With the Olympics starting tomorrow, it’s one of the very few times I miss having live TV. I spent this morning putting together a Powerpoint presentation for the children, giving a basic overview of the Olympic Games. We’ll go through it tomorrow and use it as a starting point for further investigation. I thought I may as well share it here for anyone else who might find it useful. If I’ve done it correctly, you should be able to click the Pop-out button in the top right corner and then download it. Enjoy!
I’ve spent some time this week decluttering and reorganising our little home-ed area in the front room.
This used to be a boring corkboard with a wooden frame. I’ve never really liked it but rather than throwing it out I decided to have a go at upcyling it with some hessian. Much better!
I got rid of a lot of our art and craft stuff because it simply wasn’t being used. The bottom shelf is now home to books and workbooks for subjects other than maths and English. The magazine file contains posters and free resource packs from various organisations that we have collected over the years.
This shelf unit holds all our maths manipulatives, books and games. On the top we’ve made a little nature table area and will use the wooden dish to display our finds.
Our light panel loose parts were previously jumbled together in one big box, so I’ve sorted them into smaller containers to make them more accessible. We use them for English and maths as well as for play. The bottom two shelves of this shelf unit are for our English resources.
I stayed away from reward systems for a long time but Aaron seems to respond well to them. We’ve been using these mini jars for a few months to collect glass nuggets, which are awarded for completing work and for good behaviour. They can be exchanged for a treat when the jar is full.
At some point in the next few days I’ll be posting about our plan for the autumn term.
I can’t believe it’s November already, this post has been in my drafts folder since August! I always enjoy reading about what resources other home educators are using, so I thought I would share some of our curriculum for this year.
We begin our morning by reading a lesson from Leading Little Ones to God. Each lesson includes a Bible story, questions to talk about, memory verse, suggested Bible reading, hymn and prayer. We are also using the free character lessons from Kids of Integrity.
We are still working through Scholastic Literacy Skills: Handwriting Reception-Year 2. Tabitha loves writing her name and other words, so my focus for her will be learning the correct letter formations, whilst Aaron is showing an interest in joined up writing and needs to focus on neatness. Other handwriting resources include sandpaper letters, wipe-clean workbooks, pegboards and tablet apps.
Aaron reads aloud to me either from Biff, Chip and Kipper books or from his Minecraft handbooks. He also uses an app to practise high frequency words. Tabitha knows most of her letter names and sounds, as I discovered a while ago at a visit to the optician. She is also starting to decode some CVC words, so we are using the level one Biff, Chip and Kipper books and Montessori pink series materials alongside other resources. I may resubscribe to Reading Eggs at some point, although I wish they did monthly subscriptions as the children tend to lose interest after a while.
As usual, a lot of our maths learning is what I like to call “conversational maths”. We discuss mathematical concepts and problems as we come across them in everyday, real life situations. We also use the materials from our maths shelves for various activities, challenges and games. Aaron uses Komodo on the computer or tablet to practise mental arithmetic. Tabitha hasn’t done much formal maths yet but has a good grasp of numbers, so I have introduced some of the Montessori maths activities to her. She also enjoys doing maths workbooks. We will continue using Miquon Math with our Cuisenaire rods, although we haven’t done any for a while as our printer is playing up and I can’t print out the lab sheets. Aaron has lost interest in the orange book lab sheets, so I have decided to leave it and skip straight onto the red book which will hopefully be more challenging for him.
Until now, we haven’t done much formal science. Plenty of time outside in nature and lots of inquisitive questions have allowed us to cover the basics informally. However, last week I decided to try out AIG’s God’s Design for Science curriculum, starting with The World of Plants, The World of Animals and The Human Body. We will be able to combine many of the lessons with nature study and additional hands-on activities.
Colin usually has Fridays off, so we do a four day week and keep Fridays and Saturdays free for days out. Bible, handwriting, reading, maths and science doesn’t take much more than an hour or so each day, as many of our activities are only 5-10 minutes long. That leaves the rest of the day free for play, outings or other subjects such as art, music, French, geography and history. I have no formal plan for other subjects and we tend to cover them in blocks depending on what else is going on. For example, at the moment we are learning about Paris because my parents are on holiday there and the First World War because Remembrance Day is coming up.
