Category Archives: homeschooling_kindergarten

Simple Subtraction

As I've come to realize that parenting is a very grey area, I've also come to appreciate this about homeschooling. Specifically, what is it that I am really concerned about Ronan's homeschooling…at least at this moment. (Because, oh yes, it changes often).

Do I want to follow the Montessori guidelines? Do I want to be sure he can reassimilate into a traditional school setting, if need be?

I've already veered from Montessori on the teaching of language. Well, with the American Montessori Association's interpretation of Dr. Montessori's work anyway. (As I understand it, Italian is a mostly phonetic language, so the American-version has required a number of tweaks).

I finally decided to show him simple subtraction rather than simple multiplication after he mastered simple addition. (According to my AMS-training, you show the child simple multiplication since it is essentially adding multiple times). But, all of the worksheets for kindergarten and first grade have subtraction problems. (And, yes, we occasionally do worksheets. It's good practice and he likes it).  So, I relented a bit.


I don't think I needed to worry since I realized he was already subtracting things in our everyday life. I used the words "take away" so that he would remember how to find the answer and after that it was only a matter of familiarizing himself with the subtraction symbol.


I love the way Dr. Montessori devised her math materials – simple, yet brilliant.

Drawing Inspiration

When Ronan was first born, I had hoped that he would like to draw. Because I like to draw. I had assumed that since I liked it, then my kid would too, right?

And, so I was wrong. He never liked crayons or scribbling or coloring or anything with paper and a writing instrument. But, blocks and duplos and screws and other mechanical-like gadgets – these were made for him and would occupy him for hours. Hours.

So, I accepted the fact that my oldest son got the engineer-genes from his granddads (yes, both of them) and I dove into duplos and wood blocks and legos. (I love legos!) Which means that I generally avoided all mention of drawing classes. But, then I started to think that I was typecasting him…just because it is not his strength or first love, doesn't mean he shouldn't give it a chance…if he wants.

And, he did.


A few weeks ago, a drawing class came our way. His first inclination was no. But, then he heard that the topic was underwater creatures (a fish, a shrimp) and he decided to give it a chance. And, he really likes it. We've all been drawing a little more at home lately.




Composition of Numbers

As promised in a previous post, (and a bit of surprise to my scatterbrained self), Ronan is indeed composing numbers up to the thousands place. We start "composing" the numbers last week after a few months of practice with the small card layout and "golden beads."

Beforehand, he was just keeping the units, tens, hundreds, and thousands in proper place order. Then, I added the quantities (one bead set of ten for 10, etc.). After a few months of playing the "bank game," he was ready for making the numbers and moving to the abstract (written) concept.


Add a too-small train conductor outfit with some complex math concepts and voila! Success! (On this particular problem, he was creating numbers himself – then he would read the numbers off to me). With a little help from Calum, of course.


Doesn't this look like the ideal homeschool work environment? As if this wasn't just minutes before Calum decided not to share these layout cards with Ronan, or the fact that Ronan decided he would just take them by force, which then resulted in a crying Calum (removed from the room by me) and an unhappy Ronan (because he was lectured again, about how important it is to use a nice, asking voice when trying to get things back from his brother). But, it all works out in the end…some days just work better than others.


Math and pre-reading

We're combining tens and units (and in another few weeks, hundreds and thousands), both in written form and in bead form. The teens stil give him trouble, but that's normal for most kids. (Those pesky teen numbers which say their unit's number first – fourteen).




The pictures were all taken by Ronan – he was quite proud of his work. These beads are from Montessori Outlet. I like them for math and geography materials, but would not recommend them for language stuff (it's too small and not quite helpful for small hands).

And, since Calum has started to calm down a bit more (and we're doing our lessons pretty consistently in the morning), he wants to do some "work" too.


He matched half of the letters before he got bored and started goofing around. A pretty impressive feat for a barely two-and-a-half year-old. No, he cannot recognize any one letter by sound or by name (though, Ronan and I have started teaching him "m"). This is a homemade alphabet roll. I traced the letters on muslin and painted them with fabric paint. Then, once dried, I sewed double-fold bias tape to the edges which connected the two pieces of muslin (one that was painted and another for the back). I used this in my classroom and it was a requirement for my Montessori certificate.

