I came back from my break with a renewed sense of what I wanted and knowing that in a world linked virtually, I do not have to confine myself to be among those who are unlike me because there are people out there living lives not set in the same stone as what I have always known possible. Hence, I shall not have to feel like the strange one always.
It is a real struggle when homeschooling in a grades-crazed country, and I'm not talking just about school grades.
So today, I let go of familiar encumberances in my head when I teach. I sought to teach in light of my reflection of the world and the words that explain it within the patterns of childhood that I believe is nearest to its natural form.
I do not think however that it means it has to be simple, so I placed the challenge up a notch from my usual plane. The children were a bit caught unaware of what they should do and how they should tread. I see the more challenging activities avoided but I shall place it before them again in the future.
My happiest thought today was that they were working, alone and as partners.
Today, we talked about the Coming of Humans after I rounded up what we have learned about Creation and early life before Man that we have previously covered. I pointed out that as Muslims we believe that Adam was the first human and that it was no coincidence that we were placed here after earth has gone through its many mutations and was covered with plants and animals to nourish humans.
We did not skip the science of course, that scientists have certain opinions of how humans evolved and that many lifeforms have gone through much evolution.
I think the lesson here is how blessed we are to have been given existence, for the millions of years that have passed to give us today is so complex and mind-boggling and that as humans we are indebted to our Creator beyond measure and that we are caretakers of what is before us.
This is not just my opinion but something embedded in our faith and I must point out in Montessori's elementary educational philosophy.
So I think sometimes the lesson is not just the science or the history, or whatever syllabus you are covering (which is important that you should cover, I should stress) but how the lesson impresses on the inner consciousness of the child that will become the adult.
I have always been intrigued by the wonderful homemade craft materials and sensory play activities I have seen online and was eager to try it out myself. This was most suitable for my 3-year old and so, I had reached out to those with children around that age who have expressed interest in my classes but have not been able to join us as there was no vacancy.
With the attendance of the other children confirmed, I set out to make the materials starting from about two weeks before the actual event. This allowed me to enjoy the process of creating and learning how to make new materials I have never made before; the rainbow rice and homemade paint.
On the actual day, I was quite happy with the outcome. Plus, I have found a new channel for my furniture-moving habit - creating play areas - and I love our newfound space at home after the adjustments I made. I have however learned a few things from this experience:
Making your own materials
Allow for time to test your homemade materials as they are not standardised. What works one day may not work again the next time. The first time I made playdough for a group of children, the event was held at an air-conditioned room. On hindsight, I also used a different recipe. Maybe, just like baking, you have to consider the weather differences here in the equator and the recipes online which are from temperate countries.
I was worried that the dough would be too cold, so I took it out an hour before the session. That proved to be a mistake because they were sticky by the time we started.
As I wanted a more rustic and natural feel, I got plyboards instead of plastic boards. The already sticky dough didn't take well to this.
The rice I made two days earlier were still damp. I should have either air-dried them flat or put them in the fridge after draining the water. The temperature in my mini fridge also turned out too cold that the rice I did manage to put inside became brittle and was easily crushed.
Next time, I'd give two days for them to dry in the regular section of the fridge.
The paint turned out nicely when used although I was peeved that it did not cake after 24 hours as stated online. Again, always allow yourself extra time.
I rotated myself among the four stations stepping in only when help is needed or to assist in extending play with what I know is available. I resisted overly suggesting activities to any display of hesitation or tiredness, trying to keep to just inviting the child the play when I see an opportunity.
The parents who stayed during the session were most forgiving of my shortcomings and I hope I have made their trip fulfilling: )
My little clients were the most understanding; most playing without a break for the 2 hour session. In fact play picked up speed at the start of the second hour and started to taper towards the end.
Humans are born with an innate concept of numbers that are however limited. Studies show that newborns are able to discern two objects from three and they can hear the difference between two and three sounds. (Stanislas, 2011). It is believed that our brains are wired for numeracy.
In fact, new imaging techniques show that 'the brain's surface (cortex) becomes active in part of a channel on each side (hemisphere), known as the the intraparietal sulcus.' when the individuals studied are engaged in mathematical thought. (Krasa & Shunkwiler, 2009)
However, while rooted in reality, Mathematics is still an abstract concept which has to be refined through experience. A child for example, learns what is a pair from her regular experiences, like a pair of shoes or a pair of leggings. She starts to associate the word 'pair' with 'two' and may even translate this to other things that come in twos that she does not usually encounter like a pair of glasses or a pair of earrings at a shop.
Liebeck (1990) believes that children advance through the levels of abstraction in four stages:
1. experience with physical objects
2. spoken language describing the experience
3. pictures representing experience
4. symbols generalising experience
For the first two stages of experience and language, Liebeck recommends that children should be engaged in the activities of matching, sorting, pairing and ordering. We find this in some primary Montessori activities:
1. matching- colour tablets, metal insets, geometic cabinet, language activities, small number rods
2. sorting- living and non-living, farm and wild animals, classification of living things
3. pairing (one-one correspondence) - setting the table, scooping into individual containers
4. ordering- pink tower, brown stair, cylinder blocks, red rods, number rods, small number rods
There are however many things you can do on your own without Montessori materials.
1. matching- matching names to objects or actions, comparing sticks that are 'as long as', 'shorter than' or 'longer than'
2. sorting- grouping similar toys together e.g. soft toys and play foods,
3. pairing- deciding how many cookies to give to each guest, helping to pack lunchboxes
4. ordering- arranging dolls in order of height, arranging blocks of different sizes, sequencing shapes.
These experiences and the language that is picked up will be the building blocks upon which the child can be introduced to numbers and other mathematical concepts in the future.