Monday, March 31, 2008

Scooping with a tool

Little One is progressing from whole hand scooping to using a tool and loving it! Today's Red Bin discovery was water play with floating flowers (plastic ice cubes not cold), a slotted spoon, blue strainer, baster and a bowl to fill up and dump out!
He LOVED this and got very wet while having fun.
Enjoy the moments

Metal Inset Art

My FAVORITE Montessori language material! Look at these lovely creative pictures.
Metal Insets
Dr. Montessori analyzed the movements which are connected with writing and developed the Metal Insets for directly preparing the child for handwriting. The Metal Insets (ten metal insets and frames) exercises strengthening the three finger grip and coordinate the necessary wrist movements.

When teaching on a rainy day, sitting down with this work is the fastest way to restore calmness to a restless room. To complete, they take great amounts of concentration for a three year old; (less so the older the child generally) observing the process is the charming.
[It looks like Odin created some Elephants from the circle inset].
As I'm sure you can imagine, this is a very popular activity and many, MANY beautiful pictures are created (daily). In our school we encourage the children to use both sides of the paper and to construct a book from their finished work if they like.

For a printable version of Montessori Metal Insets click here
(it's in PDF format)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Color Sorting

Color Sorting: Montessori on a Budget

Materials needed:
plastic ice cubes (shaped like flowers, six of each color) found at the dollar store
clear plastic egg cartons
plastic dessert cups sold in a set of four at Rite Aid in the dollar bin

Little One enjoyed sorting these colorful flowers into the egg cups. Since eggs have been the only thing he has been putting in egg cartons lately, sorting something new proved to be a big attraction.
(These ice cubes float also! Watch for more practical life works using these coming soon!)

Although I wish there was less plastic involved, I'm happy to be making use of the plastic egg container (we usually get the cardboard ones but I bought late [just before Easter] and the plastic ones were all the store had at the time). Recycle!

Color sorting is one goal of this work however, if your Little One is not ready for color sorting, simply placing the flowers in the individual egg cups is also valuable for small hands/eye coordination, concentration and independence.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Spirit Play Lesson: I Love the Earth

Spirit Play Story Lesson:
"We value our home, Earth, that we share with all living beings.
Love You, Sun. I Love You, Moon
by Karen Pandell (adapted by Jennifer Howard)

Materials needed: Rug, place mat with shapes in another color of felt sewn on or outline drawn on; objects to represent: sun, sheep, leaf, tree, fish, dove, rock, bug, earth, stars, moon, and heart.

Jennifer's Notes:
*As the story is told, each object is placed on the corresponding shape on the outer circle. It is the story teller’s choice when telling the story to connect each object to the center heart or their own heart, before putting object down on outline. When practicing this story try it both ways and use whichever feels more comfortable to you.

*This lesson could be shared in silence using sign language only; providing it has been presented with language first.

*Wondering Questions (at the bottom) are intended to be asked but not necessarily answered.


(Lay out a rug, smooth out)

"Watch carefully where I go to get the lesson."

(Go to shelf and remove lesson basket.)

"Ah, here it is."

"See, this is a story about loving to valuing our planet, Earth, which we share.
In our classroom community we have three promises we make to each other about how we are going to treat each other, so that we all get along, and feel safe here."

[Optional: You could take time to review them "Be Gentle, Be Safe, Be Kind" OR you could continue, assuming everyone understand what you are referencing]

( Hold up the glass heart admire it and ask: )

What does it make you think of? What does it mean?"

(after the children offer answers, place glass heart on top of its felt outline in the center of the circle, next pick up the glass sun touch it to center heart [or your own heart] and then place it on its outline)

"In this story, this heart means 'Love'"

"I love you, sun."

(Touch sheep to center heart and then on its outline)

"I love you, sheep."

(Touch leaf to center heart and then on its outline)

"I love you, wind, and the leaves that blow in the powerful wind."

(Touch tree to center heart and then on its outline)

"I love you, tree."

(Touch fish to center heart and then on its outline))

"I love you, fish."

(Touch dove to center heart and then on its outline)

"I love you, dove."

(Touch rock to center heart and then on its outline)

I love you, rock."

(Touch bug to center heart and then on its outline)

I love you, bug."

(Touch earth to center heart and then on its outline)

"I love you, earth."

(Touch stars to center heart and then on its outline)

"I love you, stars."

(Place moon in center on heart and then on its outline.)

"I love you, moon."

(Again touch each and name of the items, without picking them up, and then lastly the heart)

"I love you, ALL, and so much more, my beautiful universe.

I love you and you love me."

Wondering Questions:

I wonder how Earth loves us?

I wonder what you love on Earth?

I wonder how you can show ( rock, moon, Earth, etc.) that you love her?

I wonder how it feels to be loved?

I wonder how it feels to say “I love you”?

