Properties of Material Part II

In the first part of my properties of materials lesson, I taught my kid some definitions of properties of material, such as elastic versus plastic; hard versus soft; magnetic versus non magnetic; conducts versus insulates; and shiny versus dull. With his mind aware and observant of such properties, in Part II, I put together bins of material, organized by type of material, for us to explore. 🙂

I put together some bins of materials. I did rubber, plastic, metal, glass, wood, and silicone. I gathered objects in our house and put them in the bins. Here are some:


I put together some tools for us to investigate. Here is our flashlight, magnet, and cold packs.

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‘The Three Little Bears Principle’: How to Best Teach Definitions to Preschoolers

The Importance of Preschool Vocabulary

It is important to me, as a home school mom and just as a mom, to take advantage of the first 6 years of my children’s life. At this age, they have an “absorbent mind.” It is has been said that anything learned in this period will stick with a child for their entire life. Can you remember your phone number from when you were little? Case in point.

Children are eager to learn at this age, and their learning is so very hands-on. Many authors write about how having an environment rich in learning opportunities is optimal for a child. It indeed builds more than just a vocabulary, but the very brain architecture itself.

I have thus focused on hands-on learning at this age, where I teach definitions of words using tangible materials. I have found, more than any other, these are the most interesting lessons to a child of this age and have the likely most benefit.

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Finding Bullies for my Homeschooled Children for Their Education

Whenever I bring up homeschooling to people opposed to it, the #1 argument I get is that my children will be lacking because they won’t be exposed to bullies. I was told recently, “Well I worry if they are never exposed to bullies in their youth and then they encounter it as adults and they commit suicide.” Whew. That’s quite the accusation. What can I do to rectify this situation?

Well I do what any good homeschool mom does, I look for curriculum. Here is my quest to find a Bully Curriculum for my homeschooled children.

When you look through books on the free market about how to handle conflict, it’s always about “empathy” and “problem solving” and “conflict resolution.” A bunch of psycho babble nonsense, really. Well, I mean, I, well … I use all the stuff. I mean, it plain works. When my kids break out in a fight, I take a deep breath in, step in, start talking about what I see and what each kid seems to be doing, and ask “how can I help?” We do things like figure out solutions so everyone’s needs are satisfied. I physically restrain my kids when they are violent, and tell them it’s Ok to be angry but not OK to hit, and I need to keep everyone safe and help them with their bodies until they can learn to do it on their own.

Many of the books talk about how to handle situations not in your own house, such as playground scuff ups. If Susy and Sally are fighting over a swing, mom can empathize with her child about how hard it was to get in a fight, wait for the emotions to fizzle out, then raise her awareness of the situation (“Maybe Sally only went to get her coat for a moment”), and offer some solutions that Susy can use next time. It’s not rescuing or refereeing but passing on life skills for what will be the majority of social interactions in their life.

But scuff ups between Susy and Sally over a swing is not what is meant, is it? No, we need bullies. Children need to be put in violent situations with no adults or training whatsoever. This is the real world, kids. And the free market has no such curriculum, so it looks like I need to design my own.

So, what is a classic situation to put my kids in? Let’s try to replicate a public school, where my children might be thrown together with children from rough families.

How about a situation where someone steals their lunch money. Well my kids eat at home, usually, so I will have to arrange this.

I’ve got it. I arrange for some children to surprise my kids while out and rob them!

But, wait … would … would the police be involved in that? Well, I mean, if someone actually robbed my kid, the police would be involved. I think if someone found out this arrangement that I did, I may get hauled off to jail.  I mean, I don’t know, usually some higher authority gets involved in these situations. Well, unless it’s children, of course.

I don’t know. Hmmm, what could I do? Arrange someone to punch my kids in the nose? Humiliate them for loving to learn? I don’t know. Most situations that I envision end with me going to jail.

