Friday, October 30, 2009

So Much to Say...

...so little time!

I have missed this blog and I have missed all of you!

I have so many things to write about that it feels like climbing a mountain to catch everyone up, so I'll just try to hit the important parts and then (hopefully) fill in the details later.

Miss C and her two boys continue to come faithfully on Monday and Wednesday mornings, and her 4yo continues to be my star student (he chooses his work, diligently completes it, and puts it away - oh, if only my 5yo and 3yo would work so well!!).

We attend our homeschool co-op on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Through the co-op, we've met another family with four kids (a 7-1/2yo boy, a 6yo girl, a 4-1/2yo boy, and a 2yo boy) who have started joining us at least two and sometimes three days a week on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons. That means we're doing Montessori work up to 5 days a week, which makes me so happy!

The 2yo takes a nap in our Pack-n-Play while my 1-1/2yo (and sometimes my 3yo) naps. Maybe there's something about doing work for another person (as opposed to your own mother) that makes kids respond so well, but these kids are fantastic, too. The wonderful thing is that, because my 5yo tends to "play up," they provide peer pressure for her to do her work and do it well - love it, love it, love it!

Also, because the little kids are sleeping, both Miss M and I stay in the Montessori room with all of the school-aged kids. Their family uses a completely different curriculum, so Miss M often brings work for my daughter to do, which I think is a total win-win. I believe wholeheartedly in the Montessori method, but I sometimes worry that my daughter is "over" it. Anyone else out there experience that?

For instance, when working on addition and subtraction, my 5yo will shrug off every offer of finger charts or other manipulatives, saying, "I can do it in my head." She can do the math in her head, but it's hard for her to get in a flow when she has to think about each problem so hard. (She's doing addition with carrying and subtraction with borrowing, which adds a whole other dimension of difficulty.) Maybe I should be cheering her "passage to abstraction"? In the meantime, though, I love having a Montessori-free outlet for her - if she so chooses - on the days when Miss M's family is here.

That's it for now, I guess. Thanks to all of you for sticking with me! As I said, I truly miss this blog, and I hope to be able to post more often.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Plan - Co-Op Days

Before school started, Miss C and I got together to make a plan for our co-op days. This is how we laid things out:

Circle Time:
- Pledge
- National Anthem
- Welcome Songs
- Calendar
- Circle Time theme
- ASL letter of the day
- Review previous letters learned
- ASL sign of the day (related to our Circle Time theme)
- Review previous signs learned
- Introduce any new work on the shelves
- Pray
Work period
Snack
Work period
Jobs
Read one story and verse from My ABC Bible Verses

As you can see, we've added a little bit of sign language. Miss C's son loves learning sign language and already has a pretty big sign vocabulary, so we're going to implement that vocabulary further.

I also plan to introduce a daily yoga pose, which I'll post about soon.

We're going to start My ABC Bible Verses all over again this year. I looked around online and found many, many sets of Bible verses for each letter of the alphabet, but when you take the verses out of context and just have the kids memorize them, they don't make a whole lot of sense. That book has so many valuable lessons that Miss C and I decided to follow it again this year.

Yesterday was our first day, and things went very well. I'll try to post pictures soon!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Plan - Circle Time

Here is how I plan to run Circle Time:

Pledge of Allegiance
National Anthem

Sit Down Song:
Tapping at the window, tapping at the door.
Everybody sits down when we count to 4.
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 !

Songs:
[To the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb"]
We welcome you to school today,

School today, School today,

We welcome you to school today,

To learn and grow and play.

We're glad to have you here today,

Here today, here today.

We're glad to have you here today.

Yes, it's a special day!


[To the tune of "Skip To My Lou"]
Hello everybody, how do you do? (Wave at children)

Hello everybody, how do you do?

Hello everybody, how do you do?

How do you do this morning?


I'm fine (point to self), I hope you are, too (point to kids)

I'm fine, I hope you are, too

I'm fine, I hope you are, too

I hope you're fine, this morning!


