Monday, October 26, 2015

A New Play Set for the Yard

So this happened in our yard this weekend! It has actually been about a two month process but it was so worth the effort! I had dreamed of a large play set in our yard from the day we first bought this house. I had no idea it would be THIS large, or this amazing.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Week 7: Multiplication & More Writing

So as the school year progresses on, I presented Golden Bead Multiplication to my almost 4-year old this week! I would NEVER have thought to introduce the concept of multiplication in preschool but seeing the way Montessori does it, it makes SO much sense.

I started off by giving DJ a number, 1,324, and asking him to build the number with beads. Then, I laid out the same number two more times and asked him what he noticed about them. When he realized they were all three the same, I said to him, "Right, we're going to take 1,324 three times. That's multiplication."

Then I asked if he wanted to see what the total was. So he combined all three piles and added up the totals, to 3,972. I took away the two extra sets of small number cards and added a different card with a #3 on it to reiterate that the problem we had solved was "1,324 times 3 is 3,972". The next time we do multiplication, we'll skip the three sets of number cards and only use a single card for the multiplier.

In other exciting math news, my wonderful husband finished a new DIY Hundred Board. Yay! I had received the 100 tiles in a Craigslist lot of materials that ended up essentially being free to me. I really wanted to use them but there was no board, which I felt was important. DJ's dad, cut the back out of extra hardboard that we had in the garage and we bought about $2 of wood pieces from Michael's for the trim. The lines are just drawn on with a sharpie.

And this is why I am so glad I decided to make a board instead of trying to use the tiles stand alone. DJ is still working on learning the numbers from 21-40. I put the Hundred Board on the shelf and let him discover it and explore it on his own without any presentation. He immediately started to place the tiles on the board randomly and didn't stop until he had filled every slot. He was so surprised and excited to see that he had just enough tiles. I smiled and said, "That's right, there are 100 spaces and 100 tiles. Do you want me to show you something?" When he agreed, I pulled out the number tiles 1-20 and started placing them in order with #1 in the top left slot. I'd only made it to #3 when DJ took over and filled in all the way to 20. Then I pulled out 21-40 and we worked slowly through those numbers together.

I had planned on stopping there but DJ pointed to the rest of the board and said, "Let's fill these in too!" So I pulled out the high-end condiment cups that I had stolen from Five Guys Burgers (shhh) and we sorted the rest of the tiles in groups of 10's. DJ wasn't fully understanding what we were doing at first so we fell into a pattern that he would choose a tile, read the number to me (usually in the form of 'five-tens, two') and I would point to the cup it belonged in. As he was doing that, I sorted through tiles as well so speed us along. Even still, when we were done sorting, DJ was done with the Hundred Board, which didn't bother me because I hadn't expected to do that much anyway. On another day, he chose to work with the board again and went back to just placing the tiles randomly. And that is fine too. Connecting the truth of the 1-to1 correspondence with the written numbers 1-100 is a process and he's studying it.

On the writing front, I've been challenging DJ to write 4 letters and 1 number each day for 10 days. With 40 letter sounds and 10 numerals, he'll have written every symbol at least once at the end of 2 weeks. By the end of the first week, he was pushing back on the "assignment" nature of this work when he's used to being able to refuse work. But I'm pushing him because I know him. He's capable of writing these letters at this stage but he doesn't believe he is. Once he has experienced successfully writing each one, he'll be more likely to choose the work voluntarily. I'm definitely dealing with an intelligent boy here who believes everything he does should be easy so if it's hard then he must not be capable of doing it. I'm going to have to teach him that things worth doing as worth working hard for.

Speaking of doing easy things, this is an awful picture, but DJ has been choosing the Brown Stair and Pink Tower every week lately. He worked with these extensively last year. I'm struggling with allowing him to do this as part of "school" versus expecting him to choose something more "appropriate". But I know all primary works are supposed to be available for selection even if they're "too easy".

So while DJ was doing his Brown Stair, I chose to work with the Geometric Solids and these picture cards that I printed. DJ looked at these pictures when I first put them on the shelf a few weeks ago and immediately put them back so I was hoping I could inspire him by working on it myself. It sort of worked. I had matched a lot of the cards when DJ became intrigued and started taking over. He easily placed some of the pictures under the ellipsoid (watermelon), sphere (soccer ball), and cube (dice). But then he struggled with tripod (triangle-based pyramid) and wanted to put the work away. If it's easy, it's fun. If it's challenging, it must go far, far away. Hah. It definitely feels like 7 weeks into the year. Is it time for the holidays yet?

On another day, I read these books to DJ as part of introducing the 5 classes of vertebrates. These books are a little above DJ's level so it takes some of skill on my part to keep him interested. We happened to be in his play room as I was reading and we started with the book on mammals. It was complete serendipity that DJ's basket of jungle & farm animals was out in the floor. I guess he'd been playing with it and hadn't put it back. So when we got to sections in the book about horses having 1 toe, cows having 2 toes and primates having opposable thumbs, DJ was able to check these facts on his animals.

And while he wasn't checking the accuracy of my book, he was busily building this elaborate train set. The joys of homeschooling is sometimes allowing the learning & playing to happen at the same time.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Week 6: Writing Progress!

Early this week, I stopped at Michael's craft store intending to buy $2 worth of wood for a DIY project. I finally made it out of the store $18 later by begging my son to not let me look at anything else.

