Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Waste Free Lunches

Many schools are opting for a greener, healthier lunch experience.  Is your child's school asking for Waste-Free or Trash-less Lunches?

Why Waste-Free?
Waste-Free Lunch for Preschool
The average American discards 7.5 pounds of trash each day.  To reduce this number in your community, you can help reduce the waste at school.

A waste-free lunch is likely to be a healthier lunch, containing fewer prepackaged or processed foods. 

When unpacking after school, parents can see for themselves what their child consumed or didn't consume during lunchtime.  It is helpful in knowing what they prefer in their lunchboxes!

 It’s fun and cool!

What is a Waste-Free Lunch Like?
Waste-Free Lunch for a 1st grader:  Yogurt/Berry/Kale smoothie, bagel with egg salad, babybel cheese, cocoa crackers, yogurt raisins, blueberries, and sliced carrots in a reusable bag.  Ice water to drink. 

 A Waste-Free lunch is packed in reusable lunchboxes and using reusable containers.  Nothing within the lunch needs to be thrown away at school.

Ideas for inside:  Reusable Water Bottle or drink container, two cloth napkins (one for a place mat and the other for face and hands), a reusable container with sections such as a bento box, gladware, Tupperware, or reusable lunch bags.  Note:  having more than one container will make it pack-able for the next day even if it isn't yet washed and dried.

II have collected MANY pins about fun and healthy lunch ideas for my three daughters.  Let's face it- there's a lot to do in the morning to get 5 people out of the house on time-  I pack most things the night before.

Helpful hints:

There is no refrigeration or heating of meals for most students at school.  Please use ice packs when necessary.  Thermoses hold heat nicely for hot soup and leftovers. 

If/When your child’s lunchbox gets stinky or a spill happens, a hot water rinse and a wipe down with baking soda eliminates odor. 

If a messy item is packed, or you suspect there will be waste, please provide a bag for your child to collect these items to bring home in the lunchbox. 

Practice before school starts!  Plan beach trips, day trips, play dates, and picnics with Waste-Free Lunches.  It's fun to test out before the real first day of school.  Happy September, folks!!!!

Monday, March 10, 2014

An Open Letter to My Daughters

In honor of Daughter's Week, I write this letter to my girls:  Madeline, Iris & Sarah regarding their education with love and with the humble honor of being part of it.  xoxox, Mom.

Please know that I only wish for your perseverance, your dignity, and your caring.

Please keep this with you as you go through your varied education levels:  You are an asset to this world and the following generations.  Don't let the world's placement of you get in your way.  I simply do not care about test scores, grades, your school's rewards and punishment programs, your GPA, your graduation standing, your weight, your wins and loses in sports, your trophies, or any way your worth is measured monetarily, by numbers, by silly traffic light codes, or by status.  I don't need these measurements to know you are amazing.    I mean it.    Hold me to this please, society is sitting on me.  I love you.

Please keep this in your heart as you go through schooling:  I care very much about your interests, your weaknesses, your strengths, your triumphs, your struggles.  You'll gain lifelong lessons through all of these.  I want you to focus on kindness.  Always kindness.  In all situations- you can't lose in the end, even if at the time negativity seems appropriate.  I care about how you try.  Keep trying, keep learning, and never stop.  I'm still learning.  Keep your amazing levels of curiosity.  You are each so inquisitive, don't let schooling, measurements, or this cynical world dim your shine.  I love you.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

CONCENTRATION: The commonly overlooked educational skill

I've been reading so much lately about the idea of 'flow' and concentration within the daily lives of both children and adults.  The whole idea wrapped into the concept of Montessori Teaching is seamless, and it's something I just can't stop pondering.  Below I'm sharing two articles/blog posts regarding this exact issue.  Happy weekend, everyone!

My little one, age TWO (now 5!)

5 Ways To Aid Concentration

Foster Concentration, from Let's Lasso The Moon

Monday, February 17, 2014

Etsy Shop OPEN! Practical Life Trays Created by ME!

