Friday, August 26, 2016

Great Lesson #1 - God with No Hands

God with No Hands
I was very excited to present our first Great Lesson in our Montessori Elementary Curriculum for this year.  It was extra special because Bubs joined us this year.  (See my post here on an explanation of the Five Great Lessons used in the elementary classroom.)
The first lesson begins by telling the story of how God created the Earth.  The kids are always fascinated by the name of the lesson: "God with No Hands".  The story goes on to explain how God with no hands or feet could have created the universe and all that is in it.  In the end, the children discover that everything obeys God and he has made a plan for each and every particle that he created.  There are 4 charts that go along with this lesson and 6 demonstrations.  (Please note that all of these charts were drawn by hand and I have absolutely no artistic skills whatsoever.  I apologize if they do not resemble the original AMI charts exactly!)
Chart 1: Earth Compared to the Sun 
Chart 2: The Dance of the Elements
 Chart 3: Volcanoes and Clouds
Chart 4: Volcanoes and Water


Demonstration 1: 3 States of Matter: solid, liquid, gas
Each glass is placed in front of the child, starting with the ice, and each state of matter is discussed.
Demonstration 2: Forces of Attraction
Hole punches are slowly dropped into the water, working first from the outside, then slowly toward the middle, ending when they start to come together.
Demonstration 3: Model of a Liquid
I did not have any bebes or iron shot for this so we skipped it.  Hopefully I will get these materials soon and add them to the shelf.  In this demonstration, I would tip the jar of bebes from side to side to show them rolling over one another.
Demonstration 4: State of Matter and Heat
I didn't want to burn the house down so I skipped this one as well!  I talked to the children when a candle is lit, the wax turns from a solid to a liquid.  It does this when the wax is heated.  They understood so we moved on.  I chose not to melt wax, iron, and bebes over the stovetop to test out the smoke detectors, fire extinguisher, and how fast the fire engine can make it to our new house!  Maybe when daddy is around, they can try this command card.  Heating the different elements is supposed to demonstrate changes to the solid or a lack thereof.

Demonstration 5:  Liquids Settle According to their Weight

I'm not sure if you can see in the picture, but the middle test tube has water, then we added honey, then oil.  The honey sank to the bottom, water in the middle, and oil at the top.  The kids really liked this one. 

 Demonstration 6: The Volcano
In this demonstration, you are supposed to light the candle and ignite the chemicals for the volcano to erupt.  Ok, I am 9 months pregnant and I am not trying to get any crazy chemical burn or yet again have to call for the fire department, so we opted for vinegar and baking soda for the eruption.  I do have the "scary" chemicals to make this happen with all of the bells and whistles, but I feel it will have to wait until later.  There are a few pictures to follow of the children adding the ingredients and the volcano erupting.

 Adding the baking soda.

 Adding the vinegar.  We added red dye.

 The anticipated ERUPTION!!
In the lesson, the children are told how a thin scum was formed and all of the elements underneath are still hot.  They felt trapped and wanted to get out.  (What else would they do?  They followed God's command of: "If you are hot, you expand."  There was no place to expand, so they burst out.  They broke the skin and there was a terrible fight.

We followed up this lesson with some really cool books on volcanoes, three-part cards for the parts of the volcano, and a worksheet to label the parts. 

Follow this link to see how we made our volcano.



How to Make a Volcano

Here is our completed volcano!
Our first Great Lesson in the Montessori Elementary Classroom is God with No Hands.  The final demonstration for that story is the very exciting VOLCANO!!  I have included some steps on how we made ours.  It is by far not the greatest or creative, but this is what we ended up with.  
We started with a diaper box because I didn't have any other cardboard box available at the time.  It actually worked out to be quite the perfect size.  You really just need any size of cardboard box that is high enough for the bottle you are using.  I chose to just use my empty rootbeer bottle, but we have plenty of empty beer bottles as well.  The bottle should be placed in the middle of the box, a little towards the back.  I cut the box a little taller than the height of the bottle and then left a small edge on all of the other sides.  I also cut a hole in the bottom of the box to take the bottle out for an easy cleanup.

I then covered the bottle with a bag so that I could easily take it out of the volcano after we paper mached it.  This way the bottle didn't stick to the paper mache.

Then we cut strips of cardboard from the leftover box.  We wadded up some old magazine pages and put them around the bottle to form the volcano shape.  We used masking tape to connect the cardboard strips together.  It looks a little crazy at this point, but stick with it and it will start to look more like a volcano.

Here comes the fun part: PAPER MACHE!!  I have always been intimidated by these words, but it is actually so easy to do.  Ok, it is very messy, but it worked.  You will need quite a few paper towels, cut into long strips.  For the paper mache mixture, we used 2 parts water to 2 parts flour + 1 T of salt to act as a preservative.  We ended up using about 8 cups of flour by the time we were done.

Bubs was our dipper.  He didn't care to make the actual volcano shape.  Kui did that part.  He dipped each paper towel strip in the mixture and then Kui wrapped it around the cardboard strips that we taped together.
This is what it looks like as you get a few strips in place.  We then covered the whole inside and then over the edge a little to make sure we made it more waterproof.

