Friday, February 29, 2008

All Around Our World

A wonderful Montessori teacher friend of mine, created this world map!
Isn't she talented? Wow! Using the world map mat by Montessori N' Such as a guide, she cut the continents from felt and glued them to the blue fabric using craft glue. She purchased the Continent & World Miniature Animal Set to complete this work.

Duplicating materials is not common practice but when the original material was being used by the Kindergarten program the teacher used her resourcefulness and made this one for her classroom.

Inspiring! I just had to share.
*Note: This work is used with small groups, it's purpose: identifying the world continents by name, and making discoveries about where different animals live on our globe.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Care of Self: Nose Blowing

Providing a mirror for young children to admire themselves is a good way to buy yourself 5 to 10 minutes of time :)
Seriously, there is nothing my Little One enjoys more than checking himself out in the mirror!

When I brought this mirror out yesterday, my little guy had a bit of a runny nose. Upon noticing this in the mirror he got himself a tissue and wiped his nose, he then checked his reflection in the mirror to make sure his nose was clean. As I observed him I was reminded of a story.

One day, when Montessori came to see how the children where getting on, she decided to give them what was at that time a rather unusual lesson--on how to blow one's nose. After explaining first of all how it should not be done she showed them how to do it as politely as possible, with as little noise as one could, and taking out the handkerchief unobtrusively so that the action remains more or less unnoticed. The children followed her demonstration with silent interest. When the lesson was quite finished they all together broke into a burst of genuine and heartfelt applause, clapping their hands "as when in a theatre a great actress evokes an ovation repressed with difficulty." she later said.
Montessori was completely amazed at this sudden demonstration of emotion, until all at once its true significance dawned on her. The question she had touched upon--keeping
one's nose clean--was one which children too often associate with discipline and humiliation. People are perpetually complaining to children about their noses being dirty. Making remarks, such as "Blow your nose, Billy." "Why don't you use your handkerchief, you dirty boy," etc. But no one had ever quietly and calmly taught them how to do it, without attacking them or criticizing them at the same time.
I have a confession, when I ran my child care center in Massachusetts I kept the box of tissues on a high shelf in the bathroom. I did this without giving it much thought. I expect I just thought it was my job to recognize when the children needed a tissue and to care for them when they did. I would provide the older child with a tissue, and assist the younger child with their nose, by wiping it for them. I really don't recall giving this much thought at all. I will say when I began working at a Montessori School the fact that each room had its very own tissue box on a low shelf, was one of the very first things I noticed when looking around the classroom.
I remember noticing this and mentioning it to the Director; she went on to explain the story I have just shared with you. I left that day full of so much new and exciting information about Montessori and this new school I had found myself teaching art at. My head was spinning and I was so happy to be part of a place that valued children so much. But, a three year old blowing his own nose impressed me most of all!
Later, during my formal Montessori training when the instructor began sharing the "Nose Blowing Lesson Story" with all of us, I smiled to myself already knowing what she would say.
Now my not yet two year old can blow his own nose! I've come a long way in my own learning, as a mother and as a teacher. As Montessori would say, children are the true teachers.

Montessori Parent

So, you have decided to research Montessori education as a possibility for your child. You have attended parent information sessions, open houses, met with the director of admissions, had a tour of the Montessori school, observed in a Montessori classroom, spoken with other parents. It’s looking pretty favorable, but there’s one more step. Before deciding if Montessori is right for your family, you must ask yourself the following questions.

Am I. . .

  • Supportive of an educational method which focuses on process v. product? (Doing rather than memorizing).
  • Supportive of peace education, conflict resolution, community service, and environmental education?
  • Comfortable with curriculum that includes multiculturalism?
  • Comfortable with (and understand the complexities of) narrative progress reports and student work portfolios. Am I willing to leave numerical/letter grades and grade level comparisons behind for now?
  • Comfortable with an educational method that believes that children learn best through intrinsic motivation, where there are neither rewards nor punishments, and that competition hinders learning?
  • Supportive of real-life learning situations?
  • Supportive of the belief that children learn best when they have control over their own learning?
  • Recognizing that objectives are usually met in a three-year cycle, as opposed to standardized grade levels?