Very excited to announce that you can now purchase Practical Life Sets made by me :)  It's been very fun already!

Please visit the link below:

The work found in Montessori Schools in the Practical Life Area aids inner construction, discipline, independence, self-esteem, and sense of order.  These traits and virtues are gained from concentration on a precise material.  It has been said that this type of adaptation to our work, the do-it-yourself capabilities we instill, is the very foundation for education.
Everything in the Montessori environment is painstakingly prepared for the success of the child. 

In particular, the teachers prepare activities for each type of practical life work.
1) Physical Skills:  Pouring, Scooping/Spooning, Squeezing, Twisting, and Bead Stringing/Lacing
2) Care of Self
3) Care of Environment
4) Grace and Courtesy
5) Food Preparation

Although each area may seem to not have relationships with the others, they all have the same goals for the child- the direct aims of Coordination, Cooperation, Concentration, Independence, and a sense of internal and external order.  The Montessori Teacher needs to recognize and develop work to satisfy our children's sensitive periods.  Children in our classrooms have a need to repeat these works over and over to internalize the learning.  They need to move while learning, especially in the hands during Practical Life work.  We must create work for Practical Life that is attractive and will draw the child's attention.  It must invite curiosity, exploration, and mastery.  Our classroom is their house; therefore work must be centered on the child, not around the teacher.
To go into more detail involving the areas of Practical Life, we will begin with Physical Skills.  Activities that involve pouring, spooning/scooping, squeezing, twisting, and lacing help train the child for writing, and ready them for fine motor activity.  These physical skill works are done in an order sequence to prepare the student for reading by working from left to right, top to bottom.  Even the way the entire Montessori classroom is set up in order of difficulty left to right, top to bottom- relative to the way most languages read.  The order of materials is set up from no transfer-to-transfer, large to small, and hands to tool.  Our Practical Life work helps strengthen and advance the hands of our children by the way their fingers work in the process of these activities.  Most commonly children use what is called the pincer grip on Practical Life work, which will soon become the child's way of correctly holding a writing utensil.  The work is on the shelves from left to right, starting on the left with gross motor skills, and fading into fine motor skills towards the right and closer to the bottom. 
In conversation with a student, she told me that she can pour her own drinks.  She learned to pour at school by starting with solid material and working up to water pouring, ending with pouring with a tool.

 Another equally important area of Practical Life is the Care of Self/Person.  In Care of Self the child learns just that- to care for themselves and others.  This child is provided with work that simulates and prepares for doing everyday activities such as getting dressed and washing hands.  For instance, most Montessori classrooms have dressing frames and/or actual clothing to practice with.  Dressing frames guide children in opening and closing their clothing in an order that is consistent with ability
1) Large Buttons 2) Small Buttons 3) Snaps 4) Zips 5) Hook and Eye 6) Buckling 7) Lacing 8) Bow ties
Each of these frames is done in an order as well- from top to bottom and finishing with bottom to top.  Providing children with these activities enables them to gain self-esteems through doing it themselves.

Care of Environment is the area of Practical Life where the child learns to care for their surroundings with exercises such as:  furniture scrubbing, botany, sweeping, polishing, and flower arranging.  This area simulates adulthood while providing child size materials for use.  Most classrooms have a small broom, and plants to care for.  These activities render children showing and feeling a sense of ownership in the classroom. 

Grace and Courtesy is so important in our classroom, and for children ages 3-6.   They are able to absorb the modeling of adults' kind and considerate behaviors and internalize it.  Some classroom exercises include shaking hands, saying thank you, covering a sneeze, holding a door and table manners.

Food preparation, a very significant area of Practical Life is where a child participates in some way with presentation or cooking foods.  Children are proud to help make snack.  Food Preparation can be an extension of many Physical Skills in Practical Life because there are so many needs to stir, twist off caps, spooning ingredients, and squeezing fruit for juice.  Many teachers agree that food preparation helps the child appreciate food more than if it was made for them.

