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The story of our precious little girl's 17 months of life with Trisomy 18 (July 4, 2010 - December 15, 2011) and of us, re-learning to live "after Lilly."
"I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ...." Psalm 139:14

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Homeschooling with Charlotte Mason and Marie Montessori

During the last week of August, I was finalizing my lesson plans for our first two weeks back in homeschool.  Part of my planning included making a list of Montessori activities for Solomon to try.  These activities were to help him stay busy while I was working with Hunter in the mornings, before Solomon's nap time.

Of course making that list took some time, as I went through several books for ideas.  While I worked, Solomon worked hard cutting velcro play food.  (My kids have ALL enjoyed this activity.)

When he finally finished that activity, I handed him a big baggie full of sea shells.  He didn't really know what to do with them.  So I got out several little plastic bowls and plates and put a few seashells in each one.  When I was done, I poured them all back into the bag.  I told him to try.  I was amazed, he stuck with this activity for a good 30 minutes, only stopping when I needed to go inside to make supper.  Every time he finished he'd say "Again!" and put away the shells and start it all over.  It gave me pause to reflect that we tend to think that little kids automatically "know how to play."  But children are older than their toddler years before they really start to do imaginary play.  So I am trying to remember to show Solomon how to play with certain things.

My homeschool curriculum choices have always been a rather eclectic mix of styles.  This year though, I am trying for a Charlotte Mason style across the board.  Karen Andreola recently wrote a blogpost with an excellent, short summary, of what a Charlotte Mason education is.  Click here to read it: 

We are following most of the suggested readings from Ambleside Online.  Hunter is in "Year One" on Ambleside's website - click here to view his curriculum.  (You then click on "detailed schedule" to see actual assignments.)  I like that we have structure, yet for other subjects, I make up my own curriculum.  (I LOVE the freedom of homeschooling, and tailoring it to each child.)  Tabby's schedule is a bit more complicated than Hunter's.  But still, our first week went - mostly - smoothly and I feel like they will get a very good education following this plan.

Back to Solomon, my little guy likes to be busy with his hands.  And as I've written recently, I have become fascinated with many of Marie Montessori's methods for teaching children.  I like that the activities are structured and that they build skills.  They teach children to do things independently and how to help out.  Solomon knows how to clean up his own messes, including wiping his high chair down after eating and cleaning up food under his chair.  He is my constant helper in the kitchen.  It is so neat seeing what he can do and how much he enjoys helping.  (And yes - it does take me longer and is messier.  But it is worth it.)

So along with our homeschool, Solomon's "Montessori preschool" started this week.  Each morning, I would show him how to do a new activity, and then leave him to it so I could begin working with Hunter.  (Still in the same room.)  Here are the activities from last week:

Tuesday - stringing wooden spools onto pipe cleaners:

Solomon dutifully worked at this for about 5 minutes.  Then he put it away and did not touch it again.  So that activity, for him, was a dud.

Wednesday - tractor card matching game.  I made this myself - picked 6 different tractors from Google Images and then printed two of each picture onto cardstock, then laminated them and cut them out.  I showed Solomon how to lay one set of tractors down, then to match the other set.  It took him a few tries to get it.

Verdict:  AWESOME!  Solomon - who loves tractor of all kinds - played with this over and over and over.  Many times a day, every day for the rest of the week.

Thursday - hammer time!  I gave him a play hammer, 5 wooden golf tees, and a chunk of "plant foam."

Solomon really liked this activity and has done it many times now.  Only downfall - the hammering makes a rather obnoxious noise when I am trying to read to Hunter!

Friday - a transferring activity, to practice fine motor skills.  I gave Solomon my strawberry huller and some balls and showed him how to grasp the balls with the huller and move them to the other side of the tray.

This activity didn't have "tractor card status" but Solomon still seemed to enjoy it and worked at it for quite awhile.

You may have noticed in the photos, that I Solomon works at a mat.  (This is just a small, cheap rug I bought at Walmart.)  Mats are used in the Montessori method to "define work space."  It teaches children not to spread their projects all over a room.

I also give him his projects in wooden trays.  (These are all cheap trays I picked up at A.C. Moore, and the nicer ones - still very cheap - off Ebay.)  Again, this is a way to keep things organized and define a space.

Solomon carefully puts his trays up on his shelf when he's done.  I have the activities laid out on the two-tiered shelf where he can easily see and reach them. I plan to switch them out every other week or so.  I'm keeping a watch as to what he reaches for over and over and what he ignores to give me ideas for what to put together for him next.

Our Montessori shelf is actually an old cart.  (Thanks M.J.!)  It has turned out very nice because I can push it to wherever we need it.

If you have any activities that work well for keeping your little ones busy - I'd enjoy hearing about them!


  1. Do you require Solomon to sit on his mat with one project for a certain amount if time? If so how long?

  2. No Tesha, I don't require Solomon to sit at the mat for any length of time. I tell him "let's do an activity - get out your Montessori mat" and he does. I demonstrate the project and then tell him to try. Then I let him work on it for however long - or short! - he likes. When he is done, if he doesn't remember, I tell him to put the activity back on the tray and then on the shelf. (We're working really hard to put things away before starting something different. I think it's hardest for Hunter and ME to do that!)

  3. I love some of these ideas! My son is a little older than Solomon (I was 5 months pregnant when Lilly died) but their interests are pretty similar. We were given a matching game of different vehicles, and he enjoys it, but I need to break them into smaller sets to really facilitate matching. He'd also love the hammering golf tees activity! And he spends a lot of time cutting his velcro foods while I'm cooking too. :)

    1. That matching game of different vehicles sounds good! Probably more interesting than cards because you can play with them too. :) Thanks for your comment!