By exploring a Montessori education, you will find that it’s not just about the education of your child. It’s a commitment to educating the whole person and family. It’s about knowing there’s something better and seeking it out and being comfortable in knowing you have made the right decision.

*from Montessori Teacher Training

I thought this may be useful as I plan to follow this post with ideas about ways to bring Montessori home. As parents we bridge the gap between school and home; bringing elements from the Montessori classroom into your home helps your children become life long learners. Remember you are your child's first teacher!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Flower Arranging

Flower Arranging: Practical Life Activity

I purchased these cloth flowers (@ ACMOORE) then cut the bottoms, I taped them to prevent Little One from getting hurt by the exposed metal and also to accentuate the bottom of the stems, making them more visible when he attempts to put them into the vase. The vases are a collection of yard sale finds and one old vitamin bottle. The flowers are held in a shallow basket, the vases on a tray. These items could be presented on one tray, in a 3-6 classroom, however when working with a toddler I recommend this be a stationary work over a carpeted floor (if possible) to prevent the possibility of the glass breaking.

With Toddlers (or first lesson): Use just one flower for each vase, one red, one orange, one yellow. Follow with a three period lesson to identify colors.
In a 3-6 classroom: Using different colored flowers as I have done here this could be presented as a sorting work also.
In a 3-6 classroom: Use real flowers and add a water pouring component.

Enjoy and have fun! Spring is on the way, having bright flowers (either paper or cloth or the real deal) is a beautiful way to brighten your classroom during these late winter months. Bring the Natural World inside.

More Red Bin Discoveries

Remember the red bin I borrowed from my friend Paula? This weekend we filled it with sand and then water! Little One LOVED both of these new sensorial experiences and obviously got "into" his learning. Apparently the bin is too big? Using a wooden spoon he filled and dumped his blue strainer. I took a dozen photos before he notice me. It was very a very peaceful experience for him.

For water exploration I put the bin up on a low table and my nine year old joined in on the fun. Thankfully, Little One did not take a swim. This little blue strainer was a such find! I discovered it at Rite Aid for $1!!! Montessori on a budget after all.
(Please forgive me if I have posted about the strainer before, I adore it and so does Little One)
With water play I offered natural sponges, bottles to fill and pour, and a clear measuring cup with a handle. Big brother had fun entertaining his little brother, pouring water from up high into the strainer only to have it splash up the sides and into his brother's face. I quickly redirected this behavior. Everybody loves a clown, except an almost two year old who just got water splashed in his face.
Tune in next time to see what else fills up the "Red Bin".
Take care

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Baby Goats! And Mama Grumbling...

Our neighbor's goats have given birth and now each day we drive by, we slow down to take a peek. Yesterday they were out and about! My Little One assumes, because of their markings, that the goats are cows and was Moo-ing to them while I snapped some photos. My nine year old wants to adopt one and raise it in our home
"you know like the cats" he said :)
I think two cats is more than enough personally since last night one of my felines woke me at 3:30am because she was hungry. Grrr....what would a goat do?
So on to my grumbling,
it's only 11am and already today I have edited my oldest son's Che Guevara paper and assisted with his Che Guevara poster, done three loads of laundry, made French toast, changed three diapers, given a yogurt covered toddler a bath, helped my nine year old pick up an entire rubber-made tote full of Legos that "accidentally spilled"before above mentioned toddler could eat them, vacuumed up rice cake pieces and gold fish also "accidentally" spilled before they could be ground into the living room carpet by yep, you guessed it: Little One, and addressed 15 envelopes for work! Phew...did I mention my husband is working and it is day seven of February vacation? Enough grumbling....
Any-who, I thought some of you would like to see these beautiful babies and feel hopeful about Spring coming. And I hope YOU are enjoying your Sunday, your family and maybe hot chocolate...mmmm...sounds good, don't mind if I do.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Maria Mouse

