Sunday, December 26, 2010


 Middle Man brings BIG smiles to the classroom!

It never gets old! ~PEACE MM

Oh Where Does the Time Go?

 Fruit leather from Little One to his friends~
 Our classroom tree.
 Beautiful baby Colin, my friend Robyn's Christmas gift.
And Me and my best friend Diana the huntress of felt finger puppets.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a happy New Year! PEACE~ MM

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Classroom Advent Calendar

This year we made a felt evergreen tree for our classroom advent calendar.  A count down to our school holiday break.  Each day the leader for the day turns an ornament around to reveal the face of a classmate, teacher, pet or small group photo (like the one at the top of the tree pictured of two friends hugging).  As you can see the kiddos decorated the numbers using watercolor paper and then cut them out. I printed photos on to paper and glued them to the back of the number circles.  The ornaments are attached to the felt with paper clips. Happy Holidays to all!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

If you want grateful children, be grateful

If you want grateful children, be grateful


Something new for UUs:  Chalica

Overview: Chalica is seven days long and runs from the first Monday in December through to Sunday. Each day represents a different Unitarian Principle, a chalice is lit each day and gift(s) are given and received. Gifts can be made, bought, verbal, written, acts, shared/personal celebrations. One can have seven different chalices or one common chalice.

Theme: Chalica - Celebration of the Flame

Materials: Varies, please see the Detailed Description

Details: The days are as follows:

Monday: We light our chalice for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
- Give gift(s) to honour those you do not understand / agree with / like. Examples:
- a thank-you card celebrating differences
- words of forgiveness / apology
- a peace offering such as inviting someone to diner
- help someone in need

Tuesday: We light our chalice for justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
- Give gift(s) to honour those in your local community that are less fortunate.
- spend time in a soup kitchen
- donate clothes to a worthy organization
- display kindness and care to those around you
- take part in a political demonstration at city hall

Wednesday: We light our chalice foracceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
- Give gift(s) to honour fellow Unitarians and their spiritual journey.
- a chalice / book / hymnal
- extend words of peace or forgiveness to a fellow Unitarian with whom you may have hurt / not understood in the past
- offer / take part in an event at your church / with your congregation
- church potluck

Thursday: We light our chalice for a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
- Give gift(s) to honour another tradition, to honour education
- offer / take part in an event that celebrates another religion / tradition
- teach someone something you know and love
- learn something new from someone else
- give a book / read a book

Friday: We light our chalice for the right of conscious and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.
- Give gift(s) to honour democracy
- help a political party
- write your government
- help a committee at church
- host a dinner / party to celebrate democracy

Saturday: We light our chalice for the goal of world peace, liberty and justice for all.
- Give gift(s) to honour our global community
- volunteer with an organization that has global influence
- write a letter for amnesty international
- help your social justice committee hold a fundraiser
- donate to a cause such as UNICEF, Doctors without Borders, etc.

Sunday: We light our chalice for respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
- Give gift(s) to our earth and/or its creatures
- start a compost
- recycle bottles and cans and donate the money to an environmental / animal aid society
- rescue an animal from a shelter
- hold an outdoor worship service (dress warm/bonfire)

Monday, November 1, 2010


I'm not sure this is going to work but I've just got to keep trying.  I feel like the little engine that could....
"I think I can,, I think I can"

Visit my book company at peerbackers to see what all the fuss is about. 

Thanks for reading my neglected blog.  Now you know where all my time is spent.  :)
I think we have something great, zodireaders are a beginner reader book series that have familiar characters, colorful illustrations and funny stories.  With felt objects, word cards AND finger puppets...I mean these are books your kids can play with. 
See for yourself and let me know what you think.  I'm new at this, maybe I'm missing some detail that would make them even better?  Please share your thoughts, FEEDBACK desired.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Making Their Mark

A child's first introduction to writing letters often starts with the child's name. If your child is showing an interest in writing letters, try this lesson on learning how to write your name.

Indirect Aim: Writing.

Direct Aim: To make the child aware that sounds have symbols.

Age: 3 to 4 years.

Materials: Sandpaper letter(s), pencil, paper.

Example of child's name: Sarah

1. "Today we are going to write your name." (Or you can just write the first letter of the child's name: "Today we are going to write the first letter in your name.") "What is the first letter in your name?" If the child gives the name for the letter 's' (es) you say, "Its name is 's' (es) but it says the sound ‘sss’ like snake.

