While it is common for homeschool blogs to give “school room” tours, our school room is in our living room. So welcome to our house! Our living room is long and narrow so it’s difficult to get an overview picture of the whole room. The picture above is DJ’s play area. These shelves have mostly toys, although there are some educational benefits to most of them. The brown box is full of books. Too many books, I know, but I find it really hard to choose which ones to leave, so I just put them all in. Well, not all, he has a bookshelf in his bedroom too. Tucked between the books and the shelf, you can see DJ’s rolled up work mat. It’s a 2’x4′ piece of carpet that he rolls out to define his work space when doing Montessori activities. On the wall, you can see his art easel that daddy made for him. I’ll have to do a detailed post on that soon. The roadmap quilt on the floor was made by DJ’s grandmother for his birthday. It’s not always there, but it was today. The child’s table is a great work area for DJ and he also eats many of his meals there.
Right now, these shelves are mainly stocked with Practical Life and Sensorial items. From top to bottom, left to right they include the following:
ON THE FLOOR
to 10 cm3. Each cube changes in all 3 dimensions, making it the easiest of this sequence to work with. DJ has worked with this since just before his 2nd birthday so finds it rather easy now and rarely selects it. But, it will come into play again through extension activities combining it with the Brown Stair, so it remains available.
Geometric Cabinet: This is mostly here because it’s the best place to put it. DJ is really too young for it now, although he does occasionally pull out one of the drawers to work with as a puzzle. This is an item that he’ll use later in the preschool curriculum and will continue to use through early elementary. For those of you who don’t know and want to know more about it, you can read a little about it here.
Cylinder Blocks: The four knobbed cylinder blocks are in the top center of the shelf. These are one of the first sensorial materials introduced in Montessori. DJ has had them since just before his 2nd birthday and he loves them. He can do each block individually very easily and has little trouble doing two blocks at a time. He balks at doing 3 at a time though, which indicates he’s not ready for that yet. Eventually he will be able to do all 4 at once, do them blindfolded and at a distance (having to remember which size he needs for a given hole as he crosses the room to retrieve the correct one). You’ll be seeing these in action on the blog soon.
Sandpaper Globe: The small globe on the top right is DJ’s first introduction to geography, beginning simply with the concepts of earth, globe, land and water. The land (continents) is all gray sandpaper and the water (oceans) is all blue and smooth. My first presentation to DJ of this was really amusing. He did NOT get the globe concept at all, insisted it was a ball, wanted to play with it, and asked if he could sit on it (like he does his soccer ball when coach is talking). But something did click and the next time he asked to work with it he said, “Do land water?” (Note, the small ball next to the globe is just a container with 8 little people dressed from different cultures around the world. It will eventually be part of our cultural geography work).
Flower Arranging: This is a practical life activity that you saw in our last post. The tray includes a vase and a selection of artificial flowers. Traditional Montessori would have this be real flowers, with scissors to cut the stems to size and water to nourish the flowers. But since live plants seem to die in close proximity to me, I figured I’d start out easy. DJ loved this at first, but hasn’t chosen it recently. I guess I should perhaps at least change out the flower selections for interest.
Rough/Smooth Boards: These are part of the tactile sensorial materials and I’m quite proud to say I made these myself with balsa wood and sandpaper. One board has sandpaper on the left and smooth wood on the right. A second board has 5 alternating strips of sandpaper and smooth wood. The third board has five strips of sandpaper ranging from a very rough grit to the finest grain possible. Montessori children are taught to write with Sandpaper Letters & Numbers, so these rough/smooth boards are an important part of the early sensorial sequence.
Brown Stair: This activity is presented after the Pink Tower. While the Pink Tower cubes change size in all 3 dimensions, the Brown Stair prisms only change in 2 dimensions. All 10 prisms are 20 cm long, with the largest width/height being 10 cm down to the smallest only 1 cm. It is fascinating to me that DJ can very easily stack the Pink Tower correctly, but has yet to come close to building the Brown Stair even remotely in the correct order. There is much more work for him to do with this activity.
Ryan’s Room Sew ‘n Sew: DJ received this as a gift for either his birthday or Christmas and it fits perfectly as a first introduction to the Practical Life sewing activities. It is great for fine motor coordination, for developing the logic needed to thread and unthread the string and ultimately for the necessary life skills of actually sewing. You can get a better look at it through this link.
Stringing Beads: Another Practical Life activity, this is a favorite of DJs that he chooses almost daily. In addition to threading the beads on the strings, he loves to make up his own extensions like putting the beads in a glass and pouring them from one to another. This was also featured in our last post.
Sound Cylinders: The small black boxes next to the stringing beads hold my DIY sound cylinders. There are 12 old-fashioned film canisters, 6 with a red dot on top and 6 with a blue dot. Inside each of 6 pairs are different materials that sound differently when you shake the canisters. I don’t exactly remember everything I put in them, but I know one has dried beans that is very loud, another has salt that is moderately loud and another has pieces of paper and is very quiet. DJ’s task is to match the pairs based on sound. He hasn’t done this completely yet, but he can identify which canisters are loud and which are quiet.
Color Boxes 2 & 3: Box #2 has 22 colored tablets in it, 11 pairs each (red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, pink, brown, black, white, gray). Box #3 has 63 colored tablets, 7 gradations from light to dark of 9 colors (the same as #2 but black/gray/white are one set). DJ is really good with his colors and is mostly done with Box #2. I just haven’t taken it off the shelf because I like it. He is just beginning with Box #3 and mostly just likes to stack each set of 7 tablets. But he does recognize that each set is all one color of varying shades and will occasionally point out the “darker” shades for me.
Piggy Bank & Coins: This is another classic Practical Life activity that DJ really likes. Putting the coins into the slot of the Piggy Bank is a great fine motor/muscle activity for his little fingers and he just thinks it’s fun! Eventually he’ll also use the coins to sort them into types by size & color, but so far this little guy just refuses to sort anything and won’t even let me sort them with him watching.
Napkin Folding: More Practical Life, this is an early folding lesson. There are four 6″ square pieces of cloth. One has a diagonal line drawn to indicate it is to be folded diagonally from corner to corner. The second has a horizontal line down the middle to be folded side to side. A third has the same diagonal line as the first but then a second diagonal line to indicate it is to be folded again into a smaller triangle. Finally the fourth has the same horizontal line with a second horizontal line for it to be folded twice into a small square. This is new this week for DJ so he can’t do it quite yet, but it’s amusing to see him try!
Red (Number) Rods: The red & blue rods on this shelf are the 3rd step in the Pink Tower/Brown Stair/Red Rods sequence. These rods are identical in height and width and differ only in length (supposedly from 10 cm to 1 meter, but mine are “mini” rods so are shorter than standard. DJ can’t even come close to grading these from long to short, which makes sense because he can’t do the Brown Stair yet. But he does like to put two together, like the 2 & 8 to match it to the 10, which is fun to see. (Note: those who know Montessori, will know that these are supposed to be solid red. The red & blue rods are supposed to come after the solid red rods and are the first introduction to math. But, I don’t have red rods and don’t want to buy them, so I’m letting the number rods fill the gap. I won’t do the number rod presentations for a long time though.)
Binomial Cube: This is an amazing little puzzle that is a 3-dimensional representation of the equation (a + b)3. I hadn’t meant to give this to DJ so early, but he found it in my box of materials not on the shelf yet and just latched on to it. I figured he could explore it however he liked and it doesn’t take much room on the shelf. To my surprise and amazement, he actually put the thing together all by himself today! So, I guess the Trinomial Cube will be coming out much sooner than planned as well.
Colored/Numbered Baskets: These fun baskets came from Ikea (where we bought the shelves) and are great for gathering lots of little things. Right now, #1 has an assortment of toddler busy bags, like the button snake and colored clothespin wheel seen in the last post). The #2 basket is holding laminated cards I’ve made as part of our pre-language activities, including classified cards (pictures of common items found in a kitchen/bathroom/bedroom, pictures of living vs non-living items, etc.) The #3 box is currently storing extra play-doh containers.
Knobless Cylinders: The boxes with the yellow & green lids (and hiding in the back red & blue lids), hold our set of Knobless Cylinders, which are all the same size/shape as in the cylinder blocks above just without the knobs and are painted in 4 colors instead of plain wood. DJ loves playing with these, mostly by putting them into the cylinder blocks, which is much harder than the knobbed cylinders because once they go in (perhaps to a hole too deep) you can’t get them out again without turning the whole block upside down. If you’d like to know more about these (and see what’s inside the boxes) take a look here.
Geometric Solids: These are 3 dimensional shapes that are part of the sensorial introduction to geometry. Although I think they are really neat, DJ could care less and is really miffed that I won’t let him play with the ball (sphere). He’s young though and these are usually introduced much, much later so I’m not surprised by his lack of interest.
And that is our shelves! We have a narrow set of shelves to the right of the Pink Tower that will eventually be the language shelves, but DJ is not ready for that yet, so right now they are just storing our sandpaper letters & numbers, some scene sequence cards and an opposites puzzle game that DJ does like but can’t do on his own yet.