Turn to your partner, shake their hand

Turn to your partner, shake their hand

Turn to your partner, shake their hand

Shake their hand this morning!


[To the tune of "Good Night Ladies"]
Hello, (child's name); Hello, (child's name);

Hello, (child's name), it's nice to see you today.

[go around the circle and sing for each person]

Calendar:
Review month (Sing “Months of the Year” song)
Review calendar day
Review year
Review day of the week (Sing “Days of the Week” song)
Review season (Sing “Seasons” song)
Discuss the day's weather

Circle Time theme

Close Circle Time in prayer

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Can't Believe I'm Saying This, But...

...I think I'm almost ready!

School doesn't start for 17 hours, and the Montessori room is pretty much ready to go! I have a few more things to do (I have to finalize my circle time plan for tomorrow, I have to put the finishing touches on a couple more PL activities, and I have to make a poster and cupcakes for my middle daughter's third birthday tomorrow), but I'd say I'm about 97.5% done! As a procrastinator extraordinaire, this is a major accomplishment for me. Typically, I'd be working until 3:00 in the morning (rationalizing it by saying that I'm a night-owl, anyway), and I'd go to bed disappointed and kicking myself because I hadn't planned ahead.

So instead, I'm going to toot my own horn for a second (please bear with me :). I often get discouraged, thinking that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks," that I'll be a procrastinator forever, that at this point in my life I just am who I am and I will never improve. But this is real, actual, visual proof that I CAN change and I CAN do better. Woohoo!

Here are some shots to document what I hope will mark the end of my procrastination days:









If only I had taken some "before" pictures so you could see what the room looked like when I started (let's just say that Maria Montessori would have been mortified!). More about how I managed this miracle transformation coming soon...

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Plan

Here in Northern Virginia, school starts next Tuesday. I've been busy lesson planning and getting everything set up, and I'm feeling pretty good about how things are coming together.

This is how our Kindergarten year is going to look:

On Mondays and Wednesdays, Miss C and her two sons are going to join us for Montessori work. I will lead my soon-to-be 5- and 3-year old daughters and Miss C's just-turned 4-year-old son in the Montessori classroom, while Miss C plays with her soon-to-be 2-year-old son and my 17-month-old daughter in the playroom. It's a small crew, and I was hoping more kids might be able to join us, but we've yet to find another family that is interested. As things stand right now, I think the setup will work out great - I was just kind of hoping that we could find a family with a kindergartner so that my oldest daughter would have someone to work with/challenge her (last year, one of the wonderful things about Miss D's son was that he and my daughter were such nice complements to one another - she excelled at reading while he excelled at math, etc.).

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my daughter is going to take classes at a homeschooling cooperative hosted by a local church. On Tuesdays, she'll take an Elementary Bible class (at the same time the church hosts a Mom's Bible Study with free childcare!), and on Thursdays, she'll take a Beginning Art class and an Elementary Science class.

On Fridays, we'll do Montessori work or we'll take a field trip somewhere.

Through my husband's work, we have access to one Rosetta Stone language (for free!), so we're going to learn Spanish as a family.

I think it's shaping up to be a great year. If you're in the Northern Virginia area and would like more information about possibly joining our little co-op, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email through the "Contact Us" link on the left.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What's the Goal?

It's officially official - after considering every Christian/secular, Montessori/traditional, private/public kindergarten within a VERY wide radius of where we live - including a beautiful Christian Montessori school 46.7 miles away (seriously) - we have decided to homeschool for kindergarten - hooray!! I'm giddy with excitement and nervous all at the same time! (What? Me nervous? ;)

In considering all of our options, my husband and I started thinking about our goals for raising/educating our children: Is it to raise independent, "normalized" children through Montessori? Is it to raise "socialized" kids? Is it to raise the "best educated" kids? Is it to raise well behaved/well disciplined kids? Is it to raise kids who will be accepted to the best colleges and grad schools? Is it to raise kids that perform well on standardized tests?

