Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fabulous Reading Resource

A few weeks ago, I read a review of Reading Eggs on Mary's Homegrown Learners blog.  I was very intrigued by Mary's review and decided to sign us up for a free preview.  I have to say I am VERY impressed with this website.  I ended up purchasing a subscription so I can use it with both of my boys.  There are two main levels:  Reading Eggs for children from the pre-reading stage until about 2nd grade and Reading Eggspress for children from about 2nd grade through 6th grade.

What I like about this as a mom is that I find the activities to be challenging for all age levels.  I feel that each lesson includes many important components of reading instruction including phonics, sight words, vocabulary, and comprehension.  There is a placement test that your child can take to help you decide where they should start.  I felt that my youngest son tested a little low (i.e. the level they placed him in seemed too easy), so I emailed their help desk.  They replied very quickly and explained how I could go about moving him up.  Great customer service!!  I am also REALLY impressed with the difficulty level of the activities for my oldest son.  He reads well above his grade level; however, I sat with him as he did one of his first quizzes and could not believe the critical thinking skills he had to apply in order to answer correctly.

What my sons like about this program is that they receive "golden eggs" for completing their lessons.  These eggs can then be used like money to purchase items for their own little avatars.  They can customize the avatars and each avatar has its own house.  My youngest son (and actually my oldest son too) loves to buy new items for his "guy's" house.  He is actually learning a lot about budgeting because he has to decide if he has enough eggs and whether he should save or spend.  He has been know to do several lessons within as single day in order to accumulate more eggs to spend!!  I feel okay about it because I know he is learning a lot from the lessons.

In all, I highly recommend this program.  My sons are doing lessons from Reading Eggs/Reading Eggspress several times per week as part of their homeschool reading instruction.  Even if you don't homeschool, this would be a really great program to have your child use over the summer so they don't lose their skills.  They will have so much fun they won't even know they're learning.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Grammar the Montessori Way

OK..........I LOVE the way grammar is taught in the Montessori method.  Again, once I had my A-ha!/Duh! moment, I didn't know why I hadn't decided from the get-go to teach grammar the Montessori way.  I tried Easy Grammar for a while with my oldest son, and First Language Lessons with my youngest for a while.  I cannot really find fault with either of those resources, and I'm sure they are a great fit for many a homeschooling family.  However, I am really excited to delve into the Montessori way with both my sons.  I could not do it without having these free online albums for reference. My Montessori 3-6 year old training online very lightly touched on grammar.  The online elementary-aged albums go into great depth and provide a wealth of activities for teaching grammar.

In addition to the online albums, I ordered a few materials.  I purchased THIS STENCIL from Alison's Montessori.  And I purchased this set of wooden grammar symbols from Caliber Montessori.  In future posts I'll be able to show you how we'll use those materials. 

The first lesson I gave the boys was to just explain to them that words are classified into various types which we call "parts of speech".  Each part of speech has its own special symbol, and we used the stencil to record those symbols in our grammar notebooks.  Future lessons will focus specifically on the various parts of speech.

Fourth grader's notebook page

First grader's notebook page

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Learning about the Six Kingdoms of Life

One thing I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about Montessori education is the "cosmic" approach which teaches children to see the big picture.  Since I've decided to incorporate more Montessori principles into our homeschool, I have looked extensively at the free online Montessori Biology albums to decide how to teach about scientific classification of living things.  After studying the recommended sequence of presenting these concepts, I purchased the Six Kingdom Chart from Montessori For Everyone (I have a feeling Lori at MFE is going to get LOTS of business from me in the near future.  Her materials are so beautifully done!)  I also purchased the Six Kingdom Nomenclature Cards.

I presented the chart to both of my boys (although my oldest son was somewhat familiar with it from his first and second grade years at a private Montessori school) and they each recorded the six kingdoms in their science notebooks.  My older son used some of the cards from the chart set to write a bit more information about each kingdom, but I just had my first grader list the six kingdoms.  After all, I'm pretty sure no public school first graders are learning about the six kingdoms of life!!  Interestingly, Lori has recently modified her charts to include a sixth kingdom.  Apparently for a long time (and in the online Montessori album), scientists had been using only five kingdoms.

I had done a Google search about "six kingdoms" to learn more and came across a fabulous online resource called BrainPOP.  We are currently doing a free trial of it, but I may end up subscribing.  I found a video on the BrainPOP website that explains about the six kingdoms.  It also has separate videos (and correlating quizzes and activities) for bacteria, protists, fungi, plants and animals.  Pretty awesome!

The day after I introduced the six kingdoms with the chart, I had the boys watch the BrainPOP Six Kingdoms video and also the Bacteria video.  Then they recorded some info in their science notebooks.  We also played a VERY cool game on BrainPOP which required us to create our own bacteria, choose a virtual "host" to infect, and allowed us to "spray" our bacteria on various places in the hosts home so we could ensure contamination.  It was hands-on learning at its best!

The Six Kingdom Nomenclature cards are shown below. (Two of them, anyway!)

 Six Kingdoms Chart..........

Fourth grader's notebook page of the Six Kingdoms.

First grader's notebook page of the Six Kingdoms.

Apparently fuzzy photo of first grader's notebook page about Bacteria (with some help from mom on the written info.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Math with Golden Bead Material

One of my favorite Montessori math materials is the Golden Bead Material.  This manipulative is used for helping children understand place value concepts in a very concrete way.  I decided to bite the bullet and purchase some of the bead material since I know that I can use it for many concepts for years to come.  I checked around and found that the best prices to be had were from Caliber Montessori.  I ordered 27 unit beads (sold in sets of 9), 2 sets of 10-bars (sold in sets of 9), 2 sets of 100 squares (sold in sets of 9), one thousand cube with golden beads, and a set of wooden thousand cubes (sold in a set of 9).  The photos in this post show my youngest son doing 2-digit addition (without regrouping or trading) using the bead material.  In addition to purchasing the beads, I printed out some decimal cards.  I cannot find the source for the ones I have, but these small decimal number cards are available from Montessori Print Shop for 99 cents.  You can print the large decimal cards there for FREE.   It's a bit hard to see in the photo, but the cards are color-coded for place value, tens are blue and units are green.  I realize now I should have taken a photo of the whole layout, but I forgot.  I'll take one the next time we do this work.

