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!

Monday, April 4, 2011

March has Blown Away!

It is always amazing to me how the spring semester flies by.  March is already gone with the wind.  We had lots of rain and some minor road flooding.  Luckily, we were not blocked in by flooding!  In '97 it was so bad, I had to go an hour out of my way to get to work! 
Unfortunately, I have not gotten as far in math as I would have liked.  Our elementary has had lots of special programs lately that have interrupted our morning schedule.  When that happens, I usually skip our independent work time as I'm afraid it would cause too much frustration to get  work out, get started and have to stop or not have time to finish. 
I do have one group that has gotten to the numeral parts of the golden bead lessons.  They were able to create numbers in the thousands easily using all 4 places.  I can't wait to move them into operations with the beads!  I also have to get out my 100 and 1000 bead chains and show them how to use them. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Work Time Again!

Things always get a little crazy in our public traditional school from the end of October until January.  We have Red Ribbon week, Halloweeen parties, rehearsals for a Thanksgiving play, and lots of Christmas/holiday activities so we do not get to an independent work time much during this time.  I'm always kind of glad when January comes so we can get back to our regular schedule.  However this January/first of February was rather wild.  We had a lot of bad weather so we only had about three weeks of school altogether.  We are finally back in school in back to work time this week!
I found it interesting that the children chose nothing from the math and language shelves.  They went back to some of our first "work choices" and chose pin punching, the insets for design, and other non-traditional choices that I had not put away from the beginning of the year like animal models and puppets.  We are no where near a three hour work cycle but I do my best. In math I am still giving the golden bead lessons to small groups.  Each group is at a different place in the lessons.  Some are still working on naming the beads, others are working on counting the beads.  In grammar we are ready for our first key experience with adectives.  I do not have the wooden grammar symbol yet, but wish I did!  The children are at various levels in language/phonics activities.  I have gone back to my traditional reading groups during this time.  I just can't get to enough children to feel I am doing an adequate time with reading instruction.  As a reading specialist I am VERY comfortable with small group reading. 
Some other non-Montessori work we are doing is xtramath.  This is a free individualized program.  You enroll at and children work on bacsic facts.  My groups are also using the Reading First Listening Centers from Lakeshore Learning covering phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, context clues, fluency and comprehension.  This are a good reinforcement of my lessons I've taught.  My highest readers are also doing a read along of the first Junie B. Jones book with the audio CD.   I also have a DVD center with custom made DVD's to reinforce math, language, science and social studies content that has been covered.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Golden Beads!

I have finally ordered enough golden bead material to do the 3-6 lessons for introduction to the decimal system.  The items came yesterday and it was like Christmas for me!  I'm so excited to complete the lesson series with my kiddos.  Last year I did the early lessons, but did not have enough beads to do them all.  I also ordered 1 set of large wooden numbers and 1 set of small wooden numbers.  I really like the durability of the wooden ones/versus the laminated paper I used last year.  Also I did not have a great storage tray for them so it was a struggle to sort them for lessons.
Last night I was looking through sites/blogs for the instructions for the bank game and trying to find the appropriate "when" to use it with regard to lesson sequence.  That is when I had an "ah-ha" moment.  I discovered that there are 2 bank games.  I had only read about the bank game in reference to the golden beads.  Last summer when I was ordering new materials for the classroom, I ordered a wooden framed set labeled the bank game.  Come to find out this is actually a game for long division (Montessori gurus-please correct me if I am wrong on this.)  So now I have the materials for both bank games!
I also discovered something interesting.  Su Chen's albums for the decimal system alternate bead and numeral lessons in their sequence.  The Montessori World albums (which I really love because they have pictures and I like the way they are written) do all the bead lessons first and then the number lessons.  After seeing this (Su Chen's) I had a small "panic" moment wondering if I should have already introduced the number cards to my little ones.  So I sent out a desperate email to my internet co-hearts as to which one is correct.  The response I received gave me a sigh of relief and made perfect sense-beads before numerals, concrete before abstract.  I know it is probably not a big deal but my OCD mind likes order and sequence and I had to know the proper way to do these!
I also wanted to share my research on pricing in case anyone else needs to order some bead material.  I comparision shopped 4-5 major online stores for the materials I needed (Adena, Caliber, Montessori Outlet, Ifit) and from what I came up with Caliber had the most bang for the buck.  Adena would have come in first but some of the materials were out of stock and would not arrive until February ? and I needed the materials for this week.  Ifit was running an close 2nd to Adena until I looked into shipping and Wow!  So Caliber had the next best pricing and they said they shipped next day and it took up to 5 days for shipping.  I ordered my materials Monday evening and received them on the following Monday afternoon!  I spent a little under $100 and ordered Large numbers to 9000, small numbers to 9000, 45 wooden hundred squares, 9 wooden thousand cubes, 45 golden bead tens, 45 bead units, and 1 golden bead hundred chain.  I already had the introduction to the decimal system set with the real bead hundred squares and thousand cube so the wooden ones were fine for me for the difference in the price.  The only thing I was a little unhappy with and this is a personal thing-not with the company is that the cubes are larger than my bead cube.  Overall, I am very happy with my purchase.  This is my 3rd order with this company and they have not let me down, yet.  So if you need materials consider