Monday, November 19, 2012


At the start of every lesson in Saxon K, we revise the pattern of the month. This is currently an AB pattern with green and orange.

Nicholas immediately memorised the idea of a green-orange pattern. He could recite it over and over, but struggled at first to reproduce it. The pattern revision in Saxon is restricted to colouring the next square in the right colour for the pattern. This wouldn't have been enough for Nikki.

We do three exercises to revise the pattern. First, I printed out a table with 6 columns and 13 rows. This is our pattern sheet, as the pattern changes after 12 lessons. I coloured the first row in as a reminder of our pattern and numbered the other rows 1-12.  This is also how I keep track of which lesson we are on.

Nikki colours in one row every lesson - spot the one where I helped him! He rarely makes mistakes (usually when he's not paying attention to which pen he is holding or which square he is colouring).

We then have a handful of linking cubes in green and orange that he makes a tower with - this one gets skipped sometimes because he struggles to link the cubes on his own. He then separates the linking cubes and sets out 'garages' in a green-orange pattern, in front of which he 'parks' his green and orange transport counters. This is, of course, the best bit.

When I was choosing the vehicles, I picked them out at random. I didn't want there to be a clear set of all the same/all different - I wanted the focus to be on the colour for this activity.

Linking to Montessori Mondays

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Not Another Maths Program!

Yes, I have found yet another maths program that I have started using with Nikki.

If we do Little Math it takes all of 2 minutes and he just isn't all that interested in doing JG dot work at the moment. Because of his current temperament I am not giving him Montessori materials - he would just throw them or find a way to destroy them - and after reading some reviews of the later books in this series (and after finding the teacher's book at a real bargain price) I decided to try out Saxon Math level K.

We are now on lesson 7 of 112 and Nikki is really loving it. In fact, I would say as a maths program for 5-6 year olds it is probably too repetitive and boring. The early lessons focus a lot on playing and getting familiar with the materials. It takes almost the first month to get to counting to ten using 1-to-1 correspondence.

We are not following the lesson schedule - so far Nikki has been happy to do a lesson every day rather than the planned 3 lessons a week. It is very repetitive, which I really think he needs at his age, but each lesson builds on the ones before and the material is covered slightly differently each time (eg. counting out 5 bears rather than 5 cubes).

I am actually quite impressed with the topics covered - every day we practice a sequence (right now it is an AB colour pattern) and we're supposed to do a calendar discussion but I skip that as we already have our morning calendar time. In lesson 5 we drew a pictograph of the boys and girls in our family - Nikki is so proud of his 'family graph'.

It looks like every new thing we learn will be re-visited often in later lessons - I can see the word graph in six of the first 24 lesson titles, for example. This should make sure that he gets a thorough understanding, rather than forgetting the topic when it's done and having to re-learn it again later.

We are really enjoying the lessons right now. They are fully planned and scripted. I generally follow the text as a guide rather than simply reading the script, because I want to make sure I am focused on Nikki rather than the book. In all, using the manipulatives to practice our pattern and covering the day's lesson takes around 10-15 minutes. Sometimes it is even less. Most importantly, Nikki loves his maths time. 

Reading Bear

We have been using a new site for reading - Reading Bear. It is comprehensive, simple and free!


It teaches how to slowly sound out the letters and blend the sounds to read the words. There are fifty lessons, each covering a different phonics sound/rule, from CVC through to multi-syllable words.

We have been using it for only the last week or so (he's seen four of the short-vowel presentations twice) and already Nikki is reading independently!!!

Ok, so he still has to sound out each letter first, and they are only CVC words, and he has known all the letter sounds for months, but I still think that with maybe 10 minutes 'work' each day it is tremendous progress! Now that he has finally figured out how to put the sounds together, I hope this program will really help with my target of getting him reading simple books on his own by age 4.

