Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Turn off the TV week

Okay, so we don't actually have TV, but I can still participate in this wonderful week of creativity right? We watch videos. My kids were talking about this in the car yesterday afternoon,
'Turn off your TV week'.
"Just one week Mom" Middle Man said, "Not years and years and years. Did you misunderstand?"
(How clever, a nine year old's sarcasm, does it get any better?....*note: I'm being sarcastic)
I try and explain that I really believe that we are better off without being inundated with flashing images and sound bites, advertisements and violence. But I can tell my words fall on deaf ears.
"Did you see American Idol? Can you believe what Sawyer did last night on LOST? I am soooo smarter than a fifth grader, where do they get these people?"
My 15 year old chimes in, "This is what it's like Mom, this is my bus ride to school. Do you really think I'm going to join the conversation with, 'Who is Sawyer again? The doctor or the conman?' or 'I hope you are smarter than a 5th grader you're in 9th grade.' or 'American Idol, yes I know that show, my Grandmother tapes it for us and mails it to us. We're a week behind so don't tell me who got eliminated okay.' NO, no I'm not."

He has a point.

I guess I never gave much thought to the social implications. Hearing him say this I was reminded of my reaction, of complete and utter horror by the way, to a classmate of mine in the 5th grade when she shared that she didn't know who Cindy Brady was (GASP!). I regret my reaction now. I was/am a tad dramatic at times.
Here is what I know:
There have been more than 4,000 studies about TV's effects on children. While definitive conclusions are difficult to arrive at, most studies suggest that excessive TV-watching correlates with:
  • aggressive behavior
  • lower academic performance
  • a child's belief that he/she will be the victim of a crime
  • diminished attention spans
  • stereotyped gender role attitudes, images of older people and racial perceptions.
Over 1000 separate studies and reviews attest that exposure to heavy doses of television violence increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior.
*Number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school: 8000

I'll get down from my soap box now, I don't like preachy. And honestly, I am NOT passing judgment on any parents who do have TV. I was raised in front of that glowing box. I loved TV until I realized I could live without it. My husband and I came to the conclusion that we could not afford the bill each month. It wasn't worth it and money (which we have little of) was being wasted. And so the TV service was turned off. I was absolutely grumpy for honestly about 1/2 a year.
I missed ER, PBS on while I prepared dinner, I missed the morning weather report and home improvement shows. I did not like this major change in our lives. Even if it was for the best. But now seven years later, I don't miss it, well maybe PBS and home improvement shows...
We use the Internet to stay "connected" 'Taller Than Me' looks up the scores to big sporting events and yes, who was kicked off American Idol, so he can stay in the ninth grade social loop.
And I obviously I am very thankful for our computer connecting me to all of you.

So what did we do without TV on Tuesday?
TV free activity#1: Making Mosaics:

Not much involvement from 'Taller than Me' (which was expected, although he did comment that they would make good coasters and suggested we use them [when they dry] on the dinner table) but Middle Man and Little One enjoyed it. 'Middle Man' sat high up at the counter stool because he used the small round (choke-able) tiles and 'Little One' sat at his small table with cut felt and tissue paper squares...both LOVED using school glue. It was messy but tons of fun.
Enjoy your TV free day, week, month, year~whatever. Enjoy your time with your kiddos.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Color Sorting and Spinning

Little One enjoys matching things. I brought out this box of wooden shapes expecting he would enjoy matching the shapes to create an image. I went to get the camera and returned to find him sorting by color groups! I was surprised and I interrupted him. The color sorting stopped and spinning around in the colors began. You'd think I'd know by now NOT to interrupt a child while they are concentrating. Sometimes we forget what we know when we are excited. I am a life long learner, Little One is my teacher and well, spinning IS fun.
Enjoy your children. Allow them to 'be'.
Follow their lead and they will teach you.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ways to Celebrate May Day!

