We had a successful first day of school today. I stayed up till all hours getting materials ready and planning out last details (I think Brendan is amazed at how much preparation I've done the last few weeks!) but it was all worth it because we had a great morning. Here is a rundown, with some pictures: We started out with "circle time"- the kids chose a carpet square and sat on it, then we talked about what day it is (Wednesday) and what month (September). We sang a song about the days of the week, and another about the months of the year, and the kids raised their hands, stood up, or wiggled their toes when we got to the particular day or month we were in. Quite fun. Then I gave them a tour of the schoolroom, and it is available for your viewing pleasure in the first few pictures. The first picture shows the whole side wall of our dining room/school room- two cabinets with a bookcase in between.
This is a view of the back wall (upon entering the room from the front door)...a table which used to be our family room coffee table with two small folding chairs for the kids to work.
The wastebasket (aka "floor mat holder") holds a number of large and small mats that the kids can spread out on the floor to define their work area.
The reading area is in the bay window seat, with a box of books for the kids to read at their pleasure.
We had our first lesson of the day after the school room tour- hand washing, a kid favorite. We trooped into our tiny bathroom where I demonstrated how to wash one's hands- a little different than my kids were used to. I stopped up the sink, put my hand in the bottom of the basin, and then turned on the water. When the water was up to my wrist, it was full enough and then I soaped up, rinsed, let out the water and dried off. The only tricky part is getting just the right water temperature...well, that will be another lesson for another day. The kids washed their hands using the new method, and then I proceeded to show them what we will be doing the majority of the time in school: the work on the shelves!
This is the left-most cabinet, which is kept open for the kids during school time.
I gave a "lesson" on some of the works on the shelves, and then the kids were free to use them as I had shown. They were so excited! Above on the left is the "toothpick jar"- a little shot glass of toothpicks to poke through the holes of a spice shaker. Everyone tried this, and I realized Norah needs to learn how to screw on a lid (or at least she had trouble with this one) so on Friday I will bring out our "containers and lids" activity". Next to it is "paper punching"- I drew some dots around the edges of construction paper squares, and demonstrated how to punch each hole and place the red dots that resulted in the tin cup. Gene got this pretty quickly, and Norah really tried but couldn't get the puncher to cooperate. She really enjoyed putting the dots that I helped her punch in the cup.
The stamping tray caught everyone's eye right away, and that is the first thing Norah chose to work on. Two little butterfly stamps, a stamp pad, and a damp sponge to wipe the stamp on when done. The paper is kept on another shelf. All three kids did this work.
I gave Gene a lesson on transferring golf balls (there are two baskets stacked on each other, and the point of the activity is to pick up one ball at a time and put it in the other basket...not hard or complicated, but a lesson in choosing only one object at a time, and following through to completion) but he quickly moved on to something else. We'll see about this activity- I think it may appeal to slightly younger children (in Montessori preschools they accept children as young as 2.5). Next is "pouring beans" and I gave a group lesson on this as well as an individual lesson to Lucy. Object is to pour the beans from one pitcher to another, without spilling any. It is an introduction to pouring that lets the kids get good at it before having to deal with water!
Spooning balls was not demonstrated today, but I personally like it. There is something very satisfying about the wooden balls fitting just perfectly in the little melon baller...at least I enjoyed it when I was putting it together!
Above left is "cutting with scissors"- there are strips of paper and some small kids' scissors, and the point is to cut pieces off the strips and put them in the small container. Lucy tried this for the first time (she watched Gene do it all last year) and cut a few little pieces off- scissors are hard when you've never used them before! She spent a lot of the time trying to keep her fingers in the right places.
