Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lunch Box Ideas: Healthy Meals for Schools

Since the kids and I have gone back to school, planning and sending in healthy lunches and snacks are quite a challenge.  I first started back in Sept trying to give myself a 30 day challenge.  I soon realized that was not about to happen with time to take and post photos. So, now many months later, I have enough photos to put together a post and hopefully to inspire some of you to send in healthy lunches.  Much of this stemmed from what I have seen in lunch boxes in the past and present, and wanting to have children eat real food for lunch instead of bars, squeeze pouch foods, goldfish, hot dogs, lunchables, or just same old mac and cheese, day after day.
I post some photos on Facebook when I can rather than waiting for a full post. 

Enjoy and Bon Appetit!

 Fried rice with fruit for snack and an orange.
 Home-made pizza with broccoli and pears.
 Breakfast for lunch with cinnamon swirl break, chicken sausage and half a banana.
 Don't remember, smoked salmon, fresh mango with salad, and yogurt with strawberries, honey and cinnamon for snack.
 Lunch of rice and beans with chicken and veggies with side of fruit.  Snack of grapes, crackers and black olives.
 Snacks of home-made yogurt cups with fruit on the bottom and cinnamon.
 Half hard boiled egg, parsley potatoes, toast and watermelon.  Snack of yogurt cups.
 Snack of home-made hummus, pita and olives.  Lunch of pasta with smoked salmon, herbs, and side of broccoli and grapes.
 Fresh tomato salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
 Grilled cheese with grapes, peach, and tomato salad.
 Home-made spring rolls with chicken and mango, watermelon. Snack of yogurt cups with fruit on bottom.
Home-made hummus with zataar, veggies and quinoa bean crackers.  Don't recall what's in the thermos for lunch.

 Pasta with almond cream sauce and chicken with steamed romanesco. Snack of fig bar and strawberries.
 Korean dumplings with dipping sauce and edamame.
 Snack of bean and rice crackers and green apples.  Lunch of sandwiches and steamed broccoli.
Lunch of bean and rice crackers, celery, store bought chicken and macaroni salad.

Lunch of smoked salmon, olives, crackers, tomatoes, and pears.  Snack of yogurt cups with honey, pears and cinnamon.
Lunch of home-made bacon and broccoli quiche with strawberries.  Snack of labne, cucumbers and fig bar.

Lunch: home-made quiche with cucumbers and pears. Snack yogurt cups with fruit on bottom.
 Kids lunch: grilled cheese with sauted zucchini. My lunch: salad with haloumi cheese, squash and tomatoes with pomegranate dressing.
 Beet cream cheese sandwiches with ham slices.  Fruit salad with raisins.
Lunch: spring rolls with chicken and mango, tomatoes and apples.  Snack: guacamole and chips.

 Beet cream cheese is made with roasted beets, cream cheese and a dash of salt whirled in the food processor.

Home-made chicken "nuggets" or fingers.  Thinly sliced breast meat marinaded in buttermilk, salt, paprika, and herbs overnight.  Drain and dredge in panko and herbs. Pan fry or oven bake. 


Containers and details: 
  • Lunchbots divided containers (bento)- note on that do NOT put them in the dishwasher as the directions say.  Our lids are almost fully peeled of color.  There are many newer styles.  
  • Kids Konserve round containers- great seal and do not leak- for now. Great canvas lunch bags!
  • Glass container are from Crate and Barrel but the lids are now loose, and they do leak. CB lets you buy them individually but Libby brand is available for 8 pack at Target.
  • Plastic ones from Container store and Marshalls. 
  • Thermos brand thermoses available at Target.  I found these the easiest for them to open and kept the food hot.  The newer (cooler ones) are really wide and too hard for the kids.  
  • Target spring/summer collection has cute and small plastic containers that are perfect for snacks and small lunches. 
  • World Market is another great place for tiffins and other small containers.  
  • Planetbox is great if your kid eats out of the container, but for us, this is really inconvenient since the kids take out and plate their food at school. 



Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Montessori Child at School and Home (3-6)



I tried to recap my discussion with parents into their ages, work at school and things they can do at home and things parents can do with their children.  This is really brief and a bit all over, but I hope it can help.

