.

As far as Waldorf goes, we do not follow a specific daily rhythm.  However, we do have a weekly rhythm.  Mondays are PE; Tuesdays are dance and gymnastics; Wednesdays are art; Thursdays are Latta Plantation, music and gymnastics (a way overscheduled day, obviously); and Fridays are horses.  This is how my kids know what comes next.  They know what happens on each day so they are able to prepare.

On a daily basis. the schedule hasn’t changed much since I wrote earlier.  The kids wake up between 6:45 and 7:45.  They eat breakfast and feed the animals.  Then they play for a little while before we “start school.”  We do not have anything that starts before 11 so they can work uninterrupted from 830 to 1030.  This gives them time to be artisitc, research, and follow their interests.  Then they have throughout the day to work on their daily work.

As far as the other things that have to get done in a house, yes, we are still figuring that stuff out two years later!  I am getting the dishes and the laundry done finally. Everyone has a laundry day.  Parks puts his laundry in the washer on Sunday (his day).  The clothes are washed and dried on Sunday.  Then when I awake on Monday, I fold his clothes and put them in a basket for him to put away.  So far this system works well.  If the kids don’t bring their clothes down on their specified day, then it is up to them to do everything (wash, dry, fold and put away).  This also is the case if I find clothes that I know are clean in the laundry (or those that are still folded).  I also empty the dishwasher before the kids wake up also.  If someone wakes up early, they are typically very willing to help with these chores.  Cleaning is still a tough one.  I try to get it done on the weekends but that doesn’t always happen.  Then we try to get it done piece by piece throughout the week.

The nice part about our method is that it works for our family.  I have read many people’s rhythms and methods to get everything done in the week.  What I have learned from the many, many blogs and articles that I have read is that you must find your own rhythm.  You must work within your own family-homeschooling or not.  We all have a schedule that we must adjust to and we have to find what works for us.

Have you found a good rhythm for your days and weeks?

Peace Education

“Peace education is the process of acquiring the values, the knowledge and developing the attitudes, skills, and behaviors to live in harmony with oneself, with others, and with the natural environment.” Wikipedia

Peace education occurs daily in our household.  For the most part, everyone gets along.  However, let’s face it-we are together ALL THE TIME!  On a daily basis, we try to use our words to maintain peace within the household.  Everyone is aware that when the “rules” of the house are followed, peace is maintained.  It is those times when someone feels that someone else has performed an injustice to the household, another person or the world that the harmony quickly disappears.

When the kiddos went to Montessori school, they were taught to have a peace conference.  The child who feels hurt or who is upset gets the peace rose and hands it to the other person or persons.  They then go to a neutral spot and have a peace conference.  This is a discussion in which each side may speak how they feel and what they think happened.  (I find this to be an awesome activity-if only everyone in the world could do this!)

Unfortunately, I think at home we get into a rut of having them speak at each other instead of with each other.  I noticed this recently.  I had the kids stop speaking at each other, turn towards each other and to speak in a normal tone WITH the other person.  The funny thing was that they both immediately started giggling.  Argument over.  🙂

Unfortunately, I have one kiddo who is in a constant battle with the world.  He struggles to find happiness in the world.  So how do you teach peace education to someone who’s instict is violence and negativity?  In my heart, I know that he does not want to feel this way.  Most of the time, his outward expressions are happy and loving but they can change very quickly.

He has taught me more about peace education than any book or experience so far.  I must model how to react to situations (such as when you drop an entire container of yogurt on the floor and you want to scream, but you don’t).  I must remain calm and not become engaged when he wants to argue and speak negatively about the world.  Is this difficult?  Absolutely.  My other kids have had to learn this method also.  Amazingly, it works well.

I also use books as much as possible.  Some of my favorites are The Lorax, Giraffe’s Can’t Dance, The Lion and the Mouse, The Goose Girl, Stone Soup, and my newest-Old Turtle and the Broken Truth (All of these titles should be underlined, but I cannot figure out how to do that for some reason).  All three kids enjoyed the Old Turtle and our lessons that followed.

How do you teach your kids about peace?

Montessori in the Home

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In the past few months, I have seen several forum posts wondering about Montessori homeschooling for preschool.  Well, I must admit that I did not homeschool my children for preschool.  All three of my kids went to Montessori Primary.  However, we have always and still do practice Montessori in our home. Of coures initially-I had no idea that we were a Montessori family. We just started our family this way and found that this method had a name. Also, in the summer time-I have always set up a Montessori area for the kids to do “work.”