May Day is May 1st and people all over our Earth celebrate it.
I've put together a collection of ways to celebrate with your children:

  • Lie in the grass under a flowering tree and look up at the sky through the blossoms
  • Dress all in green
  • Braid your hair and your daughters hair, weaving flowers into it, or make a wreath of flowers for your head.
  • Make a lei to were around your neck. Then make another to give away.
  • Take an early morning nature walk and collect dew from plants (ask a 3rd grader the way to do this, they are very inventive)
  • Dance with family/friends around a Maypole!
  • Take turns reading poems about Spring before each meal on this special day.
  • Have lunch outdoors, picnic style!
  • Make offerings to the garden animals (birds, rabbits, squirrels) quietly sit together and enjoy watching the animals take part in your gifts.
  • If possible take your child outside, sit quietly together and listen to the birds.
  • Involve your children in the 'Spring Cleaning' of your home! Remember even small hands can contribute to caring for the home.
  • Join hands and walk the perimeter around your home, giving thanks for the yard, the trees, or even a tiny bit of grass.
  • Understand and express to your children that no piece of Earth can really belong to you. You belong to the Earth.
  • Weed, mulch, mow. Admire
  • Plant a hawthorn or May bush.
  • Create a wreath of greenery for the door.
  • Read a book about caring for our Earth.
  • Plant flowers in a window box for someone who can't get outside to enjoy them.
  • Prepare May baskets for friends and relatives or even a stranger! Fill it with special treats. Hang it on the doorknob, ring the bell, then run away! Better still, deliver it in person and stay for a visit.
  • Press flowers onto cards and send them in the mail to friends.
  • Read the biography of Rachel Carson.
  • Face paint your children as the animals the enjoy most.
  • Learn a new song together and sing, sing, sing!
*some ideas inspired by Patricia Montley's In Nature's Honor
~~Happy soon-to-be MAY DAY to all!
*MM's notes: It's important to remember when hiking or walking in nature with young children that the child is not trying to 'get there'. All he or she wants to do is to walk, to stop and pick dandelions or to splash in a puddle.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Middle Man's Mandala

I forgot to post our mandalas! Here is Middle Man's. The ovals remind me of kidney beans. PEACE to you and yours,

Making Mandalas

Inspired by this PEACE Mandala, 'Middle Man' and I decided to create our own!
Using a throw-away DVD some company sent me in the mail, we traced the circle and planned our designs. (in the Montessori classroom the circle metal inset could be used)
'Middle Man' wanted to make "a hoop that weaves over and under the spokes".
I kept mine more traditional. 'Little One' got in on the action by coloring his own mandala from a Mandala coloring book we have. Later we water color painted the pre-made mandalas and hung them in the window. *MM note: Working with mandalas is an artist way to practice fractions.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Special Slotted Spoon

When presenting this work, I emphasize the special slotted spoon. 'Slotted' is not a word most young children are familiar with. Leading up to this work they have become familiar with pasta strainers and sand sifters, and so the concept has been introduced. It has been my observation that when using this new and interesting spooning work, the children light up at the realization that the tool they are now using is the same as the bigger tools they have used in the sand box or water table.

Here plastic ice cubes float in colored water, waiting to be transferred from one bowl to the other and back again. The special child sized slotted spoon works it's magic and children get lost in the novelty of it. This is a favorite work in the 3-6 classrooms at Cornerspring. Easy to recreate at home too.
Materials needed:
plastic ice cubes ($store)
two small bowls
a sponge
a child sized slotted spoon
*I have never used the plastic ice cubes in a cold drink but I have enjoyed them in many spooning/water works.
Have fun and enjoy one another.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Oink Oink, Buzz Buzz

Happy Earth Day!
This weekend we celebrated Earth Day by taking in the final performance of 'Middle Man's' play Winnie the Pooh...we're sad it's over, but it was fun while it lasted. He was a terrific Piglet. For his last performance I made a chocolate cake shaped like Pooh Bear for the cast party. The next day Middle Man and I made these Bee Hive Cookies (his idea) they turned out very tasty.

For our church's Earth Day Celebration the children acted out the Universe story. 'Taller Than Me' was asked to portray The Grim Reaper! He was allowed to fashion his own costume and made many people laugh when he entered dressed as Dick Cheney! (I apologize for offending anyone, I usually try to refrain from posting anything political) 'Middle Man' was a beaver, and 'Little One' a Yellow Jacket. Although 'Little One' refused to participate in the Earth Day play, he was cute in his Bee costume.

Today was a tea party (my favorite kind)! As a member of the Membership Development Committee, I helped to host the event and honestly, enjoyed every minute of it. There is just something about TEA that brings out the lovely in people, no matter what the age. This was a TEA for the Elders in our church community. To honor them and to get to know them better.
I especially enjoyed when one of the ladies told me,
"I haven't had this much fun in years!" and then added,
"I hope one day someone will make you tea and cookies for no reason at all."
This comment of course made me smile and think of Mother's Day Tea (a tradition in most Montessori classrooms). I will be posting some ideas about Mother's Day Tea soon!
So it was a busy weekend (and Monday) I look forward to slowing things down a bit.
I really appreciate all the lovely comments I've been getting. You all warm my heart so much, thank you! I try and answer them, but usually fail miserably.
I hope your Earth Day was spent enjoying the beauty of nature and your children.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Spring Has Sprung!

Finally Winter has passed and Spring has sprung! Little One, like the Spring lamb he is, trotted here there and every where yesterday. He LOVED being in the wide open space and feeling the sun on his face.
Little One is almost two years old, born Mother's Day weekend, he is a Spring baby. I remember my Mother-in-law and husband taking Little One's big brothers to see the baby lambs (born the same day) while our new born and I lay snuggled up in our bed, exhausted from the work of being born and birthing. 'Middle Man' returned with more images of birth and stories to tell about lambs walking moments after they were born and Mama sheep licking their babies clean of the birthing fluids.
"Aren't you glad YOU didn't have to do THAT?!" he asked me.
And well, Yes, of course I was glad.
Little One was born at home in a birthing pool. It was a long labor with starts and stops over the course of three days. My water broke on Friday morning and he was born Monday morning. Many people (mostly my Mom and Dad who worried for me) thought I should be taken to a hospital, it was going on too long...but I knew at the hospital a C-section would take place and after going through that with 'Middle Man', I didn't want to go through it again.
I spent the weekend walking through Spring grass wearing a long loose dress, I walked the fields near our home with my husband and let the water flow from me, pausing to have a contraction or to rest leaning on my husband's body. Close friends visited, in hopes of being present for the big event, and were asked to leave kindly by my mid-wives. My two older boys were off at friends' homes waiting to be called home to meet their new sibling...Mother's Day came and my boys returned home to celebrate with me (and my still big belly). Monday morning they woke up to me in the birthing pool crying and swearing through the pain. 'Middle Man' sprung into action,
"What can I do?" he asked my mid-wives.
"You're job is to hold this glass of water and every time your Mama stops...well, swearing, offer her the straw so she can take a drink." Donna lovingly instructed.
"Okay!" he said with enthusiasm and excitement, un-phased by my swearing and ready for action with a purpose. 'Taller Than Me' entered the living room with less enthusiasm and heavy with fear. It felt it like a wave, hitting me in the chest, startling me into recognition that now my boys were watching. I felt powerless but soon realized that I was in fact more powerful than I had ever been in my life. I focused on my husband's shoulders and once again leaned on him for support. My Mother-in-law (a Mom to only one, born of c-section) watched with admiration she later told me. My mid-wives were silently supportive, knowing instinctually what I needed and when to speak to me.
We were a team the eight of us, and finally Little One was born into the water like a river otter, my husband caught him and brought him to me. He didn't cry, he stretched and blinked and floated with me in the water cradled in my arms, voicing only sweet whimpers until we left the birthing pool. (Here is a drawing I made from a photo of the moment.)
Now he runs here there and every where and soon he will be two. Time has gone by so quickly these past two years. I know everyone says that and these early years can be like a blur. But honestly looking at this drawing, it feels like only moments have passed.
'Taller Than Me' wants to start Drivers Ed! Almost 16 years ago he was just born during a thunder and lightening storm to teenage parents. Becoming his mother defined me.
Becoming 'Middle Man's' mother showed me just how strong I could be, after weeks in the ICU, he came home and taught me what parenting really meant.
'Little One' came when I thought my pregnancy days were long gone, when I had surrendered to the idea of being a mother of two. Now three seems like the number that was meant to be.

I'm not sure where any of this deeply personal sharing is coming from this morning, I just started typing and this is what was born.
Peace to you and your beautiful children. Enjoy all the moments.

Swirly, that's the best word to discribe it.

Some times this is how I feel. Tonight watching Middle Man's performance as Piglet in Winnie the Pooh made be feel swirly inside. So proud and in awe of him at the same moment. Nervous with him and therefore delighted for him when it was all over. Swirly.
I love being a Mom. As hard as some days can be, I wouldn't trade a second of it for any other job. Not trying to be mushy, maybe just a bit swirly, thanks for reading.
PEACE to you and your little ones.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Twinkle Toes: Art + Play

Today's Art+Play Activity: Painting with your feet or what some might call...
Messy Creative Chaos!
Either way it was lots of fun!

I shared Dr. S's Foot Book at Circle and sung "Everybody Knows I Love My Toes"
The look on the parent's faces when I said we would be painting with our feet was priceless!
Some looked excited and others...ah... not so much...it was messy and for toddlers a bit slippery but there were no injuries and some fancy foot work created some very beautiful art!
I know I've said it before but it bares repeating, I LOVE Thursdays!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ice Cream Scooping!

Is it too early to break out the ice cream scoop? This is a fun and easy one to pull together and your imaginative kiddos will love it. Rinse clean an ice cream container, dry and fill with

pom-poms. Provide an ice cream scooper and a bowl to serve it in.
(Thanks Monique for letting me take photos in your classroom)

Sorting 1 to 10: Birds

Counting Birds 1 to 10
The creative teachers at Cornerspring came up with this fun work for junior bird lovers.
Finding bird related items numbering one to ten, they created this clever counting work.
The children enjoy 'flying' the birds to their number groups, finding similarities and differences, discriminating between few and many. For young 3 year olds this work could be used as simply a sorting, counting them into number groups and placing them in a linear order can be introduced in later lessons. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Making His Mark

Keeping up with a nine year old certainly is a tall order. Little One does his best and usually impresses us all. It's been a long week for children home sick with (yet another) a tummy bug and cough and fever...I refuse to call it The Flu (but it would seem to be). I hope all of you are healthy.

Here is a picture of Little One keeping up with big brother.

This photo reminded me of this quote:
"Time is not measured by clocks, but by moments."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pizza Anyone?

Today's Art+Play was a PIZZA Party! I lead the children to circle singing, "Walk around the pizza, walk around the pizza, walk around the pizza, until you find your slice." [their 'slice' being their carpet square] Next we read the book The Pizza We Made and decorated our own group pizza. The art project followed with each child decorating their own pizza inside a real pizza box.
personal pan pizza box from your favorite pizza place
the sauce: red paint mixed with school glue
the cheese: yellow paper shredded, red shredded paper for red onions
I also offered red and green paper for cutting into 'toppings'

This open ended art activity was fun and easy. The clean up was not involved (no brushes to wash). The children enjoyed being part of the cooking/creation process. If I had longer than one hour for this project I would have included the kids in the food preparation process more than I was able to.
In the Montessori classroom:
Food Preparation/nutrition/cooking is most effectively approached as part of or extension of the Practical Life curriculum and thus follows the same guidelines for preparation, set up and sequencing. Through the use of food prep activities, we can introduce the value of good nutrition, help the children gain control of the environment, increase practical life skills and nurture independence! Wow! Who knew so much could come from fixing a pizza?


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A bear named "Pooh"

Little One has become very fond of Winnie the Pooh lately, when he hears an noise he doesn't know he says with a tilt of his head, "Pooh?" and because he is in the middle of a growth cycle he is often hungry asking, "May I have more?" with his two chubby hands tapping one another again and again in the baby sign for "More". To me he is becoming a Pooh Bear. And when I snapped this photo on Easter morning my first thought was, Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh!
Oh what a blustery day!

"You're the best bear in ALL the world," said Christopher Robin "Am I?" said Pooh hopefully. And then he brightened up suddenly."Anyhow," he said, "it is nearly luncheon time." So home they went for it.