I wonder if the stars (earth, moon, sheep, etc.) loves the rock (sun, etc.)?

I wonder how it feels to be a part of Earth?

I wonder how we can respect all living beings?

Can I play you a song?

Okay, so he doesn't like having his photo taken; he's 15 after all. I don't remember enjoying being photographed at his age myself.

But he does LOVE his guitar.
And he's pretty good too.
I played classical guitar as a youth, and piano and flute...until I caught the acting bug in high school and left music behind me.

'Taller than Me' caught the acting bug too, at a very young age. I think he was just 5 years old when he got his first role (and line "Hee-Haw" he was a donkey).
It seems like forever ago now.
This fall he won praise in his High school's production of Anything Goes and most recently as the forgetful King in Some Thing's Rotten in the State of Denmark.
I'm of course very proud of him. But the reason for this post is because I very rarely post a photo of him! My middle son commented recently that I needed to share about HIM more.
(We are all attention hogs around here it seems, except my husband).

So here's another shot of my three sons.

Their three personalities are revealed in this photo.
'Middle Man' aka 'The Informant' & 'Mr. Creativity' smilin' BIG or the camera!

'Little One' aka 'Captain Distructo' & 'Shy Guy' and in this photo ('Tired of Being Photographed')

'Taller than Me' aka 'Smarter than Me' & 'Star of the Show'

Now back to Montessori posts!

Art & Play: Puff Paint Fun

Borrowing a wonderful idea from the Artful Parent, I tried my hand at making home made puff paints! They were lots of fun, I am happy to report. The children seemed to enjoy the squeeze containers and bright colors. I recently picked up some free wallpaper books from our local paint supplies store and we used this paper for our creations. This is a two part project, due to the time it takes to dry, so we will hopefully finish up next Thursday.
My nine year old had a day off from school and so he and my little one joined Art+Play for the day! This created a little chaos, as Little One does not seem to feel comfortable in big groups. (Sharing his Mama was also a challenge for him.) So I was a little stressed I have to admit. But everyone else seemed to have fun and many beautiful pictures were created. Puff Paint is fun to work with I highly recommend it!
Jean at The Artful Parent also leads an art group. (I wish I lived close enough to bring Little One!)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Tree Frogs"

This is my Little One when he was really a Little One, I called him "Tree Frog", now he's walking and talking and picking books at the library....where does the time go?
My middle guy is about to play Piglet in the children's theater production of Winnie the Pooh next month and it feels like he just learned how to read, even though it was five years ago now.
My oldest son is shaving! He plays guitar and knows more about geography than both of his parents.
I'm not saddened by these facts, not at all, but some days they sneak up and surprises me, how quickly they grow. How much we all change as time passes.

I remember when I first began teaching at Cornerspring and I was anticipating that one of my students was going to have trouble transitioning from the playground to inside (as he had every morning before) and Paula, the director and my friend, smiled at me and said,
"Let each moment be new."
In other words, don't carry yesterday's struggles into today, give each of your children a fresh start, every day. Anticipate their success and encourage them lovingly.
I think I have struggle with this at times and it is still often my work to learn how to begin each day without holding on to yesterday's difficulties. I've always been a "planner" and living in the moment has not felt comfortable to me, until recently. I believe, I made the transition from planning to living when I became a Montessorian.

Montessori said, "I don't teach anything to children; it is they who teach me."

This afternoon my nine year old came home from school and the first thing he said was,
"Did you know that tree frogs live their whole life and never touch the ground?"
I didn't know that, but I know I'll never forget it.

Lovin' Leo Lionni

Another favorite children's book author/illustrator of mine is
Leo Lionni
This book, Fredrick is my favorite by him. (Apparently I have an affection for mice and cut paper illustrations?)
I also love A Color of My Own and Swimmy also by Leo Lionni
Just thought I'd share. :)
What is your favorite children's book?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Magical Baster

Moving liquid from one cup to another has never been MORE fun! Using a small baster, demonstrate for your children how to suck up water and how to squeeze the water out. Using water tinted with food coloring makes this even more fun.
Practice this activity first before you present it to your children and ask yourself these questions:
  • Is the tray too heavy to be carried by a child or should this be a stationary work?
  • Is there just enough water so that you can vacuum up the entire contents of the glass with one squeeze?
  • Did you provide a sponge and does the child(ren) know how to clean up a wet spill?
For parents: I recommend introducing the baster in the bath tub with young threes allowing for the exploration of this exciting new tool, without concern about the mess.
Have fun!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Creative Preschooler Wants to Know?

"Is there such a thing as TOO much paint?"

While visiting Cornerspring recently I had a chance to observe the art lesson as well as the children during the creative process. The lesson was Ways to Create Texture with Paint and the art teacher, parent and artist Eva, did a beautiful job of demonstrating the use of different tools: Natural sea sponge, paint brushes, foam brushes, paper towel etc. Some of the children, as is often the case, had creative ideas of their own.

