Sunday, December 14, 2008

I love Montessori! I know I've probably said it before on this blog, but it's the truth. It is working so well for our family. Case in point today...we had just eaten brunch after church, and were starting to clear the dishes, when the kids pulled some work off the shelf and were quickly absorbed in it. Gene started making a "Christmas Chain", a work just presented on Friday that he hadn't tried yet, and Lucy got some paper and a pencil and drew pictures. They were so calm and peaceful, and we were able to clean up quickly while they worked.

It was nice for us (as parents who appreciate a quiet house), but I am writing this post mostly because I am so excited and happy for them. In my pre-Montessori days (i.e. a few months ago) I would sometimes wonder how I would ever do art projects (or any craft-type project) with them. I would try once in a while, pulling out all sorts of materials to make something-or-other, and then Gene would say he wasn't interested. Or he would attempt the project for a couple minutes, and go back to what he had been doing. The problem was that we were doing projects on my time. Montessori allows children to work on their time, to take a "prepared" project off the shelf and work on it whenever they feel like it. This means they are actually interested in the project, have NOTHING else they would rather be doing, and will probably work on it for a while and do a good job on it (or at least as good a job as they are capable of).

Gene cut, colored and glued together 5 paper rings, and was so proud of himself. Norah worked on it on Friday, and they are both excited to hang the chains on their respective Christmas trees. Yeah, Montessori!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas Ideas

I have had a few good ideas for Christmas activities, and I am way too tired to take any pictures of what I've spent this evening assembling, but here is the rundown... I found some red and white beads and a green string, so we will have "Christmas" bead-stringing on the shelf tomorrow. We have a stringing activity out often, but because of limited shelf space it is not always available. It does tend to be popular, however (being one of those "classic" preschool activities). I also sorted through our duplos (which are rarely used in our house...I think the children think they are boring because all they know how to do is build towers with them...they have yet to use their imaginations!) and put all the red, green and white duplos into a Christmas-decorated basket. We'll see if that makes them attractive enough. I also spent a while cutting out Christmas pictures from catalogs- Christmas trees, wreaths, stockings, candles, etc. I will put it out as a collage/pasting work tomorrow.

One other idea I had (though haven't gotten ready yet) is having the children cut paper to make their own paper chains. For anyone reading this who is also teaching young children, this would be excellent cutting practice. My children have been using scissors more often lately, but cutting on a line (especially a long line) is more difficult for them than I thought it would be, and yet they lack incentive to improve that skill. What is the point of cutting a bunch of lines drawn on a piece of paper (which is one work offered on our shelves)? But, if the point is to cut strips of paper (nice looking strips!) and then make a decoration from them, they might have more reason to work on their cutting. I can't wait to give it a try!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wednesday, December 3

A nice, peaceful day today. Everyone got to work and settled down fairly quickly once we returned from picking up Norah. I never know how long it will take to get started once we pick her up. Gene and Norah usually race ahead and wait for Lucy and I, but now with snow on the ground everyone wants to pick it up or eat it or whatnot. Lucy was intent today on picking up a huge chunk of dirty snow and carrying it with her the whole way home. And then she wanted me to carry it because her arms were tired! I'm getting sidetracked. Anyway, my point is that there is often some distraction on the way back to our house. And once we get there, they have to remove shoes/boots, mittens, hats and jackets, and put them all in their proper places. Then they wash hands before starting any work. Sometimes (and I don't know how) it seems to be close to 9:30 or even 9:45 once in a while before all three of them are actually working. And we go to pick up Norah at 9! I wonder if we can improve on that:)

The highlights today were as follows:

coloring a picture
sandpaper letters
all the dressing frames
cutting paper
reading a book

putting dimes in a bottle
putting pins in a shaker
lesson on coloring a picture
bean bowl

pins in a shaker
pooh puzzle
butterfly puzzle
duck floor puzzle

Here are the new works I just mentioned:

"Coloring a picture"...I have been printing out coloring pages from online (look up "free winter coloring pages" for instance), and then laying out a couple choices for coloring. A child would choose a picture, and take it with a bowl of crayons and scissors to a table. Placing the materials on an art mat (we have some wild crayoning kids and the tables don't appreciate it) they can color the picture. That part is obvious. Then, if they want, they can cut on the lines that you may be able to faintly see in the picture...I drew lines above and below each picture, so that when cut the picture would be completely free of "computer lingo"...the words that always print telling the website the picture was printed from, etc. I am trying to incorporate some cutting practice in, as well as coloring, and it has been really popular. Gene is actually coloring, and learning to color in the lines! (He was never interested in coloring books, and loved to scribble on blank paper, but that's what it would be, lots of scribbling. So, this is a new step for him:)

Below is "Pins in a shaker"...I will take votes on new names for this. I bought some long sewing pins with colored heads, and they fit nicely in this vintage sugar shaker I found at a thrift shop a few weeks ago. I first saw this work at Go Like the Wind Montessori school I visited over the summer, and have been wanting to put it together ever since! It has been used every day since I put it out...The shaker is turned over, and all the pins are dumped in the small red tray (really a cardboard lid for a wine gift-box, but such a pretty lid I had to find a use for it!). Then, carefully, a child can pick up a single pin and put it into a hole in the shaker. They can put them in any holes they like, but when they are ready to put it away they must put the pins around the edges again.

And here is a picture from a few days wasn't during school-time, but Gene and Lucy pulled the Magneatos out, and I was finally able to interest them in building three-dimensional towers. They watched as I started one, and then helped to build a little of it. But then, they went back to their comfort zone and began putting them all end-to-end to build "roads"...

Also, at circle time today, we finished up reading a Bill Peet book (Zella, Zack and Zodiac)...I had never read any of his books before, but am pleased with what we have read so far...they are long but interesting picture books. I am enjoying reading random picture books during circle times...we don't have a theme to what we read, but I find that the books hold the kids' attention, and help them to settle down for the other activities we do. We also recently read "The Rainbow Fish".

And then, at the end of circle time, we build a couple "pink and brown towers" all together. It was fun for them, and I am hoping to interest them in using the cubes and prisms a little more (actually, at all...they have not been chosen by anyone by me!)