Category: History

Montessori’s First Great Lesson

Age: 7 & 10

Science Co-op Session 1 Week 4: Montessori First Great Lesson


  • First Great Lesson Presentation
  • Van Gogh Starry Night Art
  • Break
  • Moon Log

After 3 weeks of background presentations, this week was IT, the First Great Lesson.  This presentation was already done two school years ago, in Fall 2016.   I’ve never quite liked the lesson the way it was taught to me because I don’t have the best classroom management skills yet and dealing with kids who go off script when you show them the experiments while you’re busy telling the story throws me into a loop, and then I start rushing and things fall apart.

This year, I decided to change things up by using the story as told in The Deep Well of Time.  The author advocates telling the story by doing all the presentations in the weeks leading up to the lesson, then make the story an oral story, without reading from the book.  Alas, I could not memorize the whole story.  So I did read from the book, but tried to tell it as much as possible without reading straight.

The other thing I changed was to tell the story in English so that I’m not stumbling over words and shortening the whole story because I don’t have the words for them.  Thankfully, all the children in the co-op actually could benefit from more English exposure. (more…)

Cold and Very Cold

Age: 7 & 10

Science Co-Op Session 1 Week 1: Cold and Very Cold


  • Norse Myths
  • Cold and Very Cold
  • Blow up Balloon with Dots

After a whole year of gap year traveling, we are back to doing our science co-op.  This is the only way I’m able to squeeze in science, by forcing myself to meet with other homeschoolers once a week.

After talking to Eclectic Mama, we decided to change the format of the class now that the kids are older.  Namely:

  • Limit to age 7 and up.
  • Limit to 4 kids in the beginning
  • One person teach
  • $10 material fee per person.
  • A scheduled start and ending time
  • Bilingual science/history class

The format of the class got set once I realized that I really do want to teach the class because I wanted to do Montessori science.  I’m partial to it because it ties all the different disciplines in science together.   The other thing I really need, because I now have a 4th grader, is a class that doesn’t just have fun activities, but more thoughtful discussion and perhaps some writing.

In order to do that I had to limit it to a group of similar age kids (3 year difference max).  To help with the prep and to encourage people to arrive on time, we also added a $10 material fee and I even wrote up a class description.  All to make it feel like a class that you need to commit to.

Lastly, now that the children are older, we can add English into the class.  In fact, most of the kids actually need some English instruction to help with English exposure.  This, along with the material fee, would help make prep easier, as one reason I kept procrastinating was because I did not relish the painstaking task of translating something like the First Great Lesson story into Chinese.

Thankfully I have cool friends who are easy going and willing to go along with my always overly ambitious plans.  Eclectic Mama even spent an afternoon with me while I babble through my lesson plan options.  Because I can only think through problems by talking about it, rather than thinking in my head. (more…)

Book Review: My First Larousse History 我的世界史小百科

One of the things I’ve been looking for during our trip back to Taiwan are non-fiction books.  We’ve been finding our non-fiction books lacking whenever we do any history or science studies.  The picture books seem way too easy, but the other non-fiction books I bought too hard for Astroboy.

I finally happened upon the Larousse set of encyclopedia at Mollie.  This is a set of 6 encyclopedias, translated from French.  Sadly there are no English versions.  They are:history

  • 我的世界史小百科 My First Larousse World History
  • 我的地理小百科 My First Larousse Geography
  • 我的生活小百科 My First Larousse Encyclopedia
  • 我的科學小百科 My First Larousse Science
  • 我的台灣小百科 My First Taiwan Encyclopedia
  • 我的動物小百科 My first Larousse Animals

The Taiwan Encyclopedia was actually written by 小天下 Publishing, not Larousse.   So far I’ve only used the History one.  I’m not sure if all 6 books are all written in the sequential format I need for homeschooling.  But the animal and geography ones looked promising when I flipped through them.


History: Studying Time and Clock

BFSU: D5: Time and the Earth’s Turning
MontessoriIntroduction to Notation of Time: Shadow Clocks, History of the Clock

I admit, I’ve been feeling unmotivated to plan our science curriculum this semester.  Our Spring semester started in the beginning of January and I feel like I’ve been just squeaking by with random ideas I dream up a few days before each meeting.  We did a Rivers presentation and also combined history and science with a mummification project and then somehow found reasons with the schedule not to do more science.

But some things came up in the personal life and I had to spend days cleaning up the mess, thereby forced to not sit in front of the computer all day like I’m want to do.  That somehow spurred me off my lazy bum slightly to properly plan our first science presentation in February.

Because BFSU divides up the curriculum into 4 areas and I felt very lost, not knowing how to integrate the topics and what order to introduce them, I went back to history and studying time and clock.  Understanding time is the first step in learning history.  I figured with most of the kids in our co-op turning 6 this year, it is a good time to revisit this subject even though we had covered it a bit last semester with The Long Black Strip.


世界的故事 Story of the World: nomads and cavemen

Story of the WorldBeginning January, we added a history portion to our coop.  We’re following the book used in the Classical Curriculum, Story of the World 世界的故事 by Susan Weiss.  This set of 4 books tells history from the beginning to civilization in the Mediterrean to Modern times.  Book 1 has 42 chapters and goes from nomads to the end of Roman Empire.

We’ll be covering 1 chapter a week.  Everyone is supposed to read the chapter at home before we meet on Wednesday.  In “class”, we will start off with a relevant picture book and then do an activity from the Story of the World Activity Book.  We bought the PDF version of the activity book directly from the publisher so we can re-edit it into Chinese for the maps and stuff.  The activity book includes questions in English, which I’m translating slowly and painfully into Chinese every week.  There is also an English audio CD version.

So far, I’m liking this curriculum.  It is not the most interesting book (try Magic Treehouse instead), but it includes actual facts interspersed with stories.  It’s meant as a jump off point.  I like the fact that it has no zhuyin and we can practice learning new characters and are being exposed to higher vocabulary.

I always think the children are not learning and that we’re not covering enough in depth.  But after 3 weeks, I can see that Thumper has learned something with the co-op and all the supplemental material I actually have been giving but didn’t realize when she was sprouting facts to a friend today.


History: The Long Black Strip

Totally fun!

A few weeks ago, I presented the long black strip to the kids in the co-op.   It was a big hit and really made an impression with Astroboy.

The Long Black Strip is one of the early lessons in the Natural History section of the Montessori History album. I had already showed Thumper the First Great Lesson (Creation of the Universe) and the Second Great Lesson (Coming of Life), thought it was time to talk about humans in this long timeline.

In the presentation the children rolled out a very long, 40 meters, black ribbon in the playground.  The younger children really wanted to roll the ribbon out.  As they walked and unrolled, I talked about how the darkness that came after the creation of the universe went on for a long long time, or how it rained and volcanos erupted again and again for a long, long time.  (as the Earth was forming).  Here’s a sample of the presentation from Montessori Services.  Mine’s slightly different, especially since it was in Chinese, but basically the same idea: