Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I'm Back-but in a New Place!

To my followers:
So sorry it has taken me so long to post again.  Not too long after my last, I learned that our school staff was going to be shifted around.  After 17 years of working with first graders, I found myself facing a teaching assignment for a fourth grade classroom.  While, it is not the stuff dreams are made of, I am dealing with it.  The move was refreshing in one way-it forced me to streamline quite a bit, so I ditched a lot of things I was holding on to-"just in case".  Then, last week my principal resigned so we have an iterim for the remainder of the year.
So upon finding out my new assignment, I re-read Montessori Today paying close attention to elementary parts.  I set up my new classroom in a Montessori-ish way.  It is sort of a coffee house approach.  I have a large meeting rug with some "fun" chairs.  I have one tall desk that serves as a table, some small coffee tables for those who prefer to work on the floor.  2 sets of desks joined together for a table, and then some horrid '80 style desks with slanted tops, no pencil tray, and a metal shelf underneath, for those who need a formal setting.  Against the walls I have shelved turned sideways to make "centers" for science, social studies, and math.  I also have a library center and a language shelf as well as some shelves for student storage. 
Shamefully, I have not used as many Montessori lessons and activities as I had hoped.  Early on, I did the great lessons "God who has no Hands", "Coming of Man", and Early Language.  I have given the presentations of nouns and the snake game and have used the golden beads for dynamic addition and subtraction. 
Some of you may be wondering about my use of this material with children of this age, but it is crucial.  I'm finding many gaps in their education and am trying to fill them as best I can.  We are using Singapore Math as our math adopted curriculum.  The 4th grade beginning guide has you start in the 2nd grade book.  I have 6 students who have not mastered the dynamic addition and subtraction and act as if they do not have any understanding of this process.  So, back to the golden beads for them.  If it doesn't click soon, I may have to go back to the introduction to the decimal system for them.  Thus, I find myself working backward from abstraction to concrete as I get to concepts not in their understanding. 
We are now using MAP assessments and each child must be given opportunities to work within their RIT range.  By the end of the year, all students must show at least 1year's growth in their RIT score.  It's great for using assessment to measure children as individuals, not a class-but a little scary too!  What if...?
Luckily for me, the Montessori approach will work well for providing students opportunities to practice.  On Friday I printed, laminated, and assembled a Divisibility Game and Place Value Game from  I was able to give presentations to a small group for each game.   Now I have to prepare more materials for next week!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Two Reviews: Montessori at Home and Brilliant Minds CD

I want to give two brief reviews of these products.  When I thought I would be keeping the Brilliant Minds Cd (due to the ordering mix-up), I popped it in to look at it.  I want to tell you that I was quite impressed with the material on it.  Dr. Meredith gives you a sequence of lessons (suggested)-very helpful to those just getting started with Montessori.  I also liked the fact that there were varying levels of the activities.  So you would do the bead stair (introduction to the numbers 1-9) but there were like 3 different levels of the worksheet activity/lesson.  The first one provided lots of support with the beads being outlined in color so that the child knew the correct color to use and the numerals were written in yellow to provide proper formation for the child to write them.  This progresses into a worksheet that is in grayscale with no numeral guides for the child to demonstrate independence.  I have been reading about the importance of repetition for every child (in the next review) so I loved this approach.  One thing that I did not realize when I first looked at the website is that you will eventually need to order 2 CD's.  At first I was under the impression that all the lessons were on 1 CD but I confirmed by looking at the one in the Beginning Kit that there is a seperate CD for each level.  So if you have a young child just starting to do homeschooling (ages 2-5), I would get the Beginning Math kit.  If you have a more advanced child or older child who has good number sense already, get the Advanced kit.  If I did not already have lots of other material, I would use the beginning kit for the beginning of school in my first grade class and then move into the advanced level.  Since I am getting the advanced kit for my son this summer, I plan to use it after Christmas in my first grade class.

My other review today is a real bargain!  I found out about Montessori at Home through the 1+1+1=1 blog.  This book is written by John Bowman.  How I wish I had found this 3 years ago when I first started this journey!  Anyway for $10 you get 2 downloads, a digital copy of the book and a set of "activity sheets"-which are really downloads of templates to make your own materials.  I love how this book is an easy read.  You can start at any section and zip through it quite easily and then come back later and read another section without any loss of understanding.  I really appreciated his explanation of the need for repetition in the brain development of young children.  I also found a cool lesson idea for teaching routines at the beginning of the year (or your homeschool journey) where he suggests starting every day by asking the children, "Would you please get out a rug and make a work area?" 
I highly recommend this resource for anyone who is starting their Montessori journey or needs resources to tweak their current program!
You can get the book at
Along with the book you get a newsletter delivered monthly to your email box with other ideas!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Much Happier Teacher-Mom!

