Monthly Archives: February 2011

Lectures and more lectures

Every once and a while I am overwhelmed by the advanced nature of the thoughts that the boys have.  Partly because they have always been in a Montessori environment and now a home-based Montessori environment and partly because I was an only child and have a poor understanding of what knowledge is “age appropriate” and what is not, I don’t realize how amazingly intelligent, articulate, and mature the boys are.

Anywho, just had to say that.

Off we went to the College of Charleston for their weekly Biology Seminar. The last one we attended was on Blood Sucking Flies. Not only did we get to see Dr. Wiseman but we got to be thoroughly informed on the history and questions surrounding food webs.

UNC-Wilimgton faculty member, Dr. Long, spoke on the sufficiently vague title of  the Relationships between biodiversity, trophic complexity, and food web stability. He showed the traditional models of food webs do not take into account things like cannibalism or parasites.  Where do you put parasites? They are more closely related to the top predators in the variety of what they feed on, but often they are smaller than the base organisms.  Incidentally, they can account for huge amounts of biomass in ecosystems.

He went on to discuss his own questions regarding omnivore roles in ecosystems and frankly,  I became rather confused by the mathematical formulas and what the various initials meant.  The bottom line for me fell into two questions: 1. since the predator prey population relationship in aquatic systems is vastly different than in terrestrial systems, how was that worked into the model; and 2. 38 day cycle does not allow for reproduction and natural life-death patterns, how accurate can these results be?

Since we are beginning discussions on the various levels of Fundamental Needs of Man, any form of interdependency and webbing is helpful.



Leave a comment

Filed under AV, Biology, BR, DW, Going outs (Field Trips), JV, Montessori, Science

The Moment! Fractions

Making a universal rule for fraction friendships.

BW and AR have been working on the checkerboard multiplication. This work has required that they focus heavily and work on skills they haven’t used before (ie: multiplication tables).

However, AR and I needed to discuss percentages in her latest project. She didn’t understand what the book meant when it said that the Amazon River moves 20% of the earth’s ground water. Without fractions an adequate discussion about percentages can not occur.  So AR and I made a date for the next day to provide AR with the classic Montessori fraction presentation.  The next morning out came the apple and the knife and the powerful discussion of “fair.”  BW was off site on Wednesday but was entranced by AR’s discussion of the apple cut fairly into so many pieces that he had to have the lesson.

AR joined BW and myself for the same lesson on Thursday. BW is the perfect age for this lesson. He was fascinated by the fraction pieces. At one point I questioned whether I should stop where we were (which was farther than the impressionistic lesson) with the introduction of equivalencies – they had asked about the 2/4 and the 1/2.  BW appeared to be waining in interest and he got up and left the lesson!  (“Humph.” said I.) He whipped open his drawer, extracted a piece of paper, grabbed a pencil, and with characteristic exuberance exclaimed, “This is something I’ve got to write down!” (Did you hear this: “write” – he wanted to write!  Coooolaaaa, Cooolaaaay!)  He wrote the word “Equivalence” and drew illustrations of each of the equivalencies.  I then asked if they wanted to come up with universal rules for fraction friends.  They decided that would be wonderful.

“2 – Twos can find equivalencies with all even numbers.”

“3 – Threes can find equivalencies with 6’s and 9’s.”

As we continued with the process of thinking this through. They became even more enamored with the idea that 2/4 is the “same” as 1/2.  They began to jump with it. 20/40 would be friends with 10/20.   Here is the response from them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a comment

Filed under AR, BW, Fractions, Mathematics

BW – Caves

In our geology focus we’ve gotten past past types of rocks and into the work of water.  BW decided to do his on caves. His mom helped by writing down some of his paper as he dictated it.


Caves are dark, hollow spaces in the ground, in ice or in a mountain.  Sometimes they are underwater.  They can be found all over the world.  A long time ago, people lived in caves; but still, caves are homes to animals like blind fish, bats, foxes, owls, mice and snakes.  Back in the ice age cave bears and saber tooth tigers lives in caves.

One type of cave is called the lava tube.  It is made when lava flows down the volcano and the outside hardens.  The air cools the outside layer of lava.  The inside lava flows like water in a pipe until it flows out.

Glacier caves form on mountains with glaciers.  The sun melts away a hollow tube of ice.  The water flows away.  Sometimes the sun doesn’t melt it away.  Sometimes the glacier is on top of a hot spring or a volcanic vent.

Limestone caves are the most common caves.  They form when water erodes the rock away.  When water trickles through rock it is called an aquifer.  But that’s only the beginning of the


process!  Next, the water erodes the rock and forms underground rivers.  The rivers flow faster and faster and that causes more erosion.