The only single flaw I can see in Reading Bear is that it is American and thus the short 'o' sound sounds more like 'ah' and they teach words like 'gas' and 'pants' rather than 'petrol' and 'trousers'. Not really a major worry as the sound can be turned off and Nikki recognises that a picture of a pair of trousers is not the same as his underwear so I can easily explain the language differences when they come up.

This is the first time he saw the word got. We haven't done the short o words because he wants the voice over but I won't let him have it because the accent when sounding out is so different to how I have taught him. He worked it out all by himself!

Linking to Montessori Mondays

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Back again!

Has it really been three weeks?! After our two weeks of Russian/birthday madness, we went away for the half term holiday. Ok, so we've been back ten days now but I just haven't been in the mood for blogging. It has been a nightmare of re-training routines and discipline and failing to get the little temper tantrum to sleep in his own bed!!!

So, I'm tired and losing control of my temper far too often and generally struggling to return to the calm Montessori atmosphere of six weeks ago. It almost doesn't seem worth it as I can't imagine the routine-less Christmas period having any kind of positive effect...

Enough. Tomorrow (because I am too sleepy right now) I will post all about the progress we have made the last couple of weeks - some very exciting news!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Russian Immersion

For the last two weeks, it has once more been Russian immersion in our home. Pretty much all structured learning went out the window while Nikki spent time with his father, practising his second language.

He has made another massive leap forward in his speaking and comprehension skills. He has learnt loads of new vocabulary and uses it. He now can speak in sentences, though he often needs prompts to make him do so.

I wish it were possible for me to keep up the same level of Russian by myself. I have determined that I won't let him lose the knowledge and confidence he has gained, and will try to be more consistent with actively teaching him new things. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Music and Our Calendar

Nikki still loves his calendar. We haven't done it very much the last couple of weeks because he's been in Russian Immersion while his dad visits.

I thought I'd show a bit more of how we practice our music.

Every day we choose a musical note to practice. Today was G.

Nicholas rings his 'g' bell (I forgot to take a picture of that!) and we sing the note. At the moment, I lay out the necessary cards and he finds the 'so' or the piano key card and sticks it on the board. For every note, we have the solfege and letter cards, the position on the keyboard and staff, and our Soft Mozart solfege prompt. They are all colour coded to the scheme we are using with Little Musician

Later, I'm going to make him find the right notes for himself, starting with 2 options and building to all 7.

We then sing the song we are learning in Solfege. I still plan to change this weekly, but its been a hectic couple of weeks and so I decided to wait until our routine is back to normal. Nikki still enjoys singing Twinkle Twinkle, despite having memorized it three weeks ago!

I print off a large staff and draw on the notes in our Little Musician colour code. This is a big help for musically-illiterate me! When we sing, I point to all the notes - Nikki is usually busy dancing or standing ready to hit the last three himself... 

Monday, October 8, 2012


A while ago, I saw this great way of organizing toddler books using magazine files and had to have it in my house!

So, I planned a day trip to Ikea (where you can get 5 boxes for less than the usual price of one) and slipped 5 packs into my trolley...

I have now sorted most of Nikki's story books and the top of my shelving unit looks much more organized! Instead of wobbly piles (and piles and piles...) of books, we have this:

What I hadn't counted on was the number of of books that were just too big for the files. Seriously, the majority that didn't fit were less than half a centimetre too big! Frustrating, but they stacked up nicely under the board books at the end of the shelf:

It might be no easier to find some of the generic story-books but the general themes make finding non-fiction books a doddle.

Linking up to Montessori Monday

Friday, October 5, 2012

Writing Numbers

Off to Africa...

Nikki is a huge fan of Andy's Wild Adventures on cbeebies. He doesn't get much TV, since I avoid most of the nonsense programs they seem to think toddlers enjoy and stick to dvds - often in other languages.

This program, despite the annoying theme music and humour, is usually watched multiple times every day. The core 5-7 minutes is a very informative nature program with real footage of the animals in their natural habitat. Nikki can't get enough.