I can’t believe I’ve already posted twice this week, it seems like ages ago now! Here’s what we’ve been up to since.
We had a go at this hammered leaf print activity. Unfortunately it didn’t work very well, we had picked the leaves a couple of days before so perhaps they were not fresh enough. The children loved all the banging regardless!
Tabitha made a spider’s web by making holes in a conker, adding wooden kebab skewers and then weaving around them with yarn.
We watched the BBC’s Ten Pieces film which is on iPlayer at the moment. I’ve really been looking forward to it as I love classical music. I keep meaning to arrange a children’s concert in our town as it annoys me that young children are generally not welcome in concerts. Maybe one day I’ll actually get round to it!
Aaron and I played chess together for the first time in a while. He remembered how all the pieces move, so now we both need to learn some tactics as I have no idea what forks, pins or skewers are!
We played pairs with our new My First UK Money Snap (affiliate link). I really like the snap cards from Green Board Games as they require you to match equivalent rather than identical pairs.
Aaron and I have agreed that we will do his daily reading from Minecraft books instead of early readers. The language is much more advanced but I was pleasantly surprised at how many words he was able to read and recognise.
Our new art space even tempted him into doing some painting!
Decluttering is going slowly but surely. I moved some shelves downstairs to the dining room to use for all our English and maths resources, and finally got around to selling on a lot of Montessori materials that the children have grown out of. I am getting much better at letting go of things.
Today was Colin’s graduation. His mum and I had tickets to attend the ceremony inside the church and the buffet lunch afterwards, so my dad looked after the children.
His other mum and sisters watched him parading through the high street!
This afternoon Aaron and Tabitha’s new baby cousin came to visit. They were here for about an hour and a half and Aaron was glued to his side the entire time, it was so sweet.
I’ve been searching for an online maths program for Aaron to use alongside our other maths resources, as he is a big fan of technology but is not keen on doing formal work. We trialed several different systems, but when I eventually came across Komodo, I knew I’d found just what I was looking for!
Komodo is an online learning system for practising numeracy skills. It is aimed at 5 to 11 year olds and is designed to complement the National Curriculum, but focuses on building a strong foundation in mental arithmetic and does not cover topics such as shape, space and measure or data handling.
Komodo is adaptive, which means that learning is personalised for each child’s individual needs. When you first set up an account, there is a short diagnostic test for your child to complete and you have the option to add relevant details about your child, such as any special educational needs. Within 24 hours, a qualified maths teacher will analyse the results and assign your child’s learning programme. This means that your child can start straight away at a level that is suitable for them. I found this really helpful, as the teacher was able to point out areas where Aaron was hesitant despite arriving at the correct answer. Parents are also able to change their child’s levels and stages if necessary.
I particularly like that Komodo can be used on both iPad and Android tablets as well as computers, as many other learning systems are limited in this regard. Aaron mostly uses it on the tablet, but I like being able to access it from my computer as well rather than being limited to a particular device or platform.
Another fantastic feature is the ability to set daily email reminders at various times. Komodo recommend at least three 15 minute sessions per week. My memory is terrible and I find it difficult to remember to set aside regular dedicated time for things like this. However, I don’t think I’ll be needing the reminder feature at the moment as Aaron asks to use Komodo as soon as he wakes up!
The system is simple and intuitive for children to navigate and use. There are videos to introduce new topics and each short lesson consists of 20 similar questions to answer. In my opinion, the only possible improvement would be to have audio instructions available for non-readers, although most of the lessons Aaron has done so far are self-explanatory.
At the end of each lesson, the number of right and wrong answers are displayed and the child is given the opportunity to correct their answers, which also updates their grade.
Lessons are graded A-F, with A* being awarded when the child achieves an A grade and also finishes the lesson within the target time. Aaron finds the grading system very motivating, it keeps him focused and prevents him messing around. The timer length and grade percentages can be altered in the settings, which allows parents to adapt the level of challenge to suit their child.
