We are celebrating Easter this weekend. We have family visiting which means everything to us. Caspar and Otis are spending their days playing and laughing hard.
On a personal note I am feeling so much better and will be blogging again regularly. It appears that I have some food intolerances which for now are being managed by not consuming dairy. I have started experimenting with alternative types of milk but I am feeling cautious and taking it easy. Thank you to those who have given me support and a big thank you for the tips I've received on Facebook.
I hope the sun is shining in your part of the world. Have a wonderful weekend.
Thank you to everyone who entered the give away for this gorgeous set of Alphabet Wallet Cards. The give away has now closed. However the Kickstarter campaign for the Numbers, Color & Shape, GO! and my wallet cards still has THREE DAYS to go. If you are interested in supporting this campaign please head over to Kickstarter.
On another note I am feeling unusually unwell (and tired!) and have decided to take it easy this week. I'll be logging off from the computer for a couple of days and hope to see you soon.
P.S. This arrived today and it's good! I'll write a full review when I'm finished.
There is no doubt that the best reference library you will find is your local public library. Caspar could spend all day at our library and he often borrows more books than he can carry.
It's sometimes difficult to decide which books to buy and which to borrow. When it comes to reference books I carefully select which ones we bring into our home. For Caspar at five years I look for reference books that;
What are our must-haves? There are some books that I believe are essential.
What does our reference library look like?
If you have a reference library I'd love to hear your suggestions.
I apologise. I was planning to write about our reference library but I have something more serious on my mind. I'll write about our reference library next. I've been thinking quite seriously about the affects of high drop-out rates.
Does your school have high drop out rates? I feel that it's accepted that many families wish for their children to attend a Montessori pre-school but never intend to pursue Montessori primary. This makes it tough for a Cycle One (3-6 years) class. Children attend at three but leave once the child is five or compulsory school age. Do you think that it's true that Montessori schools, especially Cycle One classes have higher than average drop-out rates?
Of course there are many other reasons children (and their families) choose to leave a school. Small schools must face additional pressure to meet the needs of families. I also feel that Montessori schools face additional pressure to meet the expectations of parents.
I am not going to consider the affects on the child that leaves mid-cycle. The affects must be significant. My personal concern is for the children left behind, for the children that see their friends leave. It's not fair to compare it to workplaces where 'people come and people go' for a child so young it is unsettling to see major changes to their class.
Do you think I am over-reacting? Is this an issue for schools? Are children, at five, old enough to adapt to change? Is there more schools can do to retain children?
P.S. Happy Harmony Day!
Today it was all about the birds. By observing birds you are by default also observing trees.
We worked from one of our favourite locations. You can see Canberra city in the distance. I've shown photographs of this location before. It's inspiring.
Caspar is loving photo-journaling (he's also been doing a bit of video-journaling). I love it too, to be honest. I'm not so creative with pencil and paper (or paint...) but give me a camera and I'm happy. I'm loving the instantness of this camera.
P.S. If you have an infant you may be interested in my post on Hello Bee today: Ways to encourage tummy time, it includes some of my favourite pictures of Otis.
Do you remember Marie-Claire? She's a mom to twins, a go-getter and now a business owner! She was also a Montessori child!
I know I'm biased but I believe parenthood can bring out the very best in people. I love it when someone can overcome the busyness of parenthood and design a product not only for their own children but for all of our children. Even more admirable when the product is innovative, smart, biodegradable and non-toxic!
Marie-Claire's first project was a beautiful set of Children's Alphabet Wallet Cards designed by Australian artist Marc Martin. You can see how Owen and Silas use their alphabet cards in the photographs below. Marie-Claire also provides some play ideas for the cards on her site So Awesome.
Well, she is at it again! More cards...Colour & Shape, Numbers, GO! and My Wallet!
• Colour & Shape – beautiful combinations of colours and shapes in French, Spanish and English (illustrated by modern ink and watercolour artist Nomoco of London).
• Numbers – fascinating depictions of common household items in French, Spanish and English (illustrated by husband and wife team Eugene & Louise of Belgium).
• GO! – cool paper-cut images of people moving in exciting ways (supported by Montessori-infused grammar identification "The boy skis down the hill.")(illustrated by Jared Andrew Schorr of California).