Many readers have been asking about my book Maria Mouse in the Children's House. I would like to thank you for your enthusiasm and support for this little story book of mine. I am hopeful it one day soon will be published and I can share that news with all of you but as of yet it hasn't been picked up by a publishing house. And so I wait....
I have been thinking about self publishing but know very little about this process. I will keep you all posted and welcome your comments and feedback about my illustrations and and suggestions about book publishing.

The children I have shared my Maria Mouse stories with have enjoyed them and I feel confident that many more children would too. I hope it happens...(I'm trying to be optimistic).

Going easy on myself, it's just what the doctor ordered.

I came across this picture of Dr. Montessori and thought I would share it with all of you. In previous posts I've told about the history of her life's work; what's recorded and told and retold by Montessorians the world over. But today I'm thinking about the woman. The mother, the doctor, the teacher of teachers, the celebrity, the feminist, what was she really like? It's allot to think about.
I imagine her as a force, as bright as the sun, as strong as a mountain. Yet, she was someone who would hold your hand when you were unsure and tell you to listen to your intuition.
I wish I could have known her personally. I would have loved to have heard her speak. She was brave and honest and true. We are so blessed she graced this earth and shared with us her brilliant perspective.
The Montessori Teacher:
Imagine sitting cradled within the branches of a tall and magical tree. It is the Montessori classroom. How would you feel looking all about you, new possibilities and opportunities awaiting you on every branch you reach for? Would you want to take the leap? I imagine only if you were sure you would not fall. The supportive branches and strength of the Montessori tree enable you to feel independent and sure of your footing. But knowing your teacher is always there to help you to reach that next branch is a reassuring fact.
You are not alone on this journey; you are being guided and encouraged by a loving adult who understands what it is like to climb this tree. All the branches are familiar to her and each leaf she has placed there with careful consideration for every child to admire and enjoy. Montessori herself planted the seed of this tall and miraculous tree and it is the teachers who she trained who tend to it now.
Montessori said, "Whoever touches the life of the child touches the most sensitive point of a whole which has roots in the most distant past and climbs toward the infinite future."

I remember these words and her perspective each time I enter the Montessori classroom. But bringing Montessori home is my work these days. And I know that lately I have often felt challenged by financial restraints to prepare my home to meet the needs of my growing, ever changing boys. I am resolving today to give myself a break. Yes, the prepared environment is an important element to the success of the Montessori method but it is so much more about the process than the materials. Reminding myself of this is helpful. By comparison when I visit the classroom I see beautiful materials and child sized everything, I admire and long to bring home some of the items. Let's call this "nesting". My home environment is cluttered and small, there are five of us and not much room. Some days it feels like a bush rather than a tree, but oh well, it's our bush and we are all learning in it just the same.
Bread crumbs or golden beads the learning was the same. Maria observed children in many different environments and always found this to be true: a child who feels loved and comfortable will be successful at their work.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My February Ten

Inspired by Soule Mama I am fighting the February blaughs with a list of ten things that bring me joy during this dreary winter month. And all of You are invited to do the same.
Here goes...

1.) Trips to the public library, visiting with Jane Thomas our children's librarian who nurtures my middle son's love for books. Everything from the train table to water bubbler fascinate my Little One, pushing the elevator button and the fish tank are his two most favorite parts about the whole experience. And they have BOOKS too!

2.) This blue tunnel I purchased years ago. (I think his expression says it all).

3.) Colored glass jars with lids.

4.) When my oldest son plays his guitar.

5.) Red "works".

6.) When my Mom calls just to say she loves me. (Thanks Mom)

7.) Waiting to hear if Maria Mouse will become a REAL book...anticipation.

