Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Word About Money

We moved to California for my husband’s job. But because of the standard of living cost here, we are barely making it by. I’m not the best budget follower… or maker :). I try to be frugal, but I don’t really know if I am or not. I feel like we are seriously broke, though. Which is really an interesting fact, because if I was not broke… I would go and buy all the best Montessori toys and things out there. I like everything I buy to be just perfect. But what do you do if you just can’t. I also don’t know how to do woodwork, and some of the woodwork would be very complicated anyway. And I only own a good old fashioned handsaw.

I have decided to be as cheap and creative as I possibly can, while maintaining the highest standard, with no money. And what is the highest standard? I think it is: making sure that whatever I make or buy functions as it is intended to, and that it looks nice enough for a child to actually want to use.

My goal is to buy as little as possible and to find as many things around the house as I can to make due. Saving cardboard or chip board is the most helpful (especially cereal boxes and pasta boxes, jello boxes… whatever). I am saving anything and everything. (Which makes me like a woman from the depression era) But when you don’t have much, you don’t throw away things that you might find a use for. It was hard to save all this trash at first, but I am already finding uses for many of the things I’ve saved.

I have started making some of the Montessori math games. I will blog about each of them individually when I start my math month. And any other month I come up with homemade ideas.

Here are a list of items so far I have used to make homemade Montessori games: Lots of chipboard from grocery box items, cardboard boxes, popsicle sticks, duct tape, hot glue and glue sticks, the printer is the most expensive part… but I do want to print things so they look their best (I’m considering buying already printed fine art items, rather than printing from the internet, because of the ink cost), regular and card stock paper, beads, string, and some thin wire…

When it comes to making a new game, I look at the item I would want to buy online, and look around the house for things that might help me make it. I want to buy as few items as possible. I try to find free things online that I can print or buy only cheap items that can be used or modified to fulfill the desired product outcome.

I am not an expert at this, but I will make available all of my ideas here. We can call it Cardboard Montessori, Montessori for the Poor :) Since we all know that Montessori is for the rich. If Maria Montessori were alive today, I’m not so sure she would be happy about that little fact.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Starting again

Well, the holidays sorta came and went and so did my planning a preschool curriculum. I actually have felt very discouraged. Luckily, there is no way I can give up, because I can't afford to pay for the preschools out here. The one I like the most is $360 to $600 a month (Depending on how many days a week the child attends). That is a pretty normal amount to pay here in grand ole' California. Not to mention I have two kids. I would be paying rent to a preschool. Most of the preschools are also daycare centers. I would rather home-school. I really have no money though.

So I have decided to start over... sorta. I think I feel the most discouraged because I need my preschool up and running now. So I spend time trying to quickly implement things, but they don't always go over so well. Emma knows all her letters, upper and lowercase (there are a few that are tricky for her in lowercase). She can write most of them, and she knows most of their sounds (there are a few tricky ones). She can spell first her name. But she refuses to use lowercase letters. To her they are completely interchangeable and she sees no reason why she needs to use one or the other at any given time. She asks how to spell words, so she can write people letters. She counts to 20 and she always wants to count on past twenty, so I need to start 10's skip counting. I did a little, but then I ended up counting all the way to 100. I get so excited to teach her everything, that I go too fast. I'm learning I need to slow down, and try to recognize the steps needed to achieve a full understanding of a topic. Anyhow, that said... I have come up with a new plan.

A Montessori classroom is set up from ages 3 to 6. So the tools used for these ages should be good for kindergarten as well as preschool. I have decided I need some time to develop a really good program for my kiddos. So I am giving myself until the beginning of September to really start a full fledged school program. (Most things are taught in a standard kindergarten anyway, so I think Emma will pick things up quickly and progress fast through the program. While Evan will be starting right at age 3 and probably take a while to get concepts, many will probably have to be taught over and over-which I do wonder if that is somewhat a waste of time, considering he won't remember it :)- It will be interesting to see how each child responds to the same program.) So each month (6 months total) I will focus on one part of my school and develop it and gather materials needed. Here is the plan:

Pre-Time (still in February) Give a little time to thinking about the current program and next 6 months. Finalize the plan, look at money, find out more about programs I might want my children enrolled in, find homeschooling groups and more resources, make a socializing plan, learn a bit more about the Montessori style, and other styles, do some reading.

Month 1. Memorization (Classical Conversations)/Scriptures/Spiritual Education/Service/spiritual music & memorizing scripture

Month 2. Math/Sensorial

Month 3. English/Language/Books/Spanish

Month 4. Science/Biology/Physics/Cosmic

Month 5. Music/Art/Dance and Physical Education

Month 6. Practical Life/The Prepared Environment/Scheduling

Okay so that is the planning part... In the meantime my kids still need something.... so what should I do.... Here is the school plan for right now...

