Thursday, May 15, 2014

Learning Our Colors

I realized that Little Duck, who is two, doesn't yet know any of her colors. I attribute this to "second child syndrome". When our first was little we were constantly talking to her and pointing out colors and shapes, but we just haven't done as much of that with Little Duck. I decided to make it a goal to spend at least an hour a day "working" with her. She's started really looking forward to "working" with mommy and that makes mommy happy too.

We started with the Montessori color tablets (Montessori Color Tablets #1). I introduced them the first day, saying "this is red" and placing the red one on the rug, then "this is blue" and placing the blue one on the rug, then "this is yellow" and placing the yellow one on the rug. Then I just let her play with them!

The second day I decided to focus on just one color. I brought out the color tablets, saying "This is red. Can you find me another one that looks just like this?" She was able to do that so we moved onto coloring with red crayons and talking about things that are red. Before nap time, we read a few books, and I had her find the color red on each page.

Each day we will add one color until she is able to identify each color in the Montessori Color Tablets #2 box.

One of our favorite toys for learning colors (and shapes) is the Lauri Toys Color and Shape sorter. My older daughter loved it and would carry it around for hours pretending that it was a birthday cake with candles. She loved stacking and dumping the rings. I brought it out for Little Duck the other day and she loved it too. It's amazing to me that the most simple toys are often the most popular with my children.

Here are a few of our favorite color-related books:
  • The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown - My children love this book!

  • What Makes a Rainbow by Betty Ann Schwartz - The text in this book doesn't do much for my children, but they love playing with the rainbow ribbons. This is a great book to keep a very small child entertained.

  • White Rabbit's Color Book by Alan Baker - This is a really great little book. The kids love the pictures of the little rabbit playing in the colors and then taking a shower.

  • Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell

  • Green by Laura Seeger 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

DIY Montessori Color Tablets

The color tablets are one of those materials that children use for only a short time between the ages of two and three. My two year old doesn't yet know her colors so I made her a set to help with that learning.

These tablets are made from balsa wood cut to 2 inches x 1.5 inches. The hardest part was cutting the balsa wood. I read somewhere that you can just score it and snap it, but that certainly didn't work for me. I ended up having my husband cut and sand them with his table saw and mitre saw. It took him about 30 minutes and I didn't cut any fingers off. 

Once I had the tablets cut I used Modge Podge to attach some paint chips that I picked up at the hardware store. I've never used Modge Podge, and it was a little tricky to make it look right. If I applied it to the paint chip, it didn't stick to the wood. I found that using a foam brush to apply it directly to the wood was the best option. I used a cloth to smoosh the paint chip down evenly. I was still seeing the edges pull up a bit so I just stacked the tablets and put a heavy book on top of them until they were dry.

Here's an image of the completed color tablets (set 1). I didn't make the entire set of color tablets because I don't think that is necessary in a homeschool environment. I just made enough for the first and second set of twenty two tablets (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, black, white, grey, and pink).

The total cost of this project was about $4 for the balsa wood. The total time for this project was about 2 hours.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

To Homeschool?

The decision of wether or not to homeschool has been one of the most difficult decisions of my life! When I tell people that we are considering homeschooling for our children, they look at me as if I had suddenly sprouted a second head. We are not religious and do not have a community of homeschoolers to which we can easily attach ourselves. (I think homeschooling for religious people is much more widely accepted. There are more support groups and more curriculum choices available...Things are changing for the secular homeschooler, but it's still a pretty taboo topic in most of our circles).

Our oldest daughter attends a wonderful montessori preschool. She is four now and we couldn't be happier with her teacher and all that she has done for our daughter over the past two years.  We now have a second child who is two and we would love to enroll her in the same preschool for the coming year...but preschool is very far away from our home and also very expensive for two children.

We have been looking into homeschooling options for our older daughter once she finishes kindergarten.  There are a number of reasons for this:
  1. We live quite far away from even our neighborhood school. Driving to one of the charter schools in our area would require me to be in the car for over two hours a day.
  2. School days are so long! Add a seven hour school day to our two hours of driving to ten hours of sleep for the girls and there's really not much time for anything except for eating!
  3. Our school board has been taken over by political extremists. Yep, it's really very scary...
  4. I really like being with my kids (most of the time)! 
  5. Time. Homeschooling families generally complete their school material in a few hours in the mornings and then have the rest of the day for family time and extracurricular activities. 
  6. I don't believe in a one-size-fits-all education. Children learn different ways and someone who is managing 30 children and jumping through hoops for the school district is not going to have the time, energy, or resources to tailor their teaching for each child.
  7. I want to be able to take my children hiking and skiing and to the beach and to museums and to other countries! Experience is the best teacher. 
  8. I can pick my curriculum. I can use Singapore Math and Montessori methods. I can augment our science curriculum so that it is accelerated and challenging and fun. I can follow my child's interests.  (Also, I don't want to have to augment a public school education at home. After a 7 hour day it would not be fair to her to make her do more work at home.)
  9. Bullying, negative peer pressure, etc. These are things that every child will have to deal with at some point, but I think it's far better to ease a child into these situations with the tools to handle them than to throw them to the sharks at five years old as a kindergartner. 
Our original plan was to let her finish her three year montessori cycle and then to pull her, but we've made some great friends who are starting to homeschool their children next year. Also, a new secular homeschool curriculum was just released (Bookshark, I will go into more details on it in a later post) that will fit our family very well. It feels like the right time to start our homeschool journey.

I plan on keeping this blog updated with what's happening in our homeschool. I hope you will keep checking back for updates!