Montessori at Home: Brainy Kit Review

Montessori at Home

Montessori at Home

A little while back, I got an email from Viktoria Altman, President of Brainy Kit. She asked if I’d be interested in receiving a complimentary kit of Montessori materials and lesson plans.

YES! Would I ever!!  I’ve only had two blogger offers that I was this excited about: Brainy Kit and Jamberry Nails. (Look for a Jamberry post soon.)

Now I know you’re wondering what in the world I’m talking about. Well, Montessori is a hands on method of preschool that I have always been intrigued by. To learn more about Montessori methods, read this:

What the Brainy Kit does is bring those Montessori materials into the home. It makes this method more attainable for the average family, for those who may not be able to afford to send their child to a Montessori School.

I received Brainy Kit #1: the Polar Kit. We are LOVING it.

Each item in the kit has provided DAYS of fun, not just one lesson of fun.

Here’s what came in the kit:

Brainy Kit #1: WE LOVED this!!!

1. A book of seven detailed lesson plans: Each lesson plan has tons of activity suggestions.

2. A Bag of miniature animal replicas, Eskimos, and an igloo

3. pretend snow

4. Amazing Arctic Animals book

5. a huge sheet of stickers

6. a glue stick

7. a pre-cut-out walrus craft

8. laminated animal cards

9. laminated Polar Animal learning chart

10. colorful Penguin puzzle

11. jigsaw puzzle


Daniel, JD, and Caleb have all enjoyed this penguin puzzle. I left it out on the coffee table after preschool time, and it saw lots of play time for days, and then JD hid all the pieces…..and well, I still haven’t found them all.

Daniel, learning about the North and South Poles.

I would have never thought to stop and teach Daniel about the Poles. Poor third kid….but it was in the lesson plan, so I got out the globe and did some explaining. 🙂

Another idea behind the Brainy Kit is that it will help children transition from the home environment to the school environment.

sorting the deck of laminated arctic animals and North Pole/South Pole cards Such a fun learning tool!


You can just see the wheels turning in his little head.

hard at work

It’s blurry, but I love the way this laminated mat details which animals live at which Poles, and which ones inhabit both.

This book of beautiful pictures and info comes in the kit too! Loved it.

This book of beautiful pictures and info comes in the kit too! Loved it.

Everything in the kit is so useful! This is a book we will keep in our library and reference for years. It’s a great read-aloud.

preschool polar lesson

This was by far the most popular item in the kit: tiny animals and fake snow. JD joined Daniel for this one. He just couldn’t resist. The great thing about this activity is that it needs very little help from Mom. They played with this for an hour the first day, an hour the second day, and believe it or not, it took them 3 or 4 days before they finally destroyed all of the snow.

I was able to teach the big boys their grammar lessons while the littles played with this. As you can imagine, I was thrilled!!
montessori learning

It had a walrus, a killer whale,  a beluga whale, Eskimos, an igloo, a wolf, and a polar bear. JD carried that walrus around ALLLLLLL day.

Later on, I whipped out the old Polar Bear documentary, and all four boys watched it, while JD clutched his toy walrus.

polar animal lesson

Adding ice to the polar scene provided even more fun!

The lesson suggested adding a little water or ice to the scene. The boys LOVED dragging ice cubes around in their snow. It made the fake snow a little fluffier too, just like the way real snow changes when it’s wet.

After a while, Daniel asked me, “Me have some juice, Mommy?”

I don’t remember what I said, but Daniel added, “Me thirsty from eating that snow.”

haaaaahahahaha  Well, of course, he ate it, really!

That was all just from last week. I haven’t even gotten to the walrus craft, the stickers, or the jigsaw puzzle yet!

I am giving this brainy kit a billion thumbs up. Huge hit here!

Anyone with a 2-6 year old child should definitely sign up for these kits!

Here’s the link to learn more or sign up. :


montessori at home


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Teaching my “ADD” Son

strategies for teaching ADD


I love how homeschooling has allowed me to cater to the boys’ individual gifts. I want to share with you what we’re doing to meet each boys’ gifts and challenges, so today we will focus on Caleb.

I realize home schooling isn’t for everyone, it isn’t even possible for many, so maybe you can apply some of these tricks to your regular-school-kid too! 🙂

It never ceases to amaze me how completely different all four of our boys are! I’m still waiting to see how JD will turn out. For now, we just know that he is go-go-go and clingy-clingy-clingy. We also know that he has some sort of sleep disorder that is destroying my outlook on life, but we are not here to talk about that today…

Let’s just focus on school.