Not that all of those things are mutually exclusive, but after all was said and done and the dust had settled somewhat, we were left with a mission statement of sorts:

Our goal in raising and educating our children is to raise adults who love, trust, and obey God and who have the academic and extracurricular foundation they need to pursue God's calling for their lives.

After considering all of our options, we've decided that homeschooling using the Montessori method is the means that best helps us reach that end (for kindergarten, at least; we plan to reevaluate at the end of the year to determine our course going forward).

What do you think? Do any of you have similar goals/mission statements for your kids' education?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hook, Line, and Sinker

Well don't I feel foolish...

Alert reader Jen informed me that the chameleon video the girls and I adored so much was actually a fake. Oh well.

Apparently I've been watching way too much Max and Ruby (have you seen that one, the one with the chameleon?).

Thanks for letting me know, Jen, and sorry to all of you out there for spreading false information. Mea culpa!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Capitalizing

That sounds much more opportunistic in print than it did in my head...

Anyway, recently I'd grown weary of our morning and bedtime routines. Not so much the routines themselves, but the constant reminders to brush your teeth, brush your teeth, brush your teeth, put on your pajamas, put on your pajamas, put on your pajamas!!!

I read Stephanie's posts about her success with Goal For It, and I considered trying it. In the end, I decided that Goal For It, while really cool, wasn't all that different from our Melissa & Doug Responsibility Chart. And the M&D chart, while neat, wasn't really working for us for a variety of reasons (the most basic being that we have only one chart, which caused problems because my two-year-old wanted to add her accomplishments to it, too). I probably could have figured out a work-around on that one until it occurred to me that the reason the M&D chart wasn't working for us - and why the Goal For It chart probably wouldn't work for us, either - was me! When reflecting on Stephanie's posts, it became clear to me that Goal For It worked for her because SHE was committed to it, not just her daughter.

Goal For It is the kind of thing my oldest daughter lives for, but me? Not so much. I'm not a structured person, I don't have a lot of things that I do habitually each day, I have trouble making schedules and plans and sticking to them...and I just knew that if I created a Goal For It chart that would require me to sit down with my kids, log in, go through each person's tasks each day, yada, yada, yada, it'd be just another system that we started and then fizzled out on - not the kind of example I wanted to set for my girls.

Then I thought about Practical Life activities and the gusto with which my girls do them. My two-year-old, in particular, is meticulous about doing each step in order and even reminds me when I forget steps. I decided to take advantage of their enthusiasm and put all of their morning and bedtime responsibilities squarely on their shoulders, with no check-marks or tallies or systems required of me. In the end, I created a list of things they should do each morning when they wake up and each night before they go to bed. I used clip art so that my two-year-old could "read" her chart, and I posted the charts in each of the girls' bedrooms.

The difference has been astounding. My oldest daughter wakes up and diligently does all of the items on her chart without any nagging/prodding/begging from me. My two-year-old needs a little bit more help (afterall, even with a step stool, she still can't reach the faucet), and I am more than happy to help out. But I cannot tell you what a difference the charts have made in their attitudes! Instead of doing something just because Mommy tells them to, they do it because it is their responsibility. Bedtime is still not 100% perfect, but it's running much more smoothly than it had been. Instead of constantly being after them to to brush their teeth, go potty, wash their hands, etc., the conversation goes more like this: "Great, now that your pajamas are on, what's the next thing on your chart?" See the difference?

The most amazing change has been morning, by far. One of the girls' nighttime tasks is to pick out their clothes for the next day. Then, in the morning, one of their tasks is to get dressed. So by 7:30 in the morning I have three kids dressed and ready to roll - how empowering is that?!

If you'd like to try something similar, you can download the morning and nighttime charts I made. I uploaded Word versions of the files so that you can change them as you like (for instance, I don't have "take a bath" on the girls' charts, because I consider that to be my responsibility, not theirs).

If you have a system that works for you, I'd love to hear more about it. And if you decide to try out the charts, please let me know how they work for your family!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Holy Cow

I hope everyone is having a nice summer. Ours is flying by, and I can't seem to find time to write all of the posts I have floating around in my head. In the meantime, I just had to make sure everyone saw this.