There are 10 lessons in each stage, and about 10 stages in a level. There is a list of the different levels available here. If the child gets three A* grades in a row, they can take a stage shortcut onto the next stage. This is fantastic for Aaron as it allows him to move on before getting bored, whilst still ensuring that he has mastered the skills taught in that stage. Like everything else, the number of A* grades needed for a stage shortcut can be altered in the settings, which means that Aaron can move quickly through topics that he finds easy but spend longer practising skills that he struggles with.
Komodo’s reward system is a very effective motivational tool, as it can be customised and personalised for each learner. Whilst stage reward stars can be exchanged for Komodo belts, lesson and level reward stars can be exchanged for real prizes. Parents can decide how many reward stars are required for each prize and whether the prize can be redeemed more than once. Rewards don’t have to be expensive treats, I’ve included things like going to the playground and inviting a friend round to play. Aaron likes looking through the reward shop and planning what he is going to spend his stars on.
Another feature I really love about Komodo is the ability to add “supporters”. These are adults who can review progress, send messages and add rewards. This is a great way for friends and family members to be involved in the child’s education. Aaron is so excited about sending and receiving messages! The only negative I’ve found about the supporter system is that the progress update emails can get a bit spammy and I haven’t yet found a setting to manage email subscriptions.
I have been so impressed with Komodo, it is beautifully designed and very well thought out, with excellent attention to detail. There are adjustable settings for just about everything, with short help videos to explain different aspects of the system. It truly does deliver personalised learning. It is not a complete mathematics curriculum, but it offers a quick, easy and very effective way to learn and practise important numeracy skills. Initially I was concerned that Aaron might find it boring compared to systems that use a game-based approach, but he really enjoys it. According to him, “it’s funner than maths”!
Komodo offer a 2 week free trial, annual or monthly subscriptions and a sibling discount. Don’t forget to check out their helpful and informative blog about how children learn maths! Also, LittleBird currently have 50% off a Komodo annual subscription, the deal runs for another 3 days.
For anyone who missed out on the LittleBird deal, Komodo have very kindly provided me with a 20% discount code for you to use. Just leave a comment on this post to let me know you’d like the code and I’ll email it to you. As of October 2016, the discount code is no longer valid.
Disclaimer: All the opinions in this post are entirely my own. I had already purchased a subscription when Komodo kindly offered me a free one.
Lidl had some great science books in last week for £1.50 each. We made a trip specifically to get them and bumped into my mum, who had also spotted the books and popped some into her basket for us! There are ten experiments in each book using readily available household items.
We have a vase of poppies on our dining room table at the moment. This morning Tabitha decided to use the fallen petals as boats in the sink. Aaron asked me to make an origami boat, which I did with some difficulty!
As they were already talking about floating and sinking, I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to do the first experiment from the air and water book. We discussed hypotheses and Aaron predicted what would happen to each material. This was a great chance to sneak in some writing without him even noticing! He wasn’t very sure about the balloon initially, but as soon as he saw me blowing one up he changed his prediction to float instead of sink.
The table got very wet as we learnt about displacement!
We talked about the two opposing forces involved, the weight of the object and the upthrust of the water.
We discovered that a ball of modelling clay will sink, but the same piece will float when moulded into a boat shape because the weight is spread out.
Aaron and Tabitha loved adding balls of modelling clay to their boats until eventually the weight was greater than the upthrust and their boats sank to the bottom!
We also got some cheap and cheerful science kits from Lidl. I was not expecting the quality to be great and it’s not, but Aaron likes them anyway. I discovered that he can name the planets in order much faster than I can. I have to go through “my-very-easy-method” in my head, while he just rattles them off effortlessly!
We spent this evening assembling the planetarium and it’s actually rather good. The moon orbits the earth and the earth spins on its axis whilst orbiting the sun in an ellipse (although the sun is at the centre rather than the focus). It shows the seasons, including the solstices and equinoxes, and the phases of the moon. The booklet that came with the set contains lots of information and demonstrations using the planetarium, so I think we’ll get plenty of use out of it.
When we go out for the day, I often pack investigative tools such as binoculars, compasses and magnifying glassses. However, stopping every few minutes to get them out from a rucksack filled with coats and bottles of water can be frustrating, so I decided to put together some nature study bags for the children. I used Bagbase Mini Reporter bags because they are just the right size and the contents are easily accessible, and decorated them with iron-on patches.