8.) My spiral chalice, UU church services (especially the maple syrup service) working with the children's program and our FABULOUS new RE Director Danielle. (okay, that's more than one)

9.) Hot Chocolate with whipped cream (is there another way?) in my favorite mug.

10.) My BLOG. It makes me happy. And all of you who read and comment and share with me, you make my February more beautiful. Thank you.

So, what are YOUR February Ten? Please share.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Toddler Practical Life: CCIO

Inspired by an original idea from the lovely and talented Mama and O at Chasing Cheerios,
I put together this
Practical Life activity: Toothpick drop

The basic aims of all Practical Life activities are to assist in the development of:
Coordination, Concentration, Independence, Order
(or CCIO that's an easy way to remember *c/o Linda Seeley Northeast Montessori Institute)
All are nurtured with this one activity.

My Little One (22months) LOVED putting the colored toothpicks into the small openings of the cheese shaker. It was a pleasant sensorial experience also because of the musical tone it made when the toothpicks fell in. He completed this work again and again and was very smiley while enjoying it.
I am sure this will become a daily favorite. Thanks Chasing Cheerios!

I Love Felt!

My house was busy this weekend with family visiting; and I enjoyed it very much. This is one of the activities I came up with to entertain two busy toddlers. Button sewing! Felt is something I usually have on hand and my first thought was to make felt necklaces. Threading ribbon proved to be a challenge for toddlers to do.
Then I had an idea: add a button to the end of the ribbon!
And so this hand work was born.
My niece (2yrs) stayed with this activity for 35 minutes. (This is the necklace she made!)

My Little One (22 months) was not as captured by the beauty of it. Although he did sew briefly, he was more interest in watching his older cousin and brothers sled outside. I will try this with him on another day when there are less distractions. I will say that when the "BIG boys" came in from outdoors they were very interested in what we had been making inside. And soon my nine year old and my 5 year old nephew had completed their own felt "snakes".

I imagine this would be a peaceful Practical Life activity for a 3-6 classroom. I will give it to my friends at the Cornerspring Children's House and will let you know how it goes.

~~MM Original
Happy Buttoning!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Just because...

I made this and wanted to share. The child in me. My brother and his family are visiting this weekend and my little house is full of energy and noise. I love it!
PEACE to all of you and yours.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Montessori on a Budget

Here is my Little One sorting bag snaps by color (these clips are for securing bags of chips, I bought at Family Dollar for, yep you guessed it: $1)
He can do so many things with them:
open and close them
sort them by color
line them up by size (he hasn't mastered this)
we even made squares with them when we opened them and placed them on the rug opposite one another.

Mostly he likes to fill and dump the basket, but by introducing him to colors, size and shape, the use of a rug, and the awareness that baskets contain objects and can be found on a shelf; I hope to familiarize him with concepts and ground rules he will continue to use in the future.
His work at 21 months is to play.

This 'work' can easily be made for about $2.00
The basket (also found at the $ store) was part of a four basket set (total cost $2.50) and the chip clips, like I said were $1. Not much to spend for a fun activity that my toddler will enjoy again and again. Don't you just love a bargain?

During my Montessori training, an instructor commented that Montessori could be done using sticks and stones. She even went so far as to bring in these natural items for us to create lessons from. It was an important reminder about how Montessori is less about the materials and more about the philosophy (and I will add: the attitude & approach of the adult).
Remember, we adults set the tone for young children.
(If you are enthusiastic about sorting chip clips, they will be too!)

Happy Valentines Day!

Remember those potato prints? Well, because of a lack of time this is the best we could do:

But my nine year old was able to make window clings also, which were more fun for him anyway. Has anybody made them before? It was new to me and I have to say, a very smelly project. Unfortunetly, I don't have a photo to share but they are made from a kit:
Everyday KOLOR and took two days to dry.