Recently, he has been going to Africa in his car (my laundry basket) several times a day. He put an empty loo roll tube on his wrist for the 'gizmo' Andy uses, which we later decorated with a couple of bits of coloured paper to give it a screen and a button. We turned another empty tube into a telescope.

His imagination has been going wild - he has spent a lot of time swimming with hippos, watching elephants, playing with baboons...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rest Time

Today, I managed to convince Nikki to have a rest in his room. Not sure how, but he agreed!

It was great! We set 1 hour on his timer and I put the timer just out of reach on the other side of his gate, so he could see (but not adjust) it.

Amazingly, he stayed in his room the whole time! This coming from the child who has done everything to avoid resting in the afternoon for 12 months or more! I don't know if he slept, since he shut the door, but he was silent for all but the last ten minutes, where he made a lovely house for his donkey.

Fingers crossed this will become a regular feature of our day - this afternoon has been so much calmer...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Learning Moments

Today, we had one of those moments where learning just seems to happen.

We went for a walk and Nikki was carrying his toy 'telescope' (a large cardboard tube with the bottom removed and a hole in the lid) when he stopped, looked and started telling me about how the baby elephants were playing on the grass across the road. He said they were splashing in the mud, and we ended up discussing how elephants use mud instead of sunscreen.

A little further on, we passed a fence covered in graffiti and Nikki decided to give me a phonics lesson. 'Look - P puh puh puh and S ssssssssss' and so on. It was a lovely moment, though was thankful that he isn't sounding out words yet as the graffiti wasn't very polite.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Making Materials: Music Manipulatives

Our Little Musician program teaches colour-coded notes, so I decided to make him some colour-coded notes and a staff to put them on!

I bought some mounting boards (I wanted something sturdy and cheap for the staff) and wooden disks for the notes. I was intending to string several boards together to make a super-long staff, but unfortunately, I was picturing the disks in inches and not centimetres  so they are a lot smaller than I intended and will soon be replaced by nice big ones!

For the smaller notes, I used just the one board to make a mini-staff. I simply drew on lines around an inch apart (the width of my ruler). The space between the upper and lower staff has a faint smudge where I turned the ruler over to double the gap, but this works as a nice subtle reminder of where to put middle C.

The notes are simply painted wooden disks.

do = red   re=orange  mi=yellow  fa=green  so=blue  la=purple  ti=pink

I also made some chord cubes. These can either be placed on the staff or stacked to make the chords we are learning (in the picture there is do-mi-so, fa-la-do and so-ti-re). I had ten blocks, so seven are one colour and the rest have a different colour on each face.

Staff with moveable notes and chord cubes

Linking to Montessori Mondays

Monday, September 24, 2012

Calendar Update

This week I have added several new things to our calendar. We now do English in the morning and Russian in the afternoon, because there is too much to do at once! We now have a weekly memory verse in English and Russian, and a letter, number and note of the day, as well as a solfege song, which we do in both languages. Nikki loves singing songs in solfege.

The dinosaur pockets have been eagerly awaiting a purpose and make a perfect calendar-storage unit.

Nikki likes to get involved, so I have made sure there are plenty of activities, other than sticking everything on the board, such as circling numbers on the 100 square and writing the number on his book, finding it on his die and clipping on the right number of pegs to the number card. He also rings the bell for our note of the day and wishes he were big enough to point to all the notes on our song.

The space on the board is for when I finally finish our Russian exercise cards. I found a poem with gymnastics-style actions here and loved the idea, so I have made it into flashcards. The pictures will help Nicholas build his vocabulary (and make it more fun!) and individual cards let us pick a couple of exercises at a time - great for those moments when little boys just need to move!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

First Prayer

Nikki made up his first prayer yesterday afternoon:

Thank you Mummy, go to bed. Amen.

I'm not entirely sure what he meant to say... at least he is no longer adamant that you can only say 'amen' at playgroup!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Singing in Solfege

This is two of the ten parts of today's Little Musician lesson - yes, they are that short!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Calendar Time

I've have been introducing Calendar Time into our morning routine this last couple of weeks. Nikki has got to the stage where he understands past and future in a vague sense (everything in the past was 'last day') and I wanted to help him understand the passing of time.