These are on the top of the bookshelf, a world map puzzle and a sandpaper globe. The puzzle caught Gene's eye right away, and I gave him a lesson. I wasn't planning to put it out on the first day, but I knew it would interest him, and I wasn't sure how long his attention span would be for the first day since a lot of the works were not new to him. (We did some informal schooling over the past year). The girls, however, were sorry to hear that I wasn't going to give them a lesson on the world map puzzle today. Norah almost threw a fit over it, but I told her it could be her first lesson on Friday and then proceeded to distract her by showing her the pictures I had taken of our school day. Oh, the sandpaper globe is an introductory globe that lets the kids feel the difference between where the land and water is on a globe.
On the top shelf is "drawing with markers" and "drawing with crayons", and some art paper. I think the Montessori way of labeling works is kind of odd (and calling them "works" is too), but it makes sense when a child says "I am going to draw with markers now" instead of "I am going to use the marker basket"...I think it is an easy way for kids to learn vocabulary, and proper speech. On the bottom shelf is "hammering in clay", which was a hit for all the kids. Using a small wooden hammer, they can pound golf tees into non-hardening clay. The only tricky part was pushing the clay in to cover all the holes when they had pulled out the tees- it was a little too stiff for small fingers. We'll have to see if they get it...otherwise, we'll figure something out.
On the top right is "stringing beads" which I gave a lesson on to Norah. I don't know if she's done stringing before...she didn't want to continue once the lesson was over. On the bottom right is the snapping frame, two pieces of material with small snaps to connect them...gives the kids a chance to practice snapping when nobody (like a parent) is in a hurry! Lucy has about mastered this one already, because she is very interested in dressing herself, but Gene has never shown interest and so has no idea how to snap something. We'll see if watching the other kids do it will entice him. To the right of the snapping frame is cylinder block #1. It is a wooden block with 10 small wooden cylinders, decreasing slightly in width but all the same height. It is a perception puzzle, and teaches the kids to use their eyes to determine which is thinner or thicker, and which comes next. Nobody did this today, but Lucy and Gene have practiced a lot with this over the past year.
On the top left is a Winnie the Pooh 24-piece puzzle, which Gene has been putting together 2-3 times daily for the past week! Lucy is able to do it, but has only completed it once or twice, and Norah tried it today but it was too challenging and she lost interest quickly. To the right of the puzzle is "sewing a circle", which no one tried. On the second shelf is "building with duplos", "clipping clothespins" and the colored shapes. I guess that doesn't have a spiffy name, but it's not really an activity, just something for the kids to play with. I don't even know what I could call it...? The clothespin box wasn't used today, but I am curious to see whether Norah knows how to use a clothespin. It was a big hit with her younger sister, Kitty (who caught on very quickly), when she came over to play a few weeks ago. The point is to clip all the clothespins in the box onto the edges of the box. A satisfying work, I think.
Gene putting together the Winnie the Pooh puzzle while Norah works on stamping next to him.
Not a very becoming picture of Lucy (she kept turning away just as I would take the picture) but she used almost all the duplos to build a tower...and was done once it tipped over.
Lucy hammering in clay. She tended to work in the same spot on the floor for most of the morning.
Gene and Norah also had their respective spots. We'll see whether they continue to choose the same seating arrangements as the days go on...Gene took a turn hammering. He was proud of himself for hammering the tees until they were almost entirely in the clay, but then frustrated when he needed help getting them out. We'll see if he pounds them so hard next time.
The kids worked for about 90 minutes before I called the last circle time. They were definitely getting restless. We read a story (What Baby Wants) and played a game called Questioning, a fun introduction to grammar. I said a short sentence with a subject, verb and noun (i.e. Paul washed the dishes) and then asked questions of the kids: who is Paul, how old is he, what was he wearing, etc...when did he wash the dishes, why were they washed, where were they washed...what color are the dishes, who made the dishes dirty, are they glass or plastic... Any kid could answer, and any reasonable answer was accepted. They did well with this, and then we did a statement about dinosaurs for Norah at her request. Circle time ended with a rousing rendition of If You're Happy and You Know It and we were done. They had an hour or so of play time in the family room, lunch, and we were off to drop Norah at her house again. One full morning of school!