I gave my boys stuffed animals for Valentine's Day this morning and although my youngest was happy, my middle and oldest wanted candy. Oh well, they are sure to get some candy at school when friends exchange Valentines right? Okay, maybe not the ninth grader. Maybe I'll make brownies for dessert tonight?

My husband (in his usually sleepy state at 5am on his way out the door) saw me putting out the Valentine items and said, "What are those for?"
I guess I won't be getting roses today. Ha-HA
I hope your Valentines treat you well and your children have fun today.
Much LOVE,

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Real Mom in Me

I recently got a letter from an old childhood friend. In it she wrote that she had looked me up and found her way to my blog. She said many lovely and wonderful things to me in the letter; it was beautiful. However, when I finished reading it I thought, she doesn't really know me. Because all she was going by after all these years, were the bits and pieces of me I posted on my blog. Montessori Mama is the mother I aspire to be, in reality I make allot of mistakes. So, it occurred to me I should let you all in on a little secret:
I'm not perfect. No one is.
I gave up trying to be perfect years ago but some how I have still managed to present an unrealistic projection of myself on this blog. Although I personally feel that blogs that teach something or inspire people are more enjoyable to read than ones that are a daily vent of people's personal lives; I do feel like I want to share more about what being a parent means for me personally. It would bother me if people were reading my ideas and suggestions and thinking badly of themselves because they "should be doing more"with their children.

The point is this is not a competition, and we are all in this together. I became a mother very young and I often feel like my oldest and I have grown up together. I've learned allot from becoming a mother and from working with families.

Some things I've had to learn the hard way:
  • pretzel rods are not a toddler friendly food
  • If you don't encourage your child to learn to swim when they are small (and often afraid) they really won't want to learn when they are older.
  • fighting with your spouse in front of your kids is not a good idea.
  • too much TV can be harmful.
  • your mother in law will inevitably learn how you really feel about her if you vent to your 5 year old.
  • when you have more than one child, eating out is no longer an option
Over the years there have been several amazing women I have aspired to be like. And I've always felt I came up short. I'm trying not to do that to myself anymore. I try my best and pray I don't make too many mistakes along the way. The main reason I believe I am a good parent is because I keep learning every day. I'm open to it and I follow my children's lead.

Considering there is no test that a person must pass in order to become a parent I think we all do what we can with the tools we've been given. In my case (being that I am an over achiever) I was given a 'tool box' from my own parents and when I became a parent I began trying to fill my tool box with new and improved tools and any that I hadn't received. My husband did the same thing and soon our tool boxes were quite full. And I've also discovered that a parent can never really fill their tool box because there is always more to learn.

Out of all the teachers and mentors I've had the privilege of knowing and learning from, it has been my children who have taught me the most. The hardest lessons and the most rewarding and beautiful ones too:
  • Spanking doesn't work
  • If I swear they will swear too
  • Fast food is not good for growing bodies
  • Reading out loud is entertaining for everybody if the book is Harry Potter
  • Halloween doesn't have to be scary
  • whoever it was who invented Legos was a genius
  • whoever it was who invented the kazoo never had children
  • words can hurt MORE than sticks and stones
  • Daddies can kiss boo-boos and take bad dreams away, sometimes BETTER than Mommy
  • my heart can love more than one baby
So there you have it. I've fed my boys fast food, let them watch movies they maybe were not ready for (i.e they ended up with bad dreams), I've yelled at them more times than I want to confess, I've said the wrong thing and made the situation worse, I've swore, yelled at their Dad and said their teacher must be nuts, I've broken a promise or two and even lied once every year (yes, there is a Santa).

Thank you for reading my blog and for trying some ideas with your children. I'm not trying to impress you, I'm trying to connect with you and learn from you. I enjoy this medium for communicating but recognize it can be one dimensional, the real Mom in me is 3D.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Using a Number Line

This Number Line was made using poster board folded in half (so it would stand), writing the numbers 1 to 10 and covering with contact paper.