~~Love to you and all your forest animals

Monday, April 7, 2008

Upside down? BEAUTIFUL!

Sunset through the eyes of a teenager. I am continually being reminded to appreciate nature by my boys. I will admit I have been spending way too much time in doors lately. I am desperate for Spring to arrive and longing more and more for the warm breezes of summer to hurry up and replace these freezing winds. Today it is suppose to be 'warm' at 45 degrees. My sandals stare at me with anticipation. What's the weather like where you are?
Middle Man and Little One discovered just yesterday, the green tops of daffodils peeking through the patch of muddy snow I once remember as a flower garden. They called to me,
"Come see! Come see Mama! Spring!"
They shared with me, Hope and now I am hopeful. I really need to pay better attention, I walk by the 'flower garden' every day and I haven't noticed Spring coming, just the mud and ice mixture. It is true the child's eye can see far more than mine.

And so, I will try and remember Dr. Montessori's insightful and inspiring words:
"I live in heaven. My home is a sphere that turns around the sun. It is called Earth."
~~in peace

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Open House: Building a Nest

This weekend was our Annual Open House. I was smiling all day. I really enjoy meeting the future little (and big) people who may come to our school in the Fall.
"It's like building a nest." I said to my husband on the phone last night
(he is presently away on a trip).
"A nest?" he replied.
Even though I could not see his face I knew he was making a "what the?" expression.
"Yes, a nest." I repeated. "You know a piece of hay, a strand of yarn, a twig..."
Silence on the other end of the phone.
"I'm the mother bird..."I continued.
I paused.
"O k a y...." he said to me.
"Never mind." I said, feeling a bit silly because he wasn't getting it.
And then he said,
"I understand, you're the mother bird, your classroom environment is the nest?"
"Yes!" (Well, close enough) I was just so happy he was willing to follow along with yet another of my often flowery analogies.
The whole conversation reminded me of one I had with a parent of a child from my child care program years ago. He had asked me where my umbrella was. And I remember staring at him with a "what the?" look on my face until I politely said, "I'm sorry I don't have an umbrella."
and he said,
"No, you know, like Mary Poppins?"
"Oh!" I said, "yes, Mary Poppins.....no, wait, what?"
He smiled and said, "Never mind, have a nice night."

It was pick up time and he and his child left for home, I assisted others in their packing up and going and it wasn't until later that night that I finally 'got' what he was saying to me.
I reminded him of Mary Poppins; or he was trying to compliment me. And unfortunately at 5:30 on a Friday afternoon I had little to no sense of humor to pick up on his implication, clever and cute as it was....sometimes I fail to pick up on things.
And although I was very complimented by him comparing me to the ever impressive, practically perfect in ever way: Mary Poppins, as you know I am NOT Mary Poppins.
But wordy I am, so I will end this post by saying this:

When I use my Mary Poppins like imagination, I am a Mother bird and to me Open House is like finding the perfect tree. Meeting the children and their parents for the first time is like discovering the wonderful, colorful special materials for building the nest. And setting up the classroom is like pulling it all together, hopefully creating a comforting, safe, happy nest in which to nurture little ones...and their parents :)
Thank you for allowing me to be flowery. I hope this makes sense. It's not "a spoon full of sugar" but I think you get the idea.

Nurturing a Love of Language

Corn Meal tray & Sand Paper Letters

For success in language a child needs confidence that what she has to say is important, a desire to relate to others, real experience on which language is based, and the physical abilities necessary in reading and writing. There are several things we can do to help.
We can listen attentively and with eye contact, and speak to the child in a respectful tone. We can provide a stimulating environment, rich in sensorial experiences and in language--language is meaningless if it is not based on experience. We can set an example and model precise language in our everyday activities with the child. If we share good literature, in the form of rhymes, songs, poetry and stories we will greatly increase our children's love of language. ~~Michael Olaf