One child used his fingers to create texture and another just kept adding paint, paint, paint and more paint. When I asked her if she felt she had enough paint her quick and quiet response was,
"Is there such a thing as too much paint?"
I enjoyed the moment and took this photo to share with you all.

*Point of interest: My role in the classroom this day was as an observer, therefore I did not want to interfere with the art teacher's lead. I did point out to Eva that allot of paint was being used at that end of the table and she took it from there.

But it made me think about how I would have handled the situation ...
I think my answer might have been, "That is up to the artist to decide."
I would also point out to her that she was welcome to use another piece of paper if she wanted.

Most likely the piece she had been painting on, would tear when she tried to carry it to the drying rack. When this happened, I would comfort her if she was disappointed (of course) but I would also try and facilitate learning from the experience by asking open ended questions such as, "Why do you think the paper tore?" and "I wonder if your paper had less paint on it would it have torn?" It is important when asking these questions to keep your tone non-judgmental.
"You could do an experiment," (I would suggest) "you could use less paint with your next piece of paper and see if your paper ends up tearing."

Our goal as Montessori teachers/parents who lead art exploration with young children, is to:
  • Provide the materials and space,
  • Give a brief introduction of how to use the materials respectfully and the intention of the activity (as well as how we would clean up something specific, if this is a concern)
  • Allow for freedom of creative expression (i.e. coloring outside the lines, using too much paint, making a mess)
  • Make observations and share appreciative praise with every child in the group.
*I also feel that while leading an art activity it is not the time for me to create. Children may compare their art to mine and feel less confident about their abilities. My goal is for all the children to feel successful and to enjoy themselves. I will (when possible) share with the children examples of the style of painting or sculpture done by famous or local artists. We admire and appreciate but I make a point to express it is not our goal to recreate something someone else has already done, we are unique and special and so too is our art work.


Egg Decorating the Art & Play Way

On Thursday's Art & Play day we decorated Spring eggs. Here is a photo of Miss Stella dipping a rubber band egg in blue. The children and parents really seemed to enjoy to the different ways I presented so I will share them with you (just in case like me, you are just getting around to decorating Easter eggs with your kiddos TODAY).
1.) Rubber Bands (I use the ones intended for hair because they have a fabric cover and are less likely to hurt someone if they snap)
Wrap the rubber band around the egg and dip in the color of your choice, let dry and unwrap bands, dip in a second color or leave white.
2.) Q-tips
Cotton swabs work as wonderful applicators for small hands (my only problem with them is they are not reusable)
3.) Tissue Paper Pieces
This is an especially messy and fun one for toddlers. Wet the egg and stick small pieces of tissue paper on the egg surface, let it dry and then remove. The colors from the tissue will stain the egg shell. These eggs remind me of the book Elmer the Elephant!
4.) Tin Foil Wrap
Using this method you will need to use non-toxic paint rather than dye. Scrunch up the foil then un-scrunch it, cover your egg with a thin layer of paint and wrap in foil. Let sit while you do other eggs before unwrapping.
5.) Crayons
Write on the eggs with the crayons before you dye them for an interesting effect.
I stopped by a local fast food restaurant and asked them if I could have 15 cup holders for an art project I was doing with children. They were very nice and gave me 20! These worked out really well because I was fearing the dye cups might spill during this project. When I was cleaning up from class, I left the re-usable cup holders and rinsed out paper cups for the after school program to use with future projects.

Have fun (recycle when possible) and enjoy your time together!

Friday, March 21, 2008

My 15 Minutes...

I was recently interviewed by Jean Vant Hul over at The Artful Parent. I am excited to share with all of you and hope you stop by to read it. I feel so special, thank you Jean!
Hugs to all

And the color is Green

I knew I'd find a purpose for the milk jug tops I've been saving.
They make perfect circle stamps for Little One while he finger paints!
Color mixing and circle prints=Thursday afternoon fun.
With a runny nose, this little guy needs all the low key distractions I can whip up.
Fortunately for me the Internet provides me with many inspiring places to visit daily!
Check out my list in the side bar (if you haven't already).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy First Day of Spring!

Today is the first day of Spring! Yippi-skippi excuse me while I do a little dance number. I love winter, I do but enough is enough.
Today in Art and Play some of my kiddos shared that the cat grass seed we planted last week was starting to spring up. They were very excited and beamed with pride over growing something. When I visited Cornerspring Children's House I noted that the grass was growing there too! Returning to my car I walked carefully, so as not to slip on the ice, and I looked at the snow covered playground. Spring is not yet here but it's close.

