Monday, November 30, 2015

Flannel Sheets and Grammar Symbols

P.S. Before I forget, Garnet Hill has all flannel sheets 40% off with free shipping today. And if you are like me and just bought your daughter adorable penguin posse flannel sheets as a Christmas present, they will honor the sale price and reimburse you the difference, but the price adjustment can only happen if your initial purchase was within the past 14 days.

In my eternal quest to find balance, happiness, and a little bit of peace and quiet, I have rearranged how we are planning our day, from more Montessori-ish to more Waldorf-ish. And as the children watch me navigate between methods, they are getting a clearer sense of the distinctions between the two and Leah pointed out to me this morning that they are almost opposites. A lot of adults don't realize that because they lump the European methods into one pot, but if you know what you are talking about you know where they clearly clash. In this case, we are talking about the teacher driven Waldorf-theory-of-child-development-based main lesson block versus the child driven independent exploration of topics that interest them.

I try to carefully choose what we do each day based on the strengths of each method, and when it comes to something like Human Physiology I think that the Montessori emphasis on precise vocabulary is an asset. I also think that Waldorf's cursory and simplistic color-coding of parts of speech in grammar is not well thought out when compared to the beautiful presentations of Montessori. They both use color but Maria's method is richer and more precise. Natalie had a lesson on the Montessori Grammar Symbols today. The presentation is noun, article, adjective, verb, preposition, adverb, pronoun, conjunction, interjection. I dictated phrases (they are all phrases until you get to the addition of the verb) and sentences as I introduced each symbol. She symbolized them in color as we went along. Then she had to compose a passage which used every one. We know there are more sophisticated facets to Grammar than this introduction, such as the difference between coordinating and subordinating conjunctions which we studied last week in a quick morning pages lesson, but I wanted her to become familiar with the symbols initially. We can then delve deeper.

Having her compose a passage helped me to see which parts of speech she doesn't clearly understand. In this case, it was conjunctions and adverbs. This is just like having a child write you a story problem which uses multiplication and you can see that they don't understand it. Or if you ask them to write a story using subtraction and it's always about goldfish being eaten by a cat -- which is why I object to teachers presenting subtraction as "take away"!!! -- and they don't know that it is also used to find the difference between two numbers (how much farther is it to Cairo than to Alexandria?).

Montessori math materials are really expensive and the training to know how to use them is not always easy. But the Grammar is very simple and we like the stencil from Waseca Biomes. I used a piece of pure wool felt from Magic Cabin folded into thirds to make the pouch to hold the stencil and the colored pencils which are needed. I still have a set of official Nienhuis Montessori colored pencils for Grammar but I will have the girls take them to Hobby Lobby and figure out which Prismacolor pencils are equivalent, since we prefer Prismacolor and you can buy them singly when they run out. When we've done that I will post them.

Back to finding balance...

We are going to try writing our daily plans as Head / Heart / Hands, the page literally divided into three sections, and making sure we include several things from each. We will still use the color coding per subject, but I think the girls have been trying too hard to hit all the colors of the rainbow in their plans, instead of looking at balance of types of soul activity (as opposed to school subjects). I'm also tempted to hit all the colors of the rainbow in a day, even though I know better, instead of cultivating what Torin Finser calls "a healthy forgetting."

I would also like to write my mommmy to-do list for the day in these three categories, making sure I have time for art or yoga or something else that is meditative. I have finally found a time for the mending pile. In the evenings my husband likes to decompress by watching tv and I can sit on the bed and sew things and use those quiet evening hours well. I keep my mending basket by the tv now. Weaving is harder to fit in since I have to sit by the loom.

Our current main lesson is Fractions and Graphing and Practical Uses for Arithmetic. I also have written down Cross Stitch and Embroidery in Handwork and Celtic Knots in Form Drawing. We do some beautiful things, and I promise I will photograph MLBs and post them soon, but I feel like I'm coming apart at the seams and that is an issue. So I think I may read The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Areagain, as well as How to Know Higher Worlds: A Modern Path of Initiation

The most important thing is that I can't be getting irritated with the baby and handing him off to people so I can "get things done" and I can't completely miss the decorating of the Christmas tree because I am "getting things done" and I can't put breakfast aside until 3 o'clock in the afternoon because I am so busy I forgot. I am being honest about this because I'm sure I am not the only person who is spinning in this busy Christmas season! The fact is that I need to re-center. Non-violent communication talks about anger being a sign that your needs are not met. I need to meet my needs but I also need to count my blessings. I am blessed to have been able to have another child at the age of 39, and I didn't think I would ever ever ever get that chance. I am blessed to be able to be a stay at home mom, and I didn't think I would ever ever ever do that again. I am blessed to be able to buy my grandparents' house and keep it in the family, a house which is full of beautiful memories from my childhood. I need to SLOW DOWN. I need to see all the good that is in front of me. And I need to enjoy it! Life is short.

We greatly prefer this dictionary to the revised newer edition. And it was easy for her to look up words when she was stuck. I like the organization and their example sentences for words that can be several parts of speech. The thing I like best about the grammar stencil work is that it forces you to think logically about what role a word is playing in the sentence. And it gives a strong visual! If you have a child who writes run-on sentences, pick a few and have them symbolize what they wrote. This will gently help them to see the problem.

article and noun
article, adjective, noun
addition of a verb
addition of a prepositional phrase

addition of an adverb

a sentence with no pronouns

the same sentence but with pronouns added -- shorter!


Which symbol is which. But, knowing WHY the symbols are what they are will allow you to introduce each as a story, the Waldorf way. Maria Montessori also liked things to make sense to the child. I always taught that the pink bar of the conjunction was like a handshake.

Natalie's attempt at composing and then symbolizing. Note her troublesome areas.

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