Jonathan Feagle at Cultivating Dharma made his elementary math album available for download (for free!) online. It's called Math Album, First Part, so I don't know if that means there's more to come, but this is years worth of material to work with.

THANK YOU!!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Exception Words

I recently posted about wanting to make sight word drawers for my oldest daughter. I consider sight words to be those peculiar words in the English language that cannot be sounded out phonetically and must be memorized (in other words, recognized on "sight"), such as one, two, once, what, the, etc. I did some research into sight words, and I kept coming across the Dolch word list, which is a list of the 220 words that appear most frequently in the English language. The theory behind the Dolch list is that if a child can memorize those 220 words, they'll be able to recognize (and therefore "read") 50 - 70 percent of the words that appear in books. After going through the list, though, I quickly realized that it wasn't what I needed at all. The list is made up of high frequency words, so it includes simple phonetic words like cat, bed, ran, had, has, got, on, etc. I guess the Dolch list is used in schools that don't teach phonics?

Anyway, after doing a bit more research, I realized that what I actually needed was a list of "exception words," or words that defy simple phonics. I made this list into a table, and then I cut and laminated everything. You can download a .pdf of the table I made here. If you would like to add/remove items from the list, you can download a Word version of it here. My list is a little different than the one I found online, just because I took some words off (not really ready to go into Nazis with my four-year-old yet), but you can always go through the list and amend my Word version of the table as you like.

Coming soon...the farm!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Materials, Beads, and Printers

Koko's Mama emailed me with some questions, and I hope she won't mind if I use this forum to answer them, because they may be helpful to others, as well.

First, she said:

I purchased from IFIT and Adena, but I was wondering about Alison's.

To date, I have bought all of our materials from Montessori Outlet, so I don't have any experience with IFIT, Adena, or Alison's. You can read more about our materials here.

Next, she asked:

I was seriously thinking about [buying] the bead cabinet. Is this something you are thinking about too or do you think there are cheaper/better options out there that teach similar concepts?

This is something I've been thinking about a lot. We're at a crossroads right now, and we need to decide whether to stick with Montessori or start with a new curriculum. I love, love, love Montessori teaching methods, particularly the math manipulatives. We have the hundred chain and thousand chain, and we have hundred squares and thousand cubes, but we don't have the bead cabinet yet (units 1 - 9 and 10). If I decide to make another big purchase of Montessori materials, the bead cabinet will be the first thing on my list. One thing I've noticed while shopping around for them: different suppliers use different colors of beads, so if you want all of your beads to be the same color, be sure to buy all of your bead materials from one source.

As for cheaper/better options, I haven't explored any yet, but I've heard a lot about Math U See. Anyone else out there know much about it?

Finally, Koko's Mama asked:

What color printer do you recommend? I look at everything you download and since I don't have a color printer as of yet, I wonder if you are happy with yours.

We have a Canon Pixma 620 that my husband bought for super-cheap on Black Friday, and so far I've been very happy with it. It's a photo printer, but it's also a regular printer. Office Depot and Staples periodically run buy one/get two free (!!) deals on photo paper, and that's the paper I use when I print out picture-heavy materials. Otherwise, I just use regular paper. I try to laminate everything (I have a Scotch-brand thermal laminator that I bought brand new off craigslist for $10. It was a bulk version originally purchased from Costco, so it came with a bunch of laminating sheets.)

Hope that helps! If any of you have any comments/suggestions for Koko's Mama, please feel free to leave them in the comments section (thanks!).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Chameleon Fun

We were at the library last week, when a book on chameleons caught my daughter's eye. We brought it home with us, but I thought it was just OK - it didn't really do chameleons justice with respect to their camouflaging abilities.

Then, out of the blue, my mom emailed me this video, which my daughters and I have enjoyed watching over and over (and over!):



Awesome!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Worst Blogger Ever

Back in April, N at The Learning Ark gave me an award...