Ok, I’ve got it. Another one. A nasty rumor spreads about one of my kids. This happened to me when I was in 8th grade. In reading through the books now, I see that giving your children exact definitions of sexual terms at young ages is a really good thing to do, otherwise they may talk about it with friends, in an attempt to learn the terms, but then get vicious rumors spread about them. Check and check for what happened to me. I suffered soul crushing embarrassment for an entire year to the point I almost transferred school. Look at me now! I “turned out fine.” Well, I agree I am fairly awesome, but no, no, no …. not much good came out of this. It’s painful and studies show that bullying has negative effects even into adulthood. Our guidance counselor brought me and another girl into the office and made us apologize to each other. That was confusing as ever. I remember however that two years later the girl wrote me a long note of apology and I accepted it. It’s kind of cool how kids work things out, can see right from wrong, and are generally awesome. It kind of sucks how adults involved typically handle it.

Here is an actual serious solution (in addition to the ones I peppered this article with above): A class on how to deal with violence and bullies. There is only one I know of, called RadKids. It teaches children to trust their gut and make a huge scene if any adult threatens them. It promises to teach about how to handle bullies, though I’m not sure how they do it.

I proudly teach my children to practice non-violence, but, no, I am not so naĂŻve to think they won’t encounter violence, nor do I think that all violence is bad. But, if we are going to do violence, let’s do it the right way. Let’s teach our kids how to do it, as a form of self-defense, as a skill set, and teach them a few principles on when it may be necessary and when to avoid it. And truth be told, I am not sure when to use violence or when to walk away. I would be open to learning more. We are growth minded here. 🙂

I agree that life has sticky situations that you have to handle. We work on this often. Come to think of it, we start baseball season this very day as I write this. I understand there are occasionally politics, conflicts, and even bullies at sports events. You know, when I played, I remember an umpire (an adult, as was required for tournament games) that called a “strike” every time our team was at bat and “ball” every time his team was at bat in an effort to advance his team. Yup, bullies are everywhere.

Back to the people who argue with me: if you are sincerely worried about my children’s social experience, I greatly encourage you to support school choice. I would absolutely love to be able to pick out a school based on my values system. I would go back to work, making quite a bit of money for us. I would love to send my children to school and have the instant network that it brings. It is no light decision that I stay home with my children.

And I assure you, “High Quality Bullies” will be a top priority for me as I evaluate schools. 🙂

Montessori Elementary Education: History as Heroic

I finished Montessori’s To Educate the Human Potential. It’s a short and enjoyable read. It’s about elementary education. Here are my main takeaways.

Experience as King

I especially liked Montessori’s discussion about how important man’s unconscious mind is at learning something. She writes:

The working of these complexes is of immense importance in education. In accordance with these discoveries, we are now advised not to labour at memorising some important piece of work, but rather to con it lightly and then set it aside for some days without quite forgetting it, so allowing the engrams time to organise themselves in concentration. This is exactly what is observed to happen in a Montessori School, where children’s revelations of their own mental processes have anticipated psychological research. Children are often seen walking alone by themselves while others are working, for just after learning something they feel the need of quiet; on return to the class they will show new ability, just as a child returning to school after holidays finds himself able to understand what was obscure before. In the light of these facts, how futile and even mischievous appears cramming for examinations!

I have noticed this so many times in myself and children. When studying for a test, I would study 2 nights before. Something about getting sleep, reviewing, then sleep again, helped me learn the information better. I notice with my children when I present a lesson, it’s best to wait until the next day to ask them any questions about what we learned. Something about the night’s sleep helped.

How many times have you had an “aha” moment while brushing your teeth or taking a shower? The argument put forth seems to be that, after being presented information, your unconscious goes to work to categorize it and integrate it with other information, causing you to perhaps make a connection between two things or apply a newly found solution to an old stubborn problem.

A key takeaway from this is that humans learn more from experiences. From Montessori, “Children show a great attachment to the abstract subjects when they arrive at them through manual activity.” She writes about a few of the activities:

For instance, the children learn the laws of pressure and tension by being asked to build an arch of stones, so placed as to hold together without need of cement. By building bridges, aeroplanes, railroads (calculating the curvature), they become familiar with the principles of Statics and Dynamics as part of the daily school routine

My children aren’t old enough yet, but I favor project-based learning. This seems quite in alignment with what Montessori says. I invite your thoughts on this, and what part lectures may play in education.