Discipline and Parenting? I need to somehow teach my children obedience and work. I have had quit a time trying to find something that works with my children... Wow, I have tried some of the tactics in books, to find that they backfire in a horrible way. Especially, the famous Love and Logic... it is NOT for Evan... Emma is okay with it... but Evan really struggles with having lots of choices... and he will tell me he isn't being "sweet" right now... I think parenting books assume kids always want to please you. Evan tells me "Mommy, I want to hit the dog. Can I please hit the dog with this stick?" (or whatever)... he is so sweet he tells me his bad intentions first... I just laugh inside... what do I say to this very sweet boy who just wants to hit the dog? Oh, boy!

Spend time learning to love and enjoy each others company. Build bonds of love

Implement Schedules at some degree, gradually adding (learn to get up before the kids and get ready) Daily welcome with day of the week and date, Have FHE, scriptures, and prayers always.

Play with the kids, get into their world… while there, teach basic manners, how a toy is generally used, and how to put it away when done. Add physical activity each day. Do some crafty stuff, sing together, listen to music and dance, experience things... go places, taste foods, smell flowers, listen to birds, notice things. Learn to be together and find interest in the world around us. That way when it comes time to learn "nomenclature" we already have developed an interest in the things we will be learning about.

Observation, start writing down observations of each child’s progress and doings in our home, become aware of what they are doing and how they are growing. Also, just start to record the events of the day. n this way, I can start to learn to make records of our progress as a group and of each individual.

Include them in cleaning, cooking, and other household needs. Start maintaining each of these home needs, so there is something for the children to be included in.

Reading Time start reading for longer and longer periods each day

Gently work on writing letters and numbers, and start adding words to Emma’s knowledge base. By labeling pictures she has drawn, writing letters, etc… nothing formal, learning new words by trying to do things she wants to do (like write Grandma a letter. Which, by the way, she is determined that grandma is spelled granmo and that it is silly to spell it any other way, it makes sense to her... since we always use "ah" for the o sound, and we don't always enunciate the "d").

Piano Time and music, just fun...

Times of the day with different activity and noise levels, notice how everyone responds to time and activity levels, and modify learning times, outside times, eating times, reading times, and other times accordingly

Learn church classroom appropriateness and safety precautions in the world

Play with friends

My Personal Goals:

1. Spiritual Standing. Set my own heart in order, so I can set a personal course for heaven, as well as be an example to the children, be prepared to receive revelation for my many responsibilities, and prepare to be a more full participating member of the kingdom of God.. By self reflection, repenting, studying gospel materials, praying, fasting, and getting my heart right with the Lord.

2. Start developing my own love of learning… starting with piano and Spanish. Find observable, by the children, time to learn... I want to love to learn again, and show the children that I love the learn.

3. Try to learn to be consistent with things in my life.

4. Develop a better attitude in general in life. Be more aware of my reactions to things. Use more positive words in difficult situations. Use more positive words in general. Bless the woman who came up with " Kiss my owie, Mommy", what a gentle and sweet way to respond to a child's tears. I want to find more of these gentle, kind responses to use in my daily speech with my children. But I also want to speak and act better with other adults while on the phone and in person, so that my general demeanor is sincerely positive and full of faith, hope, and charity. As well as, exemplify peaceful, good behavior in all interactions and guide them to do the same. (Children are like mirrors of my own flaws, they can teach me what I need to change in order to have an exemplary attitude. Sometimes I can't tell what message I'm sending, but when my attitude and words come out of Emma's mouth, I can tell whether it was bad or good thing for me to have said.)

5. I also really need to get it into my head that I do not intend to teach the way the school system does... With the teacher telling information to the student and expecting the student to relay that information by testing. I don't have to use this model... It's just the one I am used to. I fall so easily into the trap of not letting them discover things on their own. I cannot spend my time telling them about all the great things "I" know. I am a guide, to help them discover the world. They should not need to look to me for praise, reward, or punishment... they should find their own drive for learning and feel proud of themselves for their accomplishments... I don't want them to need me in order to learn. I help get it started and then I disappear into the walls and let the real learning take place. I observe. I also want to get into their little imaginary worlds and learn with them there. I can find a lot of teaching opportunities in these moments, just by having my little stuffed animal or whatever toy character act in a good way or respond in a way that I would like the children to. Stuffed animals are a great learning tool, the kids love to pretend and they will do anything for my stuffed animal character. (Even laundry! They did this morning!)

Well... there you have it... I will try to post each month with my ideas on each topic and the progress I am making.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brown Paper-bag Popcorn

I really wanted some popcorn today. But we don't have a popcorn popper. I got online and found that you could cook popcorn in a brown paper bag in the microwave. I tried it. I burned the first one, of course. But then I made some really great popcorn. I was so happy, I made like 4 bags of it and made it into caramel corn.