...which is ironic, considering that I've been the world's worst blogger lately. Nonetheless, I'm very grateful and honored to receive this award (especially coming from a "real" Montessori teacher).

Many of you have emailed me with questions or left questions in the comments, and I plan to get to all of them.

First, to wrap up some unfinished business, Spesamore Academy asked me if I could share the last three verses from My ABC Bible Verses, and I'm happy to oblige:

X: "eXcept ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3

Y: "You are my friends if you do whatever I command you." John 15:14

Z: "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house." Luke 19:5

I know I've said this before, but I highly recommend this book. Sure, the stories can be a little cheesy and Pollyanna (oh, if only all children could be like Missy and Bill!), but they certainly model the way I would like my kids to behave; and after reading the stories enough times, I can use examples from the book during "teachable moments" with my daughters ("Remember the time Missy was in the grocery store with her mom..."). Plus (and I know I've said this before too) the kids really did learn these verses, even the two-year-olds (and we mommies learned the verses right along side them :)

The book is well thought-out, and the verses build on each other (the story for verse S might refer back to the verses for stories A and I, for example). I found a list of verses for each letter of the alphabet here, but the book also puts the verses into context, which makes them easier to understand and therefore easier to memorize.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Field Day Fun

Here are some more pictures from our last day of school.

Miss D and Miss K set up most of the activities, which included three-legged races...




...sack races...


...soccer relays...


...parachute fun...


...water and sponge relays...


...and water balloon tosses:


We ended the day with a fun picnic, including oreos (gasp!)...


...and popsicles, which were a huge hit...




...especially with the teething babies:




We had a blast! (Or should I say, we had a field day!)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Class Photo

We had a great last day, with tons of Field Day fun. Before all of the festivities, my husband got the whole crew together for a class picture:



From left to right we have me with my three girls, Miss D with her two daughters and son, Miss K with her two girls, and Miss C with her two boys.

Field Day photos coming soon - we had a blast!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Year in Review

It doesn't seem possible, but tomorrow is our last day of school!

Today for Circle Time, Miss K's theme was "The Year in Review," and she and the kids went over all of the topics we've discussed over these many weeks.

We have a Field Day planned for tomorrow, complete with a three-legged race, a water balloon toss, and face painting. We'll end the day with a picnic at a nearby playground.

I hope to have many pictures to share, as well as reflections on the past year.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wikisori

Wow! This morning I was looking something up in Google and came across Wikisori.

Did I already say, "Wow!" ?

Wow!

I've been thinking about this for some time - how frustrating it is that I have all of these links to all of these different Montessori resources and that it would be helpful to have them all in one place. Well, this is that place! Anyone can join and contribute links, materials, videos, etc., and the goal is to become a sort of "one-stop shopping" for all things Montessori. I've added it to my sidebar. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Busy, Busy

On Monday, things were buzzing in the classroom, especially as a result of this little guy:


Miss C's son has taken his classroom work to a "whole nother level." He chooses his work, diligently finishes it, puts it away, chooses his next work, diligently finishes it, puts it away, lather, rinse, repeat. On this day, he chose the hanging bead stair (above)...

...this sensorial puzzle (check out that rabbit!)...


...the open and close boxes...


...pouring rice...


...another sensorial puzzle...


...grinding spices with a mortar and pestle...


...and numerous other activities that I missed because I just wasn't quick enough with my camera!

(By the way, the spice grinding activity, which I saw at The Wonder Years, has been the most popular PL activity in the classroom for about five weeks running now. I started out using a whole black peppercorn/coriander blend that I happened to have in my spice cabinet, and now we've moved on to allspice berries, which I also happened to have. After taking another quick look in there, I've also found celery seeds and dried whole thyme, which I'll put out over the next couple of days.)

Miss D's son busied himself with the stamp game...


...and more word drawers (he's definitely in a sensitive period for reading and writing right now):


My daughter worked on the map of Asia...


...she spontaneously grabbed the dustpan and broom to clean up some crumbs...


...and then she and Miss D's son played dominoes, which is their current favorite activity.