In Art and Play today we decorated eggs! This was a bit of work for me, without a classroom sink, but I managed to pull it off (thank you Jessie for your help!) The kids seemed to enjoy the activity and some of the moms thanked me, saying they were happy they didn't have to do this at home.
We used traditional food coloring and vinegar today but I look forward to trying natural dyes this weekend with my boys.
Below is a list of natural egg dyes: Enjoy Everyone!
Brown - the outer layers of onions, tea or coffee
Yellow - turmeric or saffron
Red - cranberries
Purple - beets, purple onion skin
Green - spinach
Blue - blueberries
Combine the dye source with 1/2 Tablespoon of vinegar with some cold water in a saucepan. Add raw eggs (make sure there's enough water to cover the eggs) and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. The longer you simmer, the darker the color will be, but simmer
at least 8 minutes so that the eggs cook thoroughly.

Tweezing and Transfering

Here's a 3-6 Practical Life work I created (green for spring). This dino-shaped soap tray when turned over, has suction cups just the right size for holding marbles! Add a metal tong (with grippers) and use a tray with a lip in case they spill, they don't roll away.
Have fun!
It has been my experience that four year old boys LOVE this activity!
I found the dino-shaped soap tray in a package of 6 at the dollar store, the small dish is a dish designed for soy sauce dipping.]

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Don't You Just Love a Bargain?

Hi Everyone,
Let me first say THANK YOU to everyone for commenting on my most recent art post! You are so kind. From this picture you can see I have changed the back ground color and framed my piece. The frame was a bargain at $2.99 at the Christmas Tree Shop! Can't be that!

For those of you who have been inquiring, I will answer your questions:

Q:How long did it take you to make this?
A: This picture is 8 X 11 inches, it took me four hours to make.

Q: Will you be selling this?
A: My hope right now is to make a 5X7 inch note card from this image and to sell those with other greeting cards I've made, locally. I have no idea how to go about selling cards on-line and although I am flattered by your compliments...I wouldn't know where to start. However, if you are interesting in buying this piece (in 5X7 card form) feel free to contact me via email:
to request a card! The cost is $5.41

I am hoping I can show this and other pieces at our local art center: Waterfall Arts in the near future.
Thank you again for your support, your comments/feedback and for being an inspiration to me.
One of my favorite things to do at nap time (i.e 'Mama time') is to peruse the web and visit the many creative people out there sharing with the world what they love, do, make and believe in. And I am complimented when you stop by and visit me. Thank you.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cut Paper Art: "Tell Me a Story"

"Tell Me a Story"
original cut paper art by Jennifer Howard (Me)

Open Book...

It seems I've been tagged by my Mama friend over at Little Monkey and Friends to blog on an "Open Book Meme."

These are the instructions:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open it at page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence/ phrase.
4. Blog the next four sentences/ phrases together with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig your shelves for that very special or intellectual book.
6. Pass it forward to six friends

So, here goes:

blinker \n(1636) 1: one that blinks; esp: a light that flashes off and on (as for the directing of traffic or the coded signaling of messages) 2 a: BLINDER 1 b : a cloth hood with shades projecting at the sides of the eye openings used on skittish racehorses--usu. used in pl.

I don't know what this says about me, other than I am a poor speller and need a dictionary often. But it was fun and so I TAG:
Hang In There Babywear
Everyday Unitarian
Chasing Cheerios
Village Mama
Aunty Liz


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Encouraging Spring

As you know, I live in the Northeast and it has been snowing here since is March now and looking out my window, I can see more of the fluffy white stuff falling. I am growing a little tired of it and I LOVE the snow. People are grumbling and I think the birds have had enough already. Because of this l o n g winter season we are having, I decided for this week's Art & Play class we would do something to encourage Spring to arrive.
What did we do you ask?
We painted clay pots and planted cat grass seed! I took photos and then my camera stopped working. Needless to say I am disappointed I am unable to show you the shots of toddlers painting their clay pots but do know that they turned out lovely and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. For a Montessori extension to this art craft I created this work:
Planting seeds & decorating your own pot!
At the craft store, I discovered markers that write/draw on terracotta pots so, of course I scooped those up! This way each child can not only plant their own pot of spring grass but they can bring it home in a decorated clay pot! (planting seed work only pictured)
When leading Art & Play I showed the pictures from book:
The Carrot Seed
I'm not a big fan of the words in this book, so I paraphrased. Anyway, the children then wanted to make a garden marker to say what was growing in their pots. And so this second work was created:
Plant Marker Creating:

I provided the cards on pop sticks for decorating, scissors, a glue stick, cut paper, colored pencils, and contact paper (sized to fit) to cover & protect the finished sign.
Wondertime Magazine has a great article called Plant, Pick, Eat. Check it out as time allows you. When I can finally access my photos I will post the painted pots!
Inch by inch row by row.......ENJOY

Montessori Math

In the Math area of the Montessori 3-6 classroom you will find The Blue Number Counting Book
this book helps children learn basic mathematical concepts using a unique tactile approach. Pages show a blue, textured numeral and the appropriate number of objects to count. I stumbled across these nifty RED numerals and improvised! I used white poster board cut into squares and punched a hole in the upper right corner for an optional ring.
By touching and counting items numbers zero to ten, children associate numbers with their quantities and learn the sequence of numbers. Seeing and touching the large, felt numerals helps children identify and remember numbers. Tracing the number shapes with the fingers is a valuable preparation for writing numbers.

