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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Moving on to Montessori

I've been neglecting this blog somewhat lately. This is because I've been delving into the fascinating world of Montessori teaching and have decided to move on from our past dabblings in Montessori-style learning. I am diving headfirst into setting up as much of a Montessori homeschool as I can afford the time, money and space to create.

While Nikki has spent the last week in Russian immersion, I have been sanding spindles and re-designing our  home. It is very much a work-in-progress, and I will be making space for materials where I can and as the need arises.

The hardest thing I have found, is that I need to completely change the way I communicate with Nicholas. I have always talked him through all his activities and been a firm believer in the 'naughty corner'. The Montessori  approach to teaching and discipline are both encapsulated in the quote:

"Teach by teaching, not by correcting."

This is something I am having a hard time teaching myself to do. It is just so easy to fall back on the old friends no and don't - and I suspect it will be a long time before I am fully comfortable in the role of Teacher rather than that of Corrector.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Using Chopsticks

I bought Nicholas some new training chopsticks and they arrived this morning. Unlike his other ones, these have specific holes to put your fingers in to learn the proper way to hold them. I was amazed at the instant improvement in control they gave him - this video is the first time he has ever used them (barring the pompoms he has already transferred before I started filming).

He can't quite figure out how to get his fingers in the right holes on his own, as you can see at the end of the video, but that should come with practice.

Now I have a craving for Chinese food...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Making Materials - Red Rods

I decided that red rods should be easy enough to make myself. Since the emphasis of this material is length, I really don't think that the size or shape of the rod is too important. The 'official' rods are 2.5cm square, but it was a whole lot easier (and cheaper) for me to use 1.2cm dowelling.

I started by cutting the 10cm and 20cm rods, and then made my measurements by placing the 10cm rod on alongside the longest-cut rod until I had cut all ten rods. Using this method, I could ensure that when we came to using the smallest rod as a comparison of the length-difference between adjacent rods, that it would make them both the same. This is more important for the work than 100% precise lengths. Overall, I gained around 2mm for each rod, which I think isn't bad considering that the cuts were not perfectly straight (and thus the dowels don't fit together with perfectly flat edges) and all the tools I had were a 30cm ruler, a tape measure, a hacksaw and a pencil!

Once the rods were cut, I sanded them down (using scraps left over from the sandpaper letters) and rounded off the edges.

Then I painted them with red acrylic.

Finally, I finished them off and sealed the paint with a coat of home made beeswax polish.

Now I just need to make something to store them in!

Making Materials - Sandpaper Letters

I've been studying the Montessori method in a lot more detail lately, and have found that in learning why the materials are made in the way they are, and how they work has made me really really want them all!

Unfortunately, I can't quite stretch to the £3000 for the complete nursery package. I did break down and buy a few things on ebay (mostly over half-price) like the knobbed cylinders and some number beads which worked out as too difficult and too expensive to make myself. I have been busy making other things, though!

I have completed a set of lower-case sandpaper letters. I chose a cursive script as the letters are used train the hand movements for writing and I don't think that waiting to teach cursive helps with handwriting skills at all, as this forces the child to re-learn a skill they thought they had already mastered.

I used this template for the letters, but reduced the joining tails considerably - if you watch this video, the instructor says to remove the tails completely, but I had already made my letter by the time I saw it and wasn't about to start again!

First I cut out the template letters and stuck them upside-down on the back of my sandpaper.

Template mounted ready for cutting.

Then I cut out the letters. I used a craft knife for the holes, but found that it was easier to cut out the letter shapes with scissors.

Sandpaper letters waiting to be mounted.

Finally, I mounted them on card. I didn't have any blue or pink, and was too lazy to paint them, so all the letters are on white. I may re-mount them at a later date, or add a blue/pink border, but I'm happy with them for now.

Finished sandpaper letters.

Linking up to Montessori Mondays

Sunday, June 10, 2012

H Harry

The first letter Nicholas can write... it is also his initial in Russian, though he doesn't know it!

We call him by his diminutive Russian name, Kolya, so he thinks his Russian initial is K

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Nicholas is more than eager to do his own buttons when he dresses, but he isn't just can't cope with the teeny ones on his clothes.

I have seen a lot of 'button snakes' on Montessori-influenced blogs, but I didn't want to overwhelm him with lots of things to attach. So I made this:

 The button is about an inch across. It is attached to a long ribbon to make it easier to manipulate, and which can also be used as a 'button snake' once Nikki is confident using the buttonhole (or once I have made the extra pieces!).

True to form, once he listened to my instructions, Nikki picked this up quickly. He still needs to figure out how to make both hands cooperate, but he gets the button through more often than not.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sorting Fruit

I saw this ice cube tray in a charity shop the other week and instantly thought Nikki has miniature fruits exactly that size!