Initially the dominoes were on the shelf for domino math, but they played one time a couple weeks ago, and now they play daily. I know dominoes isn't a traditional Montessori activity, but I don't mind it because my set goes up to double 12. I love that they can look at a domino and say, "That's the 11/6," or "I have a double 9." (In the meantime, I'm looking over their shoulders, trying to count the dots :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Catching Up and Earth Day Fun

I haven't been posting about school much lately, but we've been meeting faithfully and getting quite a lot accomplished.

Among the many Circle Time themes Miss K has introduced since my last post (cringe) - including Spring, community helpers, Palm Sunday, and Easter - Miss K's Circle Time theme for last week was the zoo. I used it as an opportunity to introduce all of the lessons I recently bought/printed out from Montessori for Everyone: Living vs. Non-Living, The Five Six Kingdoms, Plant vs. Animal, Vertebrate vs. Invertebrate, and the five categories of Vertebrates (amphibian, bird, fish, mammal, and reptile). We also took a class field trip to the zoo - a little crazy, considering we were visiting the National Zoo during high tourist season, but still very fun and memorable.

Miss K's Circle Time theme for this week was Earth Day. To celebrate, Miss K got each of the kids their very own terra cotta pot and packet of seeds (which they chose at random), and today they decorated their pots and planted their seeds.









Over the past many weeks, we've continued to read and enjoy My ABC Bible Verses. The verses and stories we've read:

T: "Thou shalt not steal." Exodus 20:15
U: "Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks." Psalm 75:1
V: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on Me hath everlasting life." John 6:47
W: "We love Him because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19

I continue to be amazed at how easy it is for the kids to learn these Bible verses. At the end of each school day, we go through the alphabet and say the verses one by one, and even though we're all the way up to W, with only very little assistance, they can say each verse from memory!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Clearer Picture

With kindergarten looming on the horizon for my oldest daughter, a (somewhat) clearer picture of next year has started to emerge. For various reasons, both Miss D and Miss K (and their respective children, of course) will not be returning next year. That leaves my family and Miss C's. If nothing else changes between now and then, this September we would have two adults and five kids ages 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1, or three kids in the Montessori room and two kids in the playroom, which sounds...totally doable.

Without Miss K to lesson plan and run Circle Time, I'm considering purchasing this curriculum. Has anyone out there tried it?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Still Here...

...and working harder than ever (and therefore not blogging much at all).

My oldest daughter will be five this September, and it's looking more and more likely that we'll homeschool for kindergarten (I'm touring a Montessori school next week, and if that's not a good fit, we'll probably homeschool). (I just re-read that last sentence - how's that for commitment? :)

The possibility of homeschooling has forced me to reexamine our current setup and has revealed many deficiencies, which I hope to blog about soon. In the meantime, I've been trying to finish up some outstanding projects and create some new ones.

I've finally finished making all of the word drawers from Laura at My Montessori Journey's system. I've had the three-letter word drawers out on the shelves since day one (drawers 1 - 16), but the four- and five-letter words with digraphs have been long overdue, and I've finally finished them. I have 60 word drawer compartments (two sets of drawers with 30 drawers each, like this), but there are only 38 sets of words in Laura's system. Rather than let those 22 drawers sit empty, I've decided to fill them with sight words (words that must be memorized because they cannot be sounded out phonetically). I'll upload those files as soon as I'm finished creating them (read an excellent post about introducing sight words here).

I have many, many other projects in the works, and I'll try to get a post up each time I finish something new.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I Heart Blog Awards

I recently received two different blog awards - thanks! :)

First, Gigi from Montessori Spanish and Amber from Hey, I'm Just the Nanny gave me the Lemons to Lemonade award:



Next, Basia at United Teaching gave me the I Heart Your Blog award:



The Lemons to Lemonade award is for bloggers "who have a good attitude or who show gratitude," and I'm passing it - and the I Heart Your Blog award - along to bloggers whose positive attitude always comes shining through in their posts:

Julie at Havin' Fun Yet
Xia at Grillos y Canarios
Hannah at Old Creek Montessori
Adventures in Montessori
Little Hands, Big Work
Amber at Adventures of a Rainbow Mama

Thanks very much to Gigi, Amber, and Basia for nominating me. If you're nominated, you can...