Because the ring is optional (and can be opened) these cards can be used as a movable number line as well. I'm working on a Spring Time sets baskets and will post when my camera is cooperating better.
Happy Counting!

Pop Art!

Little One drawing with his Popsicle.
I couldn't resist taking a photo!


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Who Is Missing?

In Aline Wolf's book Nurturing the Spirit, chapter 16 Peace in the Classroom Community, she talked of ways to include peacemaking in your classroom. One of her many suggestions is the circle activity:
Who Is Missing?
Here I've create my own version of this idea.
Materials needed:
photo cards for each child in your class
with their first name printed on the card.
a circle rug (the one in the photo is actually a chair pad I thought was colorful and resembled our circle rug)
To Use:
One child arranges all the photos except one in a circle, leaving space for the missing picture. She then says, "Some one is missing from our community. Who is it?"
The other child(ren) guess the name of the child missing and the first child returns the card to the circle, completing the classroom community. The game continues with children hiding their eyes while another child removes a different photo from the circle. The exercise shows that the presence of each person is necessary to make their community complete.

In our classroom this work was chosen every day. The children LOVE looking at photos of themselves (and trying to trick one another :)

The circle itself is a wonderful symbol of community. It has no beginning or end, no front row or back row. Each sitting space is equal in rank, indicating that each person in the circle is equally important. Most Montessori classrooms have "circle" at least once a day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How Did You Do It Mom?

Some days are easier than others. Tonight I'm feeling pretty tired and like I accomplished very little today. I am remembering being a little girl (yes, that's me in the Winnie the Pooh dress) and my mother painting beautiful pictures in the dinning room. I remember the Winston 100 cigarette between her fingers, the cup of coffee on the edge of the table, her faded blue jeans and long brown braids. If I close my eyes, I can see her swaying to a Neil Diamond song while scratching the canvas, laying a foundation for a new painting. And there I sat, usually under the dinning room table, with my coloring books and box of crayola crayons, watching and learning from her.

How did she do it? That's my question tonight. With a husband and 3 kids, a dog and a cat, and working nights as a nurse 3pm to 11am, how did she do it all AND paint such beautiful pictures??
I'll forever be in awe of my mother, my inspiration, the wind beneath my wings. I appreciate now, more than ever before, how difficult it must have been for her and I am amazed by her all over again.

I wish I had some pictures of her art to share with you all. But tonight all I could find was this photo of us. This is one of very few photos of my mom with her hair undone. She almost always wore her hair in two long braids or up in a bun. This must have been a special occasion, although I have no idea what. I still have those curls but my hair is no longer blond.

Anyway friends, I promise my next post will be Montessori related, I've been having a little camera troubles this week. I hope you all are taking care of the parent you are as well as those beautiful kids of yours! Tomorrow is Art & Play day!
I just love Thursdays.
PEACE to you,

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cut paper cards hand made by me

Our local Co-op wants to sell my collage cards! I'm very excited and wanted to share with all of you. I have to say, I really feel out of my element and have no idea what I'm doing but I welcome the learning. Until now I have only made cards for my church and friends and family, never to sell.
Maria Mouse up-date:
I have decided to self publish Maria Mouse in the Children's House! So I am gearing up for another BIG learning experience. Thank you to all of you who have expressed interest and given me support through this process. The folks at Parent Child Press have been WONDERFUL and even though they passed on publishing Maria Mouse, they are going to publish another one of my stories for children called When I Make Silence, it's about making Silence as a group in the Montessori classroom. I'll let you know more when I know more.
Thanks Again!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

More Dr. Seuss

Yes, I LOVE Dr. Seuss so here is another language idea.
The Cat in the Hat: Story Extension
Using the words and images from this familiar story I created an Object box (2) work for the 3-6 year old classroom.
Materials needed:
box, tray or basket containing the following
phonetic objects (or in this case drawings of the objects)
  • cake
  • rake
  • cat
  • hat
  • cup
  • fish
slips of paper
a pencil
and printed labels cards to match the objects