We started simply. I laminated the calendar, month titles and numbers, and made a week chart and some 'today', 'yesterday' and 'tomorrow' cards to stick on it. First Nikki sticks today's number on the calendar, and we count all the days of the month that have passed.

Then we talk about what today is called and stick the card in the right place on the week, then do the same for yesterday and tomorrow. We sing a song that I know from when I worked in a nursery (to the tune of the nursery rhyme I Hear Thunder' )

Today is Monday, Today is Monday,
Yesterday was Sunday, Yesterday was Sunday,
Tomorrow will be Tuesday, Tomorrow will be Tuesday,
Today is Monday.

Then we read today's story in our book One Year Devotions for Preschoolers. This is an adorable book, with a very short story for each day, as well as an accompanying Bible verse and prayer. The stories are short, sweet and are just complex enough to give Nikki something to think about (being a good friend, not hurting people, saying sorry) without going over his head.

 I then saw this amazing set of books and once they arrived, I started reading the September book. The format is great - a short text on each page talking about what animals are doing in different parts of the world. Today we read about badgers in Europe, preparing their setts for winter. I do need to simplify the wording a lot to make it pre-school level, though.

This week, now that we're in the swing of things, I've added three new activities: counting our 'school' days with the 100 square and a hundreds-tens-ones board, the weather and moon phases. I'm interested to see how long it takes Nicholas to realise that the moon changes the same way every time... I found the 100 square online (can't remember where, but there are loads out there) and made the others using images I found on google. They are also printed and laminated so that Nikki gets to play with blue tack on a daily basis.

As you can see, I have made the calendar activities bilingual. I am still trying to decide whether it is better to repeat each activity in both languages, or have a separate Russian calendar time. At the moment, I am doing it all together, but I have more activities that I want to add eventually (letters, colours, shapes, musical notes, poems etc.) and I expect that it will take too long to do it all in both languages in one sitting.

So far, Nikki is loving his calendar. I have used less than half the space on his notice board at the moment, but I don't want to intimidate him by filling it up too quickly.

Linking to Montessori Mondays

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lesson Planning and Montessori

I have spent the last couple of weeks researching and planning lessons for the next term. In this respect, Montessori is the complete opposite of what I want. I like to make a plan and then make another plan on how to go about completing the first plan... I like to have timelines of when each part of the plan should be finished...

To help me cope with my transition to Montessori, I am making plans. Frustratingly, I can't set dates for when and how Nikki will master each lesson, and I refuse to try for fear of subconsciously rushing him to do what I think he should be doing. So, I am focusing my planning energy into writing lesson scripts and presentation orders, and researching all the subjects I want to cover and roughly when I want to do so.

I find that writing a 'lesson script' is a great way of focusing on the Montessori way of teaching. If I write out word for word what I want to say at each stage of a presentation, how I want to answer all the questions I think might happen and how I want to help Nikki with self-correction, I am much more able to keep a Montessori mindset when I am working with Nikki. I don't necessarily follow what I have written to the letter, but having thought it out so precisely makes me far less likely to turn into the nagging, correcting teacher that my own school experiences tell me is 'normal'.

Because we have little space, and Nikki seems to loose interest in the materials when he has too much choice, a part of my planning is also focusing on what materials to have out when. I plan to rotate materials and only have two or three on the shelf in each area at any time. I am trying to work out what order to present the sensorial work - all other areas have a fairly obvious progression, but all the sensorial bits we have are things he is ready to be presented. For now, I am going to try and offer similar activities in rotation (ie. pink tower or brown stair; knobbed or knobless cylinders) - at least until he is ready to do the work that combines materials. Hopefully, once term begins and we are able to keep a more steady routine, he will build his focus and interest and I won't have to keep taking the materials away when he starts pretending they are guns or telescopes or violins...