Caleb is your classic Billy from Family Circus ‘boy’. He does the stereotypical stuff. He begs us for a pet, he finds snails and brings them to me, he pretends to dislike girls, and he’s always wiggly. Oh, and he loves to take things apart. He can also fix things that I cannot. If I want a chore done quickly and effectively, I call upon Caleb.

Spelling, memorizing facts, and sitting still are his nemesis. His Sunday School teacher recently referred to Caleb as “quiet and shy.”


That’s right. My children have one personality at home and a totally different one at school or Sunday School. I was quiet at school when I was a child too, only I actually am shy, whereas Caleb is definitely NOT shy.

The hard thing about teaching Caleb in the school setting, is that it feels like he isn’t participating. He NEVER answers questions, in a large group, and he talks and sings so quietly that you can’t tell if he is doing so or not. It looks as though he is completely disengaged–not at all like any of the other kids in the class.

As a parent, this is frustrating to watch.

I would love to design a school that caters to little “ADD” kids like Caleb–and guess what! I am doing exactly that this year–here at our own little home school!!  I have TWO ADDish boys, though even the way that ADD is displayed is different in each of them!!

Here is what is helping with Caleb so far:

1. Fidgeting is 100% REQUIRED!!!

If I am going to be teaching something new, or going over memory work, Caleb absolutely HAS to have something in his hands to work on. For example, if Alan is teaching a Bible lesson to the boys, we say, “Caleb, go get your puzzle!!!” Caleb fetches his U.S. puzzle and works on it while Alan teaches. Suddenly he becomes interactive Caleb with questions.

How did I figure this out? Classical Conversations. After the agony of watching my smart little boy act as though he doesn’t know anything all morning, we went outside to paint. Thankfully, it was a laid back painting day. The kids were allowed to use whatever colors they wanted–kind of a big deal for Caleb.

Meanwhile, Caleb’s tutor opened up her science book and started teaching from it. Suddenly, Caleb became interactive Caleb, asking questions, and looking happy.

The key seems to be that Caleb has to be working on something with his hands to pay attention. I totally get this!!  When I was in school, my notebook was always FULL of doodles. I do the same thing in church. Normally, I dislike drawing, but I just have to have something to do with my hands when I am in the school setting.

And what do we typically tell small school children, during instructional time? Everyone clear off your desk, and no fidgeting. HA!!! Perhaps that is best for most kids, I don’t know. I don’t have ‘most kids,’ I just have these kids, and I want to do whatever works to make school easier and more fun for them.

2. Frequent breaks.

Caleb completes a subject, then he has a break–sometimes a drawing break, sometimes a full-jump-on the trampoline recess. With all the rain we are suddenly having, he plays in the garage a lot. I would much rather knock all that school work out at one time, but that leaves Caleb looking like a whiny lump in the floor, so I get about an hour of work out of him at a time.

Caleb’s Basic Day:

Math Worksheet (A Beka 2nd grade)  He is excellent at this–straight As, and he thinks it’s easy.


Notebooking: writing, copy work, etc.

BREAK–Full 20 minutes

Grammar/Phonics/Guided reading  We are really enjoying the A Beka readers now. They are full of sweet stories that almost all have wonderful life lessons. Love. Love. Love. Caleb also grasps grammar rules with swiftness. Phonics has been a struggle, and he’s still improving in reading. Thankfully, he loves Treasure Chest. He recently finished reading Pinnochio in that reader.

Review Memory Work (Science/History/math/grammar)

BREAK  a long one, while I work individually with Joshua

Math Speed Drills


Teacher Reading (where I read one nonfiction science or history story, followed by one fiction story or chapter or two)

Handwriting–Caleb’s favorite subject with Drawing (Most of the lessons in PreScripts include a drawing lesson.

Geography–We have now graduated to actually drawing the maps, rather than just tracing. I can’t tell you how challenging, but fun this is!

Go over whatever else we missed during the day, and then I NEVER let school run past 3pm. Usually we are done by 2:15.

Why does it take me so long, when I only have three students??  Well, let’s not forget this guy:


Our school comes with a TON of built in distractions, but that also makes it more fun.

I am fortunate. Even though we are always at home, the boys still have three friends to play with all the time:




That’s right. Sweet Dan can also do a mean scowl.

Joshua picked out his and J.D.’s clothes, and then they all decided to dress alike. They were a little disappointed that J.D. would not cooperate for group pictures.

When you have big brothers, you learn the back arch fit extra early.






3. Experience Learning: I think with anybody, ADD or no, actually going out and experiencing things is much better for learning than just reading about it.

What did I set out to teach the boys in these photos?