One of my impulse buys was sand for our sand tray. DJ had accidentally spilled all the sand a little while ago and although I had more white sand to fill it, I just wasn't inspired to do so. Then I passed the craft sand aisle at Michael's this week and saw a variety of color choices. I asked DJ to choose the color he wanted a and he chose pink!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Week 5: Struggles & Successes

After several successful weeks, I have to admit that this one was a difficult one. DJ could not seem to focus on anything, especially not school. The little bit of school that we did accomplish was mostly suggested by me, encouraged by me, dare I say, coerced by me? Ahem, not exactly "follow the child". Maybe I'll do better next week. But here's some highlights (and low points) of what we did do this week.

DJ and I reviewed the first box of the constructive triangles again. DJ likes it a lot because he's been seeing triangles in all sorts of shapes since we started this work.

After reviewing the first box, I presented the second box to DJ. Unlike the first one, where the pieces are color-coded to match and each have a black line showing where to line them up... these triangles are all blue with no black lines.

For each set, you start by making the same familiar shape as in the first box (in this picture, the rhombus) and then slowly slide one piece around the other. When the piece gets to the first tip (as in the picture) you point out that is not a regular shape. Then you slide the piece along the 2nd edge until a rhombus is revealed. Continue sliding to the 2nd point and there is another irregular shape, slide on along the 3rd edge to reveal a rhombus again. Finally slide past the last point and return to the original position.

I admit I had to watch YouTube videos to understand what the heck this was about. But once I saw it, I was amazed at the simplicity of it. Repeat this same task with the square and rectangle and you get trapezoids on the 2nd & 3rd edge before returning to the square or rectangle.

Unfortunately, when DJ tried to do the sliding, the pieces didn't stay cleanly together like when I had done it so he threw everything back in the box and declared he was done. *sigh*

After some cajoling, I convinced him to choose something else and he decided to do the decanomial square. I was impressed that be actually did the first three colors himself. Then he decided to place the pink tower cubes along the diagonal. When he finished that, he had me help him with the blue & purple sections at which point he then instructed me to finish the square for him. Argh! We decided instead to just put it away.

After trying to play trucks & lumber yard with the Brown Stair again, which I wouldn't allow, I suggested that I could teach him to count to 30. He was eager to do this because he really wants to count to 100. But once the lesson actually started, he was frustrated and distracted through much of it. But with perseverance we did make it from 20 to 29. Then I suggested we start at 1 and count all the way to 30. Only to discover he had apparently completely forgotten the words eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen... Ugh! He counts ALL the time during his free play when he thinks I'm not listening.

We decided to take a break for lunch. I tried later in the afternoon to regroup. I remembered my role and encouraged DJ to choose anything he wanted to do. Surprisingly, he chose the life cycle cards and miniatures. He was really engaged with this and matched ALL of the miniature sets to their respective life cycle cards. He even remembered the word pupae!!

The last picture here is the Human Life Cycle card that I made for him using pictures of my ultrasound while pregnant, DJ's infant picture, DJ as a 3yo child, his dad as a teenager, and my husband and I as adults. He's ways felt this was a special card, but it has taken on new meaning as he has learned about umbilical cords and has been continuously asking me to tell his origin story from the first cell, through pregnancy to birth. This is probably because his birthday is coming soon and this is the first year that he really has a concept that birthdays celebrate the day of birth so he's wanting to understand what that means.

The next day, I presented the next lesson of the bells. DJ has gotten really good at matching the brown bells to their white counterparts. This time I put all of the brown bells on the table and had him choose them two at a time, play them and decide which one was the lowest. Through the process of elimination, he (almost) successfully graded them from low C to high C. He did great with the lower tones but as he got to higher pitches he began getting confused. Or maybe he was just getting tired. But the only one he had out of order was #7 - B which he placed between F & G. So when he finished grading, I had him play up the brown bells and down the white bells. He immediately noticed something was off but didn't know how to fix it. So I walked him through moving B up the scale and he finished with a cheer. Whew!

Next he wanted to work with the South America map. I've told him he'll "unlock" the other 4 continent map when he's worked sufficiently with this one. That gives him a huge incentive to want to work with this a lot. Why is he always more excited to do the work he's not ready for than the work that's right in front of him?

Anyway, after building the map outside the frame again while I named the countries for him, he surprised me by wanting to trace the shape of the continent. He went around and around counting each time. I haven't suggested he trace continents since way back when we were using the sandpaper globe and back then he has little to know interest in doing that. But there's no stopping him when it's his idea!

Next, he wanted to hear the story I've been telling him lately of his paternal lineage. It all started when he said Tae Kwon Do is a hard word to say so I began explaining that it is Korean and the people from Korea speak it. That led to me saying that we speak English which comes from England, so of course he asked me if we come from England. I told him the story of his 4th Great-grandfather, Edward, who came to America from Ireland and all of his descendants down to DJ, all but one having the same name as DJ. I didn't expect when I told the story that he'd immediately demand I tell the story again. And again. And again. I told it at least 6 times in a row. And then again the next day and the next. DJ's little absorbent mind is trying to memorize the story word for word and I find it adorable.

Despite some of the earlier frustrations, we did end with a huge success. DJ was not only interested in learning to fold laundry, he single handedly folded all of his own underwear! Whoo-hoo! How long before I don't have to be involved in his laundry anymore? Because I'm counting down the days.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


It's pumpkin season!  Our homeschool group went back to the local family farm that we visited in the spring. DJ and the other kids planted a pumpkin seed so today was the day to go back and harvest our crop. And grandma Jacque was able to come along as well. Isn't this a great picture of DJ and her?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Week 4: Numbers & Letters with Trucks

Did I just write that?  Are we finished with four weeks already?  Wow has this month flown by. DJ did a lot of great work this week but the one theme you'll see throughout is trucks. Very little schoolwork would get accomplished without the cooperation of DJ's trucks.