 Maria Montessori worked as a medical physician at a mental institution when she started observing the children who were sadly considered 'defective' or 'ineducable'.  As the director of the Orthophrenic School in Rome, she worked with the subnormal children.  She noticed that the children needed to manipulate materials to learn and grow.  Her many successes at the school led her to believe that similar improvements could be made for the normal child in a preschool setting.  This discovery led to the opening of the first Children’s House (Case Dei Bambini).  There she set up a program to teach the young children how to care for themselves and their environment, which we know as practical life.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Montessori for Kindergarten

Choosing an education for your young child is a daunting task and education is a very personal family choice.  Each family must do what they can for their children, to set them up for success in life.  Many folks are asking me; why keep kids in Montessori when our suburban town has terrific public (free!) Kindergarten?  Let me list our reasons:

Whole Child There's more to Montessori School than academics.  The Montessori Method of Education is a Holistic Method.  There's a lot of grace and courtesy being learned.  Every single day, for every possible event/social situation.  Many schools have a peace curriculum that would put any anti-bully campaign to rest.  Teaching children to work with different types of learners, cultures, and ages in a loving environment is training for life.  Kindness, conflict resolution, and personal reflection are experienced at Montessori School.  Kindergarten students learn to be leaders in keeping the peace.  (Here, Sarah is role-playing sharing Stone Soup with her friend)

    Consistency.  The children are together from ages 3-6  for 3 years, same teachers ideally.  A bond is formed there between peers and with teachers that is so close to family it is truly unique.  You REALLY know a child and their family in three years.  Friendships really stick when formed in this environment.  (Imagine how lucky my twins are to be together for the last few years!)

Concrete to Abstract.  All that work done in the preschool years of Montessori with concrete materials now transitions into abstraction. This year prepares for the next stage of learning.  (worksheets, homework, testing, etc) They know WHY they carry the one, from holding that exchange to the next denomination in their hands.  When it's done on paper, it's understood forward and backwards.  (Iris is adding 4 digit numbers by physically holding the quantities, then recording the equation)

    Leadership.  They are now the big kids, after watching the older children for two years- they are now role models.  Where ever a child goes next, they'll be one of the younger students at school, this is their year to be top dog.  Volumes could be spoken here just on this one tenant.  ("Let's take care of our playground, everyone!")

    Montessori is a 3 year class.  Leaving before it's done, is like leaving before it's- well....done.  The children are working towards high level work for two years before the Kindergarten year.  They look forward to those challenges, and accept them with enthusiasm and tremendous pride.  Since we know children take their school work as a way to build their sense of self, we (our family) must allow them to have this 3rd year for Kindergarten.  (During a handwriting lesson)

Individualized Learning.   The child is where she is academically, socially, and emotionally. The teachers work with them to their highest potential in all areas.   Right now is not learning for a test, there'll be time for that later in life. (Sarah wants to read and write.  Here she is with the movable alphabet.)

Intrinsic Motivation.  They do multiplication, learn to read young, help their peers with challenges, and work as peacemakers.  Why?  Because it's within them.  Not because they are handed rewards or punishments.  Children WANT to learn, to explore, to know.  Amazing, huh? (Trinomial Cube)

Freedom within Limits.  They can choose their activities.  Self-guidance, self-regulation, self-control, self-motivation are all things that come from going about their days with choices within ground rules.  There's plenty of opportunities for movement throughout the day, as Montessori Kindergartners are not expected to remain seated at all times. (Extensions with the Pink Tower and Brown Stair)

    Coordination, Concentration, Control, Order.  Montessori Kindergartners continue use of the Practical Life Materials, where they experience mastery with fine motor control.  They also learn how to concentrate on a task among other children talking and working.  Everything has its place at school, the children put their own materials away, every time- just as it was when they chose it.  (Sarah is using a scooping activity)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

History of Thanksgiving: a Trip to America's Hometown

Last weekend, we took a ride to Plymouth, MA, not too far from where I grew up.  We visited Plimoth Plantation, a trip I highly recommend for any family.  The actors there can accurately describe the life in the time of 1627, and are open to questions from everyone- especially little kids!