1. Put the logos on your blog or post.
2. Nominate other blogs that you enjoy.
3. Link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link this post to the person from whom you received your award.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Have You Read This Book?

I stumbled upon this post today at Starry Sky Ranch. Midway through the post, the author mentions a book called A Montessori Mother by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, which was written in 1912. It's out of print, but I was thrilled to find the book in its entirety (library card pockets and all) through Google Book Search.

After a quick perusal, I find I can't "put it down" (what's the equivalent expression when you're reading a book online?). The author gives very detailed descriptions of a day she spent in one of Maria Montessori's Casas, and I find it fascinating. I hope you enjoy it too!

Monday, March 23, 2009

I Surrender (A Little Bit)

OK, obviously not much blogging going on lately, and here's why: I've been spending the majority of my free time trying to make new materials for the classroom. I say "trying" because sometimes - with some things - I tend to agonize over every single detail, to the point that I get nothing done. Anyone else out there like that?

Case in point: I recently decided to create a biology/zoology lesson on the five different categories of animals (mammal, bird, reptile, fish, amphibian), which made me realize that I hadn't done a lesson on vertebrates vs. invertebrates, which made me realize I hadn't done a lesson on plants vs. animals, which made me realize I hadn't done a lesson on the five six kingdoms, which made me realize I hadn't even done a lesson on living vs. non-living things.

So, I sat down to create some living/non-living sort cards, and I was literally paralyzed. I would be struck by this great idea - I know! Include oranges growing on an orange tree as "living" and then orange juice in a glass as "non-living" - how cool! But then I'd read somewhere that "living" means anything that has once lived (so lumber is considered "living"), and then I'd get stuck trying to come up with other great ideas. You can see how absolutely nothing would get done (it's a sickness - truly).

Fortunately, liberatingly, I saw this post at The Wonder Years, a blog that I totally admire because its author is a trained Montessori teacher who just seems to have it all together - you know? But wait a second - she BOUGHT pre-made cards?! She didn't make them herself?! You can do that?! Duh.

I spent about $35 (gasp!), but I think the investment will prove to be worth every penny (not to mention all of the agony and hand-wringing it will spare me, and, consequently, all of you :). I got living/non-living cards, the six kingdoms nomenclature cards, the plant/animal cards, the vertebrate/invertebrate cards, the five types of vertebrate cards, and the eight types of invertebrate cards - definitely a beautiful set of materials that will form the basis of many new lessons. Now I'm off to print/cut/laminate/cut, but at least now something will get done - how exciting! Progress!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Controlled Chaos

On Monday, Miss D's son, Miss K's daughter, and my daughter decided to build a pink tower/brown stair extension, and then they flipped the brown prisms on their ends and built a brown skyscraper. (Find pictures of pink tower/brown stair extensions here.)

Then the building got...interesting:



At first I was hesitant, and then I became complicit. First of all, it's not like there were any other students in the classroom waiting to use the materials (Miss C's crew wasn't with us, and the 2-year-olds were otherwise occupied). Second, I realized I'd be able to do a three-period lesson on a lot of the things the kids got out. Third, everything they got out would have to be put away, which is a learning experience in and of itself. Finally, the kids worked together so nicely that it was hard to deny them.

Thus, "What else can we use, Miss Jennie?"

"Why don't you grab the geometric solids?"
"Why don't you get the hundred squares and thousand cubes?"
"Why don't you use the knobless cylinders?"
"Why don't you grab the binomial and trinomial cubes?" (Cue the mad scientist laughter - bwah hah hah hah hah!!)

In the end, the kids ended up building with - and then properly using - the pink tower, brown stair, long red rods, red and blue rods, color box 2, the geometric solids, all five colors of sorting bears, the baric tablets, the sound cylinders, all four sets of knobless cylinders, the hundred squares and thousand cubes, dominoes, and the binomial and trinomial cubes - not bad for a day's work!

