Sunday, April 28, 2013

Montessori's "Little Black Dress" -- Felt!

Several works look better on black felt.  While I've seen it used as a skinny, long strip underneath the Hundred Bead Chain, I haven't seen it employed elsewhere.  We used our big black felt square a few ways last Friday.  Here, Alleluia is working with the Art Folders.

Okay, so you're not supposed to sit on it but you get the idear.......
Every woman should have a little black dress in her closet that makes her eyes pop and her hair shine, right?  I've discovered that every Montessorian should have an assortment of black felt to use for colorful works.  It helps the work stand out and seems to emphasize the details.

You can buy it online already cut 72 inch by 36 inch pieces or buy it by the yard.  I bought mine at Michael's for this ping-pong post.

The beginnings of the Decanomial Square look like a mosaic against the black.

Again with the sitting on the mat.......but ain't it so purdy?
Our cheapie continent maps look great against the black!

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Science Fair Project Using Stuff You Already Have in the Kitchen!

Turns out viscosity is actually kind of interesting.  Here, Chop is timing how long it takes for a teaspoon of maple syrup to drip.  She had a surprise when she learned how long it took to freeze!
This was actually an experiment that "Chop" thought up for her 6th grade science fair, but it's safe and easy to do with smaller children.  My husband "Gandalf," who helped her, was adamant that we use only edible substances (a safety thing).

Chop wanted to know if "thicker" liquids freeze faster than thin.  She thought they ought to, since something like honey or syrup seems like it's already halfway to solid.

The scientific term for the thickness of a fluid is "viscosity."  A more viscous liquid, like maple syrup, is stickier and flows more slowly.  Chop picked out various liquids with very different viscosities:  water (the least viscous), canola oil and olive oil (slightly more viscous), and corn syrup, honey, and maple syrup (very viscous). Gandalf hates to waste food, especially expensive food (e.g., olive oil), but the experiment uses only a little bit of each liquid.

The first job was to measure viscosity.  Since viscosity is just a measure of how slowly things flow, first Chop tried to measure it by filling up a tablespoon with each liquid, tilting the tablespoon sideways, and timing how long the liquid takes to flow out.  This worked well for the more viscous liquids, but things like olive oil and water flowed too fast, so she abandoned this idea.  We thought, "Great!  This is what science is all about!"

After some brainstorming, Gandalf suggested a clever solution.  Raising 6 kids, we have lots of medicine syringes lying around the kitchen, courtesy of ear infections and strep throats of long ago.  So he took an open syringe (i.e., without the plunger), filled it up to the top with a liquid, and put his thumb over the top to stop it from flowing out.  Then he released his thumb and timed how long it took the liquid to flow out.  (Can you guess which of our liquids was the most viscous?  Answer at the end).

This was taking forever so we got lazy.....
Then we poured an equal amount of each liquid into a small plastic container, Chop carefully labeled them, and we put them in the freezer.  She checked every ten minutes to see which liquids froze first.  The interval lengthened as we realized it was going to take FOREVER..........

These little plastics cups were leftovers from an art camp.
It was fun just to see how each liquid changed as it froze!  For instance, the olive oil congealed into something with the consistency of butter.  But the more viscous things took longer to freeze, and the least viscous liquids froze first!  We thought, "Way cool!  This is the opposite of what we thought would happen!"



A quick trip to the internet cleared up this mystery.  For something to freeze, the molecules have to arrange themselves into an orderly lattice shape.  But when a liquid is more viscous, it's harder for the molecules to move around, and so it takes them longer to find the right "place" to form a solid.

OK, now which household liquid was the most viscous?  Honey, by far.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

CGS: Making the Chasubles and Chasuble Stands

Making Chasubles and Stands for Your Atrium

An Atrium is a place where young children learn to fall in love with God. My Montessori classroom is sort of part Atrium, in the sense that many of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd materials are here and I occasionally present a lesson from my Level 1 training (for 3- to 6-year-olds).