Breakdown of the Primary 3 year cycle in development, abilities, and capabilities.
1st year: (2.5- 4 years)
  • Allow them to do more at home: chores, getting dressed, helping out, cooking, cleaning,
  • Read with them and read at higher levels
  • Don't interrupt focus and concentration
  • Help them develop confidence- key to focus, concentration, and good work habits
  • Children are able to play alone at home and give parents time to work and do adult chores.  They need to become aware of patience.
  • They are being exposed to the sounds, and possibly the 1-10 quantities and symbols
  • As they are closer to 4 they will be introduced to larger quantities and the decimal system possibly with addition
  • Depending on the child they will be exposed to the sounds and the cursive letters that correspond. We introduce writing before reading in Montessori.
  • We help them refine their large and fine motor skills especially their dexterity in the fingers and wrist- it's a preparation for writing. (At home: work with flour to make dough, very different skill than play-dough).
  • We also help them inhibit their movements by teaching them control and coordination.  This helps them with self control.
2nd year: (4-5 years)
  • They are internalizing their work, don't push
  • May not be as focused at school, but they are learning from the others
  • Quantities, number symbols, large quantities, addition, and possibly subtraction will be introduced (depending on the child).
  • There is a lot of repetition, this helps "incarnate" their knowledge.  The repetition and the material gives them a firm grasp of the concepts so that once the next lesson is given, they are ready.
  • They will be working with the golden beads for a long time, maps, and other sensorial/ exploration work.
  • The moveable alphabet and beginning of writing is introduced along with phonograms (2 sounds creating a third "ch")
  • many are straddling the younger years with the readiness for maturity
  • Allow for independence
  • Introduce them to the concept of consequences and follow through
  • Implement chores, rules, and agreed upon consequences before incidents occur
  • Read with them and help them recognize their sounds and numbers (when presented)
  • Help them become patient and understanding by not giving into them or turning to them when they demand your attention
  • Start game nights, family outings, family dinners and cooking

3rd year: (mostly ages 5+)
  • Be consistent on your "rules"
  • Invite children to come up with family chores, rules, grocery lists, and also their own consequences
  • Begin to enforce patience by setting timers, or giving timelines. Reinforce them and make sure they know it or understand it before walking away.
  • Needs vs. privileges: help them understand basic needs and what they are privileged with in their lives. 
  • Consequences can be certain privileges being taken away- they must know this before.  Do not react, but enforce prior discussions.
  • Limit media to weekends and even then to an hour or less
  • Read higher levels, chapter books and help them build vocabulary
  • Read and then ask questions about content.
  • Parents can take turns spending time with individual children and ask them what they'd like to do, spend time to get to know your child
  • This is the year of leadership in the environment, they blossom and it's sudden.  Once they are on a path of abstraction (less materials), they move quickly.
  • Children are ready for larger questions to be answered, very curious, very scientific, showing readiness for cosmic education/ Elementary
  • Children will be exposed to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Regarding media:  I strongly urge you all to put it away and allow it on occasion.  It is EXTREMELY evident who watches TV and also when they watch it in the morning.  It is a huge distraction in their mind and their focus and concentration on the materials are lost.  If media is not good for a developed adult brain, think of what damage it is causing the young developing brain. 



 Chores, refining fine motor skills, helping out at home.
 Experiencing nature, and playing on their own, time to think and be creative
 Writing before reading. Children write with the moveable alphabet
 100 board.  Children practice the sequence of 1-100  and explore by learning patterns in numbers.
 Helping prepare a classroom meal by peeling garlic. Refining fine motor skills and contributing to the community.
 Controlling their impulses by observing a friend with hands behind their back.
 Associating quantities of the decimal system with their symbols
 Working with flour and dough at home for refining fine motor skills and helping with chores.
 Counting 1-10 and associating a quantity with it.
A very young 3 year old refining his motor skills with nuts and bolts.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Handwriting: The importance of repetition and perfection.

A few months ago I wrote a post about cursive and the art of handwriting.  I had not yet re-entered the classroom when I wrote it.  Now that I've been there for almost 3 months, it is something I see as essential.  My experience thus far is difficult to write in a short post, but what I will say is how it has made me love and appreciate the Montessori materials and philosophy even more.

From my experience before and now, and even seeing my own child's development in language and handwriting there are somethings I have come to realize.  I will try to summerize.

Today language is viewed as reading.  It's more important to read than write.  Whereas in Montessori, we teach children to write before they read (another post I wrote).  I see that reading is vial in most traditional education since children need to read and comprehend for test taking so they can color in a bubble.  Not to simplify this issue, but it has come down to test taking and finding that right answer, so reading and reading comprehension is valued over writing abilities.

The results are valued rather than the process.  Not so in Montessori.  In our classrooms you have all the time in the day/week/month to work through the task.  There is no rush.  We invite the children to take their time, take care and pride in their work, take the time in between to work on something else, and work on things at their pace and pleasure.  It is not a task to be crossed off a list or be weighed down by.  It is the process of doing, and re-doing (repetition) that builds the synaptic network.  A young child is joyous when doing a task that is of interest to them.  This is part of what we call "following the child".  We are guided as teachers by their interest and so we provide them the opportunity to further their interest in that field. 


