Monday, February 23, 2009

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane...

My husband and I are packing tonight. We leave Thursday for New Orleans! The AMS National Conference and great blues music. I am so excited! My book arrived today, here are the author's copies the note read. This is truly...well, I don't even have words. I mean it's not like I saved a life or helped anyone in any way, yet it is an accomplishment I'm proud of.

I hope other people enjoy it too. IF my scanner or my camera was working I would share a photo with you. Hopefully, Mallory will send me a picture for me to post soon. Hint, hint Mallory, luv you.

My mother-in-law is visiting to look after the boys, this will be the first time I've left Little One. And for Montessori Papa and I, this is our first trip away in seven years! I think we are due.

At the conference I will be signing copies of my book, any ideas on what I should write? I only just now thought of this. I'm wondering, do I simply sign my name or should I ask the person their name and then say something corny? If anyone has a suggestion I'd love to hear it.

I made another pie. Peach & apple, the combo was delicious. (again insert imaginary pie photo here) I'm thinking of starting another blog about pies.

'Taller Than Me' suggested I get my own Face Book page...I did, please visit me if you so desire. I feel so old! It's crazy getting on there and seeing all of these people you once knew and now know nothing about but still they hold a place in your heart and mind. It's revealing about how our memory works, isn't it? These people we meet as children, a time when our brains are growing rapidly. Their faces and voices are imprinted in our memories, then life continues and we meet new faces and hear new voices and those people from our childhood shift; gone but not forgotten. Then one day during a snow storm your teenager says, "Why don't you have a face book page Mom?" and before you know it, your knee deep in memories! And it feels like just a day ago we were all sitting in Algebra class waiting for the bell to ring.

So, obviously I'm rambling and it's getting late. The house is clean, the bags are packed, love notes all written....hopefully I'll have a photo of the cover of my book to share with you tomorrow. Thanks for reading as always.
PEACE to you and yours,

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ball Tube

I made this ball tube from a poster mailer (UPS store), color duct tape, and a basket of ping pong balls. My kiddos LOVE it. I used the back side of a shelf that has a dry erase board on it. [a safe surface to attach the strong tape to]

I simply taped the tube at an angle and provided the balls with a basket to catch them in. There are ten balls by the by and when I introduced this material to the children I counted each ball before sending it down the tube. I have to smile when I notice a two year old friend counting each ball before she sends it down the tube.

*This work could be created using smaller tubes (paper towel rolls) if your children are older and the objects that fit threw are not at risk of being eaten.

What are you waiting for? Get the ball rolling :)

Toddler Art (or the Art of Getting Messy)

Here is Little One doing what he does best, making a beautiful mess!
Look at the joy on his face! Toddlers NEED the freedom to create and experiment with art materials. At this point of course it is the doing that is the focus for toddlers, not the product.

Toddlers are in need of a place where being messy is accepted and beginning efforts are valued. Individuality is celebrated in the Montessori classroom! Not everyone's art will be the same because each of us is an artist in our very own way.

In the Nest we create something every day. I believe, this is an important attribute of our program. Being an artist myself, I do prioritize artistic expression but as an educator, I feel I am following the needs of the two year old child. These terrific twos are hands-on learners! Getting messy is part of the process of learning about their world. If it's getting wet exploring water in the sensory table or getting wet washing a table, either way toddlers are going to get wet. And why not? Certainly at home it is not always possible for us to accommodate this hands-on learning style but in a classroom prepared for this age children, I feel it should happen daily.

That's not to say a toddler should be bringing home papers every day because as I mentioned above, the process is where the learning happens and so far I have yet to meet a two year old who is strongly attached to what they created. Each day I write on a wipe board by the door to our classroom. I write a brief summary of what we did in the Nest that day. I write this so that parents have some conversation starters for the car ride home.

Some examples....
Today in the Nest we...
explored heavy and light, dry and wet and loud and quiet
sang the "Wheels on the Bus"
played in the snow
read many stories
used musical instruments with sign-language "Stop" and "Go"

The parents then can make up questions they can ask, for ex:

"Jennifer mentioned you finger painted today, what colors did you choose?"

"Did you practice pouring with water today? Was the water cold or warm?"

"You used glue sticks today? Wow, glue sticks are sticky, what did you stick with them?"

"How do you say STOP in sign-language?"

Your children may remember the process of finger painting ("it felt cold and was slippery") or what colors they chose ("I used blue and green")and maybe even what they created ("I painted a frog!"). And with some prompting they may even tell you. But showing you is not a necessary part of their learning.

We all like having something to send the Grandparents or to hang on the refrigerator, but I propose we try and produce less stuff to bring home and more experiences to share about with others. I am attempting to do this in my classroom more and more. Sharing photos helps bridge the gap for parents.

Photos that show the children using materials such as snow, sand, water, rice, bird seed, corn starch, play dough, clay and paints.

Photos that show the learning: the development of fine motor skills through the use of tools such as rolling pins, scrub brushes, small pitchers and sponges, brushes, glue sticks and maybe even safety scissors.

As well as examples of the children building skills such as concentration, coordination, independence and order.
Showing the children we value their art work by displaying it in the classroom is also a nice way to celebrate each child. And of course some of them WILL go home with the children!
Bottom line: Provide many opportunities for your children and enjoy the process of getting messy! They are only two once!
Happy artistic exploration!
related posts: Creative Preschooler

Friday, February 13, 2009

Stop by and Visit

I need to share a few links. I am so in love with the photos found at these blogs! Wow!
I know, I miss my camera...but even when I could use it, I didn't take photos like these! So lovely. Yes, I have camera envy. I admit it.
But while I search AGAIN, for my charger cord, I recommend you stop by and visit these beauties!

