Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Themed Practical Life

This week, I got out all of our little fall pieces. It's nearly October in New England, and we are just now seeing a few signs of Autumn. My girls are very excited about the changing seasons, so we just updated our Practical Life- Physical Skills work with some objects from a craft store. These items were 75% off the day after Thanksgiving last year, total cost for the update was $2.05.  Today they were busy and independent for the entire work period.  Every year, everything old is new again!  I also used these items to create our Fall Sets Basket for counting, sorting, and numeration.

Apple Transfer using srtawberry huller

Spooning Pumpkin Transfer (there's exactly 10, as a hidden preparation for decimal system work)

Fall Leaves Pouring Work, Handled Pitchers.  One clear, one opaque for a challenge.

Painted (by me) Acorn Scooping.  I found these wonderful bowls in China Town, NY.  I love Montessori Souvenirs!

Right off the bus, she hits the Practical Life shelf.  Her sisters yelled, "Mom put new work out!" at the bus stop.  And off we went!!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Preparation of the Teacher: A Ramble on Pancakes & Smiles

I am a very lucky person.  Day and night, I'm surrounded by beautiful, creative, energetic children.  I teach at a Montessori School, and work with my own children with Montessori Principles and Materials.  It is a lot of work, and a careful balance.  I realize that I do have to take care of my own needs, to be ready to support the children at school and at home.  Sometimes, my time alone consists of reading or singing in the car to silly old rap songs.  When I feel stress getting at me, I make this time for myself.  I have to be ready.  My goal in life is to always be spiritually ready for children.  The teacher (and Mom!) can work herself to exhaustion, preparing the classroom or home painstakingly:  and then end up cranky and not ready to receive the children.  For whom we work tirelessly for?  It can't be.

One of the teachers I had at training talked at length about the Preparation of the Teacher, and I think about that talk every day.  If we don't have a good attitude, what message does that send?  I smile a lot at school, and at home.  I feel that it sends a message that the children are safe, in kind hands, and supported by me at any task. Today I overheard a conversation between two children at school that warmed my heart.  A little boy was talking to a little girl, saying that they love me because I smile and I smell like pancakes.  The point is just that.  They didn't mention that they like me because I put out new work, help them make friends, or taught them a continent song.  It was a smile, and my home-like scent.

I think about home.  I know in my heart that my girls need me ready.  It's not the things we provide or prepare in life, it's how you make them feel.  Moms and teachers have the power to do this :)  How wonderful!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Middle Vowel Sorting

During the last few weeks, our big girl is working so very hard on reading work.  She's busy with the movable alphabet, object boxes, and inventive spelling in her journal.  While watching her with the movable alphabet last week, I discovered that she is getting a few of the middle vowels mixed up.  Today she had a Middle Vowel Sorting lesson.  I used the Sandpaper Letter vowels as title cards, and the objects I already had from around the classroom.  She added a few herself, she loves a good sound hunt!  She knew she was looking for the middle sound, not the initial sound.  Bean asked, "How did you know I needed this?"  (Yes!  I'm so happy following this child....)

Middle Vowel Sorting

pan, fan, ram, cat, bat

Blending it all Together

Bean (age 5) has been using the movable alphabet for a while now, focusing on simple phonetic words that follow the consonant-vowel-consonant pattern.  

She's doing very well with it, so we are ready to add in some blends as a means of expanding her movable alphabet work.  Before this activity, it's a good idea to use Object Box 2-  phonetic blends.  I borrowed some of the objects from Object Box 2 for this activity (I bought them at a craft store over the summer).  I used some poster tack to fix  movable alphabet letters to boards.  She has always loved sorting, now we are sorting objects to their blends!  In the basket, I put equal amounts of objects for each blend so that she could self correct.  As she masters these, I'll add in new blends until she has experience with them all.  

crocodile, crown

star, stem

tree, truck

frog, fruit

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Practical Life for Back To School

Practice the process of getting a shoe on and off.  If your child goes to a Montessori School, they probably wear slippers during work time, shoes outside.  There's a lot of shoe transition, imagine how much practice it may take for independence!  Anything to ease the morning madness of getting a family ready for the day is always a treasure, no matter where the child learns.  
Show the child how to open up the shoe wide enough for the foot to enter.  Use language while instructing, "this is the tongue of the sneaker, these are the laces, this is the sole."  I like to put of plenty of lacing, bead stringing, and tying materials in September with this aim.  Learning to tie takes a while, but starting while the child is a good idea.  

My favorite Open and Close activity for back to school is practicing with actual lunch containers.  Gather together an empty lunch box for the child to explore, open, close, and pack up by themselves.  Consider adding a napkin, thermos, drink container, and small tupperware-type containers.  Adding twist, snap, or peel away lids provide opportunities for expanding hand strength and independence.  Many schools are adopting a trash-less lunch policy to cut back on waste at lunch time which can mean more small containers for lunch.  Believe me (as someone who opens 20 thermoses a day at school) your child's teacher will thank you!

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday Hike

At this point, the girls discussed that this park is WAY better than any playground they've seen. Ah, I love Saturdays. We are now pouring over our leaves we found on the ground, matching them to our botany charts. THAT'S Montessori Science for you!
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Parts of a Bulb Plant

This is an activity I made using a flower press on a bulb my daughter found in the garden. She was immediately attached to it, wanting to bring it to the nature table.  After pressing for two weeks, I laminated and scanned the image.  It pressed very nicely, so I added words to name parts. By printing it twice, I made a simple nomenclature work to go along with our botany studies and gardening afternoons. Feel free to save the image for yourself.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday's Montessori Moment: Mystery Number & Back To School Photos

Click here to see the full post over at Mommy Moment:  The Mystery Number

The girls are all officially back to school!  Bean is in Kindergarten, full day at our town's wonderful public school.  Pumpkin and Peanut are at Playschool, just four mornings a week.  Our afternoons are still FULL of Montessori fun!  I guess it's what happens when your Mom is a Montessori Teacher, and your are a little girl full of, I have it good :)

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Friday, September 9, 2011

First Official Montessori Day!