Preparation for this work: the moveable alphabet and Object Box 1
Elementary movements (rug carry, bringing materials to rug etc.)
Language used by teacher:
"I'm thinking of one of these objects and I'm going to give you a clue."
teacher writes the word and draws a simple picture of the first object on the rug on a slip of paper, folds it (dramatically) and passes it to the child. The child reads the word and places the paper label next to the object on the rug.
T: "You just read the word _____"
Once all the objects have been presented and labeled, review each object and word, replacing the paper word with the label cards.
T:"This is a cat, this says 'cat'. This is a hat, this says 'hat'...." all the way down the list, hand the child the paper word as you do this step.
Next, remove one object at a time, leaving label card. When object is removed, read the label card together, continue doing this all the way down the list until on the rug is left only the label cards. Again review the label cards.
T"This says 'cat', this says 'hat'....." encourage the child(ren) to read the words with you.
again the control of error can be the book The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss or without the book obviously, the teacher.
end with elementary movements.

This is a fun way to introduce rhyme and has many extensions.
1.) child creates word book from the slips of paper by stapling them together and writing their name on the back.
2.) child writes the paper labels.
3.) Child and teacher write each other 'notes'.
4.) making a book from metal inset sized paper of the Object box words with pictures!

Enjoy!(Again if you do not want to draw the pictures yourself, make color copies of Dr. Seuss's illustrations if not for re-sale.)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Happy Belated Birthday Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss is a family favorite. Personally I'm a big fan of all rhyme and his illustrations are unconventional and entertaining. But you already know this...
What you may not know is March 2nd was Dr. Seuss's birthday. Usually I would be on top of this important day but due to my recent surgery I've been distracted. So here goes:
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (story stretcher)
I made this language work with a particular child in mind. My little friend was four years old and and also a BIG fan of Dr. Seuss.
To Make:
I drew the rhyming combinations pictures from the book and printed the appropriate labels, next I mounted them on red poster board and had them laminated. As you can see from the photo, the book is on the shelf along side the tray (and is intended to be used as self correcting guide). This work is often chosen by a pair of children and one will read the book and the other pair up the rhyming words and pictures. A non-reading child care be successful with this work also, because of the familiarity of the book. Before putting this work out on the shelf, I read the book to the group at circle time and as an extension (and for fun) I offer green eggs for a group snack. You may be surprised to know, most of the children try them! A few even loved them!
In addition because St. Patrick's Day is also in the month of May (May 17th) many of the practical life works contain green objects and the color GREEN comes up allot in conversations and art work throughout the classroom.
If drawing is not your talent, I'm sure Dr. Seuss wouldn't mind you making color copies of his characters to create this work for your home or classroom. I don't know of anything out there like this for sale. Anyway as long as you don't sell the one you create for your classroom I think it is all good. Happy rhyming!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Skipping build a town!

Okay so no one is really sick, well I'm recovering, but my nine year old who missed the bus this morning, he's not sick. He is however home from school today. Little One is overjoyed and yes, we've been having fun. Taking a moment to celebrate my son, he IS very talented. I wish I could afford to nurture his creativity more than I do here at home. Board and restless, he came up with the idea to create our town in a 3D map! Why not?
Using poster board (and math) he cut the buildings and taped them together. He also drew on them, recreating his favorite shops and places to visit in town. When he was finished he said,
"I only wish there were tiny little people to walk down the street."
Maybe we will make them the next time he misses the bus?

I'm still recovering and it's slow going, but today I read Goodnight Moon to Little One and he was so happy! I'm glad so many of you enjoyed my last post and I want you to know if you have any questions, please ask them and I'll try and answer with a post. There was more to the workshop including a resource list which I will post soon. I'm glad you found it helpful!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bringing Montessori Home from School

I recently lead a Parent Education night at school. When the evening came to an end, I said that I would include the information presented on my blog should anyone want to refer to it. So today I am feeling a bit better and Little One is napping so I thought I would keep my promise and post the material I presented.

As I've said before and I am sure I will say again, you are your child's first teacher. It is important to say also that you are your child's most important and influential teacher. You set the tone for your child's love of learning from the very start and it is you who bridges (or widens) the gap between school and home. [For those of you homeschooling you ARE both school and home, and my hat is off to you!]. I know this can sound overwhelming but it need not BE overwhelming. I hope I will make it a little easier to accomplish with the following suggestions.