You might guess table manners or ocean life, but that wasn’t really what I was thinking. I set out to teach them about Black Friday. 🙂 Joshua, Caleb, Daniel, and I hit the mall and a restaurant in honor of America’s favorite day to shop. We scored an awesome deal on Daddy’s present.

We also got the bonus of getting to watch the ocean waves while we ate our lunch. Science. 🙂

experiencing the beauty of California at a local ranch

More science. These are harvester ants. They are all female. They only produce a male when they wish to reproduce. I guess they don’t realize how funny boys are to have around.

Proverbs 6:6-8 (KJV)

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:

Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,

Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

Did you catch that?? Don’t miss it! Solomon is known for the wisdom God gave him. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. They called EVERYTHING “he” or “him” back then.

What did they call the ant??  HER

Don’t miss that. The Bible is CHOCK-FULL of wisdom that is way before its time.

Isaiah also wrote a verse that showed inspired wisdom about “the circle of the earth”, back when we’re told they thought the earth was flat.

21Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.   Isaiah 40:21-22

4. Let’s talk about memorizing. 

Unfortunately, I have not unlocked that padlock for Caleb yet. He does well with the truly catchy songs, the Bible passage, and the things that I have managed to go over a gazillion times, but I want to find a way to make it easier. I have learned ALL of this stuff fairly quickly, without going over it a gazillion times, and I am old. Some of it was completely new to me too: like the Latin….and the specific Appalachian mountain ranges. I would love more memorization tips for my little guy who hates memorizing!!!

I think part of the problem is that he thinks it’s boring, so perhaps what I SHOULD be asking tips for is how to make it more interesting to a 7 year old.

5. Focusing on the GIFTS

In order to keep Caleb happy about school, I have to praise, praise, praise every thing he does well. He leaps up the stairs to come to Handwriting, Art, or Math Speed Drill time because those are things that he has received lots of praise for.  Caleb is so creative. It’s so easy to praise him for his arts and crafts achievements.

Obviously, I need to praise him more on memory work!! I was really impressed today with his excellent Latin translation skills. That was all thanks to how well he learned John 1:1. The boys are currently memorizing John 1:1-7 in Latin. Caleb has already done a pretty good job of memorizing it in English. Caleb was actually able to teach this week’s Latin to Joshua. Now THAT was exciting!

What helped him learn John 1:1-7 so well? I made him copy it during notebooking time. That lets me know that Caleb learns through writing things down, which makes a TON of sense, since he learns through fidgeting!!!

Hmmm…I need to employ more of that!

6. Trampoline Memory Work

This is my next idea!!! Maybe trampoline spelling and trampoline math drills too!!

7. It’s really all about the one-on-one.

ADD kids need one on one attention more than their wired-perfectly-regularly counterparts. That’s where home-schooling is paying off BIG TIME.

You may be tempted to think ADD is not a “real” thing. As a psychology grad-school drop-out, let me assure you that IT IS INDEED A REAL THING. In the old days, they may have just said, “That boy ain’t quite right.” Haaaa!  The thing is now we know why. Our brains don’t all work the same.

Aren’t you glad they don’t?  😉  I bet some of the greatest creatives of all time were ADD.

8. Teach to the level of the child. 

This is another benefit that I have. Even some public schools do this. Where my children went to school last year, they divided the whole 2nd grade up into spelling classes. Some kids in the second grade were spelling hop, shop, pop. Others were spelling shook, shake, shriek, or whatever. You get the idea.

At the beginning of the year, both boys almost cried while working on material that they were not ready for, and school felt like a battle. As soon as I switched the curriculum to their actual level, they began to learn without tears. This is the best thing I’ve done for them. In the long run, they will actually be better at these subjects, since they took their time, and learned it step by step, rather than feeling lost all year.

Teaching to their level made my life so much easier too. I don’t have to battle them on any of our subjects–other than just “Can we be done now?” Gone are those first few weeks of, “I can’t do this!! It’s just too hard!!!” Okay, occasionally they still say that, but only when they are lazy or in need of a quick break.

I always wondered why home schoolers got that deer in the headlights look when you asked them what grade their kid is in!! It’s because at any given time Child A may be in 4th grade spelling and reading, 5th grade history, geography, and science, mid-2nd grade math, and 3rd grade grammar and handwriting…..but yeah…he’s in 3rd grade.  LOL!!! That’s the awesomeness of the one-on-one.

Anyone else have any good ADD tips?? I know there are plenty of teachers out there that could help us!!!