Ever since this post, I've had a couple of requests for more info on the chasubles.  Before I explain how we did it, please know that SURELY there must be easier, more rational ways to go about this process!  I was too cheap to buy the new Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Manual, so "real" directions may even be in there?  My dimensions were based on seat-of-the-pants reasoning!  A friend made the chasubles and matching altar cloths (in purple, green, red and white satin) 5 years ago, so the dimensions for the stands (made just last summer) were based on their dimensions.

The Stands


Wooden rods bought at a hobby store (I think 1/2 inch square in profile)
Wood for the base (we just used scraps)
Small Nails
(and if you decide to store them on a tray) Wooden tray from a hobby store

The "arms" of the stand are not equal in length.  One is about 5 inches long and the other is slightly shorter.  They are glued to each other.
Close-up of the tippy-top.  The "stem" or trunk of the stand is tapered like an arrow.  The arms are fastened to the trunk with a single nail from above.
This is a little over a foot tall.  It should be tall enough for your chasuble to clear the  base.
The bottom of the trunk was whittled, just enough to insert into a hole in the base.  It is rotated so that the arms sit at a  45 degree angle to the base, allowing all of the stands to fit into the tray at once (see first photo at top).  A nail from underneath and some glue holds everything in place.

The Chasubles


Pretty Gold Ribbon/Trim
Matching Thread
**Note:  If you are planning to make matching altar cloths, buy enough material for that, too!

A mom whose daughter was in my school made these for me.  Originally I asked for chasubles just the right size to hang on a little handtowel holder (that's a make-do alternative to a real chasuble stand).  These are not meant to be worn by children or dolls!

In this view of the underside you can see the tiny underturned edge and the stitches where the gold cross was made.
Each square is equal to one inch.
Here's the altar with the cloth for this season.  It's just a simple hemmed rectangle (measure to fit your altar).  I have one in each color, and when we change for a new season it's a great excuse for a procession!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Toddlers Love this DIY Work!

Made of PVC pipe and wooden dowels, this portable box can be hung on the wall or set on the floor.
My friend has twin toddlers, a boy and a girl aged 16 months, who LOVE this box Grandpa built!  I'm not sure what to call it!?  Please send me YOUR ideas for a name :)

She saw a larger version of this box at a children's museum, and luckily her dad is handy with the saw. She spent all of $17 at a home improvement store to buy 10 feet of PVC pipe (1 1/4 inches diameter) and 3 wooden dowels (1 inch diameter, 3 feet each). 

First her dad cut the PVC into 2" pieces and glued them to each other and to a foam core backing. Then he cut the wooden dowels into 2 1/4 inch pieces.  (His circular saw was broken, so he just used a regular old hand saw.)

Next my friend sanded all of the PVC edges and dowel pieces.  Her dad finished off the box by giving it sides, a rope handle, and taping it all together with duct tape.  Viola!

You'd be surprised how captivating it can be for a toddler to empty and fill this box!  See a similar idea that uses ping pong balls in this earlier post.

We agreed that the dowels look like cork and that corks would make a fine substitute for the wood.

If you were feeling particularly feisty, I suppose you could polyurethane these puppies.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Novel, Cheap Way to Imitate Montessori Math Beads

Using Perler Beads as Bead Bar Substitutes

The Bead Stair.  These Perler Beads can be fused together to look like the bead bars traditionally used.
Lots of Montessori lessons for children 4 and up rely on beads.  But buying the bead sets can be expensive and making them is just a HUGE headache.  So when I recently spent a week over Spring Break with my kids and a bunch of craft kits, I thought I'd experiment with a cheaper way to do the same thing, just for the introductory lessons.  Enter Perler Beads.

A few months ago I didn't even know what Perler Beads were.  They were near the pony beads at Michael's and I have bad memories of making necklaces and lanyards with those things only to have them fall apart.  But Perler Beads are meant to be part of a design you make on a grid and then melt a little bit under a medium iron--just enough to make them glom together permanently.

Not only are these things pretty cool, but when I discovered that they also make Biggie Beads I was ecstatic because that meant the 3-year-old could make stuff side-by-side with the bigger kids.  I know--WHO KNEW?!?

Normal math beads on the left, normal Perler Beads in the center, and Perler Biggie Beads on the right.  
We made monsters......



....and then Mommy got bored and made Montessori Math Beads!

I tried to match the standard colors as close as I could with the amalgam of several Perler kits that we had on hand.  As you can see, the littler beads matched colors the best, but were slightly smaller than standard beads (too small for my middle-aged eyes).  I didn't have any light blue Biggie Beads, but just used royal blue for both bluish bars.  Those beads are bigger than the standard beads and much easier to count.

Note that the 5-bead bar and the 9-bead bar were the same color.  Also, the 10-bead bar, which is normally golden, is orange here.
Here's a post by a fellow blogger that includes a short description of the Math Bead Stair.  And here's a video of how you'd present the work.

This is just one example of using things around the house to teach your children!  To learn more about saving money when Montessori-ing see How to Montessori Without Going Broke and "Montessori Lite" When You Don't Have Montessori Stuff.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Montessori Mornings!

Today is the one year anniversary of my first blog post!  A lot has happened in the past several weeks, most notably our playgroup that was running strong for about 2 years has morphed into what I call "Montessori Mornings."  

Twice per week mommies and their toddlers come for 90 minutes of Montessori instruction.  Babies are welcome, lessons provided, and all is free of charge.  Some of the children had never been to so much as a story time at the library, while others have been in part-time daycare since they were infants.

This mommy came soon before baby #2 was born, so in subsequent photos below you'll see her holding a little one.
I mostly want to just share photos of the work we've been doing, but please leave questions in the comment section if you have any!

I start and end the Montessori Mornings with a lot of music.
The children range in age from 18 months to 39 months.
Here "Fuego" is matching lowercase and uppercase letters.  This is not a traditional Montessori work, but I am using many materials I've recently made from Pinterest that are "Montessori-ish."
I try to teach "Alleluia" on other days during the week, but she is more motivated when she has an audience!

Painting water over chalk letters

The Open-Close basket

The Pink Tower is a good warmer-upper and classic Montessori.

Learning to sweep...

...and here's another Pinterest idea (I think it's called a Button Snake?).
Since my kitchen is part of the classroom, it's easy to have plenty of Food Prep works!

It was nice when this dad was able to come so that he could understand what Fuego and her mommy meant by "Montessori Mornings."

I've run out of daffodils now, so I'll ask mommies to take turns bringing flowers for the Flower Arranging work.

Pouring works are easier practiced when there is a place with the perfect toddler-sized table!

I think all of us moms love the works (like the Broad Stair) that involve physical effort for the toddlers and may even tire them out!

The children have learned to use mats just as in a normal Montessori classroom.
Taking it all in!

Every so often Alleluia needs a cuddle and a book.

I have seen DIY versions of this clothes washing stand, too.

One of the moms told me that, after seeing Alleluia cleaning our doors, her daughter had to do it at home!

The children have become comfortable with other moms helping, too.

Fuego's mommy is a great story reader!

This mommy is a trained Montessori directress.  Here she is helping Alleluia with the Limited Moveable Alphabet.
This little boy is working with the Long Red Rods....

... and here he's squeezing fresh orange juice.
When my older children are home from school on a break they sometimes help in the classroom.
The oranges were popular that day!
This was one blissful moment when everyone was working nicely!
The little girl in the pink sweater is much younger than the other children and this is only her second visit, yet she is comfortable and curious.
Alleluia has been pretty good about sharing her house and work with her little friends.  Here I am giving her and this little boy a lesson on Clothes Washing.

Montessori Trays
2-Sided Easel
Juicer Top
Small Wooden Cutting Board
Small Plastic Cutting Board
Apple Slicer
Vegetable Peeler
Bamboo Placemats
Toddler Aprons
Pink Tower
Toddler Table
Long Red Rods
Small Glass Vase Set
Small Moveable Alphabet Set
Tactile Letters Set