Each bag contains the following items:
- thick and thin marker pens
- watercolour pan set
- A6 sketchbook
- clear tray with six magnifying pots
- bug pooter
- pocket microscope
- net for pond dipping or rockpooling.
We purchased many of our supplies from Wildforms, who sell a fantastic range of field equipment and educational products. Their customer service is great and they offer a 10% discount to home educators.
We try to carry field guides with us whenever possible. For younger children, the RSPB First Book set is lovely and simple for them to use, but doesn’t always have what we are looking for. We use Collins Complete British Wildlife as a general field guide, and I’ve started collecting the Collins Nature Guides series for more in-depth study. The Field Studies Council fold-out charts are also very useful.
These two aren’t field guides but I think they deserve a mention anyway.
I adore books by Mick Manning and Brita Granström, they really seem to understand how children think and what interests them. And the illustrations in Nature Adventures are just beautiful!
Keeping a Nature Journal is not a children’s book, but it’s inspiring and has a useful chapter on learning and teaching nature journaling. We’ve only just started our nature journals, so we have a lot to learn.
Finally, here are Aaron and Tabitha with their nature study bags at the allotment this afternoon.
At the allotment yesterday, my mum commented “this is just what children should be doing, it’s a shame that so many don’t have the chance.” Allotment gardening offers wonderful opportunities for free play, movement, discovery, tinkering, dealing with risk and experiencing the world through all of our senses. Any kind of outdoor play is great for kids, but gardening seems to be particularly rich with potential learning experiences.
Later, I mentioned that I was looking forward to the summer and joked “forget about school work, we’ll just spend all our time up here”. (I should probably mention that at this point we do very little formal learning anyway.) But it got me thinking about whether allotment gardening could be used to teach more traditional academic subjects.
We know that children learn best when they are engaged in hands-on learning with real-life relevance. Opportunities that develop children’s natural talents for enquiry and investigation often result in deeper learning. With that in mind, I began to mindmap some of the educational links and possibilities, concentrating on English, Maths, Science and Geography. Of course, allotment gardening could also be used to cover many other subjects and skills.
I’m not planning to change our mostly child-led, unstructured approach, but I found it quite a useful exercise to better appreciate the learning potential of the time we spend at the allotment. I may well refer back to this mindmap as inspiration to suggest challenges, investigations and activities for the children to do.
Please feel free to click on the image and zoom in to see it better. Below I’ve also listed some useful resources for learning through gardening.
The School Vegetable Patch website has a section about embedding gardening into the wider primary school curriculum.
The GreenHearted Curriculum Map suggests age-related themes and activities for a holistic education based around environmental and sustainability issues.
Torstens matteblogg is written in Swedish but contains lots of interesting ideas for teaching maths and science outside using gardening.
The RHS shop sells some lovely books about gardening with children. We have the Kid’s First Gardening Book which is packed full of fun projects. We also have an old copy of How Nature Works, which contains lots of detailed information and experiments to do.
Yesterday we were in no hurry to get up in the morning, so the children came and snuggled me in bed. Aaron bombarded me with facts about the human body that he had learnt from a game on his Leappad. While I had a shower, the children used a measuring tape to find out their height in centimetres and inches. After breakfast Aaron and I put together a science kit he was given for his birthday, involving air pressure and electrical circuits.
In the afternoon we went to a Christian home-ed group at our church. On the way to the car we could see a circular shape shining through thick clouds. We discussed whether it was the sun or the moon and came to the conclusion that the reflected light from the moon would not be powerful enough to shine so brightly. Aaron also discussed whether planetary orbits are circular or elliptical.
At home-ed group the younger ones listened to a few chapters of Little Pilgrim’s Progress and then did art and craft activities. At the end they played a rowdy game of “stuck in the mud” with the bigger children. We called at Lidl for some shopping on the way home and the children asked for some berries. Blueberries were £1.29 and raspberries were £1.39, so Aaron worked out which was cheapest and how much more expensive the raspberries were.