The list below, I read recently in M magazine.
Nine things the Montessori parent can do to bridge the gap between school and home:

1.) Encourage Independence 2.) Establish Order 3.) Help children to be helpful 4.) Develop concentration 5.) Introduce Nature 6.) Provide Opportunities 7.) Enable Self Discovery 8.) Encourage choice 9.) Use appropriate language

As I read the list I interpreted it Montessori Mama style:

1.) I like to call this first one, "Caring For".
I remember being asked by my very wise Nana once (when my now 15 year old was three years old & long before I had discovered Montessori),
"Do you take care of your child or do you care for your child?"
The distinction wasn't as obvious to me at 22, as it is now. As a young mother I took care of children, now I care for children. And as a Montessori Parent I do this by teaching my children to care for themselves, their belongings, our home, pets and plants and each other.
Young children welcome the opportunity to be independent and to care for others. Sometimes we Moms and Dads can gum up the works by trying to DO for them what they can do for themselves.
"Caring For" Examples:
Blowing one's own nose
creating a center peace
setting the table for dinner
clearing the table after dinner
washing hands, drying hands
cleaning up after a spill (using a sponge/using a dust pan & broom)

dressing, undressing
using the toilet
feeding self & using spoon-fork-knife
preparing and serving snacks to self and others
Manners: "Please" and "Thank you"
putting away belongings
hanging up coat
getting dressed for outside play
watering plants
feeding pets, showing affection and playing with them also
(of course within realistic age appropriate expectations)
2.) Making Your Life Easier!
Spoken like a truly organized person (which I am not by the way).
I talked about this at length in past posts here and here, so I won't spend too much time here now. Minimize your clutter and you minimize your stress. If you want to encourage Independence and you want your children to be successful at cleaning up, give them less "stuff" to work around and with.
3.) Building Self Esteem
In the Montessori classroom there is allot of focus on the classroom community, building a sense of family. At home there already is family and shining a light on that is important. Some families have "Family Game Night" others have Sunday night dinner together as a rule because the rest of the week is hectic and everyone has a different schedule. Whatever works for your family, do it. Make it happen that you are all together regularly, celebrate what makes you a family and reflect on who does what and what you appreciate about one another. We all like to be appreciated, even the youngest of us.
As a Montessori Parent your job is to observe and to create an environment that supports your children's learning and personal development. By making observations, out-loud, when your child does something you appreciate, that supports the home and family you honor them. For example simply stating, "When you tuck your boots under the bench it makes it easier for the next person who comes in, thank you." You draw attention to the desired behavior and shine a light on your child for being a considerate member of the family.
4.) Minimizing Distractions:
This one relates closely to number 2, but also more importantly to "screen time". Limit the TV, limit the computer, turn off the radio. [This is a strong personal opinion of mine, however I personally spend allot of time in front of this computer's a fine line we parents walk. Do as I say...not as I do? This one is my biggest challenge as a Montessori parent.]
When nurturing your child's natural ability to concentrate you can also minimize the number of times you interrupt them when they are engaged. This allows them time to focus and to develop a longer attention span. I have suggested to parents that providing a carpet square at home for their child to use can be helpful. In the classroom if a child is doing a work and it is time for a transition (ex: lunch) the child places their name tag on their work rug and returns to it later. At home a carpet square can be used in the same way. No name tags are needed but it is understood that the child's belongings will all be put away in time for dinner, with the exception of the particular item they are playing with on the carpet square. They can return to it after dinner or even the next day if it is bed time. Giving our children "exceptions" is loving and shows them respect. Allowing them the time to come back to the puzzle they are three pieces away from finishing, is kind and will help them follow through and complete future tasks. Most importantly it sends the message that you value what is important to them.
5.) Slowing Down/Appreciating the World Around Us!
Go for nature walks, draw pictures or take photos of your observations, pause and ponder TOGETHER. Plant seeds indoors, tend to a family garden, look for animal tracks and listen for bird calls. Research your observations, start a sea shell collection, reserve a place to appreciate nature in your home.
6.) Let them DO it
Provide your children with real life opportunities. Aid the process by giving your child her own little broom or sweeper; hang a feather duster on a hook and provide a hamper for her dirty clothes. Show her how to wipe round the sink in the bathroom with a small scrub sponge. Folding towels and napkins is another activity to teach a young child. Use a bottom drawer to hold cutlery and a low shelf for crockery so your child can help to lay the table and put things away.

Here are some of my kids favorite kitchen activities:
Using an old fashioned egg beater or whisk
Sifting flour
Scooping flour, sugar, salt, etc. with large and small scoopers
washing vegetables and fruit, peeling with a vegetable peeler
Spreading (like peanut butter on a cracker)
Stirring mixture
Basting with a large turkey baster
Using a ladle
Opening and closing lids
Screwing and unscrewing lids on jars
Dish washing (okay, not my 15 year old) and washing table with a sponge.
As you can see the list can be endless. Anything your child wants to learn to do, encourage him or her by breaking everything down into small steps and slowly and patiently teaching your child using actions and very few words.

7.) Allow for Mistakes
Prepare the environment and step back.
Give your child time for reflection, problem solving and coming to their own conclusions. Don't swoop in! Ask leading questions that encourage your children to be part of the solution making process. Ex:"You spilled your milk, oops, that some times happens when we are learning how to pour; what can you use to clean up the spill?" Encourage the desired behavior but understand and accept that your children may have spills, break things and not always want to do it the way you suggest.