So what makes our home Montessori?

From the time our kids were sitting, we started with very simple toys.  They had mainly (of course, they did have a few of the toys with the bells and whistles) wooden blocks, simple toys and real items such as spoons to play with.  The toys continued to be real objects and simple things.  To this day, two of my kids favorite toys are a ladder that my dad made for them (he took an extension ladder and used half of it to make the kids a 6 foot ladder that is light enough for them to move) and a bike ramp.  They also all love to play in the sand box, swing, and play anything outside.

In the kitchen….Once they could crawl, they had a drawer with their own dishes and basket with their own snacks.  They all sat at the table with us instead of in a high chair.  The kids went from a bottle to a cup.  Yep, no sippy cup.  Can you imagine?  I did purchase them but I hated all the peices that went with them and thus, they only came out every once in a while.   Now, the still have their own dishes that they can all reach.  Sims now uses the grown up dishes more and more because he can reach them.  The kids use real dishes and real glasses.  I buy Ikea dishes so they hold up well but are not too expensive when they break.  The kids still have their own snacks too.  In the fridge-you know those big drawers in the bottome?  They work great for the kids items.  I keep yogurt, chees sticks, and kid friendly snacks int there.  One of the best things we taught the kids was how to make breakfast.  Sims has been making his own breakfast since he was 2 and from then on he has also helped the others make breakfast.  All breakfast food is kid accessible.  THe waffles are in the bottom of the freezer and the toaster is in a bottom cabinet.  All of the cereal is in easy to pour tupperware.  I forget how spoiled I am that I do not have to make my kids breakfast until I hear about other people’s mornings!  I have time to enjoy the morning with my kids.  We all sit together to eat breakfast-one of our favorite times.

In the playroom…along with simple toys, the kids have a place for each toy.  If there is not a home for it then either something needs to traded out or given away.  Keeping it simple it very important.  Is this crazy hard?  Sometimes.  Luckily, our kids do not watch much TV (and most of it is on Netflix that they do watch) so they are not bombarded by commercials convincing them to buy more toys.  We have something to build with (they moved from big wooden blocks and duplo blocks to small legos and city blocks), imaginary play (a simple wooden doll house, barn with animals, and a castle-these were trades out and now they have a big kid doll house and fire department), gross motor toys (a chair that spins, a ladder to climb, and a cacoon swing-yes, all in the playroom) and some other fun itmes-kitchen items and musical instruments.  Art supplies are always available including paint, clay, playdo, colored pencils and crayons.  We avoid markers for the most part.  Crayons and colored pencils teach them about shading and different pressures.

In each child’s room….the kids went from a crib (yes, in a true Montessori hom-kids would not sleep in a crib) to sleeping on a mattress on the floor around 12-16 months old to sleeping in a regular bed.  The kids clothes were accessible to them and they have always chosen their own clothes.  Yes, I purchase the clothes but they put them together.  Sometimes they come up with some interesting combinations. 🙂

In the summer, some of their favorite works over the years have been

1. hand mixer in water and a drop of dish soap to make bubbles, 2.  pouring-anything (beans, rice, water) from one container to another, 3. stringing beads, 4. counting, 5. puzzle maps, 6.  using eye droppes to mix colored water, 7. penny polishing, 8. stacking the nesting blocks, 9. pop beads, 10. tanograms, 11. shape works. 12. measuring liquids and with a ruler, 13. sewing. 14. finger knitting and 15. gardening-we have raised beds that allow the children to work 16. the magnet board.

Of course, now we are homeschooling.  Thus, we do some Montessori works in our school room.  The main idea though is to set the environment so that the kiddos can be successful in their environment.  So far, it has worked well for our family.  In the morning, the kids wake up and get dressed, brush their teeth and make their breakfast all on their own.  Yes, we are spoiled.

Oh-I almost forgot.  As babies, my kiddos were put in a sling.  We did not use the stroller much and they did not use any equipment except for a bouncy seat.  Babies on the floor are more prone to explore and develop strong muscles (it also helps them avoid getting plagiocephaly or a flat spot on their skull).

In the pictures, you can see the bathroom set up, the ladder and spin chair, sitting at the table to eat and a few other fun Montessori things in our home over the years.