This is what it looked like after we were done with the paper mache.  It had to dry in the sun for two solid days!!  I think maybe we saturated the cardboard box just a little more than we should have.  Good thing we have the summer sun to help dry it out!
Then you can paint it to your liking.  We have the background painted blue, the ground is green with spots of lighter green and brown, the volcano is brown, and we added some red paint to mimic the lava that will come out when we erupt the volcano.  There is a more detailed description at
I have included the Geography Command Card here so that you know how to present this demonstration along with the measurements for the eruption.  Just a note:  We had to add a little more baking soda and vinegar than what the card suggests to make it overflow really well.
Have fun and enjoy!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Five Great Lessons of Montessori Elementary

The Five Great Lessons is a group of impressionistic stories that are meant to provide elementary students with a “big picture” of the world.  At this stage of development, most of the children are becoming aware of the world and how they fit into it.  These lessons can spark the imagination and help children to think not only of the past, but of the future as well.  Stories speak so well to children at this age and the re-telling of these important Cosmic lessons motivate children to research areas that are of interest to them.  

Each of the Great Lessons helps the child to dive deeper into different areas of the classroom.  They might be encouraged to explore topics such as history, geography, math, science and language. Perhaps the most important, children acquire gratitude for those who have come before them.  These lessons contain a great deal of information so it is important to give the children ample time to discover different areas in each lesson. 

I have listed out some possible topics that could be explored within each Great Lesson.  This list is not extensive.  I found it somewhere, but can't remember the website.

The First Great Lesson: The Beginning of the Universe and Earth

  • The Universe
  • The Solar System
  • Composition of the Earth
  • Volcanoes
  • Rocks
  • Chemistry: The Three States of Matter
  • Creation Stories
The Second Great Lesson: Life Comes to Earth
  • Bacteria
  • Plants (classification and parts of: ferns, conifers, and flowering plants)
  • Fossils
  • Trilobites
  • Dinosaurs
  • Living and Nonliving
  • Classification Work
  • Kingdom Animalia (Classification and parts of: insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals)
  • Oceans and Ocean Life
  • Supercontinents (Pangaea, Laurasia, Gondwanaland)
  • Continents
  • Mountains
  • Oxygen & Carbon Dioxide

The Third Great Lesson: Humans Come to Earth
  • Ancient Civilizations
  • Fundamental Needs
  • The History of:
    • Tools
    • Food preparation and Storage
    • Clothing
    • Shelter
    • Transportation
    • Medicine
    • Defense
    • Art
    • Religion/Spirituality
The Fourth Great Lesson: How Writing Began

History of Writing
  • Hieroglyphic and Cuneiform Writing
  • Different Alphabets
  • Different Writing Systems (letters and characters)
  • Ancient Civilizations
  • The Printing Press

The Fifth Great Lesson: How Numbers Began
  • History of Numbers
  • History of Mathematics
  • Different Number Systems
  • How ‘zero’ came to be
  • The invention of the Calendar
  • Systems and Units of Measurement
  • Economic Geography

As you can see, there is plenty of material to cover in between the telling of the Lessons. While it is important to tell the First Great Lesson as early in the year as possible, time should be left between the Great Lessons to give your child the opportunity to explore.  Also to note, the Great Lessons are repeated every year throughout the elementary span of 6 years.  Each year, the child will learn something new or dig a little further into a topic that particularly interests them.  I have presented these to my daughter a few times now and she pulls out different information from them every year because she is a little older and in a different stage of development. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

School days

We have had a few productive weeks of school.  As always, these are just a few shots of some of the work the children do throughout the morning.  I feel like I should carry my camera on my hip, but it becomes quite distracting for them and then they are always wanting me to take pictures of them and not really focusing on their work.  I will be posting a few individual lessons soon, but for now, here are some general pictures from our school days.
Nito has been working on the metal insets.  However, he never chooses this work on his own.  I always have to be present with him.  I hope that once he gets the hang of it, he will choose it independently.  It is a great work before handwriting.

When Kui has free time throughout the morning, she always goes to the decimal checkerboard.  It is a good review for her so I let her have at it. 

Nito is showing some growth since the past year.  He is choosing more work independently and will stay focused and concentrated as long as I can keep T-man away from him.  Boy oh boy do those two have some kind of dynamic in the classroom!!

Bubs has been reviewing his clock material.  He was excited that I put the stamps back on the shelf.  It is a nice extension for him since he gets a little discouraged with just the clock material.  He claims that he "can't do it", but when there is a stamp and messy ink, all of a sudden he CAN do it!  I'm just glad he is learning how to draw the arrows on the clock and learning how to tell time the "old fashioned way". 