Learning on the road

In addition to working with the movable alphabet and those blends (we're up to -ill, -ing, -ack), we were fortunate enough to take a trip to Pennsylvania to see some extended family. Some of our pre-trip planning included some writing (less we forget how-to on a week and half-long trip).


But, really, the whole trip was one big homeschooling adventure. We saw the leaves change (a little), we visited two cousins' working dairy farms, the Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC and Mount Vernon. And, they watched a little bit of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood when the driving got too rough for the little one.

We got to go apple picking at a local orchard. We also learned that we would like to visit PA a few weeks later next time since the only apples available were red and golden delicious. Although, I must admit that they were much better right off the tree than trucked 1,000 miles to Florida.


We also visited the cows. Sweet creatures…and LOTS of calves. (The farm is a few hours west of the apple orchard). Adorable calves, really. And, no, they don't feed them by baby bottle…this was only for our benefit. They were hardy little creatures and the boys (and I) really have a whole new perspective on a dairy farm. The calves were super sweet and enjoyed being petted and liked to gnaw on your hand.


But, of course, for my tractor-loving boys…this was the best part of these two farms. Tractor rides! Seriously, Joe's relatives were so generous with their limited time and were so very wonderful with my kids. We also got a nice visit in with Great-Grandma — and we all enjoyed that.



As if that wasn't full of learning – we headed down to Washington, DC with many grand plans (a number of museums, ride around the city). As this was at the tail end of our trip, we realized that, after wrangling a 2-year-old around the Air and Space Museum for 3 hours, perhaps, we might cut out some of those proposed museums. And, so we did. Ronan was most excited about the Air and Space Museum because of his keen interest in all things space-related. We saw the recreation of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's walk on the moon, the Spirit of St. Louis (Lindbergh's plane) and we saw the original 1903 Wright Flyer. The Wright Brothers are quite popular with my eldest son at the moment. We have been reading and re-reading the book, First to Fly, a pretty complicated book for an almost-six-year-old. But, he loves it. And, probably understands it better than I do.


We made that our only museum destination and got a much-needed rest that evening. Visiting with all of those relatives can really take it out of you. We finished up our journey with a visit to Mount Vernon. This year, Ronan had been very interested in George Washington and so we had read some books on him and they mentioned Mount Vernon. (His favorite was A Picture Book of George Washington). We also have the book, George Washington's Cows, which takes place there. He was very excited about seeing the house because he had read so much about it. We enjoyed seeing it through his eyes. And, it took us a bit by surprise, but we found that we got a lot out of our visit as well. Gardens. I'm not quite sure if the garden looked this way during his tenure (the location was the same), but as suburban gardeners, we were impressed with the integration of fruit trees, veggie beds and herbs in such a small space.




We did little "formal" schooling, but we did look for letters and recognizable words while driving. However, I think the personal lessons on George Washington, the Wright brothers and a working dairy farm were far more valuable to my young kindergartner. I know I learned a lot.

Montessori and the concept of tens

While we have been doing a few different types of activities these past few weeks, I've really been concentrating on helping Ronan to master some math and language activities. Namely, teens, tens and blends.


He has a special aptitude for math and he really enjoys it (as opposed to say, language activities in which he could leave behind and allow Joey or I to read to him for the rest of his life)! He always wants to "do" math and it's a joy to show him these activities.


In a tradional Montessori classroom, the teens board and the tens board are connected and quite large. But, since this is home and I have small rugs (and didn't cut the numbers as large as the bead tens…), well, we made do with a few spaces in between. A small part of me thinks that it works a bit better.

With the tens, you teach them to equate the units (ten) to the written numeral – ten. And, gently remind them to count the tens as they go, "one ten, two tens, three tens, etc." After they've mastered the quanity to written numeral, then you can go ahead and give them the names of the numerals, i.e. "this is two tens or twenty."