A Number Line can be found in the math area of the Montessori classroom. It is a handy tool for young children to use when learning their numbers. When counting items the items can be laid out in front of the Number Line and when identifying the number symbols it can be used as a guide for 1 to 10 counting. When a child is writing their own numerals, the Number Line can again be used as a reference.

In the photo the little girl uses the Number Line when discovering the mystery number of hearts.
We have a Number Line here at home also and over the years my boys have used it many, many times. Having a visual guide when learning new information is very helpful (especially for visual learners). This is also something an older child could make for a younger child.


5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

Here is a well loved story stretcher for 3 to 6 year olds. Extending the 5 Little Monkey song, provide props for your children to act out the song game. The Mama monkey is a sweet finger puppet I picked up locally at Hobbledeehoy Toys in Belfast Maine, the doll bed came with another set of doll house furniture years ago, the monkeys were part of a counting set, and the book I believe was purchased at Borders Books (again years ago).

If finding the items is a challenge you could also extend this story into an activity, using cut-outs or drawings, felt monkeys...use your creative imagination.
In the Montessori classroom this activity could be found in either the language area OR the Math area. The children enjoy making the monkeys jump on the bed and subtracting one each time. This is a nice two person work, one friend being the little monkeys, another being the Mama monkey, and then they can switch and do it again.

Enjoy and have fun!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Real Teacher

When I took my Montessori teacher training one of the many hand-outs I was given was the following list:

Guidelines for Teachers in a Montessori Classroom:

1.) Good general health and emotional stability
2.) Appears attractive
3.) Possesses personal internalized sense of order
4.) Moves gracefully
5.) Speaks with a quiet, well modulated voice
6.) Uses neither rough nor excessive affectionate physical handling of the children
7.) Exemplifies grace and courtesy to the children
8.) Teaches on child's physical and mental level
9.) Links child with the apparatus
10.) Gives varied lessons to all age levels
11.) Respects the dignity of children and teachers and parents
12.) Responds to children's physical, mental and emotional needs
13.) Draws upon community resources to enrich program
14.) Helps prepare environment consistent with maturation of sensitive periods of the class
15.) Maintains classroom orderliness and cleanliness

At the bottom of the paper it says: Source: Adapted from the AMS Guidelines 1986

Phew! What a list huh?
I gotta tell you, they left a few things off it. I've added some below.
16.) Possesses a willingness to be thrown up on if the need arises
17.) Provides a shoulder to cry on for: all children, co-teachers and parents when needed
18.) Demonstrates an ability to think on her(his) feet, is very flexible
19.) Patience, patience and more patience
20.) Talented musically (well, LOVES to sing anyway)
21.) Peaceful conflict resolution EXPERT
22.) Capable of being yelled at, even hit by a child having a tantrum and remaining calm
23.) Will work for little pay and even less recognition from society
24.) Has genuine interest in learning about EVERYTHING
25.) Doesn't mind repeating one's self
26.) Did I say possesses amazing amounts of patience?
27.) Abilities include but are not limited to: unclogging toilets, pronouncing dead fish, shoveling snow, detangling jumpropes, organizing and maintaining peace and safety on a sledding hill, comforting hurt feelings, making playdough, finding lost mittens...oh there just isn't enough space here.
28.) Capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound!
just kidding about that last one...

These people are amazing! I substituted yesterday in a 3-6 class and left feeling not only exhausted, but completely and totally in awe of my fellow teachers. How do they do it? Day in and day out arriving with a smile and gently reminding small people of often the same things they gently reminded them of the day before. As a mother of three I often go to bed feeling drained of all patience and energy. This is a hard job being a parent, no other job will ever be as challenging; this I know to be true. Being a care giver of children however, comes close. These amazing people I have the privilege of working with are all also mothers. They come to work and care for and love 16+ children each day only to return home and continue that role AND make dinner? Wow! It can be a thankless job also, if you loose sight of the small rewards through-out your day. Which is easy to do when you are tired on a Friday afternoon.