Well, this was our first official day working with Montessori Materials- just the twins and I.  It went very well, but I was so busy I didn't take many photos.  I put out some new Practical Life Trays, which were a huge hit.  We also revealed our mystery number (3), and worked a LOT with the fall basket of sets.  They used the sandpaper letters, and sensorial materials together throughout the day.  A wonderful little afternoon with just the littles.  Big sister should be home soon!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How to Talk to Children about 9/11

I find it important to share this article I found from Chick Moorman, author of The Spirit Whisperer: Teachers Who Nourish A Child's Spirit. 

The 9/11 Attacks: The Do's and Don'ts of Talking to Children about that Tragic Day
Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman
This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The long awaited memorial at "ground zero" in New York City is being unveiled amid sighs of relief for some and controversy for others. As the media coverage refocuses our thoughts on the events of that dreadful day strong emotions could arise and many will be reminded of similar feelings they had ten years ago.
The tragic loss for many families coupled with the intense emotion felt by people across the country makes talking about 9/11 difficult. Parents are faced with the task of conveying the events of 9/11 while at the same time managing their own feelings. Many parents want to talk to their children about what happened that day, but are not sure what to say or even where to begin.
Following are some do's and don'ts that we offer as a guide for those who want to talk with their children about this tragic historical event that has altered the course of our country forever.
Do your research. Prior to talking to your children, get clear about the facts. Make sure you are providing accurate information about the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath. Much has been said about this important time in our history by friends, neighbors, celebrities and politicians that is steeped in emotion and opinion. Avoid the perpetuation of myths and opinions. Stay accurate in your presentation of the 9/11 history. For information about the 9/11 attacks and the 911 Memorial
Do respect emotions. Your children will have a variety of different emotions depending on there are age, interest level and family ties. Some children were not born when the attacks occurred and may have little or no emotional connection to the events. Others will have lost a parent, family member or friend. There is no statute of limitations on grieving. Being sad and crying ten years later is permissible. So is showing little interest or emotion. Allow your child to express whatever emotion he or she is feeling.
Don't force a discussion. If your child shows little or no interest in a 9/11 discussion, let it go for now. Wait for a time that is better for him. Your children will let you know when they are ready to discuss a topic. They will do that by showing a slight interest and by asking preliminary questions. Use those signals as a sign that the time could be ripe for engaging in a discussion on this important historical event.
Do as much listening as you do talking. Ask your child what she knows about the 9/11 attacks and the memorial. Her current knowledge on the topic will act as a guide for you as to what information or emotional support to provide next. Ask your child what she would like to know and search for the answers together. Take a virtual tour on the 911 memorial website (cited above) and perhaps even plan a visit to the memorial or the museum when it opens next year.
Don't equate the terrorist attacks with the Muslim community. The terrorists were extremists and had very little, if anything at all, to do with Muslim families around the world and the ideals by which they live. Our country has a rich heritage that is built around the contributions of many cultures and many religions. Having an attitude of tolerance and acceptance is an important strength and defining value of our nation. We are all more alike than different. A 9/11 remembrance is an important time to teach children tolerance and how to identify prejudice when it surfaces.
Do reassure safety. The world we live in is filled with an abundance of safety, peace and serenity. It is a safe world full of people that are kind and gentle. Yes, there are some extremists who plot to do us harm. Do not dwell on the negative few. Point instead to all the safeguards that keep our children unharmed and reassure them of the safety in their immediate surroundings. Identify the people who help keep them safe as well as some rules and regulations that have been established to do the same.
Do focus on the helpers. Helpers always come. Focus on them. On that horrible day ten years ago, firefighters, emergency rescue crews, police officers and people off the street entered the buildings in an attempt to help others. Some of those helpers gave their lives in that effort. Many first responders are still experiencing health problems, including cancer, as a result of their involvement. They are and always will be HEROES. Whenever they are in need, encourage your children to look for the helpers.  Again, helpers always come.
Do limit TV and internet exposure. The amount of media time devoted to the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath is likely to increase over the next few days. Guard your children from overexposure by limiting their access. View programs together and discuss what you are watching. Visit websites with your children if they are interested in additional information. Talk, share, evaluate, debrief the content and set limits on the exposure time as well as type of content viewed. Turn off the TV. Shut down the computer. Enough is enough. You will know when that is for your children.
Do affirm life. In every tragedy there are signs of growth. Show your children evidence of the resiliency of the human spirit and how life itself finds a way to grow and learn, even in the face of the most tragic of events. As a living reminder of this, the 9/11 Memorial has over four hundred trees planted throughout the site. Life survives. New growth is present. Focus on life and growth with your children. Keep learning, growing  and moving forward as a family.
The depth of the pain and heartache of the 9/11 tragedy is not measurable. Yet, the horrific event can serve as a useful purpose if we use it to help our children learn about feelings, look for the helpers, develop tolerance and appreciate the connectedness of all human beings. As we remember the over two thousand individuals who lost their lives that day, let us move forward with peace and acceptance in our hearts.
Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman are the authors of Parent Talk Essentials: How to Talk to Kids about Divorce, Sex, Money, School, and Being Responsible in Today’s World. Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman are two of the world’s foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. For more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their websites or