Category Archives: Practical Life – Elementary


BW working out the laws of division. “Mhhhhh. I wonder if there is a way that you can know if this really giant number is divisible by four without having to divide it alllll the way out?”

Just a reminder to myself:  

The process defines who we are.  It isn’t the product that defines.  It is the journey that guides us and allows us to guide others.  It is the way we approach the difficult, the impossible, the unknown that determines who we are in the end and what we understand once we have reached the product.

How we approach the weak, the needy, the hopeless shows the depth of the understanding of ourselves and our own poverty of soul.  It is not the giving of charity as a product but rather the recognition of the deepest needs in ourselves and overcoming those needs to aid another person in their pilgrimage through this mortal plane. When it is in “pardoning that we are pardoned” then we are aware of the importance of the work.  This is process.

How we sit with the suffering in silence; how we laugh when laughing is easy; how we find hope in the time when laughter is impossible;  these are process.  This is what matters.

What my hand, mind, mouth, soul makes is not as important as the process by which it is envisioned, spoken, pursued, constructed, and loved.


Filed under BW, Educational Philosophy, Mathematics, Montessori, Moral Compas, Operations, Practical Life - Elementary, Students

Botany for BW

Today was our first day back.  I’ve been hoping that all of BW’s plants would hold off until he could see what they were up to.  Here is his botany in pictures.

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Filed under Botany, BW, gardening, Practical Life - Elementary, Science

Montessori and Botany – A Case

Rant to follow:

We’ve been looking at the Montessori Botany charts and the AMI Montessori Botany books and cards intently for about two months.  It was not an easy decision to do this because botany is not emphasized in any school that I have observed in nor was it encouraged in my training. BW will be entering a school next year where Botany will be set aside.

Consider the implications.

What is the most predominant color in your yard?  For most of us it is green.  Green from the chlorophyll in the plants.  It surrounds the child in his world every day.  Trees and bushes, flowers and veggies.  Grasses and weeds are all items that the child comes in contact with on a daily basis. (Or she should – that is another rant all together.)

What has a discernible life cycle that fits within the context of one year?

Plants do not require us to follow a multi-year pattern to observe the rhythms of life.  The buds come,  the leaves, the flowers, the fruit, the mature plant’s job is complete, it rests or dies.  We can communicate this rhythm easily even to the very young child.

It is small and great at the same time.

It requires a magnifying glass to look at the veins in the leaves and the stamens in the flower and the root hairs which nourish the whole plant.

It requires us to stand way back to measure how deep the roots go into the ground and how high into the air the plant grows.

It requires children to join hands to measure the girth of the tree.

It requires the most delicate touch to examine the parts of a seed and and the great strength to roll a log to see what uses the moist ground underneath as its home

It summons  the greatest of courage to climb into the tree’s limbs (and to come back down on their own) and the evokes the gift of nurturing as the tiny seeds push their way into this world.

It encourages personal responsibility for the food that the classroom may share and that enters our bodies.

Botany is wild and wonderful.  It is small and great.  It surrounds the child.  They must be given the chance to love their world and Botany is a whole giant slice that we are often overlooking to get to the animals.

As for us.  We began whole underwhelmed.  Now we measure our growing beans (which have just put forth fruit).  We’ve harvested our radishes.  We’ve cut open flowers.  Looked at symmetry. Measured the height of the Live Oak in the front and back yards.  Rubbed leaves.  Know about roots and types.  Eaten weeds from our yard -seriously really good. Worked up the courage to climb onto the shed roof to discuss how water moves through the plant.  And most importantly – we’ve become so much more attentive to the world in which we live.


  1. how to scientifically measure
  2. how to graph over time 
  3. how to use a scalpel
  4. parts of a plant cell
  5. parts of the flower
  6. parts of the roots
  7. parts of the stem
  8. vascular system of the plants
  9. nitrogen cycle
  10. periodic table symbols (more of them)
  11. shells of electrons (needed for ions and charged particles)
  12. how warm soil must be to grow veggies
  13. how to draw for science journals
  14. how to use secondary measurements and triangulation ratios to measure height of trees.
  15. how to harvest from nature
  16. hydroponics (and here)
  17. a few natural remedies for bites, bruises, and stings
  18. how water pressure works (and how it doesn’t)
  19. types of leaves
  20. types of leaf margins
  21. types of venation
  22. shapes of leaves
  23. parts of the leaf
  24. types of stems
  25. taxonomical divisions in plants – and why

All this and we are only on lesson 13 out of 26.

Previous thoughts on Botany here.


Filed under AV, Botany, BW, DW, gardening, JV, MMcC, Practical Life - Elementary, Projects, Science, Students

BW’s Botany Project – Installed

BW’s mom sent over photos of his project.  They installed it in their kitchen bay window.


Filed under Art, Botany, BW, Practical Life - Elementary, Science, Students

Botany Project

We’ve been working through the classic Montessori botany lessons.  Parallel to the impressionistic lessons the child is exposed to the botany books.  These books are color coded and cover the parts of plants and types of plants.  It does not teach how to classify plants. But it teaches you how to identify the parts of a plant that lead to classification.

BW began working on the parts of the leaf – elementary level.  We added the venation of leaves because we needed a reason to use the nomenclature we were learning.  Ms. JW popped outside during lunch and scoured the yard for different types of leaves – in venation and in shape (that’s next to examine).

There are four types of venation:  Netted, Pinnate, Palmate, and Parallel.  BW spent time classifying the leaves until he had it cold.

During this process Ms. JW and I saw how much he enjoyed it.  We thought he might do well with another, slower time with the leaves.  BW didn’t have much experience in Casa doing sorting work. He has trouble slowing down long enough to observe closely.  To help him with this, we brought out the contact paper and rub-on letters.  Over the next two days BW had sustained interest in this beautiful, artistic, informative way to remember the types of venation.

Here is what ensued:

Organizing the leaves.

BW joining the panels together.

It is work that requires an extreme attention to detail.

Learning how to space and place rub-on letters.

Hanging the nearly finished piece up for inspiration as the tedious process of writing the key of Leaf Venation.


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Filed under Art, Botany, BW, Practical Life - Elementary, Science, Students

The Study of Water Pressure Continues

According to the kids in the call of science, they climbed on the shed roof.  They, according to them, needed to be on the roof to study water pressure better.  After all trees are tall they reasoned.  It is really a study in Botany.

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Filed under Botany, BW, DW, MMcC, Practical Life - Elementary, Science, Students

More than Water Pressure

We’ve been working through the Montessori botany lessons.  These lessons begin with the roots and move up the stems and into the leaves.  We have been looking at how water pressure works.  The soil to roots to stems to leaves to the atmosphere.  We discussed capillary pressure; we discussed how the sun “sucks” the water further up into the leaves; we also discussed how water moves from the higher pressure to lower pressure.

Ms. Julie worked with a long length of garden hose, 1/4 in tubing – 8 feet in length, and 1/2 in tubing to demonstrate the principals of the xylem constructions.

After the demonstration, the kids began to play with the garden hose piece. Eventually they spent around thirty minutes trying to get it into the tree.  Finally AV was employed to help.

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Filed under Botany, BW, DW, gardening, Practical Life - Elementary, Science, Students