I'm also researching other topics - I want to be prepared for when I eventually introduce science, geography, art etc. to Nikki. I want to know what materials I need, what I can make and what I want to save up for. I am also really interested in giving Nikki the spiritual foundation I wish I had grown up with and when I started looking for a Montessori approach to do so, I found Godly Play. I have absolutely fallen in love with the concept and want to buy the material sets even more than I would love a full-sized Montessori classroom stocked with Nienhuis materials... well, almost!

So, this is what I have been doing instead of blogging! Plans within plans within plans - I might even follow some of them... 

Linking up to Montessori Mondays

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Nikki can now 'skate' confidently and unaided on a flat surface. It still looks a lot like walking, but his confidence has increased so much!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Summer's nearly over and Nikki has finally grown enough to enjoy the balance bike he got for Christmas...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Picking Apples

There is a page in one of Nikki's favourite Russian books which shows a man up a ladder, picking apples. We read this book every night and he has almost memorized it. Whenever he sees the man up the ladder he shouts "kak Kolya's" (he mixes his grammar a little) and points with glee to his climbing frame.

I thought that I might play on this connection to encourage him to climb the ladder - it is still very much a challenge and thus he is reluctant to try most days.

Yesterday, I placed a wooden apple at the top of the ladder and told Nikki he had to pick it, like in the story. Once he had a reason to climb, he was up that ladder in a shot (a slow and careful shot...) and 'picked' his apple with a big grin on his face.

The apple in the 'tree'

Reaching up...

Apple Picked!

Now I can encourage him to climb his ladder at least twice each day. He has become so confident in the last couple of days that he is willing to try and climb down the ladder, too! Before, he has simply let go and let me 'jump' him down.

Just a note to say that I was still holding on while taking the pic of him up the ladder! He never uses the climbing frame unsupervised!

Linking up to Montessori Mondays

An Olympic Day Out

I applied for tickets to the Olympics when they first came out, but wasn't given any. Once it was possible to actually buy any tickets, the prices had tripled and the cheapest (about £60/seat if I remember rightly) were gone in a flash. When I looked to buy for events that I would have enjoyed watching, the cheapest available tickets were £170! Not a chance!

It turns out that it was probably for the best - security checks meant you had to be there 2 hours before the time slot for your ticket. It would have been a very long and expensive day out.

We decided to go to one of the free events - the women's marathon swim in Hyde Park. For the cost of the train fare and a picnic lunch, we got to experience a little bit of the atmosphere and see GB miss out on a medal by less than a second. 

The night before, I made Nikki a new cape. The old felt one is going to be recycled, since it is really too hot and heavy to wear for the designed purpose of running around in. So, in a fit of patriotism, I made this:

Team GB Cape

What made it a peaceful and enjoyable day out for all is that Nicholas was not confined to a seat for the 2 hour race - my mum kept our spot and watched the race and we ran in the park with Uncle Harry until the swimmers were getting near, returning to watch them go past (the only bit Nikki was interested in).

Chasing Uncle Harry in Hyde Park

We went into the venue shop in the park and met one of the mascots.

 We also got to see a gold medal, as one of our rowers was doing a photo signing - unfortunately we were just behind the last people allowed to actually meet him.

Before we went home, we had to check out the gold post box in Westminster. 


Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Most of the programs Nikki watches are in Russian. He does get to choose what he wants to watch, but I try and encourage a Russian choice as it is by far his weaker language (he is consistently using 2-word phrases and occasional 3-word sentences) and I want to squeeze in as much as I can.

We watch several things, including a Russian audio version of Ni Hao Kai Lan (bonus Chinese phrases!), a lot of old Soviet cartoons and a couple of interesting educational programs. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a lot of quality programs made for kids recently - they prefer to dub English and American programs. Most of the time, they don't bother to mute the English language track and if I struggle to follow either audio track properly, I can only imagine the confusion it would cause Nikki. 