So, I would just like to say, to all you teachers out there:

Thank you, thank you for loving and learning along side our world's children. Thank you for giving and giving and giving more. Thank you for comforting hurts, sharing in discoveries, working through conflicts, providing opportunities for growth and learning, and for being safe, gentle and kind. Our world is a more beautiful place because of you.

~~with admiration and in appreciation

Friday, February 8, 2008

Beauty all around me

I spent the day at the Montessori school today. And it was obvious that Valentine's Day is coming. Children were busy snipping and sticking, making beautiful handmade notes of friendship for one another. At a rug one child counted hearts into a basket at a table near by, two friends cut red play-dough into heart shaped 'cookies'. This spooning activity caught my eye and I had to share it with you all. Beautiful things draw you to them. That's what it comes down to really. These hearts are begging to be transfered from one place to the other on this small red spoon.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Be My Valentine?

Here is a somewhat tricky tweezing work for small hands to try. Red pom-poms, chop sticks, a recycled chocolate container and a heart shaped dish make this Practical Life work complete.
My favorite question with this work is:

"Where did all the chocolates go?"

Kids are so smart.

*Note: to make this activity easier for young threes, a spoon or another tool could be used in place of the chop sticks.

Art & Play : Potato Prints

Hello All,
Here is today's Art & Play project for those of you who couldn't make the class due to snow, you can easily do this one at home: Potato prints!

Materials needed:
  • large baking potatoes
  • tempera paints
  • paper plate or recycled container to hold paint
  • paper
  • kitchen knife (for parent use only)
  • metal cookie cutters
Cut your potatoes in half width-wise. The raw surface will be the stamp.
Press a small cookie cutter into the potato and gently cut away background.
Dip potato stamps into paint and print them on paper.

My 3rd grader and I are going to make Valentines this afternoon from these, I'll let you know how they turn out.
*Obviously if you prefer to draw and cut your own design or image, go for it. The cookie cutters worked and were easy from me to make the several stamps needed for the art group. Try stamping on colored paper, mixing paints, overlap images, or printing on clothing with fabric paints! Most of all have fun and enjoy your time together.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Healing Hugs

My Little One has been sick with a tummy bug this week.

At morning circle, when one of my students was out sick, we would light a special candle and send a "Healing Hug" to our absent friend. As a group we would wrap our arms around our own bodies (in a hug) and close our eyes and send love and well wishes up and into the air by lifting our arms to the sky. When we extinguished the candle we would say the name of our missing friend(s) and "we hope you feel better".
When children who had been home from school sick would return, they would inevitably ask, "Did you send me a healing hug when I was out?"
and I would always say
"Of course we did, we miss you when you are not here."
Their little face would light up feeling loved and missed by their classroom family.
It started as a community building tool, but it became more than that.

Please send my Little One a 'Healing Hug' if time allows. It's been a long week and it's only Wednesday.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Playing with Blocks: The Pink Tower

In the Montessori classroom (3-6) we introduce the Pink Tower to the three-year-old as part of the sensorial work to help develop the sense of visual discrimination. The Pink Tower stands prominently in the classroom-ten pink colored cubes, the largest measuring 10 centimeters on each side, and the smallest a one-centimeter cube. When Dr. Montessori designed them she painted them pink to draw the children to them. And yes it does!

To work with the Pink Tower, the child carries, with both hands, one block at a time to a work rug. Ten trips over and ten trips back get all the blocks to the rug. This activity builds concentration and memory. As the child works with the Pink Tower, the child's body and mind are absorbing information that will help in future math activities. At the simplest level, the Pink Tower is a groovy set of pink building blocks. But really it is so much more.