Listen ~~ Speak ~~ Model ~~ Share
Pictured here is a 3 year old boy sits exploring the corn meal tray. Together he and I had just finished taking turns tracing the sand paper letters in his name. When I introduced him to the corn meal tray, he was excited and then sat quietly for many moments feeling the corn meal and moving his fingers through it revealing the blue base of the box.
He chose this work again and again, day after day, until he was ready to move on.
I recently visited this boy's kindergarten classroom where he shared with me, what he calls "fancy writing". There on his paper were swirly cursive letters....spelling out his name.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Let's Paint: Art + Play at Waterfalls Today

It's Thursday, Art+Play Day! I Love Thursday and feel the need to share the fun we had.
Today we read excerpts from the book: Shapes In Art. Then we painted with various shapes.
They came out beautifully and I am hopeful will make keen covers for little books (a future project). Here is 'Little One's' favorite painting tool, a wooden car!

I found all of the items around the house, in fact, 'Middle Man' and I looked for (and counted) shapes around the house while collecting these items. Did you know that there are 14 squares to count in just one of our windows? It's 'Shape Day' I guess.

It was a busy morning so not too many photos were taken sorry.
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Crushing Egg Shells

I've been thinking about Julie from Are We Having Fun Yet? who recently asked about activities for little boys with allot of energy....first Julie, I don't know any other kind of little boy :) second I think I've got something he'll LOVE: A Mortar and Pestle!

Little people (boys and girls) between the ages of birth and 18 years, enjoy exercising something the experts refer to as "cause and effect". With my own Spirited little boy (Middle Man) I have always called it, "What will happen if?" "What will happen if...I sit in this mud puddle?" "What will happen if I feed the dog my casserole?" "What will happen if I touch this wet cement?"
You get the idea...
Anyway, most children enjoy finding their own answer to that question, the reaction to their action. And, it has been my experience, that spirited little boys enjoy MAKING something using ACTION (notice I did not say FORCE)...
Enter: The Mortar and Pestle
It's wooden, makes a great grinding sound (or banging sound) and with action, something new can be made from something familiar. Dry (pre-rinsed) egg shells become a fine sand like powder (to be used in art projects)...Cheerios become Cheerio powder (yummy when added to yogurt) peanuts become small peanut pieces (perfect for ice cream sundae toppings)...making a graham cracker crust? He's your man! Set him up with a box of graham crackers and look out.
My Little One tired of this quickly (he's not yet two) BUT when his big brother (9 yr. old Middle Man) got home from school, he went right to it, like a moth to a flame. "What's THIS?" He asked excitedly. "Can I try?" and there he sat, making big things smaller using action, for a good 25 -35 minutes.
Then later on when it was bed time, just after I turned out his light he said, "In the morning could I try making some more stuff with the mortar and pistol?" I quickly corrected him, "You mean 'pestal'?" "Oh, yeah, P E S T A L." he said with a smile on his face.
"Yes." I said and kissed him goodnight.
~~Have fun everyone.

Sidewalk Chalk (not limited to sidewalks)

Looking forward to days like this returning.
At Cornerspring Montessori we are fortunate to have only a small space that is asphalt, the rest of the play yard is grass, garden and some wood chips (wonderful climbing structures, slides, swings also) but the reason for this post is to share this photo.
Creative Expression! Many small hands worked together to create this masterpiece on a sunny afternoon. It made me smile when I saw it and so I share it with you.
The world is a child's canvas, it starts with yogurt on a high chair tray and bath tub soap suds leads to sidewalks and sliding glass doors....and eventually to a real canvas.

While walking into the grocery store this weekend 'Middle One' noticed that when the concert sidewalk was poured (however long ago) a leaf had gotten stuck in the cement. It's impression left behind for him to find. I, of course, have walked over the leaf's image many times for sure, never noticing it. "Isn't it beautiful?" he asked no-one in particular.

"It is the child who shows us the extraordinary in the ordinary."~~Jean Grasso Fitzpatrick

When I took this photo I remember one of the small artists asking me what I thought it was a picture of. I said I wasn't sure, that to me it was 'abstract'. Her response,
"It's NOT abstract Jennifer. It's ART".
PS For those of you in other parts of the country/world with Spring, enjoy chalk today for me.

Where in the World?


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