Centers for our Homeschool

Centers for home school We just completed our second week of Classical Conversations, and man oh man, is it a lot to memorize for some little ‘fellas. Now most people as “computer oriented” as myself would go to the CC website or to and grab some ideas. I really don’t know why I haven’t gotten around to that yet. I’m a little embarrassed to admit, I’ve never even visited the CC Connected web page. How can this be?  I know. I know. I need to get with it. I tend to waste away my computer time playing with my blog and reading other people’s blogs….not doing a whole lot of other productive things. You know what? I don’t even really apologize for that. I believe all people should engage in sanity time at the end of their day. I’ll put acquainting myself with the CC website on next week’s to do list. I know for sure these learning centers have already been thought of by people much more experienced than me, but when my back’s up against a wall I just let whatever creative juices I have go and see what comes of it. I had a good time putting this stuff together. Last night I had one of those moments of, “Hey! Wait a minute! I KNOW how to make this more fun.” I remember from my very short teaching experience in Texas, many many moons ago, that elementary kiddos love learning centers–the more hands-on “Kinesthetic” learning the better! It really didn’t take me long to get it all set up. None of it was super fancy, required special craft tools, Martha Stewart engineering, or anything like that. It was so easy, and just as I figured, they really loved it. I think it was the best day of school we’ve had yet. Messy though. Very messy…..but that was really because Daniel pulled one of my craft supply boxes out of the storage closet and decided to make that his center. There are google-y eyes, jingle bells, and pipe cleaners everywhere. See what I mean? He and Caleb ended up stringing jingle bells on pipe cleaners to make bracelets that jingle. Caleb also made a really awesome jingle bell flower. Such artsy boys I have. I’ll have to remember to take a pic of Caleb creations to share with ya’ll. The boy is both an artist and a scientist. So here’s a little of what we did. A little of it was really just marker board activity, as usual, but since it was broken up between other activities, it still passed as a “center.” 🙂 This served as the road map. Of course, no one actually went in order. The centers also helped the boys to move at their own pace. Joshua flew through them all and was done in no time. Caleb kept taking pit stops at Daniel’s self-created Pre-school centers…….so his took a lot longer. Center 1: Sing the timeline song. Then sort the timeline cards that we’ve memorized into the proper order. They really enjoyed this. it’s been so fun to be to get acquainted with these ancient civilizations. It’s awful interesting how there is no difference at all in the Bible timeline versus the secular timeline when it comes to civilization. no record of civilized people before the Bible claims there to be PLUS so many ocean creature fossils found in the middle of the USA…..almost as though there was once a flood that covered the whole continent… very interesting…… I had actually set the tangram center up for Daniel, to keep him out of the big boys’ way, but Daniel snubbed it. However, Caleb had a great time with it. Sigh. WE are learning the 4 major bones of the axial skeleton this week: cranium, sternum, ribs, and the vertebrae. I simply went to Google image search and found a skeleton printable. The big boys had to label our four bones that we’ve learned.  Daniel was supposed to color it. Instead, he found googly eyes in the craft box and started glueing. Pretty cute idea. Kids do the most adorable things. their completed works:  Joshua’s says, “I come in peace.” Haaaahahahaha

Okay…..I just realized the 20 must have fallen off of the table….OY!!

This is the one I’m probably going to use the most often. My boys feel very intimidated by counting by 4s and did not learn this well last week. The thing is that I’M also learning what they need to spend more time on! This worked great. I took this photo after they were done with the center. Hopefully, the 20 was a recent casualty…. I just used sentence strips and made a bag for counting by 2s, one for counting by 3s, and one for counting by 4s. I gave the boys the numbers (for example this set above), all jumbled up, and they had to put them in order and then say them to me. We do some sort of map drawing/labeling every day, and we usually use the CC Trivium Tables. My sister-in-law found me a whole tablet of these, so I put them to use. All they had to do was label the 10 states that we’ve learned so far. I gave them a “word bank” at the top, with the correct state abbreviations. After all, when you are 7 or 8 years old, these concepts are all very, very new. my boys hard at work In the background, in the floor, you can see the “state capital” center. They just had to match the correct state to the correct capital. Yes, at our school, sometimes we get to have popcorn while we work. Pacific Christian Academy rocks. 🙂 Last, but not least, on our easel, I had written the 7 Latin words we’ve learned, and they just had to write the definitions. I forgot to take a pic of that.

reading Fly Guy Frankenfly when he’s not supposed to be…..I can’t even pretend to be unhappy.

This was really fun! Even more fun: Alan took his last final exam today, and he has this whole upcoming week off to hang out with us! Wahoo! Big Sur pictures will be coming soon!!! I suppose we should also finally unpack the garage….o quit your judgin’. It’s really only been 5 weeks since move in day, and garage unpacking is just no fun at all.

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