Saturday, June 6, 2015

Montessori Kindergarten - A New Year Begins

This is it. I officially have a kindergartner! We are officially homeschoolers. For real now. I'm so excited for this year, and fortunately so is M. So here we go. Week 1 of KINDERGARTEN!


I created a new planner to use this year based on a sketch from a friend in one of my Montessori Facebook groups (MMS Montessori Material Making Club - Thanks Amanda!). The idea was sparked by a post on What DID We Do All Day? about Work Journals and Planning. The general idea she came up with was to plan out the next three lessons in each subject area to be prepared for whatever the child may choose to work on. Planning for Montessori homeschooling can be really challenging because you are following the child, and won't know in advance exactly what they will choose! I loved her idea, and with the input of a few other moms, we created a "Montessori Planner" (click to download) that I think will be perfect to meet our needs.

First, I jotted down some notes on the overview sheet for the month. I noted her current interests, topics for books I needed to get from the library, reading I needed to do (including albums to review), and any field trips we had planned. I also chose three goals for the month. Since this is our first month, two of the goals have to do with scheduling and organization, and the third goal is to work on handwriting, since that is one area I know M needs some work.

Next, I have a 2-page spread for weekly planning. There is a row for each subject area with three columns for the next three presentations I want to have available. At the end is a table to list the materials I need to make and supplies I need to buy in order to prepare for all of the presentations.

I don't expect (or want!) M to do everything on these pages in one week. At the end of the week, I can transfer the presentations she did NOT do to the following week's sheet, and fill in any blanks with new presentations to prep. The goal is to stay a few steps ahead of where she currently is, so when she is ready to move on the materials are there and I am prepared to give the presentations. This will also help to focus my material-making endeavors to ensure that I'm spending my time (and money) on projects that are needed in the near future.


So how did it all turn out?

Day 1 - Monday

M was so excited for her first day of "school!" (I had talked it up that she was going to be officially starting kindergarten. The day really wasn't much different from our normal schedule, haha.) We started a little later than I would have liked (10:30) because I still haven't figured out how to get M started while H (the 12 month old) is awake. (That's one of the goals for this month...) As soon as H was down for nap, we jumped right in with a reading lesson. We've been using the Dwyer Method (see this WDWDAD post for details), and The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading (affiliate link). M is working on long vowel sounds, so we did a "scavenger hunt" with command cards. I wrote clues on the cards for her to read, then she would stick the note where ever the card said to go. For example, one card said "Place this card on the spot where you bake." All of the cards used long a vowel sounds spelled in different ways (a-e, ai, ei, ay).

Next, we did a review of the Base 10 presentations on quantity and symbols for 1, 10, 100, and 1,000. We did the quantities and symbols separately, then matched them (quantity to symbol and symbol to quantity).

When we finished working with the golden beads, M decided to pull out her magnet kit, and worked independently for a while. She searched her room for magnetic objects, experimented with the north and south poles of the different magnets in her kit, and tested the strength of different magnets.

After H woke up from her nap, M asked to go to the zoo. We spent the afternoon talking about animals, then finally wrapped up with a trip to the library to grab our books for the next couple of weeks.

Day 2 - Tuesday

The Montessori co-op I help run started summer programs this week, so we used our "camp" days as the work period on those days. The first summer session is "Nature Explorers." We started the morning by making nature journals (we did the staple and tape method, and wrote directly on the paper bags rather than gluing the printed journal pages). The kids had a blast decorating their journals, then collecting leaves outside to sketch or do leaf rubbings. The "secret pockets" in the journal were perfect for holding leaves to do rubbings, or to save any treasures they found outside. M consulted the leaf chart to identify the shapes and margins of the leaves she found.

They took a break to prepare snack (slicing strawberries and balling watermelon, as well as setting the table and pouring drinks).

After snack, we did a presentation on needs of plants, then the kids did a little role-play game where they pretended to give the plant everything it needed. M was the first "seed" and sat in the "soil" in the middle while one child pretended to be the sun, another pretended to be rain, and the rest twirled around as carbon dioxide molecules. When she had everything she needed, M stood and stretched her arms as she "grew." The kids thought this was so much fun and repeated it over and over so they could play different roles!

Next, one of the girls talked about a tick that had gotten on her while playing in the woods last weekend. Her parents had removed the tick and put it in a plastic bag. All of the kids were able to look at the tick (now dead!), and view it under the microscope. I had a book from the library about ticks too, so we read a few sections while we compared the pictures in the book to the specimen.

We wrapped up by planting seeds in our mini egg carton gardens. M chose zinnias, peppers, stevia, lavender, and squash. Hopefully we'll be able to transfer them into the ground after they sprout!

After camp, we grabbed a small travel aquarium and drove out to our new property. The neighborhood has a large pond on the edge of a 500-acre nature and hunting preserve. H was asleep in her car seat, so I parked the car in the shade with the windows down, and M and I kicked off our shoes and waded in the water to catch some tadpoles and minnows. M had an absolute blast playing in the water! We caught a couple of small bullfrogs and one froglet.


M got a little reading practice in before bed by reading two BOB books, one that she chose, and one that focused on long a vowel sounds from Set 5 (affiliate link).

Day 3 - Wednesday

H had a doctor's appointment in the morning, so this was another odd day. We had some errands to run after the doctor, and I knew we needed to pick up some worms for co-op, so I decided to skip the regular work period and spend the day out of the house. M really wanted to go back to the pond, so we drove back out to spend some more time tadpole hunting. We also collected jars of sand, rocks, sticks, and plants that we could use to build a habitat for the frogs.

We spent the evening researching tadpole and frog habitats. We used the sand, rocks and plants that we had collected, as well as a couple of small clear containers filled with pond water, to create a nice space for the frogs, froglets, and tadpoles.

Day 4 - Thursday

The second day of "Nature Explorers" camp was all about critters! I set out the frogs and tadpoles, painted lady caterpillars, mealworms, and earthworms for the kids to observe. We read a story about larvae and talked about the life cycles of caterpillars and mealworms. Next, we split the kids into two smaller groups for more observations. M started in the earthworm group. She and her friends sketched the earthworms, measured their length, talked about where they live and what they eat, and observed how they used different body parts.

She wasn't interested in touching the worms (she doesn't really like getting her hands dirty), but she wrote notes about the worms as she watched.

It says, "Stretches and stay in dirt all the time. They like the dark."

After snack, she assembled a frog nomenclature book (from Montessori Print Shop). I read the text pages, and she found the matching pictures. We also did a presentation on vertebrates and invertebrates, and the kids helped to sort a set of animal miniatures and picture cards.

Finally, we went outside to make a habitat for the worms. We talked about what living things need (food, air, water). I poked holes in the top section of a 2-liter soda bottle. The kids all worked together to put a layer of rocks at the bottom of the bottle, then alternated pouring sand and dirt through the funnel to fill the bottle about half way. The poured some water to moisten the sand and dirt, then searched for "worm food" (dead leaves, roots, etc) to add before putting the worms in their new home.

When we got home, I suggested that M spend some time working on handwriting. She writes a LOT, but doesn't form all of her letters correctly (like drawing "s" backwards) and prefers to use capital letters rather than lower case. I recently bought her several composition journals (similar to these - affiliate link). I grabbed her box of sandpaper letters, and we sat down at the table together with one of the journals. I traced the letter "a" and then wrote several a's on the first line. She traced the sandpaper "a" and then traced my a's in the journal. She filled the rest of the line with more a's.

She decided that she wanted to teach me to write, so she proceeded to follow that same format (trace the SPL, draw a few sample letters in the journal, ask me to trace the sample letters, then draw the letters to fill the line). She enjoys playing the role of teacher, so I played along and she filled three full journal pages with different letters!

As she wrote, we played a version of "I Spy" where she thought of words that contained the letter she was writing (at the beginning, end or middle of the word).

She rounded out the day by reading a bedtime story to her little sister, and then reading one of the longer BOB books to me.

Day 5 - Friday

We didn't do a Montessori work period on Friday, but it was still a successful school day. We drove up to Asheville to visit my parents and help sort boxes in their attic in preparation for their move. We listened to Classical Conversations history songs on YouTube for most of the hour long drive. We have never actually participated in CC, but our friends have and the kids all seem to love it. It's not a program that I would personally enroll in, but I have to admit that the songs are quite catchy! M is obsessed with them, and has all of the Cycle 3 history songs memorized. (Weeks 1-12, Weeks 13-24)

We also had a discussion about world religions. Car rides always seem to be the time when M comes up with some of her most interesting questions...

While I sorted boxes, M got in her PE for the week. She and my parents took a walk (approximately a mile) down the trail in their neighborhood. When they got back, she rode a trike around the driveway, and then played catch for about 30 minutes. Needless to say, she slept for most of the drive home!

Successes and Challenges

Successes this week - 
  • Being flexible and willing to follow M's interests (like going out to the pond twice to catch frogs)
  • Allowing M to be in charge and do things her way (like with handwriting); not stepping in and requiring it to be done my way
  • Having the right materials prepared - frog nomenclature book, parts of an earthworm cards, vertebrate/invertebrate classification, handwriting journal, SPLs, golden beads, etc.
Challenges this week - 
  • Not having a dedicated work period. I need to find a system that allows M to have a dedicated 3-hour work period at least 3 times per week without distractions from H.
  • Disorganized work space. We're in the middle of moving, so things are pretty crazy. I need to carve out an area for M's shelves to keep her materials organized and easy to access.
  • Not taking advantage of materials at co-op. Several of our Montessori materials are being stored at another family's house (where we currently hold co-op), and are therefore only available during co-op time. I need to encourage M to use the materials during the time, rather than doing work that we have available at home. I might experiment with developing a work plan for co-op time...

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.


  1. Wow! Thanks for the inspiration - we've made nature journals also, the boys love having their own notebooks. Good luck with the move, although it sounds like you're more than on top of things :)

    1. Thanks, Liene! The nature journals were a lot of fun. M loves writing notes and drawing pictures right now, so I can hardly keep up with her demand for paper. I like how quick and easy these journals are. :)

  2. It looks like a great start to kindergarten! I love the way you incorporated so much nature themed activities into your week :)

    1. Thanks! It's a great time of year for nature studies. :) We're definitely taking advantage of the beautiful weather!