If the child has a blend, like 'ch' for Charlie, 
say "The letters 'C' (see) and 'h' (ay-chu) make the sound 'ch' like chair. 'ch' is the first sound in the name Charlie.

2. Take any kind of paper (or chalkboard) and a normal size pencil (or white chalk), and start with first letter in child’s name. Use a capital letter. Trace the capital letter 'S' with two fingers (use pointing finger and middle finger and always top to bottom, left to write) then write it. Do a whole line of the letter 'S', if the child can wait. Or, at some point, ask the child to have a turn to trace the letter 'S' and write it. Trace it first, then write it, trace it again, then write it again, repeat this pattern of tracing and writing, tracing and writing.

3. "Now we are going to write the second letter in your name." (Or you can write the second letter another day.) "The second letter in your name is -------" (for our example, Sarah, it would be 'a').

4. Use a lower case letter 'a'. Trace the lower case letter 'a' with two fingers (use pointing finger and middle finger and always top to bottom, left to write) then write it. Do a whole line of the letter 'a', if the child can wait. Or, at some point, ask the child to have a turn to trace the letter 'a' and write it. Trace it first, then write it, trace it again, then write it again, repeat this pattern of tracing and writing, tracing and writing.

Continue with the next letter in the child's name, or wait until another day.

You can also have the child's name written out on a piece of paper or cardstock, and place it near the pencils and paper for her to go and get when ever she wants to write her name. Later, she will want to write her sibling's or her friend's name, have that child's name written out on a piece of paper or cardstock, and place it near the pencils and paper for her to go and get when ever she wants to write it.

Optional: You can use dots to write the letter(s) and have the child trace over the dots.
The adult writes the name in yellow marker and the child traces the name in a darker color.
In our classroom we have a cornmeal tray.  This is a shallow tray with a thin layer of cornmeal.  The children trace the letters they know in the cornmeal.  This is great fun and is used by all the children. 

Markers: allow the child to decorate her paper with markers after she has practiced writing her name in pencil HOWEVER, for children who have difficultly writing (or may be hard to motivate) allow them to use markers to practice writing their name.  Our goal is leaving the activity with a feeling of success!

Encourage the child to always write her name on her artwork.:)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ugly Pie

If you've been itchin' for some Ugly Pie, today is your lucky day! Here's Ol' Bear's recipe, handed down from bear to bear for generations.
Ugly Crust:
2 & 1/2 cups flour
1 cup shortening (we used butter)
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 to 8 tablespoons icy cold water

Ugly Filling
6 cups peeled, sliced Granny Smith apples (we used apples given to us by a family from their apple tree)
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon lemon juice

In a large bowl, toss apple slices with lemon juice. Then mix in molasses until apples are completely coated with ugly brown goo. Set aside.
5 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the dry ingredients listed above. Add to the ugly apple mixture until everything is nice 'n' moist.
3/4 cup red raisins or cran-raisins
1/4 walnuts chopped fine (we left out the nuts)

Toss raisins and walnuts into apple mixture. Make sure all ingredients are well coated. Place into pie crust. Your pie should look fairly ugly by now.
Top with second pie crust and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon mixture. Cover pie with an aluminum-foil tent to prevent over browning. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 20 minutes.
When your pie is done, you will have the most delicious, most beautiful UGLY PIE you ever did see!
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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Transition Tool ~Good Morning Sunshine~

Outside the front door to the school there is an easel with notes about the day, who is snack leader, special visitor...that kind of thing.  There are also name tags for the taking.  When the children arrive they choose their tag and carry it inside.  Before saying "Goodbye" to Mom or Dad, they choose a spot on the morning sunshine.  Some times they count how many friends have the names the recognize....
Good morning Sunshine~

Monday, August 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Dr. Montessori

Happy Birthday Maria~
If I could I would thank you.  For all you mean to me and so many.  Thank you for never giving up.  For believing in yourself when no one else did.  It must have been so hard to be you.  You were so brave.
Because of you, I am me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Open House for My New School

Helping Hands Family School will open September 1st. Yesterday we had our first Open House for enrolled families!  Because I was too busy greeting children and answering questions, I left my camera on a shelf.  Here are some photos of the classroom(s).  Even though they were much more sweet full of small people.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Something New...