Teaching History

As is wonderfully typical of Montessori, she writes to bring children in touch with real things and real facts as much as possible, to not separate these as “boring” with fiction as the only thing worthy of excitement. History is exciting; it’s full of heroism! She writes:

Educationists in general agree that imagination is important, but they would have it cultivated as separate from intelligence, just as they would separate the latter from the activity of the hand. They are the vivisectionists of the human personality. In the school they want children to learn dry facts of reality, while their imagination is cultivated by fairy-tales, concerned with a world that is certainly full of marvels, but not the world around them in which they live.

Montessori gives a pretty decent overview of history in this book. She gives some of the highlights, of the formation of the universe, how very delicate the conditions had to be for man to survive, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and many others. I enjoyed reading her take on it.

My own takeaway from this is to present history in the format of Struggle/Triumph. For instance, if teaching the periodic table, to first teach the struggle people went through to develop it. It gives more of an answer to “why was this important?” Certainly such lessons can also be moral and character building lessons as you study “case studies” of what worked for people to accomplish a certain goal.

One thing has been well established by our experience, that facts are of less interest to the child than.the way in which those facts have been discovered, and so children may be led to the history of human achievement, in which they want to take their part.

I have found a few resources already to teach history to my preschooler. I have found a few video documentaries that give an overview of the formation of the earth. My son loves all things space and dinosaur, so he likes watching these documentaries from the time of the Big Bang through to when dinosaurs die off. These are on YouTube. We have several. He likes to call them up often and watch them.

Many mothers have told me their children really liked the “Story of the World” series by Susan Wise Bauer. I really look forward to reading these with my children. I think he might be a bit young, at just 4 years old right now.

Montessori describes how they present an overview of history to the child on a timeline. There are several topics presented, and they are presented over and over. She writes the point is not to memorize facts but to give an appreciation for progress.

I have done this lesson with my preschooler, for things he is interested in, and it is a huge hit. We did one on the timeline of the formation of earth and dinosaurs. Below is a timeline with major events on it. I happened to have bigger pictures of the same pictures on the timeline laying on the table. My preschooler picked them up and put them in chronological order. I will always do timelines like this from now on, with small pictures to tape onto the timeline and bigger ones for the child to play with.

I also did one on when the Princess stories were written, to start to give an appreciation for what a culture may have been like in the 1700s, 1800s, or 1900s. We’ve also placed princesses on a map to give an idea of what culture at a place and time was like.

I will be looking for stories of pioneers and a way to instill a love and appreciation of this. I find the free market often does have things that are ready made to use. I just need to look some more. I invite your recommendations.

Every subject of our interest and study can be related to human beings, who have toiled, often starved, to overcome obstacles for its understanding, and to give us knowledge free of such pains. Everything is the fruit of a human soul, and we incarnate this fruitage in education, this treasury of riches handed on to us by man. We must ourselves feel—and inspire in the children—admiration for all pioneers, known and unknown, possessors of the flame which has lighted the path of humanity.

Teaching Insight

I strongly believe emotions and learning are intertwined. A wise teacher understands emotions as she teaches her students. Here is Montessori on one way that these are intertwined:

The child should love everything that he learns, for his mental and emotional growths are linked. Whatever is presented to him must be made beautiful and clear, striking his imagination. Once this love has been kindled, all problems confronting the educationist will disappear. The great Italian poet, Dante, has said: “La somma sapienza e il primo amore,” or “The greatest wisdom is first to love.”