In millions of years the river forms underwater caves.  Sometimes the water goes out to sea.  Sometimes the water table drops because of extreme drought or climate change.  The water table is the level of the water.  Sometimes you can see the water table as ponds, lakes, or even oceans.  Or, it can be underground.

Dry caves form when the water table drops.  The caves dry out.  Water drips in over thousands of years drop after drop, forming icicles of limestone.  These are called stalactites.  Stalagmites are made when the water from the stalactites drips onto the floor.  Sometimes they can even keep on growing until they form columns.  Stalactites and stalagmites can be orange, grey, or even blue.

As you can see, caves are amazing things.  Caves are homes to some of the coolests creatures and some of them are blind!

Leave a comment

Filed under BW, Geology, Montessori, Science

Stunning Shot by LR

BW and AR presenting their whale graph.

Leave a comment

Filed under AR, BW

Graphing in Montessori World

Proud as punch at the end of the day circle.

BW became interested in whales recently.  He was impressed by the size.  Ms. JW thought that perhaps it would help if BW made a graph.  AR became his scribe. Together they created an impressive bar graph.

There are no specific lessons for teaching graphing and reading a graph.  Children learn it in their own way.  It is my job as a guide to see opportunities to teach life skills whether they be mathematical or grammatical.

Leave a comment

Filed under AR, BW, Mathematics

Technology and the Montessori Child

One of the most difficult conversations I have had as a Montessori guide has been the discussion of technology in the classroom.

The goal of the Casa (3 to 6) world can be defined by “let me do it my self.”  This does not mean that the guide’s job is to teach the child how to do everything.  We selectively teach skills.  Skills whose secondary purpose enhances other aspects of the child’s development.  For example spooning items helps with fine motor control while eating; it also aids in wrist, shoulder, elbow, and finger development that will directly affect writing.

JV showing AR and BW how to read the grid on map pages. They were looking for glaciers in each continent.

I don’t teach a child how to hold and thumb click a remote controller even though the majority of adult Americans find this skill deeply important. It doesn’t aid the child in other skills. (We do work quite a bit on conflict resolution which might come in hand here.)

In Casa, I don’t use technology beyond an electronically powered stereoscope.  Defending this stance is not difficult when you are dealing with young children.  It gets far tricker when working with children who are older.

In Lower El, children’s goal is to be given the whole world.  Since we can’t travel everywhere, books are important.  Rarely do we move beyond books.  Why? As in Casa we are looking for other skills to be taught.  We are working on research questioning, practical language skills, and reading skills.  These are augmented tremendously by reading books. As part life skills, going outs are regularly made to the library.

Last week we watched a video on the Bronze Age man found in the Italian/Austrian Alps (we are looking at the work of water – glaciers). BW is now pronouncing “glacier” with a British accent – “GlA/cEE/er.” Before we go to see a Shakespeare play or an opera, we always watch the video first.  We keep a balance.

AR and BW excitedly presenting "Glacier Bay, Alaska".

In upper, the kids use computers for research.  We also use going outs to the local public and university libraries as part their research skill development. They are expected to produce a written project with bibliography as well as a speech for presentation. Their work goes through an editing process.  Occasionally illustrated works are not created on the computer. For example, JV is creating a timeline of the life of Cicero.  It is painstakingly being written on a long roll of adding machine tape. The Uppers also take notes when they go to lectures.

JV in particular does not like to use a computer for his notes as he is visual and likes to sketch things.  He has found that if he writes his rough draft by hand, he can get his thoughts out better.  Upper is a time where all the skills are being pushed and pulled to create a truly cohesive paper and speech that informs and teaches classmates.  We are working to give an understanding of the cosmic nature of the world and its history.  My goal is to whet the child’s  hunger for more knowledge in an area and they research and provide the rest of the group with more information.

These guys regularly watch TED videos, educational programs, and humorous videos.

Technology exists.  I’m not a technophobe (even if I won’t join Facebook or own a cell phone);  however technology doesn’t exist to be the cure all. It is only a tool. It must have alternative benefits.

Leave a comment

Filed under AR, BW, Educational Philosophy, Geography and World Studies, Going outs (Field Trips), JV, Montessori, Practical Life - Elementary

AV’s Internship

Last year around this time, AV applied to the SC Aquarium for an internship. We’ve (and I mean “we” because he must have an adult with him until he is 16) diligently been assisting patrons with the touch tank and the trading post.  In the past few months, the Education staff placed us on the research side of some of the items at the trading post.

Recently AV has been working to ID all the rocks and semiprecious stones at the trading post.  The trading post is a bit like the arcade store.  Here you bring in items that you’ve found in nature or are recyclable. We rate them by a points value and you can trade for other items you might want.

AV enjoys his work.

Leave a comment

Filed under AV, Biology, Practical Life - Elementary, Science