Back at home, I put the oven on for dinner and Aaron begged to do some washing up. Obviously I wasn’t going to say no! He did a load of dishes for me and Tabitha washed some cutlery. After dinner Colin taught them to play dots and dashes. Tabitha went to bed first and Aaron used his extra time to build roads with Cuisenaire rods.
Today we went to Home Grown Kids. We hardly went at all last year as I was working on Wednesdays, so it was great to see lots of familiar faces and get to know some new ones. The children took an Orchard Toys rocket game and played several games with various friends. There was a handball coaching session in the sports hall which the children really enjoyed. Tabitha is often very clingy and shy in group situations, but she ran around following instructions from the coach, ate her lunch at the opposite end of the room from me and then spent the rest of the afternoon playing babies and listening to stories with a friend!
By the time we got home it was almost dinner time. I tried to setup a Stargazing Live episode for the children to watch on the tablet while I was cooking, but had to give up due to technical difficulties! Instead Aaron did some Reading Eggs lessons on my computer for the first time in months. In the evening the children went to Wednesday Club at the church, where they learnt about moths and Tabitha was awarded a Bible for good attendance.
Tomorrow will probably be a quiet day at home, apart from Aaron’s piano lesson in the afternoon and a visit to see Great-Grandma. The children will be tired after so much running around today, and I need to catch up on housework and crack on with essay writing!
Things are slowly starting to settle down, although I have an essay to write next week and Colin and I are off to London the following week so it could be a while yet before we’re back to normality. There is a daunting amount of decluttering that needs to be tackled, as the upstairs of our house is piled high with bags and boxes at the moment. As well as new resources I’ve accumulated over the last year, there is also a lot of stuff that the children have grown out of and I no longer have a reason to keep it. I’m gradually reclaiming the house for home education and yesterday we set up a little table in the playroom for science resources.
This morning a set of Miquon Math books arrived in the post and my initial impression is very positive. Apparently it was developed in Montessori classrooms and incorporates some of the things I love about Montessori, such as child-led learning and using concrete manipulatives to teach abstract concepts. However, the focus seems to be more on creativity, exploration and discovery. I had read several reviews online that suggested buying only the appropriate workbooks and the lab sheet annotations to save money, but I’m so glad I went ahead and bought the other two teacher’s books. The First-Grade Diary is a fascinating glimpse into how the method can be used in practice and makes maths seem so exciting (or maybe I’m just a nerd)!
Aaron and Tabitha saw me gathering our Cuisenaire rods and begged to do some maths, so we did! The first worksheets are very easy for Aaron but it seemed simpler to start at the beginning, which also meant that Tabitha was able to join in with the same activities.
Miquon Math will hopefully become a regular activity for Aaron. Tabitha is clearly ready for some formal maths so I’m going to start her off with the Montessori basics such as number rods, sandpaper numbers, spindle box and cards and counters, and then see where we go from there.
I’m also planning to make handwriting practice more of a regular thing. Tabitha is keen to learn how to form the rest of her letters and Aaron… well he just needs lots of practice. I’m definitely seeing a big difference in fine motor skills between boys and girls. Tabitha’s writing at 3 years old is almost as neat as Aaron’s at 6 years old and he still struggles with buttoning clothes, which she has been able to do since before she was 2. No wonder boys are at such a disadvantage in the education system when they are pushed to write before they are physically ready!
So anyway, that’s the plan. We’re starting slow and easing into our new rhythm gently.
We were recently sent this copy of “Elaine’s Exciting Escapade” to review. The main character of the story is Elaine the Elephant, who tries really hard to be like Celia the Centipede until she finally discovers her own special talent and realises that she is happiest being herself.
The story is amusing and engaging, with a rich vocabulary to promote language skills. There are some interesting messages and themes throughout the book that would make good discussion points. I particularly like how, at the end, Elaine continues with some of the healthy changes she made to her life, but this time for the right reasons.
The illustrations are bright, colourful and entertaining. Textual effects are cleverly used to complement the pictures and provide interest, although I did initially struggle to follow the flow of the text in one or two places.