8.) Know Your Child
Learn about child development. Read a book, take an adult ed. class even, I can't stress this enough. Learn if your expectations are too high? School is not home, I'll say it again, school is NOT home. Bringing Montessori home does not mean creating a Montessori classroom in your home (unless you are home schooling of course). And I will write this in bold: Montessori parenting is about understanding the Montessori philosophy and believing in it; it's not about the materials. Understanding child development and the children you are caring for by following their lead and providing them with a safe and loving environment, is your responsibility as a Montessori parent.
As a Montessori teacher I speak from experience when I tell you that the most valuable thing I can do in my classroom, is to observe. I learn so much from paying attention and getting to know the children I am working with. Only after doing this can I make an estimation about what they would be challenged by, need more time to practice, and what it is they really enjoy learning about.
How often do we spend time observing our own children?
Walk around on your knees and ask yourself, "What can I reach?" Change your perspective and make observations from this different point of view.

Also, not every kid likes attention, your children may not want to "show Grandma" how they do something. These everyday living skills and responsibilities are not for show. Refrain from asking your children to demonstrate for your in-laws (however tempting that may be). Let them feel proud of their own successes and share them if they desire to do so.

9.) It IS what you say AND how you say it
Use Appreciative Praise. (see #3)
For example, "Good Job!" is a classic response to a child who has just done something their parent wanted them to, but what does it really tell them? That's right, not much. If you change your wording, to state what it is that you observed, you give them something more and you show them your appreciation.
"Pretty picture!" becomes,
"I see you made orange when you mixed red and yellow, good for you."
"Nice job!" becomes,
"When you swept up, you collected every last piece. Now the floor is clean."
"Good boy!" becomes,
"When you got your sister's doll down from the shelf, you were being kind, thank you for helping her."
Phew~~~I might not be able to talk well, but I sure can write! Thanks for reading this very LONG post! My 100th one by the way. WOW!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Through the Pain

Thank you for all of your well wishes and healing hugs!
I am still silent and looking forward to smiling again soon.
Less four teeth, a dislocated lower jaw and 10 stitches later...
I'm up and blogging again. I need to say my husband is a saint, for caring for our grouchy toddler who can't understand why his Mama is not reading to him or singing with him anymore, for doing laundry and making lunches, for reading my mind and knowing when my ice pack was no longer cold, for finding Little One's binki in the middle of the night, for applying chap stick and feeding me ice chips... thank you hun, I love you more than words can say. And many thanks also to my older boys who are surprising me (a little bit) with their loving remarks and even the occasional back rub! I cried tonight when I couldn't eat cottage cheese and my nine year old said, "Don't worry Mama, it won't always be this way."
I Know I am very blessed and I am thankful. Especially for my four boys but also for doctors and strong medicines, for ice packs and ice cream, for family and good friends and the telephone, without which I would not be surviving this week. PEACE to you all~~MM

Monday, March 3, 2008

You Light Up My Life

Hi Everyone,
I just wanted to say a Thank you to all of you reading this blog and to those of you who leave comments. I feel blessed to have you all in my life.
Today I am having jaw surgery at 10am. I am very nervous but I have faith.

As I gear up for a challenging day today I am very thankful I have this blog as a distraction from my anxiety. I hesitated sharing this with you all, it's not really the point of this blog after all.
But I do believe in the power of positive energy and healing hugs, as I've said before, and having amazing Mamas (and Papas) and
caregivers like yourselves sending me well wishes when I need them is comforting. I imagine I will be posting often this week as I will not be able to talk until Friday! Please keep me in your thoughts today. Thank you.
In PEACE always

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Story Stretcher: The Cat on the Mat

Expanding on a favorite children's book is a fun way to s t r e t c h the language learning fun. Here some of my friends play with the animals from the Cat on the Mat beginner reader book. This simple book with a focus on the 'at' sound is a funny story about a cat that would prefer to have the mat all to himself, but fellow animals keep joining him on it!
In the end the cat (feeling disgruntled) hisses at the other animals causing them to run away and leaving him with the mat to lay on by himself. The teachers use this story to help illustrate the importance of grace and courtesy and the 3 classroom rules:
"Be Gentle, Be Safe, Be Kind"
We ask open ended questions such as, "Do you think the cat likes sharing his mat?" (pointing out his grumpy face in the illustrations) and "How could the cat let the other animals know that he would like to have the mat to himself?" and "What would you do, if you were the cat?"
by asking the children these types of questions they become part of the problem solving process and together come up with more appropriate solutions than the angry cat chooses.

They LOVE this book and language extension work. As you can see in the photos, these children extended this work even further by beginning to build the words from the story with the movable alphabet.

Where in the World?


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