Set-up for transferring fruits with tweezers

Well, I was mostly right - the bananas, which were a small bunch in my mind's eye, are single and long and don't quite fit in the tray...

Nevertheless, Nikki loves this new game and will sort his fruit for ages. He especially enjoys putting them in the wrong place, pestering me to look at what he's done and then shouting "Oh No!" or "Don't be silly!"

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Would you believe me if I said that this is one of Nikki's favourite programs?!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Superhero Cape

For the street party on Saturday, I decided Nikki needed something patriotic to wear... on Friday night!

This is what I whipped up for him:

I wrote in more detail about how I made it here.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Multilingual Boy

Today, Nicholas said a sentence to me:

"Papa i malchik looking at pao pao."

He managed to put three languages into one sentence! The first part, Russian (The daddy and the boy) followed by English, followed by Chinese (bubbles). I sometimes wonder whether I am confusing him by exposing him to four languages at once...

Apart from Russian, since it is his second 'native' language and is how he communicates with his father, and which he will need to speak to Russian friends and extended family who don't generally speak English, he has complete control of his other languages.

He chooses to listen to Chinese songs. He chooses Russian or Chinese books. He chooses to watch dvds in Russian, Chinese, Japanese... or even English! He is always very firm with a 'NO' if he doesn't want it.

Admittedly, we are barely dabbling in Japanese. Although it was my third language of choice, the amount of materials suitable for young children is almost non-existent (unless you, as a parent, are fluent, of course!) and so we went for the more-available Chinese. He has three different Japanese dvds which we watch occasionally and I hope we will pick it up more when he is older.

Russian is where we focus a lot of our language-learning energy. Partly, because his father is under strict command to speak only Russian with him (even if it is only an hour or two per week over Skype). Partly, it is because I actually speak Russian and can therefore encourage conversation, as well as actively teach him new words, sentence structure etc.. He is doing really well with his Russian - although he still uses mostly one-or two-word sentences, questions and demands - he is starting to initiate conversation in Russian and using new vocabulary words almost immediately. Often he will point out things in English and then use the Russian word to emphasise that he knows it.

Chinese is something we do in phases. Sometimes, he really wants me to do lots of Chinese with him. We read books, watch dvds and listen to music all day long. Then after a week, or two, or five, he'll absolutely refuse to read/watch/listen to anything Chinese. We haven't got a real structure, but I won't enforce one for a few years, yet. I am happy to let him absorb the sounds of the language, learn some words and start to speak when he is ready.

He still babbles a lot to himself when playing and singing, which I have noticed his friends don't do very much, but I realise that he is trying to learn a lot more sounds than them! When he does speak clearly in English, he uses long sentences and age-appropriate grammar so I am not worried.  Mixing languages is, apparently, normal at this age - I can only hope that his is not confused!

Saturday, June 2, 2012


It's been a bit hectic this week - we've been preparing for a Jubilee street party in our village.

The street party was great fun - there were around 1500 seats booked at the hundreds of tables along the high street, and goodness knows how many more turned up to picnic on the green or eat at one of the pubs!

You can see a couple of musicians in the picture above - they serenaded us for a while. There was also a brass band and a loudspeaker playing classics from the war (but not at the same time!).

Which Jubilee, I hear you ask...

Nikki knows what Jubilee it is!

 Diamond, of course! Though my brother seems of the opinion that it is kaleidoscope! 

My brother decorated this hat for a school celebration

There were a couple of free face-painting stands, but Nikki ruled against them - he doesn't like face paints at the moment. There was also lots of food, which we managed to avoid! Despite the fact that two of the pubs were doing hog roasts! Financially speaking, that is great - my total food spending today was 68p on lemonade; I was expecting to spend at least 200 times that!

Our table full of yummy treats.

Instead, we had a lovely tea, with china plates and my mum's best teacups! Some of the things on the table were: sandwiches (yes, including cucumber ones); pork pies, scotch eggs and other incredibly-unhealthy savoury treats that I normally resist buying; jubilee cupcakes, courtesy of my mother; eton mess; cream tea; tea and PIMMS! I love Pimms - it is the only time you can mix mint, strawberries, citrus and cucumber and not be called crazy.

The weather was wonderful - the morning started with almost-drizzle that looked to turn it into a washout, but amazingly it stayed dry. The sun even made a short (but hot!) appearance at around 3pm and due to the cool-grey-miserable outlook of the morning I had not even considered packing sun cream. More fool me - my face now resembles a tomato. Nikki will probably have tan lines. Is that even fair?

Me, Nikki and My Brother at our table

There was a lovely atmosphere - children were running all over the place and everyone was happy. Two boys even got away with hijacking a mobility scooter...

Nikki and his cousin look for the 'start' button...

Of course, the most exciting part of the day was watching the tractor collecting all the tables up as we were leaving...