Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Limiting Consumption- Beyond Montessori.

Montessori is known for limited items for children, but this idea needs to be for reasons beyond independence.  We need to help children understand why.  We need to talk to children in a real way about consumption and what it means.  It may seem grim, but I tell my children daily about chemicals in foods, and air, and stuff.  I need them to know that making the choices we do are for greater reasons than because I'm a stick in the mud.  I need them to know that the choices we make as a family are for environmental/global reasons and for the protection of their future.  I'm saddened at this reality and that they are exposed to this so young, but living in oblivion and dealing with the problem later on in life is harder when we have to make these choices daily.

This video came out just before my first daughter was born.  As much as I was aware of things, this simple video helped clarify and confirm my belief in raising a family "naturally".  Reduce, re-use, and live sustainably. I hope this helps you to make choices and to think before reaching out for things on the shelf.  Our children do not need to be inundated with so much stuff.  It's not about Montessori, it's about protecting the earth we live on.

Talk to your children at home and at school.  Bring about the awareness of living within our means.  Just because we "want" something does not mean we need to have it.  There is a chain before and after that "stuff" we possess.  Children can understand this better than we realize.  I'm constantly surprised at how my 5 year old has understood this.  Recently, she told me she wants to become a farmer when she grows up so we can take care of the earth and live with fresh milk and food without all the chemicals.  ( We are also reading Little House in the Big Woods-by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

A new year is also a new beginning and a new opportunity.  Enjoy going Back to School!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Notes from a Recent Campout

We went camping this past weekend and I realized I'm still waiting on updating my Camping with Kids 2 post.  In the meantime I wanted to share some notes on why it's so important to just get out and be in nature.

Last week, SD county was ravaged with 9 fires.  We evacuated our school and were closed for a day.   The heat in the city has been brutal with almost 100 degree days, and about 90 in the house as we don't have A/C.  Getting ourselves ready to leave after work on Friday seemed near impossible.  But we did it, and I'm so thankful we forged ahead and left our home behind, an utter mess.

With that, here are my "notes" I'd like to share.

  • Book a site and go
  • Plan ahead, but if you forget something, you will make do.
  • The more frequently you get out and go camping, you can fall back on the "usual" necessities
  • We have our camping clothes, so packing gets pretty easy and fast
  • Always be prepared for cooler weather.  
  • Going with friends helps in motivation and having a back up in case you forgot to bring things
  • Pack lots of drinks and snacks (adult beverages included).
  • Be flexible- things never go as planed and you just have to adapt and move on.  It's the best skill to be learned as a child and an adult and being in nature is the best test to this.
  • Take wipes and hand soap- I don't buy wipes for daily use or even around town. I hate the waste, but for camping, you just never know and it helps to have a small pack to rely on.
  • Head lamps and lantern are a must.
  • Pack a few books for bedtime.  Nature based books while out really ignite the imagination.  We read about monarch butterflies and we now hope to plant lots of milkweed plants.
  • Have a few dollars in quarters in case there are hot showers- helpful for kids who play in muddy ponds.  
  • Nature journal with pencils and colors for writing and drawing.

As difficult as it was for us to get out, it was worth it.  Watching my two run around with their friends and seeing how much fun they had getting dirty was worth it.   Being woken up to birds and woodpeckers- priceless.  Having my daughter wake up saying she didn't sleep well and the hawk woke her up- memorable.  Watching them play in the tent pretending to be princess astronauts - Ridiculous! Having them both brood and complain that they didn't want to go home- Worth it!

Nature discoveries that are impressionable lessons:
  • Baby dragonflies stuck to our legs 
  • Eared grebes only a few feet away from the children
  • Colony of ladybugs that have newly hatched and discovering them in the larva stage (click here for life cycle activity)
  • caterpillars in various stages of growth 
  • Baby lizards
  • Moss and lichen and the symbiotic relationship with fallen trees
  • Wild flowers in the spring

'Tis the season to get out and play.  Hope you find time to do so this summer.
p.s. I hope to get that second post out on camping soon- I promise!

 The children discovered a wild chamomile.  The flowers and smell were identical. 

 Some one had made a pretty cool house of bark and branches.
 The group we went with was almost 100 people. It was one of the biggest groups we've gone with but we shared a site with our friends and the kids had a blast hanging out together.

 Foil pack smores.  Let it be said that the 365 dark chocolate makes for excellent melting chocolate!

 Even when camping the children can help with chores.

We still need to look up what kind of caterpillar this is.

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!

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