Helping Hands Family School

What is a Family School?
Basically it's a family. 
I believe that the word "family" has many meanings.  I consider family to be those persons primarily responsible for a child and/or whomever the child considers to be his/her "family".  I think that caregivers and parents must work hand in hand for the good of their child.  In a Family School there is a high value placed on partnership, communication and positive change occurs when everyone cooperates.  When parents and teachers work together and act in the best interest of the whole child, the child is free to develop his or her own path to the future.  
Helping Hands Family School is my new child care & preschool program.  I've begun this journey with the support and love of my own family and have been joined along the way by the parents of the children I will come to care for in September.  I continue to be amazing and grateful, each step of the way along this path.
While leaving a job that I LOVED, and a community I have been part of for nine years was one of the most difficult things I have ever done; I know in my heart it was the best choice for my family at this time.  
I don't expect anyone else to understand the "why and how come"...that's really inside of me and for me to process, forgive and let go of.  
I will say this, every experience we have, shapes us into the person we need to be to experience the journey a little bit further up the road.  And, if we are able to be open to the education we are receiving, we will leave one adventure to begin a new one, with wisdom and strength.  

I know I would never be the teacher I am today, had I not spent the last nine years listening, learning and loving the community I was blessed to be part of.  Now it's time for me to build something on my own and I'm starting with what I know.  I'm combining my dedication to the Montessori philosophy with what I see as a great need for parents to be a key part of the program.  

From this I have decided to open a "Family School".  Being a family school means that everyone's opinion matters and is important to the growth and continuation of the school as a whole.  As a parent, I understand that families will share their thoughts, talents and abilities with the school community only if and when they feel comfortable to do so.  As the Director, I will welcome contributions of time, talent, skill and energy in all forms.   And I hope that the families who become part of this new family school, will feel welcomed respected, valued and comfortable here.  
In loving PEACE,
Jennifer Howard
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Food For Thought

I'm not sure if I 100% agree with every one of these statements but I will say they made me think. Read them and let me know your thoughts. PEACE~J

By Dixie Fletcher

If an adult is reinforced for behaving appropriately we call it recognition.
If a child is reinforced for behaving appropriately we call it bribery.

If an adult laughs we call it socializing.
If a child laughs we call it misbehaving.

If an adult writes in a book we call it doodling.
If a child writes in a book we call it destroying property.

If an adult sticks to something we call it perseverance.
Of a child sticks to something we call it stubbornness.

If an adult seeks help we call it consulting.
If a child seeks help we call it whining.

If an adult is not paying attention we call it preoccupation.
Of a child is not paying attention we call it distractibility.

If an adult forgets something we call it absent mindedness.
If a child forgets something we call it attention deficit.

If an adult tells his side of a story we call it clarification.
If a child tells his side of a story we call it talking back.

If an adult raise his voice in anger we call it maintaining control.
If a chiild raises his voice in anger we call it a temper tantrum.
If an adult hits a child we call it discipline.
If a child hits a child we call it fighting.

If an adult behaves in an unusual way we call him unique.
If a child behaves in an unusual way we call him in for a


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Inspiration and Ideas Are Everywhere!

I really love the internet....when I have the time to search and keep track of things. Most of the time I find something and then forget where I saw it. Someone else always needs the computer around here. There are five of us and just one computer. Below is a list of sites I've visited recently while looking for classroom materials. There are countless more out there but I thought I would give a shout out to these ones, this time. Just my way of saying, thanks for being there! Because of you, my summer is full and rich with activity and inspiration, my sewing machine is always running and someone around here, myself included, almost always has paint on their hands. The last two days have been rainy...I know you feel my pain.

So, if you need inspiration or ideas, OR you just like looking at what others are up to this summer....ENJOY:

Ideas for Kids,
Gayle's Preschool Rainbow
On the Shelf
Montessori Mom
Preschool Crafts
Child Made Ideas
Paint + Cut + Paste blog
Polar Bear Creations
Fair Trade Family blog
Eyes on Nature blog
Creative Jewish Mom
Childhood Magic
Soft Earth's World
Rosy ~ Posy
Sew Mama Sew!
Sew Natural
and last but certainly not least: Etsy (of course, I mean come on...Etsy ROCKS right?)