Kui was reviewing over the parts of a letter.  She did quite a bit of letter writing last year, but I made a quick material for her by cutting up the parts of a letter and having her label them.  For example, the labels are heading, greeting, body, closing, and signature.  She made sure to tell me that this was very easy and that she knew all the parts.  So we will clearly move away from that and on to something more challenging.
Bubs did some land and water forms review which I was pleasantly surprised with.  I had spent time at the end of last year making some nice booklets for this work and then he never took it off of the shelf again.  He enjoyed talking about the names and it is a great practical life exercise for pouring.  He has to make sure that water line is exactly to the top of the form.  (Don't mind the non color-coded material you see there.  We couldn't find our metal bucket so he grabbed the bucket from table washing.  He is old enough now though that the colors don't really matter.)
Nito and I spent some time making this interesting tower.  I had seen this picture on a Montessori school website last year sometime, but never got around to making it.  It took us three tries, but we did it! (Oh actually it took us two, but then Nito ran by it in excitement right before I snapped the picture and it fell over!  So we built it again).  It includes three works from primary: the pink tower, the brown, stairs, and the red rods. 

Bubs was finally presented the subtraction strip board.  I will write up an individual post about this once he has gone through all of the presentations.  He really enjoyed this work.

Nito doing some shoe polishing. 

I sort of gave up on my fantasy of having art lessons on Friday afternoon so I just plopped our art book in front of Kui the other day and told her to read the lesson and do the work independently.  She was working on a watercolor wash and studied the Limbourg brothers.  I have come to terms with (well sort of) my limitations on the variety of subjects we can get to in a given week or month.  Art and music will just have to take a back seat for now.  Kui does piano lessons weekly and is in the choir at church with a great teacher so I feel like she is getting something.  As for art, it is hit or miss.  Two years ago I paid someone to come do a weekly hour and a half lesson with her for art, but it just became too time consuming and costly. 
I didn't grab any shots of T-man, but he does work every so often at his table.  I have sort of let him roam around more freely this year so far because it is just hard for me to keep bending over, sitting on the floor, etc. with him.  Our baby will be due in a few weeks so I will try to get to some toddler presentations after the baby has come.  Kui does work with him in the mornings when she wants a break from her work and this is very helpful.  

Friday, August 12, 2016

World Map and Continent Box

Nito was working diligently on the world map this past week.  I never really presented this last year to him or Bubs.  Bubs is really behind on learning his continents and oceans, but it will be good for them to do some group work together to reinforce the information.

After Nito worked with it a few times, he chose a continent box off of the shelf.  Authentic Montessori continent boxes, I believe, have items from the actual continents in there for the child to manipulate sensorially.  For example, maybe a cool instrument might be found in the South American box or a small carved wooden animal in the Africa box.  Ours are just a few different language booklets along with a geography folder with pictures.  (I know pretty lame.....maybe one day!)

Here is a picture of what's inside the Europe box.  There are several three-part card booklets to choose from.  In each box, there is an assortment of animals from that continent, food, instruments, flags, etc.  Then the child can start to associate those different things with that continent and eventually with the specific country.  Some of our conversations with working on the animals or instruments leads to possibly watching a cool video (usually found on YouTube).  Hey, whatever gets the child to be excited about geography and language right?!  Their teacher secretly likes watching these videos too.  I am learning right along with them :)

Sample folder with various pictures and descriptions from some of the countries located on the specific continent.

Picture of ladies in Poland.  This also helps the child visualize the attire, climate, landscape, etc. from these countries.

Sample picture from Croatia.

Bubs decided to join in on the three-part cards.

They really enjoyed the animal pictures from Europe.  I have to say there are some interesting ones that I had trouble pronouncing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

First week of 2016-2017 School Week!

Well, we are back at it again.  We officially started school August 1st.  We have a baby coming in about a month and then my oh so lovely hubby is taking the kids on a month long vacation to Kenya while mommy and the baby gets some much needed one on one time.  So....needless to say the kids will miss about 2 months of proper schooling in the classroom.  We will take Sept. and Oct. off, but they will do work while they are away. 

We had a productive first week and I am determined this year to do a much better job of planning and preparing for the school year.  Isn't it funny how much better and smoother your school day goes when there is an actual plan for the day or the week?  I know my kids work better when their teacher is prepared and are much more interested in the subject we are learning about.  It also helps to have library books already in the classroom when you are ready to present a lesson on something.  Last year, I skipped a lot of great resources from the library because I just wasn't prepared and let the little things like that slip through the cracks.  I quickly learned that those "extra" books and resources really help reinforce the idea or point. 

Here is Bubs labeling the long 7 chain. 

I think this year Kui will be helping out with T-Man a lot.  These younger ones take a lot of time and I still have to figure out how to manage working with Kui throughout the day.

Bubs decided to get the moveable alphabet out early this year.  He never really worked with it all the way through the presentations last year. 

T-Man painting.

Painting is contagious apparently.  Nito soon followed.
And then Bubs......

Kui did some math facts review by doing a worksheet frenzy and trying to do it in 5 minutes.  She was a few seconds off, but will try to improve her time next week.

Kui working on the sensorial decanomial.  This is really a work for Bubs, but I thought she could do it for fun and for a good review. 

Nito worked on the number rods and was able to count all the way to 10 without messing up!  I will present the number cards that go with this work next week.  It is exciting to see him progress along with the materials.
There is quite a bit of work that goes on with Kui and Bubs in the afternoon, but the camera never seems to be around.  I will be sure to document some of those moments throughout the year.