Bringing home "work" and homework.  Often we find ourselves telling parents not to give children workbooks and apps that "help" children learn at home.  This is mostly because when a child is doing all this work at home, coming to school where they have freedom to choose their work and friends gives them the opportunity to also choose to socialize instead of choosing work.  Mostly because they are already exhausted from working at home.  Every child needs a break from work.  This is why you will see a child working for hours with the moveable alphabet or the addition strip board and after they put it away, they are calm and collected and choose "lighter" work where they color or do some sewing, or just sit and watch others work.  They need that time to process what they have done. 
So, why do Montessori children not bring loads and load of paperwork?  Two reasons; 1. Dr. Montessori was an early conservationist.  She believed that we do not need to waste.  She found that using materials like the sandpaper letter, moveable alphabet, and other hands-on materials allowed a child to work and not have pages and pages to take home. 2. The children perfect their work in the class with the materials, with the chalkboard, they practice their handwriting with the sandpaper letters and various alphabets, then when they are ready, the take out a small piece of paper and transcribe their intentions and ideas onto that paper.  As they become more proficient, they can lose the materials and simply move onto paper, but that takes 3 years of being in a classroom. 

Handwriting.  As I wrote and copied the authors essay in the handwriting post, handwriting is a lost art.  Children are comfortable and choose to write in print.  They see print around and find it easier to copy.  Handwriting is not simply about copying written symbols, but a means of expression.  Just as it is individual and personal so should our handwriting be.  It is an expression of who we are.  The typed/ printed word is static even with the myriad fonts out there.  A handwritten note is still valued over a typed email, why?  The personal touch.  So, why do we not encourage a young child to develop that ability and sensibility?
Is it really worth it and beneficial to teach a child the easy way or the short-cuts?  What are the long-term effects when we have adults who are lacking these skills, sensibilities, and executive functions?

One of the key philosophies of Dr. Montessori was “Never give more to the mind than you give to the hand.”  And this is why a Montessori classroom looks the way it does!





Sunday, November 3, 2013

Holiday Cultre Exchange

My apologies in not writing as frequently, but with work and home, time in front of a computer is even less- that's because I choose to sleep instead. 

Our first culture exchange of postcards was a better turnout than I expected so thank you to all who participated.  I didn't get much feedback and would love to, so let me know how it goes either here or on our Facebook page. 

This time we will have a holiday exchange.  I hope this will be a very special and engaging experience for you.  Our holiday theme will include a wide variety of options.  Please share something of the following list or as many as you like, be sure to tell us a little something about the holiday you wish to share.  As many holidays are rooted in religious practices, please be open and accepting in sharing and receiving, see culture exchange details for more info.

  • Family traditions: send a note of what you do and how you celebrate your cultural and holiday event.
  • Recipes: send in an old or new family recipe that you make for your chosen holiday.
  • Ingredient(s): Send in an ingredient that is unique to your recipe or something that makes you think of the season/ holiday
  • Songs: is there a song or songs that have significance to your holiday
  • Trinkets: a holiday trinket or something either home-made or local. 
  • Treats: are there specific treats that are sold during this time of year? (Turron, panettone, speculaas, vanillekipferl, tamales, alfajores, Buñuelos,etc) Whatever is possible to mail meeting international regulations.  
  • Decorations: garlands, papers, or anything else that is used to decorate your house at this time of year.
  • Clothing: a picture of holiday attire, or if you feel generous, send a garment to your lucky recipient! 
  •  Let us know if we're missing something to add here. 

Be creative, this is a wonderful time to share traditions, cultures, family life, city life, holiday treats, and a glimpse of our values with others.  Send in pictures, postcards, or anything else you'd like.  Please include your children when doing this, as this is an opportunity for them to learn and share their joys.

If there is a tradition you'd like to know more about, request it, and let's see if someone can volunteer to send you a package.  If you'd like to send more than 1 package, let me know or post it in your comment. Sometimes, if you're making 1 package it's just as easy to make multiples. 

Thank you in advance for your courage, enthusiasm, interest, and willingness to participate.  I think this will be a really fun experience for us all.  Feel free to share this post with anyone you think would like to participate. 

New Rules- for sign up on Facebook:
This time when you sign up on Facebook, be sure to number it so we can see the order in which you commented.  I think there was a bit of confusion with who came before and after.  So:

1. Homegrown, CA - Sri Lankan holidays
2. Megan, NJ -
3. Mary, Sweden
etc, etc.


Thank you again for participating and I hope to see pictures or hear about your experiences.  Feel free to post one on our FB page and let us know how the experience of sending and receiving goes for your children. 