Our Montessori Story

Salt and Chocolate
Soule Mama
The Write Start
Wise Craft
Good + Happy

Happy Valentine's Day
Montessori Mama

Still missing my camera...

So I found the camera! But without the charger cord I can't use it!!! Still looking for the charger cord...
Anyway, today I finished up the Valentines for my class and I want so badly to show them to you all. Instead I am sharing this quick sketch...something I'm working on.

Little One is SICK, sick, he barely ate a thing and sat in front of our TV watching the same Kipper movie over and over. Sitting is not exactly comfortable for me, yet, so I lay on the couch and together we (hopefully) healed. The art of doing nothing. Cats are especially good at this.

I'm a bit over tired, if you can't tell that from my rambling. So here's another picture:

This is a mail box work I pulled together from a wooden toy mailbox I found at Goodwill and the classroom name tags. (*in this photo the children are using blank pieces of paper to 'mail') Man, I MISS my camera!
Whine, whine....I'll stop now.
Goodnight to all you night owls. It's 1:20am here!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Valentine Themed Work

Not the best photos...
but I hope you can see, this friend is pouring water that has colored "ice" chips from one container to another using a tea strainer, mid-process. The tea strainer catches all the "ice" chips and the liquid flows through into the second pitcher.

This Paula original is not presented in the toddler space because of obvious choking hazard.

The 3-6 year olds are drawn to this beautiful presentation and wish to use it again and again. The "ice chips" are tiny rounded triangular prisms made of plastic and found at a craft or pet store. Similar to those small glass balls that are often added to fish tanks; I suppose those would work too if you were unable to put your hands on the plastic variety.
The child strains the ice and then pours the colored water back and ends by adding the ice back. They love this!
Happy Heart Day!

Ways to Display Children's Art

I am always trying new ways to showcase my student's art...
My new favorite is the hanging yarn. I don't have a photo to show, but another fun way is to tape the art on the inside of the shelf (at child's eye level) so that as they reach for a tray they are greeted by their own masterpieces!
Any other ideas?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Luck is a Lady

This past Friday I took a spill, I fell HARD and broke my tailbone. OUCH!
This is a very painful situation but I'm 'tough'; as my husband told our boys. It bugged me when he said it but when I thought about it more I guess it's true. I concluded that I am tough, although I prefer the word 'strong' or 'resilient'. I would rather sound like a noble red wood tree rather than an over-cooked piece of meat.
But sometimes I wish I wasn't tough or at least I wish I could be more capable of asking for help and admitting when I am in need,than I presently do. It's difficult for me to BE vulnerable, it's not about appearances it is about allowances. I don't allow myself to rely on others.
Anyway, I have repeatedly wished this was different some how. So this weekend, after having literally broken my ass, I let myself lean on family and friends.
It was hard for me and there were times I felt guilty for needing so much but I was able to admit that there is only so much a person can do when they are laid up with a broken bottom. AND, it turns out, friends and family seemed to enjoy caring for this care giver. I honestly felt like it brought them satisfaction tending to my needs. It was an odd experience, laying in bed being able to hear the household confusion and the rumblings (where is my? and don't touch that!) between brothers. I didn't feel powerless or guilty but instead I felt confident they would work things out and meet their own needs.
What it comes down to is, I'm a lucky lady. When I first fell, I thought I had broken my back. I lay face down on the floor and I couldn't move. I almost fell asleep, I could feel sleep pulling at me to slip away for a while. It hurt so bad. But I resisted and I wiggled my fingers and then my toes, convincing myself I could stand when I was ready. And I did stand and walked and eventually I made it to the ER to discover that the crunching sound I heard and felt was my coccyx cracking.
I went back to work today. I'm feeling much better tonight but I am also very,very tired. It was a full moon last night and the toddlers were showing it today. Phew! What a busy group of two year olds! I am sure I will be asleep before my head hits the pillow.

I recently read a post by a parent & friend of mine, that spoke volumes, it was about how life is like a roller coaster. I never much cared for roller coasters but I appreciate the comparison.
This was suppose to be a post thanking family and friends, not a rant. I apologize. Watch your step Mamas and Papas. And take help when you need it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thank you Families!

So, last night was one of our annual Parent Education Nights. I was asked to present a workshop on bringing Montessori home. The trick was I had to do this in 20 minutes, three different sessions. This was tricky for me, as I am usually long winded and I had more information than could be shared in such a short time. But it went well and the parents seemed to enjoy the evening and that's what matters most.
For those of you who didn't get all the hand outs I am posting them here a second time for you! For those of you who have read this post before, I apologize for repeating myself :)
PEACE to all,
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."

Some other past posts you may find helpful:
My favorite list
Being a Montessori Parent
Prepared Environment
The Real Mom in Me
Makin' It Look Easy
Ways to Encourage Sharing

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Quiet Moment

A portrait of a little one in my toddler class...
(drawn from a photo)
The light was perfect, I hope I can create a paper cut from this image soon. I'll post more when I've completed it. PS the spot on his face is from my not so spectacular scanner. It's not intentional.
PPS. I'm still looking for the cable for my camera.

Where in the World?


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