For the work shown in the photos below, my son was solving the problem 42 + 26.  This problem was one that I purchased in a set from Montessori for Everyone.  First, he had to find the correct decimal cards to represent 42, then show the numeral with the beads.  You can see he's done that in the photo below and is getting the beads he needs for 26.

Now the beads and matching decimal cards are laid out to represent the problem.  At the far right in the photo you can see the equation card he's working from.  That's the one from Montessori for Everyone.

We used a ruler for the "equals" sign.  I showed him to put the units together first, count them, and find the large decimal card for the total (8 in this case), then he put the tens together, counted them, and found the correct decimal card (60 in this case).  When the cards are stacked, they show the correct answer, 68.

Finally, I had him write the equation on this paper that I downloaded and printed from Montessori Print Shop (for free!)

This work was fairly easy for him, so our next lesson will be on "dynamic" addition equations which will require regrouping.  We'll start with 2-digit, then move to 3 and 4-digit.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The "A-ha!" moment.........(or was it the "Duh!" moment?)

I cannot really explain why I haven't blogged here for so long.  If I am completely honest, I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I haven't felt for several months that my homeschooling with the boys is quite how I wanted it to be.  Without making this post just about that topic, let me just say that for quite a while we've been getting our "basics" done every day, but we haven't delved much into the more "meaty" curricular areas such as history and science as much as I'd wanted to.  When I decided to homeschool my sons, the idea of learning with them was one of the things that really appealed to me.  I got off to a great start at the beginning of the year planning all kinds of enriching activities and projects, then after Dad passed away in October, pretty much all I could manage for a while was getting in the three Rs.  I'm not trying to use his death as an excuse, though, because I'm sure that could have happened anyway since in addition to homeschooling the boys I'm teaching 12 piano lessons and 2 Kindermusik classes each week to bring in additional money for our family.  Anyway........for quite a while it's been weighing heavily on me that I wanted to be giving the boys "more" in terms of over the past few weeks, I've been researching and planning and I now feel like things are coming back together again the way I'd envisioned.

In addition to not being completely happy with the breadth and depth of our content area study, for quite a while now I haven't been really thrilled with math for my youngest son.  I started the year doing Right Start for both my 4th grader and 1st grader.  I'm still happy with it for my oldest, but got to a point where I wasn't keen on it for my youngest anymore.  I ordered Math Mammoth which we tried for a few weeks.  It's very workbook oriented, which I didn't like.  He didn't seem to mind, but it wasn't what I wanted.  Then I ordered Singapore, but when I got it, I realized that what I'd ordered was too easy.  It was also mostly workbooks, so that was a negative for me as well.  I also looked into MEP which is actually very good (and free)........we used that for a while when I had the "a-ha!" moment that I refer to in the title of this post.

As many of you know, I am a trained Montessori teacher for 3-6 year olds.  I wrote a Montessori blog called My Montessori Journey for three years.  When I stopped writing that blog to start this one, I had a few comments and emails from my faithful Montessori readers asking me why I wasn't using a Montessori curriculum for homeschool.  I responded to their questions in THIS POST.  My "A-ha!" moment, resulting from my dissatisfaction with my first grader's math program, caused me to ask myself why I wasn't using Montessori math materials with him.  I have always believed the Montessori method to be excellent and the math materials/curriculum to be superior to anything else I've ever seen.  So............over the last week or so I've been digging into these great Montessori elementary teacher albums that you can access online and printing and laminating a TON of materials.  Over the course of the next few weeks, I'll be writing a lot about how I'm incorporating these ideas and materials into our homeschool day.  DUH!!!  Why didn't I do this sooner?  I am super excited to share with you all about it!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Feeling guilty & Curriculum Sale

I feel guilty that I haven't posted on here about homeschooling for so long.  I am going to try to get back into the habit and catch everyone up on what we've been up to for the past several months.  Today I'm just popping in to let  you all know that I have some curriculum for sale.  It is all in like-new condition unless otherwise stated.  It is curriculum that we have either not used or are finished with.  I felt it was time to do some spring cleaning as I look ahead to next year's curriculum.  If you are interested in purchasing, please email me at with your address.  Depending upon how much you want to purchase, I'll estimate shipping costs, send you an "invoice" with my address and ship it to you once I receive payment.  Thanks for browsing.  I hope someone can find something useful.

Right Start Mathematics Level B Lessons & Worksheets $40

Right Start Mathematics Transition Lessons & Worksheets $25

Abacus for Right Start Mathematics: $5

Math Mammoth Grade 4 Complete Worktexts (4A & 4B), Tests and Cumulative Reviews & Answer Keys: $20 for all (this includes 4 workbooks)
Math Mammoth Add & Subtract 2-A: $5 (one page written on)

Easy Grammar Grades 4 & 5: $5

Singapore Primary Mathematics 1B Workbook & Textbook: $10

Handwriting Without Tears Printing & Cursive Teacher's Guides: $5 for both

Well-Trained Mind First Language Lessons Level 1: $12

Primary Arts of Language Writing Teacher Manual: $12

Math in Action: Operations Activities 0-50 & Numeration Activities 0-100: $8 for 2 

Daily Math Practice Grade 1: $5