ENJOY!
Happy Holidays :)

Links to get you excited:
List of Christmas food from around the world: Christmas Dishes
Saveur: Holiday recipes




Saturday, September 7, 2013

"What is Montessori" 3.0- Sense of Order

Order.
When we think of order, most often the image or idea that comes into mind is things in a row, things perfectly lined up, clean, neat, tidy, structured, etc.  There is a bit of a confusion when culturally (today) we refer to things having order.  In some ways, it's militant.  Children are supposed to be "orderly".  Things are supposed to be in order.  We must obey orders, so on and so forth.  However, when Dr. Montessori referred to a child having sensitive periods and one of the earliest and strongest being their "sense of order," she did not imply my previous descriptions. 
So, what is a child's sense of order?  To understand this sense of order, it is best to understand the sensitive periods or "windows of opportunity".
From birth to 6 during the absorbent mind the child goes through creative periods or windows of opportunity which are transitory blocks of time in which he is passionately absorbing with one aspect of his environment to the exclusion of others.
            These (passions) actions allow him to acquire a certain skill or capacity. The sensitive period has well defined activities guided by an unconscious inner drive towards the environment. The child looks fascinated with what he is doing. It makes the child repeat and repeat with enormous interest so he can establish the function.

Dr. Montessori talked about 4 main sensitive periods: language, order, refinement or movement, and refinement of senses.  They are characterized as transitory: they will only remain for a definite and limited time and disappear to never return. They will disappear if the skill has developed or not, and they all run parallel for those initial 6 years.  ALL children have and go through these periods.

Specifically then, a sense of order is by repetition; providing the proper steps for success and allowing a child to do it over and over.  Once perfected, a child knows how to do something with the appropriate steps needed to finish a task. It's allowing a child the opportunity to do it on his own. This gives him his own sense of order that is more valuable than emulating someone else. A sense of order is from within, and will manifest in various ways.  Each child will have their own unique sense of order that is different and varied than the one we originally presented them.

A child will know, to sweep up a mess the steps are: to get a broom, sweep all items to a pile carefully, place the boom back, get a dustpan and brush, take the brush out, sweep it many times catching the dirt in the pan, emptying the pan into the trash can (the trash can may need to be opened, then closed), then place the brush back on the dustpan, and then return it to it's place.
This is a sequence of steps, but mostly as an adult we just say "sweep up" or "clean up", but to a child this is a sense of order in which he must repeat his/her actions to accomplish something, and that something being a lengthy sequence of steps. Therefore, for a child, order contains within it a sequence, and  they are in need of repeating those sequences.  It is when we disturb this need to repeat these sequences and offer them a "short-cut" or see the repetition as unnecessary that children yell and scream and put up tantrums.  Allowing them the chance to finish this sequence as often as they need to, in as many ways as they need to, this will lead them to success in mastering a task and mastering themselves. Doing things for them is a disservice as we don't allow them to obtain the skills necessary for life.
Orderliness is NOT a sense of order. 

In my own two children I have seen their sense of order come and go, I have seen them stronger in one, then at times stronger in the other and both at different ages.  My older daughter had a very strong sense or order when she was really young, and at times still does.  We had to do the same routine.  My husband and I would joke that she would be upset if we did something differently, and we'd have to walk back and repeat the motion in the way in which she knew it should have been done.  Now, my second child who is two and a half is exhibiting very similar patterns now.  She had other things which she was captivated by in her younger months.
I wish I could take a photo of their 'sense of order' as I do with other things.  In fact, I was tempted to post a picture of how at a very young age the older one took all our shoes and lined them up.  And yes, in some ways, that is order, but that is the need to see things in order.  Order will manifest itself externally, but as mentioned before, it's the repetition and the innate desire for repetition that allows for that order within to develop.  Forced orderliness, is just obedience, and often when a child is forced into obedience at a young age (0-6) what manifests in the later years (12-18) is often disobedience.  We must allow a child to develop their sense of self early and rely upon their abilities in knowing and trusting who they are.  This way, the tools have been given early and we can trust that they know what to do with those tools later in life.


Since a photo can capture order, but a video can give you a sense of their movements (exhibited and inhibited), repetition, and order by which a sequence of actions lead to a task, I wanted to share a few which have captured their sensitive periods. 




https://vimeo.com/39742817


Monday, September 2, 2013

Sweet Goodbye!