At the end of the book there are several pages of music and reading activities. Aaron and Tabitha loved clapping the rhythm and doing the actions of Elaine’s exercise programme. Some of the activities are suitable for individual children or small groups, whilst others are ideal for larger classes. There are suggestions for extending the activities for older children, making them suitable for a wide age range.
This book is a lovely addition to the Stave House resources and I hope to see more stories about the other characters coming soon!
Disclosure: I received this product for free but the opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
At the moment we are very autonomous and unstructured in our approach to home educating. On the days when I’m not working, we have no routine and often every day is different. The children are free to play or make use of resources such as our Montessori materials whenever they wish. I follow their interests by providing more information about a topic and suggesting ways to extend their play. Occasionally I plan and set up a specific activity but most of the time we are completely spontaneous. A lot of learning happens out and about, just living our daily lives or meeting up with friends.
I’m planning to introduce a bit more structure from September (yes, I know I’ve said that before!). The children will be at Steiner kindergarten one day a week and I will be working two full days per week, so I feel like our time together needs to be a bit more organised. Here is a summary of the curriculum and resources we are planning to use.
Aaron attends Sunday School and Wednesday Bible Club every week and a Christian Home-Ed group every fortnight. He enjoys learning memory verses and recently memorised Psalm 100 for Sunday School, so we will gradually be memorising all the verses from our ABC Bible Verse Book and hopefully finding some corresponding choruses or hymns to learn alongside.
Aaron will continue using Reading Eggs and working his way through the pink/blue/green Montessori language materials. He still finds reading rather frustrating at times and much prefers writing, so finding the right balance between gentle encouragement and not pushing him too soon is tricky.
Tabitha is starting to show an interest in reading and writing. She recognises a few letters and can write the letters T and I. This week she pretended to read something, breaking the words down into individual sounds and syllables for the first time. She will be using sandpaper letters and initial sound objects to learn phonics. The sand tray and wipe-clean workbooks will help her practise letter formation.
Aaron is loving Mathseeds at the moment and has raced through most of the levels already. He usually does some each day, so I hope they continue to add new levels often enough to keep him busy! We will carry on working through the Montessori mathematics scope and sequence as described here.
We use Stave House (see my review here) to teach notation and rhythm, which both children love. Aaron has just started taking piano lessons with my mum. I am also planning to restart violin lessons with Aaron after a long break and begin them for the first time with Tabitha.
We have started working through my KHT Montessori physical science album, aiming to cover one short topic per week or one longer topic per fortnight which should keep us busy for most of the year. I may add in some of the other five science albums over the course of the year.
We have gone down the path of limiting screen time because Aaron can’t self-regulate and too much time on the computer has an negative impact on his behaviour and imaginative play. He usually gets 20 minutes during the day to use Reading Eggs or Mathseeds, and a further 20 minutes in the evening to play Minecraft or Scribblenauts Unlimited. There is lots of information available about the educational benefits of Minecraft, but Scribblenauts is a game I had never come across before. It is a puzzle game which uses words to create objects and encourages divergent thinking. Aaron uses a picture dictionary to help him write words independently. I originally looked into tools like Alice and Scratch, which are designed to teach children programming, but they are mostly recommended for ages 8+ and unsuitable for beginner readers.
Of course our learning will not be limited to the subjects and resources mentioned here, these are simply the things I will be focusing on as we attempt to build a gentle routine and rhythm. I must dig out my Project-Based Homeschooling book again as I’d love to include more child-directed project work. I’m also hoping to enroll Aaron in some kind of extra-curricular activity, probably gymnastics as he is spending a lot of time trying to do cartwheels and headstands at the moment!
I had been planning to do lots of essay writing at the weekend, but things didn’t quite go to plan. I ended up spending Saturday morning in hospital with abdominal pain and was told to take it easy for a few days, so this week has mostly been quiet days at home. We did enjoy a lovely relaxing trip out to Rosemoor Gardens with my mum and a Christian home-ed group. Eating our picnic lunch in the dappled sunshine of the woodland area was wonderful!
There was great excitement today when a long-awaited preorder of Montessori materials arrived. I was planning to leave the box unopened until I have time to sort out the shelving upstairs in our learning space, but couldn’t resist having a peek! I didn’t present any of the materials to the children, but they got stuck right in anyway.