Finally, we found a fantastic Russian-made program - Fixiki. There are short 5-minute cartoons, songs with animation and fact-clips. The main heroes are tiny 'people' who live in our houses and fix problems with technology. Each episode tells about the history of an object or how it works. They are full of interesting facts but short, simple and entertaining enough to make good toddler-viewing!

What's more, it is available free on Youtube and you can see their whole collection on their Russian site here. Below is one of Nikki's absolute favourite songs...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Learning Music, part 2

Little Musician has dramatically increased Nikki's interest in all things music. I am quietly ignoring his violin obsession (and hoping it will go away!) if for no other reason that there are no Suzuki violin teachers in my area, and lessons and instrument are not cheap. Instead, we will be focusing on general music skills and playing the keyboard/piano.

Now, I was intending to get Nikki a keyboard for his last birthday, since he was showing a lot of musical interest even then and I figured it wouldn't hurt for him to have something to play 'real' music. I was thrilled when I found a keyboard plus piano-learning software designed for kids on ebay for less than the cost of the keyboard I was looking at.

That software is called Piano Wizard. We tried it, but Nikki shows no interest in anything more than playing random keys. My ten-year-old brother enjoys it and played a couple of simple tunes with both hands in less than an hour, but it is not really toddler-friendly.

The software I have been longing for is Soft Mozart. This one is definitely todder friendly - it is designed for use from age 2! It is not cheap. I've been saving for the year subscription since last year (it will be Nikki's birthday present) but from what I have seen it will be worth it, and the subscription-fee counts as a reduction from the full price.

While we wait to get the software, I downloaded a couple of free things from their site. Nikki and I have been learning our do-re-mi's with Little Musician, so I thought he would enjoy the solfege flashcards. I also downloaded the song to go with them. 

Learning the Do-Re-Mi song

For the first couple of days, Nikki was having a bit of trouble with where to point as we were going up and down the scale (he seemed to think bashing along the edge of the table counted) so I made these felt mats to help him. The colours are the same as the ones used in Little Musician to help him make the association.

Linking up to Montessori Mondays

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Learning Music part 1

We've been doing a lot of music this week. Music has always been something I've wanted to do with Nikki, but since I haven't really learnt anything music-related since giving up the violin at age 11 (I scraped past my Grade 1 exam) I don't really have the skills to teach him  more than note-sounds on the bells or xylophone.

When I realised that Little Musician had finally been released, I was thrilled. From what I had heard from discussions during beta-testing it was just what I needed to offer Nicholas a more rounded music education.

We started on the trial Monday and I am speechless. It is so much better than I hoped. Most importantly, Nicholas loves it. He asks to watch the lesson many many times in a day. I try and keep it down to 2 or 3.

The whole lesson for each day lasts around 5 minutes and is split into many parts:

Chord Recognition - a chord is played, named and then sung in solfege. This is repeated for two chords.

Solfege - the note sounds and solfege names (do re me etc.) are taught for three different notes.

Note Sounds - a simple scale is played.

Musical Knowledge - either three instruments are introduced, including the sound and how they are played, or pictures of three composers are shown while one of their famous compositions plays.

Music Appreciation - an excerpt from a famous classical piece.

Clap-Along Rhythm Lessons - Nikki's absolute favourite. A nursery rhyme tune (so far we have seen Mary had a Little Lamb and the ABC song) is played while an animated baby claps the rhythm.

At the introduction to each section, Nikki announces 'I like... !' He happily sings the notes that are played, and enjoys listening to all the music.

I've decided its worth investing in the full version - I think Nikki would melt down if the trial ended and he couldn't have any more! I really like the program: it is fun, quick and full of information with a year's worth of lessons pre-loaded (the software and lessons are both for life).

There is a free 14-day trial available for Little Musician at the Brillkids website. If you are thinking of buying, please use my code to get a 10% discount! BKAFF49125

This post has turned out a lot longer than I anticipated, so I'll write about our other musical adventures separately...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Little Musician

Since I've been focusing on Montessori, I haven't been on Brillkids for a while. This evening I was thinking about how to teach Nikki music, since I don't know the subject myself (scraping a pass in grade 1 violin while at primary school doesn't count!), when I discovered that Little Musician had been released!!!