I hope you enjoy visiting these blogs and sites as much as I do!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Time and the Livin' is Easy....NOT

This photo was taken of Little One, moments before he decided that he did NOT want to leave the beach and took off running away from me when I attempted to hold his hand and walk toward the parking lot. :(
The beach, the beach was fun. Chasing a VERY FAST four year old down Nauset beach when the sun is setting and bugs are arriving...NOT FUN.
Sometimes it can feel like our children WANT to end things on a sour note.
Why are transitions so difficult? Well, there are a few reasons...and when I say them out loud to myself, I find them comforting. When I remember the tricks I know work (90% of the time) and use them to prevent the running away of my disgruntled four year old...that's even better!
Transitions = Change. Change = the unknown.
It's been my experience that most children handle things better when they're given choices — so they can have some autonomy — but you need to make sure the choices are ones you're prepared to carry out. The trick is to create a win-win situation where there's no struggle for power. One way to do this is with a contest: 'Can you get your shoes on before I get my coat on?' The idea is to let your child feel successful — but you also win, because her shoes are on. Another trick is to be silly: 'Let's see if you can put on your shoes while making a funny face!' Or sing nonsense words, use hand motions, and dance.....but all of this is more work (for us, Mom and Dad). I for one can get tired and as was the case with this situation, I can get lazy at this parenting job. Sometimes I just don't WANT to be creative. Sometimes I just want to say, "Okay, it's time to go." and have my kids do what I am requesting, without having to chase them a mile down the freaking beach!
That being said, I KNOW, I KNOW. I'm just venting here.
One of my favorite authors and inspirational speakers is Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, author of "Raising Your Spirited Child," St. Paul, MN. [When talking about Spirited Children] she says...
"You need to discover and appreciate who's come to live with you. It's important to realize that your child is not trying to be difficult — this is their temperament, how they react to the world. Parents should understand that these kids have traits we value in adults; they are just 'more' — more high energy, passionate, persistent. Parents can help their child manage this intensity by teaching them the skills to understand their triggers, know what soothes them, and help them build the vocabulary to express emotions. Then, parents can show their child how to channel this intensity into a positive outlet."

I try and remember her words whenever I find myself in a situation that makes me want to stamp my feet and scream. ;)
For Little One, ANY transition is a trigger. And my fantasy above, is just that, a fantasy. I can count on one hand, how many times I have simply said, "Come on Sweetie we're leaving, let's go." and he has complied. So, clearly I'm dreaming when I think "but one day he will....". And that's what Mary Sheedy Kurcinka is talking about. And after almost 18 YEARS of parenting, you'd think I would have this down pat.
And you know why? Because I'm human. And so are you. So I guess the point of this post, (if there is one) is to cut yourself some slack. Parenting is hard work. And besides, sometimes, bugs or no bugs, taking a run down the beach can be refreshing. The unexpected is what makes life interesting. And on our long walk back we did find a really cool moon shell :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Time for a Change

Okay, so I changed the back ground here at Montessori Mama. Thoughts? Like/dislike?
I'm interested to know your opinions.
Change can be difficult but also magical. A close friend recently said to me,

"Birth is painful, but oh sooooo full of promise."

Both times that I was able to give birth naturally (and especially throughout my C-section with Middle Man), I have felt close to death....just in that moment before everything changed for the better and the baby came.
I remember my mid-wives saying that our greatest wisdom about what we are capable of comes from being observant in that moment. As a mother going through it and as a witness to birth.

Right now I feel as though I am going through that moment emotionally and I am trying to be observant and learn from all that has been said and not said, and I am really trying to be a listener of my own heart.

And good things are happening. I am surrounded by supportive people throughout this process of transformation and I am especially grateful for their love and support.

I am broadening my circle and opening myself to new opportunities. It is hard but feels liberating. Sometimes the sacrifices we make for our families are enormous...but in my heart I know I am doing the best thing for these boys of mine.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Zodiworks Book Signing (at The Cave)

"Sam Dog" loves to give a kiss, especially if the boy in need of love, just finished eating a sweet~bun! Yum!

This was the beautiful view on the way to The Cave, a unique wine and cheese store / bakery / and now Zodiworks book seller, located in Down East Maine, home of Wooden Boat Magazine.

As adorable kindergarten students from the Brooklyn Elementary School entered and began to fill the handmade quilt my partner Robin had lay out for them to sit on, "Sam Dog", a.k.a Robin's beautiful golden retriever, greeted the children with lots of tail wagging and kisses! She is such a love....