When working with the Pink Tower your child develops:
  • concentration
  • independent decision making skills
  • beginning math concepts of square and cubes
  • visual discrimination of 1/2 centimeter
  • hands-on experiences with geometric progression
  • understanding of physical concepts that aid in later work in algebra and higher mathematics

In addition, many children enjoy drawing the Pink Tower. The Pink Tower lends itself to artwork and challenges the child to figure out how to draw a cube, how to maintain the proportion of the tower, how to shade and more!

The beauty of the Pink Tower is that there are multiple physical concepts embedded in the material, whether we are cognizant of them or not. And it's FUN to build a tower!

A young friend of mine once told me he was done building with the Pink Tower.
"Done?" I asked him. "You use the Pink Tower everyday and you seem to enjoy it. You don't want to build with it anymore?"

"That's right." he said, "I've built it every way you can build it, I've drawn it on paper, I've painted it, I've built it with the brown stairs, and I think I'm done." he said sadly.

"Well," I said, "you can certainly move on to other works whenever you want, it's your choice. I'm wondering however, have you ever looked at the Pink Tower from the floor?"

He looked at me and tilted his head curiously, "From the floor?"he asked.

"Yes, from the floor, the Pink Tower looks very different when you lie down and look up at it from the floor."

"I've never done that!" He exclaimed.

And off he went to build his beloved Pink Tower again and when he was done building, together we lay on the floor and looked up at the pink tower. And using our magic imaginations we saw a plane fly by and a rainbow arch above us. Soon other tall towers were being constructed. The knob-less cylinders made colorful additions to his city, the red rods ran like a fence around the kingdom.

I am happy to share that my young friend is five now and still builds with the Pink Tower. He returns to it after more challenging works are completed. Like a trusted friend he finds comfort in the familiarity of it. And this budding artist has created many drawings of his imaginary city of towers. Many stories have been told about dragons that perch high above the kingdom balancing on one silver toenail on the tiniest pink cube.
I don't think he will be 'done' with the Pink Tower any time soon.

Enjoy your adventures in block play!

*credit Maren Schmidt M:magazine

Saturday, February 2, 2008

TAG! I'm apparently "IT"

Village Mama tagged me, so that means I have been asked to answer the following questions.
Here goes.

1.) Name one thing you do everyday:

Read: Goodnight Moon

2.) Name 2 things you wish you could learn:

How to speak a foreign language
How to Time Travel.

3.) Name 3 things that remind you of your childhood:

The Muppets
Having to sit in the backseat

4.) Name 4 things you love to eat but rarely do:

coffee milkshakes
Box Lunch John Alden sandwich

5.) Name 5 things/people that make you feel good:

Getting cards in the mail
When my house is clean
Drawing with my children
Baking things for other people

6.) List 6 facts about yourself:

I love tea parties but don't care much for tea.
I've never gotten a speeding ticket but I have been pulled over for going too slow.
I met my husband in kindergarten.
I pray every day.
I'm a Reiki Master.
I know every word of
Goodnight Moon :)

You're IT!
Plaid Shoes

Friday, February 1, 2008

Not Exactly What I Had Planned....

So, I thought my little one would enjoy a new sensorial experience, and I was right! He just jumped right in. My friend Paula loaned me this wonderful red bin, I planned to fill it with sand or water. Because I did not have sand and fearing my little boy might climb in thinking it was bath time, I opted to fill the bin with cotton balls instead. I provided cups for filling and dumping and demonstrated how to do this new activity. Then I left the room briefly and returned to find my little one IN the bin and most of the cotton balls out of the bin.
When he looked up and saw me, he said very clearly,
"IN MAMA!" well yes, he was in wasn't he?

Best laid plans. I am reminded by this whole body exploration, that a toddler's learning is through self discovery. I need to give him the freedom to explore with his senses.
Snow is cold, water is wet, the cats are soft...
to touch and feel it, to smell it, to taste it, to hear it, to see it
For him to learn what it is, understand and grow.
This is his work. And obviously it's fun!

I hope to share more "red bin" discoveries in future posts!

Where in the World?


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