Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ania's first month of homeschooling

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lego and math for Little Ones

Homeschooling a 3-year-old is so much fun!

Almost every day I come up with new activities and new ways of teaching our Little One.
There are so many interesting ways to teach the fundamentals. You don't need to buy the thick workbooks and go through every page of tracing, coloring and matching in it. Little ones prefer hands on activities and there are so many one can come up with by just looking around the house and rummaging through the kids' toy box.

Almost every house with children has a few of those plastic, colorful, hurting-your-feet blocks, called Lego. Why not use them as educational material? So many math, practical life and sensorial exercises come to my mind. I will try to show you a few of the exercise I have come up with. First lets start with simple math work.

Yesterday I asked Zosia, my 15 year-old, to help me make a template for counting with Legos. She made two templates - one black & white and one colored. When using the colored one, the child not only needs to  count the Legos, but also match the correct colors.

Let's count with Lego blocks!

You can download this sheet at the link below!

All you need is ... LEGO!
Finished work.

Counting with Lego - FREE download:

We started off with only 1-5 numbers.

Monday, August 26, 2013

First try at the Pink Tower

Being a certified Montessori teacher with experience in teaching in a classroom setting and at home, I was not surprised with the way Ania was handling the Pink Tower.* She kept calling it 'blocks' and wanted to play with it as she does with other blocks, simply building whatever she wanted. I had to explain to her that these are speial blocks which can be build into a tower.
It was first time that I presented her this work. Expecting that she is going to have some problems with it, I presented only the first 5 larger cubes.

The first attempt ended up just as I've expected:

Second one wasn't much better either:


Ania wanted to keep on trying. And finally:

*What is Pink Tower? - 10 pink wooden cubes in different sizes (from 1cm3 to 10cm3). Each cube is a bit bigger than the one before and all of them stacked together one on top of the other, from the largest to the smallest, form a tower, a pink tower.

Disclosure: Please note that this presentation is not purely Montessorian :-) Usually all 10 blocks are presented right from the beginning.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Montessori - Practical Life IV - Opening and closing

The following exercise has a long name :-) :
opening and closing bottles and other containers.

The are many different ways one can open small bottles and other small containers. Children from the early age can try to open and close these. They are very happy to find something small, like colored beads, inside the containers. They not only can open and close them but also shake and listen to the different sounds the beads make in different containers.

  • few small bottles and other containers (metal, plastic, whatever you can find at home)
  • a basket to put all the containers in
Bottles and containers in a basket as prepared on the shelf.

The containers we are using come in all shapes and sizes and all close differently.

Ania couldn't wait to do this work, so instead of taking
it to the table she just sat on the floor.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Crayons - from old to new

All kids must have a box of old, broken crayons which they don't want to use anymore, because they look so ugly. We had a very BIG box of such crayon pieces and I kept thinking what I should do with them. I read on Internet that it's easy to make new crayons out of the old ones, but I've never tried that because my kids hardly ever use crayons for drawing.
But now ... with a 3-year-old around the crayons started making a come back and it was time to do something with that BIG box.
This is what I have done:

The process starts in the top left corner.
  • Choose crayons of different shades of one color.
  • Peel the leftover paper wrapper.
  • Break the crayons into small pieces of about the same size.
  • Place the pieces in a pot and wait until they melt stirring occasionally.
  • When all the crayons melt pour the hot liquid into the mold (be very careful as the liquid will be very hot!)
  • Wait until the new crayons cool down and harden.
  • Carefully take the new crayons out of the mold.
Many "recipes" on the Internet talk about placing the crayon pieces in the mold first and then putting the mold into the oven, I was not sure whether  the molds I have can be placed in oven so I melted the crayons in the old pot first.
You can make crayons of different shapes or mixed colored ones.

Have fun with new crayons!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Montessori - Practical Life III

Third Practical Life exercise I would like to show you is
transferring water with a sponge.

  • two bowls (or a pet bowl like the one above) with some water in one of them
  • small sponge (I've cut a large one into smaller pieces)
  • a cloth for wiping spills
This has always been one of the favorite exercises at a Montessori school I've worked at before. Kids just love any work with water.
The bowl with water should be placed on the left side and the empty bowl on the right.
The objective is to transfer water from one bowl to the other using a sponge. It sounds easy, right? Nope, not for little hands.
Show the child how to place the sponge into the bowl, squeeze it and slowly let go to soak up the water. Then hold the sponge over the empty bowl and gently squeeze it to let the water drip into the empty bowl. This process needs to be repeated until all the water is transferred.

Of course when working with this exercise you have to be prepared for some spills, but no worries - it's only water and if you give the child a cloth to wipe the spill he will happily do wipe it.

This exercise helps in strengthening the muscles in the child's hands which in turn help
 him with the pencil grip.

Soaking the sponge
Squeezing the sponge with both hands


Time to tidy up!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Teaching English - colors

Right now our 3-year-old speaks and understands only Chinese.
On daily basis we speak 3-4 languages (Chinese, English, Polish and Taiwanese) at home. We want Ania to learn these languages too, but we don't want to push her too much. Hearing so many new languages spoken around her and not being able to understand them must be very overwhelming for her.  That's why I am still using mainly Chinese to communicate with her.