I really love the following quote. I read through facebook so often about how children do so much better after given more recess. It’s nice to hear something positive for the kids, but I see it as a temporary escape from an otherwise unnecessarily grueling day of school. They are made to sit too long; focus on a topic they aren’t interested in; and so on. Here is Montessori on the very topic:

… the best they could do was to compromise, reducing hours in instruction to the minimum, cutting out from the curriculum grammar, geometry and algebra, making outside play obligatory and postponing the age for entry into school. But however much free periods have been increased and children urged to play rather than study, strangely the children have remained mentally fatigued notwithstanding all these reforms. Montessori schools have proved that the child needs a cycle of work for which he has been mentally prepared; such intelligent work with interest is not fatiguing, and he should not be arbitrarily cut off from it by a call to play.

And finally, another insight. Dr. Tsabary writes about “enmeshment,” where a parent can’t see that their child is different than them. They can’t see that the child has different problems and different talents; that the child is not just on a journey to become what their parent was. When I look at the course of evolution, and how all of life came from tiny worms in the sea, I look at my children as destined to be totally different from me. They have but 1/2 of even my DNA, and even in combining with another human, what results is not half of one and the other, but could be something mutated, however slightly! In addition, there are many other varying things causing them to not simply be a carbon copy of myself. Here is Montessori:

The old-fashioned teacher subconsciously made an exaltation of his own virtues. He was perfect, in the sense of knowing what should be done and what left undone. He had empty beings in front of him to be filled with facts, and created morally in his own likeness—God help them! Those beings who still had in their souls another far greater creator were forced to resemble the teacher, who was resolved to mould them to his model of “goodness” or punish them for disobedience. Such a teacher is not even a tyrant, for it takes intelligence to become a tyrant, after the historical precedent.


“Religions and languages keep men apart, while arts, sciences and products of industry unite them.” –Maria Montessori


Properties of Material Lessons for Preschoolers Part I

I have been doing lessons with my kids. Doing such hands-on lessons is proven to help a child build a better “brain architecture.” I try for #OneLessonADay, which you can find on facebook at The Observant Mom. My main goal is to teach definitions of words, in a hands-on and exact way. I have started designing the lessons by topic. These are the ones I did for the topic of properties of material.

Hard versus Soft

Hard – resistant to scratching of compressing (“squishing”). Soft – compresses easily.

Press on your forehead. It’s hard. Press on your cheek. It’s soft. We did this at dinner once. We also pressed a plate and bread for hardness or softness. Test your carpet, hard wood floor or tile, and glass window for hardness or softness.

We extended it later by dropping pennies on hard floors versus the soft couch to see if they were loud or quiet. It is easy to gather objects and sort them into Hard and Soft categories.

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Malleable versus Brittle

You might already have these materials. If not, they are easily got on your next grocery trip. This is a lesson to teach even a 4 year old “malleable” versus “brittle.” It’s a lesson however that even a much older child could benefit from.

I have a coming post about what I have found are decent principles for presenting these lessons to children. They are, as an overview:

  1. Always present opposites, e.g., Hot versus Cold. Present three in gradation if possible, e.g., Hot, Warm, Cold.
  2. Demonstrate the lesson first, with as few words as possible, and do not ask the child questions.
  3. Get the child involved in a hands-on way as soon as possible.
  4. Present the word after the hands-on experimentation.
  5. If possible, have a second different but similar lesson, to be given the next day.

I see these lessons as a gift to my child. I am more concerned he learns this one lesson correctly and in a way that is fun than 10 or 100 in one day. This is part of why I do #OneLessonADay, which you can find on my facebook page.

Malleable versus Brittle

I took two towels and laid them down. On one, I put a sheet of aluminum foil. On the other, I put a lasagna noodle.

We then used Play Doh stamps to imprint shapes onto the aluminum foil. The foil makes and holds the shape, and doing this is fun and open ended in and of itself. Hands on!

We then tried it with a lasagna noodles. They don’t imprint the stamp and just–oh no!–break. Add a hammer to make this really fun.

The aluminum foil is “malleable.” The lasagna noodles are “brittle.”

We will also trace the images on coins to tracing paper to highlight how metal can have an image stamped onto it. In the future, if interested, we’ll watch a documentary on processes involving metal.

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