As my time home with the girls has come to an end and I return to work I am saddened by our days together being more stressful.  However, I am thankful that we will still be together (in a way) through the day.  I couldn't be luckier to have my girls with me in the same school with amazing teachers.  But, it is with mixed feelings and a heavy heart that I say goodbye to the life I've had for the past 5 years.  It is a life I wanted and talked about at length before accepting my husband's hand in marriage.  It is a life I dreamed about but did not know how it would be.  It is a life that I worked and still work very hard to maintain.  It is a life blessed with children who are more than beautiful to me because I know their innocent hearts and hear their tender voices, hear their silly conversations, and join in their contagious giggles. 

 I am at peace with my choice to go back to work.  I'm happy and excited to be a part of an amazing community and the possibilities that are yet to come.  I am excited to share all that I have learned and the wisdom that I have gained due to my years at home.  Had I not had this experience, I'm not sure I would be the teacher I'm bringing into this new classroom.  This is a tremendous gift that I was given, the chance to see my children grow and to see all that I learned manifest in their eyes, hands, and body.  I will forever cherish my time at home and for no amount of time will I regret not having worked or furthered my career. 

It is with joy that I now accept this new routine and a life that will now change our family to something new.  I hope to find a way to balance the new workload with what I have already established for our family. Sadly, I'm giving up the garden- for now.  I hope that once I'm established in the school and a routine, we will get back to gardening once again.  Our saving grace is the CSA we joined years ago who have welcomed us back with open arms and much more!

I look forward to sharing the new and changing Montessori journey for our family.  I suppose we are a unique bunch being a 3rd generation of Montessorians.  At this point, I think it's in our blood.  I look at pictures of Dr. Montessori like she were my own grandmother- family.

I am beyond thrilled and excited for our culture exchange program and hope to grow it and continue with it for my class.  I hope you can join us at some point.

Here's to the future and a new (school) year!


Becoming a mother will change who you are, and you will never be the same.  The meaning of Love is truly realized as it is a bond that no one can take away from you.  I am, now, who I am because of the two girls in my life. To this, I am thankful to them. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"What is Montessori?" 2.0 - Practical Living

If you have heard of Montessori, you probably know some terminology.  One of the more frequent terms is "practical life," referring to a set of materials and exercises in the primary and toddler classrooms.  It is one of the more difficult areas for a parent to grasp,  and one of the more important areas for a child to master.  So, why is it there?

Dr. Montessori observed that the daily activities- ones that we as adults see as a chore, are the most beneficial, crucial, and most interesting activities for a child.  The fundamentals of taking care of oneself, the immediate environment and the greater one, cooking, cleaning, moving, not moving, the basic "how to's" are what a child craved.  These activities not only mimicked adult movements but they also had a deep history that was part of the human culture as we evolved to becoming independent.  What was once in a home, became obsolete as people moved into cities.  Over the past century it has only become worse as more and more "conveniences" in the form of electronics and technology have become part of our everyday living.  It helps an adult become more efficient, but it denies the child the opportunity to learn the fundamentals.  Practical Life, therefore, is one of the most important areas and is one of the first areas introduced to a child in the classroom.

What about the home?  In a home, until recently, all that was available to a child was practical life exercises.  If we allow our children to participate in the daily tasks of maintaining and assisting in the home and family life, we give them the opportunity to master these skills.  From eating by themselves, changing their own clothes, helping with dishes or laundry, folding clothes, making the bed, etc, a child masters his own body and is able to function in a mini-society.

As these things are fully available to every child, and for the most part free, somehow, this is still denied, belittled, or seen as a hindrance to the adult's pace of living, or as a potential hazard.  Instead, cognitive activities, flash cards, electronics, and other such "task oriented" things are placed before the child believing it will aid the child's development far greater than simple home chores.  As challenging as it is to incorporate the pace of the child, if we see it as a benefit to them rather than a hindrance to us, we can approach this with a better view and attitude.  All research new and 100 years ago points to the benefits of working with the hand.  So, before we give them something for their minds, let's give it to their hands, as this is the only and most important way it will embed in their minds.


I had meant for this to be a post of images, but alas I got carried away with text.  So, instead of going on, here are some of our daily activities which are not given as lessons, but as part of everyday living.

For more check out kids in the kitchen, and Road to Independence
Also, check out The Full Montessori's post on how to LIVE Montessori.  She does an excellent job explaining the developmental planes a child is going through at the 0-6 stage. 

 gardening

 cooking

 saving seeds
 hanging up laundry- cleaning rags. 


 washing their muddy shoes

 washing dishes

 Lots and lots of gardening

 choosing, and packing their clothes and toys before a trip
  concentration

 helping put clothes in the washer
 loading the dishwasher
multi-tasking.  Cleaning and caring for friends.





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