For PE, Miss D led the kids in bowling and calisthenics.

We closed with the "T" verse and story from My ABC Bible Verses: "Thou shalt not steal," Exodus 20:15.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Bank Game, Explained

In response to my question about the Bank Game, N at The Learning Ark posted this tutorial. All I can say is, "Thanks!!"

In addition to her very helpful explanation of how to use the bank game, she also explains when to use it:

Before using this the children should have already had plenty of practice with the stamp game, dot exercise, small bead frame, large bead frame, checker board and flat bead frame.

My daughter is still working with the stamp game, so we have some work to do before we're ready for this activity.

As N points out in her post, this version of the bank game is different than the bank game played with the golden bead material.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Reunited!

Miss D's crew joined us today, 4-week-old baby and all!

Miss D's son and my daughter did the stamp game together...


...and then they did two sides of this six-sided puzzle:


Nicely done!


The kids were very excited to be back together, and it - ummm - showed. To try to rein things in a little bit, I taped a blue line on the floor, and the kids took turns walking the line:


We need to work on other people's personal space a little bit:


(I guess it would help if I put down the camera :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pics

Here are some pictures from preschool the past two days:

The seldom-used open and close boxes:

I think I got too cute with this activity, which is why it's not used more. I put the containers in their own treasure chest with a snapping hinge closure (Get it? The container for the open/close activity has an intriguing open/close mechanism itself! Aren't I clever?) But because the box sits closed on the shelf, the kids aren't often inspired to use it.

I may change this up a bit, because the containers themselves are pretty cool. The little heart-shaped box has a hinged lid that snaps shut with a very satisfying "thwack," if you know what I mean. The lid on the star-shaped box is held on with magnets that are embedded in the points; if the points aren't aligned properly, the lid won't stay on, making this box a little more challenging. The apothecary jar (lower right) is just fun to open and close, because the wire hinge is a little counterintuitive. There's also a hermetically sealed glass jar and some other, simpler containers.

Using a handheld broom and dustpan to sweep up pompoms:


Bead sequencing:

(When I present this activity, I show the kids how to hold the rod in their left hand and read the pattern on the sequence card from left to right. Miss C's son did the activity properly and then switched the rod to his right hand to admire his work.)

The stamp game:

(Find a lovely stamp game paper grid download here - thanks!)

Short bead stair and hanger:

(Download coloring extensions here and here.)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Preschool Update

In the past three weeks, because of various sick days...snow days...national holidays...new babies being born...we've only met for preschool three times. We've had good, productive days, but I want to dedicate this post to the really cool Circle Time lessons Miss K put together to teach the kids about keeping their teeth clean and healthy.

She gave the kids some background information about teeth - how many, what they're made of, little teeth vs. big teeth, etc. She explained why it's so important to keep our teeth clean and why crunchy fruits and veggies are so much better for our teeth than sugary snacks or sodas. After explaining that the kids should brush their teeth two times a day and floss daily, she showed them these videos on proper tooth brushing technique.

Next, to illustrate the affect that sugary foods have on our teeth, she dunked a hard boiled egg in soda and left it to soak overnight. The next day, the egg looked like this:



We used fluoride toothpaste and a toothbrush to brush the egg...

...and voila! A nice clean, shiny, bright tooth egg:


On another day, Miss K brought in a set of tooth molds (yes, those are her husband's molds that their family dentist let them have!), and the kids took turns brushing them with proper brushing motions:


Also, she put together a "Happy Tooth/Sad Tooth" sort:


Finally, for Arts & Crafts one day, the kids used a "brush" (a paintbrush) to turn a yellow tooth white:


Once again, very nicely done, Miss K!

Over the course of the three weeks, we did the "R" and "S" stories and verses from My ABC Bible Verses:

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy," Exodus 20:8

"Seek the Lord while he may be found," Isaiah 55:6

Sorry for the delay between posts! Lots of good stuff going on - hopefully I'll get to blog about it all soon!!