• My Wallet – a set for pretend play! Cards, play-money printed on Tyvek, a durable wallet and a companion digital toy iOS app (illustrated and developed by Marie-Claire and her husband Victor).
If you love the Alphabet Cards you might be interested in these cards too. The process for backing this project is just the same - click over to Kickstarter for further information. If you're not familiar with Kickstarter please take the time to have a look through Marie-Claire's pages and updates. It's important to remember that to get these additional cards to production the goal funding must be met. And there is only 11 days to go! You can pledge as little as $10 for a set of the Colour & Shape, Numbers or Go! Decks.
If you backed Marie-Claire on her first project (the Alphabet Wallet Cards) and back this campaign you get a free wallet! Further details here.
If you would like to purchase a set of Alphabet Wallet Cards, Marie-Claire is offering 25% off to all How we Montessori readers using the coupon code HOWWEMONTESSORI25.
So what's the giveaway? Marie-Claire has been kind enough to offer one reader a set of Alphabet Wallet Cards. To enter all you need to do is leave a comment in the comment section of this blog post. Please only one entry/comment per person. The give-away is open internationally and will close on Monday 25 March 2013 at 10PM Australian EDT.
Happy birthday to anyone turning three!! Most of these gift ideas come from my own experience - you wouldn't expect anything less would you? However this means they are orientated towards my own children's likes and interests. Practical life and exploring nature are huge at this age. I hope you like some of these ideas. I've had fun compiling this list!
Child Sized Clothes Line. Do I need to explain how excellent this is? Washing and pegging are fun at three.
Some tools for exploring nature; Wood Butterfly Net (this is the right link - it currently has an incorrect image), Bug Catcher and Worm Farm. I think an Ant Farm would be really interesting too. Have a weather watcher? Rain Gauge and Large Thermometer.
Walkie Talkies. We love these.
Hand Crank Flashlight. We've tried a couple of hand crank flashlights (we have a fantastic hand crank radio too) and have found child sized ones break easily. The turning motion is difficult for a child but we've found standard hand crank flashlights (if they are designed well) are suitable for children and are much more durable.
Tickets or passes to the local zoo or aquarium are great gift ideas. Art supplies or an easel would be popular. If your child is interested in trucks (garbage or fire trucks perhaps?) or diggers you know I recommend Bruder. I think there are many three year old children who would love Matchbox cars, a train set or a marble run.
If you've had a child turn three recently I'd love to hear what they like and what they are playing with.
I've promised to compile a list for a first birthday and because I like newborns so much I might compile a Montessori inspired baby shower list too. Stay tuned.
I have been working really hard with Otis to help him to dress himself. So often I take over. He can get his pants on. Once his head is through his shirt he can put his arms through. It's a process!
On our block shelves I attached a photograph to help guide Caspar when packing up the blocks. He likes to put the blocks back in the same place but as his building work often uses all the blocks he has trouble remembering where they came from. This helps his sense of order. (We are using a playstand for shelving and as much as I'd like to I couldn't draw outlines on the shelves themselves).
While Caspar was at school Otis and I put up some architectural images in the block room. I love the diversity. Images from here. I've only put them on the wardrobe door with blutack so if Caspar wants to study an image closer it's easy for him to remove.
Caspar and I have been enjoying The Wonderland of Nature by Nuri Mass. It's a beautiful, beautiful book that I found via some Australian homeschooling links. It's really charming, it comes in a story form with verse among facts and illustrations. I get so much inspiration from homeschoolers and love to read through their resource lists. I've had a couple of nature study handbooks recommended to me (Anna Comstock is highly regarded) however this is the ONLY Australian one I think exists. First published in 1964 it's considered an Australian nature classic. The age guide is 5-12 years. Such a wonderful by-chance find.
We tried taking a nature walk at night - an attempt to wear-out Otis and have him relaxed and tired before bed. It didn't work.
With Otis turning two next month I thought it was time to refresh my memory about sensitive periods. I know at two years he is in or nearing the sensitive period for so many things. But what is a sensitive period and what should we expect at two years?
What is a 'Sensitive Period'?