After posting yesterday about the response I recieved from Jason @Brilliant Minds Montessori, I went back to the ordering section of the site and attempted the order process again.  I selected the Advanced Kit and went into the paypal check-out.  Sure enough, on the paypal invoice it stated only Brilliant Minds Math Kit not Advanced Math kit.  So, I sent another email.  I had previously emailed them that I was unhappy with the decision that I had to pay full price for the disk being as the error was not on my end.  I asked about  a possible discounted price.  Well, the squeaky wheel does get the grease.  Jason responded later that he checked the website and confirmed the error in the ordering process!  He also stated that they will exchange the entire kit for me and are allowing me to keep the sandpaper numbers (I had expressed interest in purchasing these seperately.) to cover the shipping cost to return the kit!
I am a much happier teacher-mom today!  I'm going to get the kit I need with only about aweek wait time!
I have heard horror stories from many teachers and moms regarding customer service from Montessori resellers.  So I'm giving Brilliant Minds Montessori a thumbs up! 
As I stated earlier, their kits are a great value.  I had considered buying the CD only and ordering the materials that I did not have from another Montessori vendor.  That was going to cost more than the kit minus the cost of the cd and I would not have had the lesson and extension ideas. The resource CD (a $60 value) include all the directions and worksheet and extension ideas for the materials plus Bonus lessons for money, measuring, telling time and more.  Another thing I really like is they offer sample lessons and extensions on their website.  So if you are needing math materials or lesson ideas, I encourage you to check out their site! 
Now Dr. Meredith McCurdy I wish you would create more kits like these! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Waiting Again!

I was hoping to be reporting on the Advanced Montessori Kit from Brilliant Minds Montessori but, nope!  I am waiting again. Here's what happened...
I went to the website and ordered my kit.  At some point, I remember checking to be sure the right kit showed up-it didn't!  So I selected the Advanced Kit again.  Then, after waiting for it to arrive, what do I receive but the Beginning Kit.  So I emailed Jason@Brilliantmindsmontessori and explained the problem with the order (on Friday).  I got a reply this morning (Tuesday) and even though the problem occured on their website, this is all they will do:  I can return the kit and they will refund my money upon receipt minus the cost of the disk (they say it is non-refundable).  I understand the reason for doing this, but the error was on their website not mine!  So there is no way that I can reorder the kit until my next payday and I worry what if this happens again!  I can't afford another $60 disk that I don't need! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Math Kit has arrived!

The Brilliant Minds Math kit has arrived at my school!  I am chomping at the bit to get my hands on it, but alas I am in the final stages of preparing for Bible School next week.  I will get to pick up the kit tomorrow and hopefully will have a few minutes to delve into it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Brillant Minds Montessori

I wanted to blog a little more about the Brilliant Minds Montessori Advanced Math kit that I'm ordering for the boys.  They offer 2 kits.  Originally, I planned to order both.  However, after thinking about spending $225 that I really didn't have, I decided to look into a more economical approach.
First, I was going to order just the Cd and then buy the additional items that I didn't have at school.  However, when adding up the cost of buying the items seperately, I discovered it was much more economical to order the whole kit.  I haven't received it yet, so I'll post a review next week.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Summer Time is Here-Mommy School Time

I starting packing up the classroom today.  We dismissed early due to possible inclement weather coming!  This means I had less time than normal for a last student day to get things cleaned up.  So tomorrow I have to do final records, draw for next year's class, clean up, and pack up the room.  I have a cabinet that I really need to clean and straighten but I'm not sure if it will get done!
So starting Friday, summer break is here!  I'm going to be doing some Mommy School for my boys.  I thought I would do this last year, but it never really worked out.  So instead of leaving it to chance, I'm making a plan.  We are going to do a reading and math time each day Monday-Friday.  I have ordered the Advanced Math Kit from Brilliant Minds Montessori.  I'm hoping the beginning lessons are on Cd for Cady Bug (I already have the materials at school.) and I'll start with the Advanced Lessons with Coll.  If he flies through those I'll use some of the lessons at  Coll has had no real Montessori experience so I think the advanced lessons will work for a while.  Coll will be continuing the Singapore Math he started last year and so I want to give him a good math foundation this summer.

For reading I have a subscription to Raz-kids for Coll.  I love this because he can work independently at his own pace and read books of his interest.  I'm going to start sandpaper letter 3 part lessons with Cady Bug.  (I have some plastic tactile letters that I will use as a substitute for these.)  He knows the name of most letters but needs to learn the sounds. Then I'll move him into the objects.  So let Mommy School begin!