I waited impatiently for months when they were beta testing, but the release didn't come and I got distracted learning all I could about Montessori. Today, I have downloaded the trial and am impatiently waiting until I can share it with Nikki in the morning!

It looks amazing - it seems to cover all areas of music theory, and is broken into bite-sized chunks designed to entertain preschoolers. The only thing I need to know is whether my little musician shows any interest!

You can read more and download a free trial from the Brillkids website. If you want to buy it, use this code: BKAFF49125 to get a 10% discount!

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Nikki is currently obsessed with violins. He needs one, he says. I made an offhanded comment that he should ask Grandma for a violin (she has my old ones from primary school) and he insisted on phoning her every day for a week until she told him that her violins were put away and he couldn't have one.

He ignored all my attempts to help him find a pretend violin, and was rather put out when I said that puzzle pieces and parts of his Brown Stair could not be used as one. Two minutes with Uncle Harry and his rubbish, free-with-a-magazine guitar (which he loves) and the lid from a biro were transformed into this:

I don't even know where he saw violins being played in the first place! I always said that I would make Nikki choose cello if he wanted to play a string instrument, because I know from experience how bad violin sounds when you start out. If this keeps up, I may have to give in and see if there are any Suzuki teachers in my area...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Apple Tree

Nicholas was eating an apple the other day and started asking about the seeds. He wanted to know what they were (apart from yucky, meaning inedible) and I told him that when the seeds are planted in the ground they grow into a new apple tree.

Since he was showing an interest, I decided that we would plant some seeds in one of my window pots. This is what we have now:

At the moment, he is quite fascinated. He is really amazed at how the bigger plant is changing and was excited when the smaller one popped up this morning. I was intending to buy him a plant for him to look after, but I think these little guys will be even better, since he has seen the process from seed to plant and is quite taken with them!

Linking up to Montessori Mondays 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Nicholas has taken to writing me letters. It is one of his favourite games at the moment - he takes a piece of paper, writes a single letter (usually an H, M, O or П), folds it up and puts it in my pocket.

Letter M (for Mummy)

I would enjoy this game more if he didn't need a new sheet of paper for every letter.  As you can see in the picture, I usually ask him to write me another letter on the paper he has already used with the hope that he might get the idea not to waste paper...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Our Montessori Space, Final Version

I have spent hours planning, re-designing and  re-organizing our Montessori Space. I have finally cleared and sorted out the extra shelving I had planned to use for materials and now have four defined 'stations' for our Montessori work. At the moment, these are each dedicated to one of what I see as 'core' subjects: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Maths. Later, I will have to make space for materials from other subjects.

Our Practical Life Station

Practical Life shelves

This unit is in my kitchen. I have dedicated the bottom four shelves to PL and art activities. Nicholas enjoys being able to peep through the handles of the trays to see what the activity is. The rest of the unit stores spare games and puzzles.

Our Language Station

Language shelves

This unit holds all our language activities, including pre-reading and pre-writing and Russian. Directly opposite these shelves is our reading station - a lovely wooden magazine rack which holds all the books I have out for daytime reading this week.

Reading station

Our Sensorial Station

Sensorial station

This area is dedicated to sensorial materials and puzzles. Depending on what is out, it can hold a lot of different activities.

Our Maths Station

Maths station

Our maths area is not the most easily accessible area, being that it is located under part of my desk... I often have to help Nicholas remove the activities until he is safe to stand up, but otherwise there is no problem. There is also a shelf ideal for storing one of out rugs.

Overall, I am surprised just how many different materials I can have set up at any one time without losing a whole lot of space - the language and PL shelves were already being used for Nikki's things, and the other two areas previously held books which I have managed to find a new home for.

Linking up to Montessori Mondays

Friday, July 6, 2012

Time To Clean...