Through observation Maria Montessori discovered the stages of development that all children follow. She found that children go through very specific and well defined periods of interest in certain areas of their development.
Maria Montessori believed that the human brain is specially predisposed for learning during the sensitive period. She believed that parents, teachers and caregivers need to observe the child and respond accordingly to these sensitive periods - to provide an environment that meets the need of the child and further encourages the child through that specific stage of development.
Sensitive periods are transitory states. It is considered easier to acquire the skill or knowledge while the child is in the sensitive period. Outside the sensitive period learning still occurs however it is more arduous and often requires more time and effort.
During each of these time frames, varying in duration from months to years, the child is so focused on the particular development that he will ignore other phenomena previously of great interest to him. His energy level and dedication to his single-minded task are extraordinary but terminate just as abruptly as they began. Montessori called these intervals Sensitive Periods. - Montessori from the Start.
When parents and teachers recognise and take advantage of the sensitive periods through which children pass, they can become more effective in supporting their learning and development. - How to Raise and Amazing Child the Montessori Way.
What should we expect at two years?
At two years a child is in the sensitive period for;
Some of the other sensitive periods include;
Movement (birth - one year)
Writing (three - four years)
Reading (three - five years)
Mathematics (four - six years).
I'm reminded not to forget the sensitive periods for Caspar at five years. This week he has spoken specifically about two items of work from school - the number roll (he calls it the thousand roll) and subtraction (I think he's been using the Subtraction Strip Board). Sensitive period for mathematics anyone?
Pictured are Montessori time lines for development for movement (top) and language (above) from The Absorbent Mind. The time lines run from 0 (birth) to two years and six months.
I was talking to a friend yesterday and she mentioned some of the fun food preparation activities she is planning to do with her Montessori school children. I am totally envious that this is what she gets to do for her work! I know many of these activities are suitable for home but it's much easier to justify a grain mill when it can be enjoyed so many. Here are some fun food finds for your Montessori classroom.
Apple Slicer - We have one of these at home. It is great for building strength and it cuts the apple into equal sized pieces which is fun to share. I need to get it started though, I push it into the apple slightly and the children can do the rest.
Nut Cracker - Nuts are not allowed in most schools so this is best left for homeschools or out of school activities where all allergies are known. I've been coveting this for a while - I love the screw action to crack the nut.
Egg Slicer - Many schools avoid eggs but think outside the box. This would be great for small pieces of cheese, strawberries or mushrooms.
Juicer - Ok, I know most schools have a juicer but I think this antique looking glass juicer is really cute.
Banana Slicer - This would be fun for those little ones who are yet to wield a knife. Otis still makes a mess slicing his banana (mush) so this would be a good way for little ones to cut a banana that makes it appropriate to share the slices.
Melon Ball Scoop - Fun for scooping seasonal melons.
Spice Grinder - The mechanical action of turning the handle to grind the spices makes this enjoyable for children.
Cherry or Olive Pitter - I haven't used this pitter personally but it looks like it would be easy for children to use, one of the most child friendly versions I've seen.
Grater - We have a cheese grater similar to this and Caspar started using it at three. It was a challenge but so much fun. We started using it to grate soap to make soap balls but of course it would be good for grating all types of food.
Nutmeg Mill - If I had a class this would be on my list. Nutmeg smells divine and this mill requires strength and coordination and is the right size for children.
Apple Peeler - I know a lot of classrooms have a peeler like this. Wonderful for apples and potatoes. This type of peeler makes apple slinkys and you can also make slices without removing the peel.
Grain Mill - I'm convinced that every class should have (or borrow) one of these. It's all about learning the process. Plant to food. Since grain is in so many of our foods I think this one is fundamental.
Compost Pail - Such a lovely way to store compost. This pail is so elegant it would be right at home in a Montessori classroom.
Cold Press Juicer. When I saw this juicer I nearly died with envy. This manual juicer would be a hit with children.
Coffee Grinder - I don't drink coffee but I'm sure it has many other uses. Coffee beans are great deodorises. Again I think it's the physicality, the physical toughness of turning the handle to see the results that appeals to children.
I think a small mortar and pestle should be on the list too! What do you think? I'd love to hear what you use in your classroom.