During Montessori Training (forever ago, it feels!) I did a unit study on a local Native American Tribe, the Wampanoag.  Below you'll see photos of recreated homes of both the English Settlers and Wampanoag.  Also, feel free to use the definition cards pasted below in your classroom or home school.  The lesson for Practical Life, Tweezing Corn is below as well.  Happy Thanksgiving from the place that started it all!!!

A rare photo of Montessori Parents (we are always behind a camera), Brian and I in the Wampanoag Village
Wampanoag Children's Toys
Wampanoag actor tells us that they only eat meals the size of their fists, 7x a day!
The girls enjoying a fire in the longhouse
Sarah testing out a Mishoon, a boat made from a tree, burned by fire, scraped into shape by shells.
An English Settler's home interior, this house had SEVEN children!
English Settler Village, Plimoth Plantation
Pulling corn off the cob
Dolls in the English village
Sarah in the museum's child room, playing Pilgrim
Pilgrim Dress Up
Cooking on the child sized Mayflower
Plimouth Rock
Experimenting with pulleys
The Mayflower II interior
The Mayflower II masts
Surveying the water from Mayflower II

Wampanoag definitions: simply print, and mount on cards and laminate.  If you are interested in more Wampanoag work, comment with your email and I'll share more.  Enjoy!

A Wetu is a Wampanoag home for one family.

Wampum is what the Wampanoag used for money.  It is made from seashells.

A Mishoon is a boat that the Wampanoag carved out of tree trunks.

During the winter, the Wampanoag lived with several other families inside a longhouse.

The Wampanoag used animal skins for clothing.

The Wampanoag used a roaster to cook their meals outside.

The Wampanoag had to cook inside the wetu to make meals when weather was bad.

NAME OF ACTIVITY:  Tweezing Corn on the Cob 

GENERAL:  Practical Life
SPECIFIC:  Physical Skills- Squeezing

MATERIALS:  Basket, Native American corn on the cob, bowl, tweezers, vase for tweezers

DIRECT:  Coordination, Concentration, Independence, Order 
INDIRECT:  To build fine motor skills and strength through squeezing.

PREPARATION:  Squeezing activities with a larger tool

AGE:  First year Montessori student

*  Grasp corn with dominant hand, and transfer to sub-dominant hand
*  Pick up tweezers with dominant hand, and squeeze them to test the difficulty of the tweezers
*  Starting with the tip of the cob, choose one piece of corn to take off
*  Tweeze the piece of corn until it comes or falls off
*  Place in jar
*  If corn falls out of tweezers, be sure that it ends up in the jar
*  Repeat process until satisfied, or the corn is all off
*  If there is some corn left, place into basket for the next friend
*  If all of the corn is gone, replace it with another full cob
*  Return tweezers to vase
*  Be sure that all pieces of corn are in jar
*  If the bowl is full, pour it into the glass collecting jar on the nature shelf
*  Return material to shelf

*  Capturing the corn with the tweezers
*  Listen to the sound of the corn falling into the ceramic jar
*  Grip on tweezers
*  Opening and closing tweezers

*  Tweezers
*  Native American Corn
*  Corn on the cob
*  Pinch

*  Attractive materials
*  Producing a jar full of corn
*  Sounds of corn
*  Tweezers

*  Tweezers gets things off/out
*  All corn comes off a cob

*  Tweezers can only hold one corn piece at a time
*  Spilled corn, or corn that isn’t coming off

*  Using a different color/type of corn on the cob

*  Using the corn they tweezed for a pouring activity
*  Sorting the different colors of the corn into different jars