My little nudist floor-sweeper

Nikki decided that rather than get his pyjamas on after his bath, he would sweep the floors. I can forgive him thinking that the mop-without-cloth would do the job, but sunglasses at 7pm when it has been raining all day?!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

What's on our Trays

Here are the tray activities I've put together for this week. Normally, I'd have a few more Practical Life activities, but since I am in the process of re-organizing the PL shelves to be more Montessori-friendly and we are introducing lots of new Sensorial materials, I thought one might be enough. If not, I'll add more later in the week...

Sorting Fruit - with so many new things, I wanted to put in something familiar. Although he has mastered this as a whole hand activity, he hasn't seen it for a couple of weeks and still enjoys playing with the fruit.

Puzzles - I have put out a single 4-piece puzzle. I will probably add a second soon, but am rather fed up of picking up box-fulls of puzzle pieces so have limited the number to make it easy for Nikki to tidy away himself.

Sandpaper letters - our first three letters - Nikki is used to seeing capital letters in print (very un-Montessori) so it is taking him a while to learn that these lower-case cursive letters are the same as the ones he knows...

Sound balls - we haven't had these out for a while. Nikki was very excited to see them!

Bead chains - we are focusing on learning quantity. Nikki is great at counting, but hasn't 'got' that each number has a specific quantity. We're working on 1-4 with our numeral board, so this should reinforce what he's learning.

Our School Space

There is not a lot of space in our flat. Montessori materials need a lot of space. The compromise - Nikki will only ever have a few materials out at a time. The most space-consuming are the sensorial materials; I plan to keep them out until he masters the presentation and then swap them out for a while before adding the next presentation for that material.

At the moment, I have only converted half of the available Nikki-height shelves for our materials. I am slowly re-organizing my storage to clear up the other shelves, which will eventually hold materials for the subjects I will introduce later.

This is how I have transformed Nikki's 'corner' into our Montessori area:

Sensorial, Maths and Russian activities.
The tall bookshelf has taken the place of the play kitchen, which has moved around the corner for easier access. There is just about enough space to roll out a rug between the bookcase and the shelves, though Nikki generally doesn't. He is, of course, free to put his rug anywhere he pleases - as long as it isn't under my feet!

Sorting, Language, Maths and Puzzle activities.

 The books on top of the shelves are for our artist and composer of the month. I have also hung an art print in the hall at Nikki-height, which I'll change once or twice a month.

Tomorrow, I hope to finish the Practical Life/Art shelves in the kitchen...

Linking up to Montessori Mondays

Sunday, July 1, 2012


Nicholas has just got to the age where he is not only willing but also able to help me cook. Today, he really wanted to prepare the broccoli for our lunch. I wasn't sure that he would manage, but he insisted on trying.

He managed to saw off one head using a dinner knife, but soon acknowledged that it was too hard and settled for putting the cut broccoli in the pan for me.

He was much more successful peeling carrots. I watched him very closely with the sharp peeler, but he followed to my instructions to be safe and hold one end while peeling the other.

I did have to finish up the peeling and chopping, but he was very good at picking up every scrap of mess. He even cleaned his table for me!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tactile Numeral Board

This is a little project that I've been planning about 12 months now... I know I said that I am moving on to Montessori, but I like the idea of combining the quantity within the numeral and will continue to do so alongside the 'traditional' maths presentations.

This board is really a piece of polystyrene wrapped in felt - the glue I have was reluctant to work with polystyrene, so I ended up stitching it together...

The numbers are cut out of felt and glued on - I made sure that the background colours will match up for the Montessori number rods that I am making. Each numeral has holes into the polystyrene into which  Nikki can put golf tees. This goes together with the JG maths flashcards we have been using.

Then Nikki gets the fun job of counting out and balancing marbles (or anything remotely small and round - in this case miniature apples) onto all the golf tees!

The other side will have the numbers 5-9, but I will leave them off until he has mastered 0-4.

Linking up to Montessori Mondays