Tabitha seized the knobbed cylinders as soon as she saw them and completed each block one after another.
She has also been working on several blocks at a time, which was much more challenging. She got frustrated the first time, but has been doing it over and over again all evening.
This weekend will be a mad rush to write my final essay, then I’ve just got a presentation left to do. I will still have work-based learning and an Ofsted inspection to deal with, but the worst of it is nearly over.
Stave House is a method of teaching children to read, write and play music. It uses a magnetic board and magnetic characters to represent the notes on the stave, and the children learn musical notation through stories, games and songs. My mum, who is a music teacher, has been teaching Aaron and Tabitha using the Stave House method since the beginning of the year. Over the Easter holidays we borrowed the kit so that the children could show me what they’ve been learning. I was so impressed that I decided to write this review.
How does it work?
Stories about the characters explain where the notes belong on the stage and games are used to reinforce learning. The children can place the notes in the correct place whilst singing along to the catchy songs on the CD. Tabitha was 2 years 9 months when she started learning Stave House, and after just 3 lessons she gave me a demonstration of placing the notes F, A, C and E on the stave. After a term she can do all of the treble clef notes.
The teacher’s manual outlines nine basic steps to introduce the treble clef notes, rhythm and composition. Younger children might stay on the first few steps for up to two years, whilst older children can combine the basic steps with composition, theory exercises and playing an instrument.
The stories and songs do an excellent job of explaining that the bass clef is just a continuation of the treble clef.
The rhythm family introduces note values and timing in an easily understood way. Eventually this can be combined with notes for composition and sight reading.
What are the benefits?
I’ve always been keen on introducing my children to music at a young age, but until I encountered Stave House I would never have believed that two and three year olds could read music without the aid of colours, numbers or some other gimmick!
The first thing I’d have to mention is that it is fun! The stories really capture the children’s imagination and make music approachable for children as young as 2.5 years old. Apparently it also works really well for children with special educational needs. I can imagine it being very suitable for active children, especially boys, who might not get along with more traditional methods of music teaching.
Secondly, I love the fact that it builds musical foundations for life. It is “real” music and there are no bad habits to unlearn later, unlike some other methods that I’ve looked into. The skills learnt will apply to any instrument, music or teacher. Aaron has now started reading simple standard music for the keyboard and has found the transition easy. Chime bars, recorders and violins are also popular starting instruments.
Finally, you don’t need to have a musical background in order to use Stave House with your children, as it is very simple for anyone to understand. Nor does it require hours of practice every week, so it is easy for busy parents to fit in.
Who can use it?
Parents, parent and toddler groups, nurseries and preschools, home educators, home-ed groups, schools and clubs to name just a few!
Although Stave House is a brilliant method for introducing very young children to music notation, it certainly isn’t limited to that age group. The teacher’s manual recommends that it can be used for 10 and 11 year olds, and my mum has even used it with some of her secondary school pupils!
Stave House can be used either in one-to-one situations or in group settings. Ruth Travers, the creator of Stave House, worked in a Montessori school and based the method on Montessori principles, so it is ideal for use in Montessori settings.
Where can I find out more?
Disclosure: I offered to write this review because I genuinely think that Stave House is fantastic and all the opinions in this post are completely honest. In exchange, the lovely people at Stave House are sending me a pack so that we can continue to enjoy using it at home.
Last year I purchased a 12 month Reading Eggs subscription for just £18 instead of the normal £39.95. Our subscription is about to run out now and fortunately someone reminded me about this deal just before I paid more for another offer, so I thought I would share it here too.
The best part about this deal is that you can get it free if you share the link and three of your friends also purchase! So here’s my link, the deal only runs for another 3 days: http://www.livingsocial.com/deals/623770-one-year-subscription-to-reading-eggs?rui=106132079
Aaron has really enjoyed Reading Eggs over the last year and has learnt so much… in fact it basically taught him to read! He doesn’t use it every day; there have been times when he hasn’t touched it for months at a time, but the subscription has definitely been worth having.