Beside teaching her simple phrases in English, reading to her in English and letting her watch cartoons in Polish (Miś Uszatek) and in English (Bear in the Big Blue House) I also do some more "formal" language lessons with her. Right now I am concentrating on colors and animals.

I want to show you what kind of exercises I do to reinforce the English color words.

  • single colored pictures, stickers
  • paper
  • glue
  • crayons of different shades of one color

 First I cut many pictures of different colors and put them all in a bag. Every time we talk about a color, I ask Ania to take that color pictures out of the bag and put them together on the table. Then she can start gluing them to a prepared sheet of paper. Later we add some stickers of the same color.

Gluing the pictures
Adding stickers
The next step is to color pictures of different objects that represent the color we are working on.  I have printed the worksheets from Enchanted Learning website.


Sometimes Ania forgets and keeps her head too low when coloring.
I then remind her to sit straight. Somehow most of the children in Taiwan
write with their heads almost laying on the desks.
 Finally Ania chooses from a big box of crayons the ones that are only different shades of the color we are working on and draws a one-colored picture.
Over the three weeks we have done three colors: red, blue and green. While doing all this work I tell her the English names of the objects that she is gluing or coloring. She repeats them after me. I try not to correct the pronunciation too much at this stage, it will come later.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Montessori - Practical Life II - Sorting colored beads

Another Montessori Practical Life exercise I want to show you is 
sorting colored beads.


  • tray
  • colored beads on a small dish
  • small dishes (as many as there are colors of the beads)
The objective of the exercise is to sort all the beads by color. Handling beads and other small objects helps the child develop and refine small motor movements. In this exercise the child can also learn about colors.
After a few tries when the child doesn't want to chose this exercise any more, you may want to change the beads to something else. He can sort all kinds of things - pencils, crayons, Legos (by shape, size, color).

Ania started with sorting small objects by shape.
Later she has moved on to sorting small beads by color.
All done!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Montessori - Practical Life I - Spooning pasta

Quite a few people have asked me lately about teaching a preschooler at home - how do I do it?
I decided to share a series of short posts about the first steps in homeschooling a 3-year-old.
It is a third child of this age that I will be teaching at home and by now I have most of the materials already prepared. This makes a big difference as I don't have to spend much time searching, printing, writing, cutting and laminating many of the materials I need to use, I just take them out of the storage, find a place on a shelf and voila! the material is ready.

First Practical Life exercise I want to show you is
spooning pasta

  • tray
  • two identical bowls
  • spoon
  • fine uncooked pasta
The objective of this work is to simply spoon the pasta from one bowl to the other (place the bowl with pasta on the right side for a right handed child and on the left for left handed). It sounds easy, right? Well it usually takes a few tries for the little hands to get it right. You may want to start with larger pasta and a bigger spoon and then change it to smaller pasta - rice - sand/salt.
Remember to tell your child that he is not supposed to eat the 'work'! Ania kept repeating to herself:麵還沒有煮好 - pasta is not cooked.

Carrying the work to the table is not an easy task
(as you will see later).

Tilting the bowl a bit to get all the pasta into the spoon...

... or simply pouring the last bits of pasta from one bowl to the other.

Oh-oh! The tray tipped over and ... all the pasta spilled on the floor.
Now it's time to clean it all up.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A revolution in Babel School - teaching a 3-year-old

Babel School is going through some BIG changes - a little 3 year-old girl has joined our ranks.
We are starting the new "school year" with 3 kids: an almost 16 year-old Zosia (1st year of high school), almost 11 year-old Jaś (5th grade) and a just-turned-three, Ania.

A lot has changed already. I had to take out all the old materials, toys and books that years ago older kids used. Fortunately I kept all the Montessori sensorial materials, almost all the books, puzzles, games and a few toys. I also prepared many practical life exercises. The years of teaching using the Montessori method and the Montessori materials are back!

Practical Life materials shelf -
sorting colored beads, spooning pasta,
transferring water with a sponge, sweeping,
using dropper and pouring.

Math/Sensorial/Practical Life materials shelf -
pegging, threading wooden beads, Duplo, counting.
Threading and setting table exercises, games
Play-dough, drawing and matching work.
The unbreakable toys!
They survived Zosia and Jas and now Ania is playing with Little People.
Nothing better for hot summer days than playing with water.
The water/sand table is still waiting for the sand ...
Jas' old tool work bench
now also serves as a stove for cooking :-)
Some old, but still good, books
(in English, Polish and Chinese) for Ania.

In the next few posts I will be showing you how the whole homeschooling a 3-year-old thing is done. So do come back soon for more info and photos.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Berlin Wall project - done!

Zosia can add one more finished project to her collection ;-)
She has finally finished the Berlin Wall 3D project. Take a close look at the photos she took, on the wall you can spot some black and white photos of the famous escapes over and under the Wall.

Brandenburg Gate

Checkpoint Charlie

Facts about the Berlin Wall