We will continue to do this work over the next few weeks and reinforce the teen numbers (always a tricky one since the name is based on the number of units). And, I've finally gotten into the rhythm of remembering to set up movable alphabet work for Ronan – everyday. He needs everyday.


I had him look at the picture and I told him what it was (especially for putt and dump). Then, he attempted to spell them with the movable alphabet. He checked his work against the written labels and fixed the spellings. (Note: some Montessorians would put these two-letter words with spelling work, but some do not. He can read them just fine, but sounding them out is a bit more difficult — for obvious reasons). He had a hard time hearing some of the separate sounds in the words – especially dump and ring – something about the n and m sounds being so close to another letter. I've also realized that he needs to do his language work earlier in the day since he can't concentrate nearly as well after lunchtime.

We'll continue to work on these works next week – as a reinforcer and so that he can memorize the words. He seems to do a bit better with a whole language approach and I am trying to incorporate that as well.

addition and sewing

I love that as part of my homeschool "curriculum" for Ronan, I can include both addition and sewing and they both are equally loved by this child. These activities were on the schedule for the week and he chose when and where to do them.

Addition with Objects (red is the preferred color that AMS Montessorians choose for addition work):


The second time he did this work (on Saturday, no less), he turned to me and said, "Mom, this is boring. I already know this stuff." Ha ha. And, he's right, sort of. Adding numbers to make ten or less is a simple concept for him, But, I told him that once he could look at one of those problems and know the answer, then he would be truly finished with it. (He's done it with the plus 1 problems). However, it was a good thing for him to hear the words: addition and plus and equals. So, after he decided he had mastered addition, he went to work some more on his embroidery work.

Earlier in the week, I had introduced him to the concept of an embroidery hoop — complete with a requested car drawing. He finished it within an hour and only got stuck a few times. (Of course, I did tie a knot so the thread wouldn't slip out and we did talk about making knots – a work for another day, I think).


And, while I am completely impressed with his skills and interest in this project, it was his next initiative that I think is the most important. Immediately after finishing the car, he wanted to do another one (or make a small pillow). I asked him what he wanted next – maybe a tractor or a fire engine? I would find a line drawing and set it up for him the next day. Well, in the morning, I awoke to him presenting me with his very own drawing of a semi-truck. And, with only some minor alterations, his next project was born.


So far, we are both liking this homeschool thing.

what we’ve been learning :: montessori geography

It's kind of a silly title, really. All of us (especially those of us over 30) are always learning…the content sometimes differs according to age…sometimes not.

This summer marks our very first start to official homeschooling. Ronan is starting his kindergarten year. There's always learning going on here (as anyone with children knows…it doesn't stop when they get home from school). But, this is going to be my official way to capture some of what we've been learning. An easy way to do a portfolio, right?

Ronan is fascinated with space and the planets…and he's trying to understand the concept of geography. And maps. So, according to Montessori philosophy, we start with the concrete and move to the abstract. Which means, make a map "real" to the student. And what better way to go from 3-D to flat surface than a map of oneself?


I had previously made labels to go along with his map (once we got around to doing this lesson). The labels are great practice for reading. So much of our language doesn't follow a set type of rules and the words need to be memorized. We've been learning the common sight words (the, was, or, etc.) to help get through the first and second set of Bob Books. But, this map provides some additional practice – and it's something that we can do over the next few weeks. It's also helped me to realize that while my very smart five-year-old can put together any lego structure, read a book and draw a detailed picture, he doesn't necessarily know his ankle from his elbow. So, a few times a week, we get out his map and sit together as we label it.


Naturally, my child was not content to stop at a map of himself. Not when we had read Me on the Map (a great book for breaking down the concepts of maps in a simple way). He begged me to help him draw a map of his room, like the girl in the story had done. So, we carried the kids' table into his room and I told him to imagine as if he was looking down on his room from the ceiling. And, he made a map (with just a little bit of guidance from me).



I see a lot more handmade maps in our future.