One of the features that often draws people to Montessori is the way she used concrete materials to help young children understand complicated abstract mathematical concepts. The bead material is an essential part of this, but it can be very confusing if you are not familiar with it. In this post I am going to give a brief overview of the Montessori bead material and also discuss a cheaper alternative that can be used for many but not all of the same lessons. I hope it will be useful for anyone considering using Montessori maths materials.
The golden bead material comes in single unit beads, ten bars, hundred squares and thousand cubes. These are used for decimal quantity, formation of numbers, changing, addition, multiplication, subtraction and division (this site is a good place to read about the five groups of exercises).
Wooden base ten sets like this are available for about a third of the price of the equivalent golden bead material and can be used in exactly the same way. We bought our set from Tower High Learning because it contained ten hundred squares and ten ten-bars, whereas other sets I have seen only contain nine of each. It also came with one hundred unit cubes rather than just ten.
Coloured bead bars consists of bars of 1-10 beads with each number represented by a different colour. These are used with ten-bars to teach teen and tens quantity and multiplication tables.
Cuisenaire Rods are the perfect size to be used with a base ten set instead of coloured bead bars. Obviously the colours are different to the traditional Montessori colours, but this would only be a problem if a child was going to be using both. Cuisenaire no longer seem to sell the wooden ones on their website, but they are available via Learning Resources.
The ten different bead bars also come in short chains and squares (which represent the number squared) and long chains and cubes (which represent the number cubed). These are used for linear counting and skip counting.
There isn’t really an easy alternative to the bead chains, squares and cubes. There are enough bars in the base ten set to lay out a short bead “chain” for 10, although they wouldn’t actually be linked together. The Cuisenaire starter set contains enough pieces for short and long chains for 2 and 3 and a short chain for 4, but not enough for the other numbers. However, it would be fairly easy to make homemade number lines for skip counting and the squares and cubes seem to be used less than the other bead material anyway.
A set of golden beads for decimal work and a set of several bead stairs will cost about £100. The equivalent in a base ten set and a set of Cuisenaire rods will cost about £40. Neither of these options contain enough components to do every variation of every lesson and game (for example, in both cases you are limited by having only one thousand cube), but they do cover most of the maths bead activities. To put it into context, purchasing the complete bead material would cost over £1000, which is obviously well out of the budget of most home educators!
The advantage of buying proper Montessori bead material is that you can add to it gradually over time and it will all be compatible. There isn’t really any way to reduce the limitations of the base ten and Cuisenaire rods alternative, other than doubling up on sets, in which case I would probably opt for the bead material anyway. However, the obvious advantage is that they are much cheaper and I personally think that they are an excellent alternative for anyone wanting to use Montessori’s brilliant concrete methods for understanding maths concepts without buying lots of expensive equipment.
There aren’t many places to buy Montessori materials in the UK, so I was thrilled to come across this new family business whilst searching on Ebay. I don’t usually feature companies on this blog, but I felt that Tower High Learning deserves a mention!
Marie-Louise was a secondary-school teacher until she had her own children. She is now training to become a Montessori teacher and she and her husband set up Tower High Learning so that she can stay at home with their two young daughters. Here is what their website says about the company:
“Tower High Learning is a small company based in Leicestershire. We sell high quality Montessori products to parents, nurseries, schools and childcare providers at affordable prices. These materials will allow you to create a real Montessori-inspired setting in the comfort of your own home or set up a perfect Montessori learning environment in your classroom.”
I have already placed several orders with Tower High Learning, so you will probably see some of their products in future posts (in fact I’ve already posted photos of some). The materials are excellent quality and reasonably priced. Their customer service has been outstanding and Marie-Louise has been really helpful, answering all my queries quickly, combining postage costs and even uploading materials that weren’t yet listed on their site for me. They compare very favourably to certain larger competitors who have a reputation of poor customer service for non-bulk orders!
If you are planning to buy any Montessori materials, I highly recommend this lovely family business. Their website is www.towerhighlearning.com or you can visit their Ebay shop. Please do visit and have a look at what they offer.Disclaimer: This post is entirely my own opinion. I did not received any kind of payment or incentive for writing this review, although I have since decided to become an affiliate.