All you need is:
1 brown paper-bag
1/4 cup of popcorn kernels

Cook it for about 2 minutes (It started burning around 2 1/2 minutes :)
Then you can dress it however you want. How healthy is that! Of course, caramel isn't healthy :)

One bad thing (But it happens with any popcorn cooking): There were a lot of uncooked kernels in my caramel corn, so I decided that next time-I would make a little hole in the bottom of the paper bag and, sort of, strain them out before dressing them :)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Inspiration

Wow, I am making my own curriculum. This is amazing. Heavenly Father is guiding me to resources and teaching me ideas that I need in order to Home school, I am in awe. I will blog more about it when I feel ready. But I feel like it isn't ready to be posted about yet. I am so excited.

I feel like Heavenly Father teaches me a new way to do something or think about something in education, and then I read it on a Montessori or Classical Education page or book. I learn it before I read it, and then the information I read pads the information I already know. This is so amazing.

Eric used to go through this experience with physics, he would learn something from Heavenly Father and then expand that learning in school. I feel like Heavenly Father is teaching and training me. I am so thankful for this beautiful guidance. I hope I can live up to such beautiful and amazing knowledge and that I can implement these things in our lives and home school. I am so grateful.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


First, things, first. I need a Preschool curriculum. I started looking online for books that outline curriculum or monthly programs. Sonlight has a nice looking PreK program, 3/4 and 4/5 programs. I looked at Before Five In a Row, and Five in a Row. I looked at Mother Goose Time and Adventures in Learning for monthly programs. All of these are really wonderful and look like lots of good fun and learning. But when I go to buy them, I just don't seem to feel really good about any of them for my family.I have been feeling confused, are any of them right for my family?
So I prayed for guidance. I have been looking a lot at the Montessori style of teaching young children. Unfortunately, it is fairly expensive and I haven't seen any pre-made curriculum for starting a Montessori home preschool. I obviously can't be trained professionally, that would take me away from my children. I feel like I should focus on the Montessori methods for now. I will design my own curriculum by looking at things that should be learned and then finding Montessori types of ways to implement each thing. I've never done anything like this before and it does sound hard. But I feel that it is what I should do. I need to make my own, there just isn't a program that is already created that will be what I am looking for. I will work diligently, and look to the Lord for guidance in creating this curriculum. I'm sure it will be unique. If there is something out there, I haven't seen it.

I want a more formal, gentle guidance, play together or on your own to learn about the world curriculum. I want to incorporate God and plenty of peaceful happy experiences learning together. Some organized activities for learning how to be in groups and sit quietly when participating in programs and activities outside of our home. I want my children to love to learn, explore and create w/o my forcing them to and enjoy reading, understand how to be appropriate in public and have manners, be able to follow through on boring instructions that will get you what you want in the end, be able to communicate and express themselves through talking, writing, and art, be able to listen and understand the communications of others to them. Learn how to take care of themselves (body, home, financially, mentally, spiritually). Learn to care about other people and their needs, and the world, nature and it's needs. Learn self control and disciple, how to make schedules and set goals. Learn to find happiness w/o material things. Learn the gospel. I'm sure there are so many things I can't mention them all. Most of all I want them to be prepared to make it in this world and make it back to Heavenly Father. Is this possible? :) I hope so. I better keep praying :)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I have decided I definitely want to home-school our kids. I decided this based on 2 reasons. First, I feel driven to write down ideas and read things online about different curriculum and methods. I don't think I would be so driven for no reason. I think I need to be studying and learning how to teach at home so that I can teach my own children. Second, I talked to my mom and asked her if she ever thought to home-school her kids. She said "No". She didn't even consider home-schooling when she moved to a place where homeschooling might have been a good idea. It just didn't cross her mind. I have been thinking about it a lot. I think my general interest in the topic is a good sign it's right for my family.

Now that I have decided this, I want to blog about it :)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Short holocaust story from Eric's Grandpa

Okay, so its the middle of the night. Both the kids woke up needing help to go back to sleep and now I can't fall back asleep.
Just a while ago I read that the UN was eliminating the Holocaust from education because there are some Muslims who don't believe it happened. (I guess they don't want people sympathizing with Jews, or something) Anyhow, there are so many witnesses that it is true, and it is strange that the UN is bowing down to a minority group within the Muslims.
Which got me thinking, Eric's grandfather sat down with me a few years ago and told me a story from when he was a tank soldier in the Army. He told of how they came into the concentration camps and found the people there in pinstripe pjs. They were starved and they were so happy to see the Americans. Some of the soldiers had candy bars in their pockets, and they gave the candy to the starving people, who immediately died after consuming the stuff. Sad, huh!
I really hope we don't repeat this horrible carnage from history.