I introduced the Zodizoo characters and let the children explore the many finger puppets we had brought along. Then I read each book in the the Sam Series and acted out the stories; with the children's help of course. I think everyone had fun, I know I did and obviously Little One too, well he LOVED the Sam Dog kisses, that's for sure!

To invite us to YOUR school or book store, just send my husband an email at

Happy Summer Solstice to All
Love Jennifer

Friday, June 11, 2010

Last Day

We made fish bowl cards to say "Goodye" to our students this year. 'Dorothy' our goldfish is a gem of a pet and the children LOVE her. It seemed only right that she would give them bubbles to enjoy over the summer :)

Thank you for a wonder-FULL year my toddler friends and families!
You have no idea how you have touched my heart and helped me grow as a teacher and person! With love and in peace ~ always ~ Happy Summer!!!

PS: This is my 500th POST! I can't believe's to 500 MORE~
Montessori Mama

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hand That Gives The Rose

Making me cry...
This song and video gave me such release today. But when 'Little One' peeked over my shoulder and said,
"We read that book at school!"
I started crying. Let us not forget why we do the work we do. The children. Enjoy this video. I know I did.

Zodiworks for YOU!

Today I am Feeling the Bloggity Love....
A satisfied zodiworks customer over at The Work Plan posted about my books! Very exciting indeed. Stop by and visit her and enjoy her many creative ideas and classroom in action photos. It's so great to know that "Sam" is being loved by children other than my own :) Thank you for sharing!

Are there any other "Sam" book readers out there? Please comment and give feedback, we sooooooooo appreciate hearing from you.
Jennifer and the zodiworks gang!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

So far this week....

So far this week....
We have found two June bugs and it is only the beginning of the month ;)
Best friends have quarreled and made up, more than a half dozen times,
The basket ball hoop has become of great interest to all who play outdoors,
the sun has been shining long enough for us to enjoy all of these outdoor activities and then a gentle rain falls during nap time...awww peace.

What has your week been like?
Only 8 more days in our school year :(
I can't believe the school year is just about through.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pizza, Pizza Father's Day Picnic!

In honor of father's day this year we are having a pizza picnic for our toddler class. To make the invitations the children traced the circle metal inset and then using a glue stick they glued down scraps of red, yellow and black paper, to create a pizza pie. Inside the invitations read:
Please join me for a piece of pizza on ..................................

In the classroom we've been pretending with a velcro pizza set (I happened upon at Toy R Us, I think).

We will be making REAL pizzas for the pizza picnic, so this is wonderful practice. :)

Yum ~ Yum Pizza is Fun!!!
Lately in the classroom we've been singing:
(to the tune of Row-Row-Row Your Boat)
Roll, roll, roll your dough
and toss it in the air,
pepperoni, cheese and sauce
Pizza we can share!

Another fun idea:
Pizza is a very easy first cooking projecting. If photographed, this process would make wonderful sequence cards....say I think I'll try that and post them later!
PEACE to all, I hope it is as beautiful where you are as it is here!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Good Life Wellness Fest ~ Belfast Maine~2010

What a wonderful opportunity we had to take part in the first Good Life Fest (hopefully first of many)! Here are just a few quick shots of our booth and of course Little One with his face painting Montessori Mama style! Thank you Anne for inviting us and making this special event happen. I had fun painting faces and sharing about our school. We offered face painting, sunflower seed planting, a hand craft of sewing a fox tail and instruments to play! It was such a lovely time.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Never Under Estimate a Two Year Old

So, we've been learning about birds all year at 'The Nest' (what we affectionately call our classroom of ten toddlers and two grown ups). Thursday, this little girl told me, using full on complete sentences mind you:

"This is my nest. I am sitting on my eggs."

When she stood up there were two beach nutshells under her. Well, okay then. I snapped a photo to preserve the moment. Another moment to add to my mental file entitled, "Never Under Estimate a Two Year Old". It grows thicker with each passing day.

Here another two year old friend completes a pattern that was started by an older three year old friend. All the while naming the colors,

"Pink. Brown. Pink. Brown"

I wasn't near by when the older child was first building so I'm not sure if the language was something that was modeled or something this Little One just started on his own. Either way, I snapped a photo.
Moment # 200,000,000,000,000......................
I am reminded WHY I do this work.

Hugs to all you Toddler Teachers out there! (I mean the two year old teachers ;)


Where in the World?


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