Monday, July 13, 2009

Hammering Activity

Our new Just Hammer Away! Shape Set was popular today. The corkboard is a little flimsy so I taped it onto a tray for sturdiness. I made the sample cards to give the kids ideas on what can be made with the different wood shapes available, and also reminded them that there are many other possibilities. CC and Enzo both enjoyed the hammering. They initially had a difficult time removing the nails (actually pushpins), but they quickly learned to press the wood piece against another piece to push the nail out enough and allow them to pull the rest of the nail out.

Below is Carissa making a flower and Enzo making a smiley face.

RJ also tried the activity today. He didn’t follow any of the sample cards, instead nailed random pieces throughout the corkboard. When it was time to put the activity away he quickly got discouraged when he couldn’t remove the nails.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

We're back!

I can’t believe how long it’s been since our last update! I figured I would take a few days off after RJ’s birthday party but it turned into a very long vacation from our blog. I apologize to my handful of readers for being away for so long. I have sure missed posting but things were a bit hectic for a while and it took me some time to get back into the swing of blogging…

Although I haven’t gotten around to posting all this time, we have maintained our weekday routine. Our ”school class sessions” are Monday through Thursday in the late mornings, where we spend 1-1/2 to 2-1/2hours (depending on what kind of mood the kids are in). We don’t have formal class time on Fridays, instead we visit our local library for pre-school story time, a craft, and each of the kids gets to check out one book for the week. After the library, we visit one of the local parks on the way home. We have quite a few parks to choose from so the kids enjoy visiting the different playgrounds and also seem to get pretty excited about what snacks I pack for us.

A lot has gone on in the classroom since our last post but since I cannot manage to cover everything, here are some of the highlights...

RJ received THIS stringing/beading set for his birthday, and it has been a fun addition to the shelves. Initially the boys would get sidetracked and start racing cars throughout the classroom (instead of stringing), but now they enjoy stringing and parking all the cars back in the basket without too much distraction.
Another activity that has been enjoyed the last few weeks is a water transfer activity using a turkey baster. This is the first water activity that I have made available for the kids indoors so I was a bit nervous about the possible spills but it has turned out well. Enzo is trying if for the first time in the picture below.

I originally thought this activity would only be for CC and Enzo, but RJ was very adamant about trying it the day I introduced it. This was during a rough few days of teething for RJ so I mostly gave in to avoid more weeping. Although I was expecting RJ to spill water, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t too much.
Language materials have also recently been added to the classroom. I decided to follow the method used by My Montessori Journey, a wonderful blog written by a Montessori preschool teacher. This blog is very well organized and is great at thoroughly explaining many Montessori activities. Anyhow, her language system which divides the alphabet letters into three groups is explained on THIS POST. We are currently learning the red letters and are working on “r” and “m”. Here is a sample of the sandpaper letters and little sound books that I made.
Here is CC showing the front of the little “m” sound book and saying “mmm”.On the picture below you can see CC writing the letter “r” with her finger on a sand tray (our version of the sand tray is actually a zen garden that I purchased at a yard sale for $1). In the background of the picture you can see RJ on the floor. On this particular day he laid around a lot while chewing on his blanket to sooth the teething)
In addition to having the letter/sound materials available in the classroom for the kids, we are also regularly reading the “My Sound Box” books that I found at the library. These books have been a good way to reinforce the sounds that we are learning in the classroom outside of the classroom setting.

CC has known the alphabet letters for some time now. She easily learned the sounds and was interested in writing before she turned three (pre-Montessori). She now sort of legibly writes most of the alphabet but only in Upper Case. Although she already knows the sounds, our new language materials have introduced an opportunity for her to learn the lower case letters and how to correctly write each letter. Enzo currently only recognizes a few of the letters of the alphabet so I am looking forward to finding out how our new language activities help him learn sounds.

The last picture I will share today is one of all three kids actively working on their own. RJ is practicing pouring with teacups, Enzo is working on THIS counting puzzle (which he has improved on), and CC is working with numbers and counters. I love to see all three kids actively involved with their work. There aren’t very many of these moments when the classroom is actually quiet…

RJ turns TWO!

Okay, so RJ has been two for a month now. I wrote this post then but didn’t get around to posting it until now (I've been on a blogging vacation)... Anyhow...

RJ had a wonderful birthday. His birthday was on a Friday and we did our usual Friday routine of attending story time at the library and visiting one of the local parks. The kids and I visit the playground at the park next door almost daily. But RJ’s birthday was a treat for them because we visited a much larger playground with swings, 5 slides to choose from and a rock climbing wall. I guess it was a usual Friday but we did mention the fact that is was RJ’s birthday throughout the day, we sang Happy Birthday to him and RJ practiced saying that he is now Two years old.

In the evening, Grandma brought over pizza, chicken and a delicious ice cream birthday cake.

On Saturday, we continued RJ’s birthday celebration with over seventy of our family members and friends.

It was a great party! More birthday party pictures can be found HERE.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I haven’t posted in a while but we are still here! RJ will be turning two on Friday and I’ve been busy with all the preparations for his upcoming birthday party. We are blessed with a large family and many great friends so our kids’ birthday parties turn into large celebrations with a full house. For the last week, my evenings have been full with party planning details. CC and RJ are excited about the birthday party and have enjoyed shopping for goodies and candy to fill the piñata. Tonight, we enjoyed trying on party hats!Our daily routine has continued… The kids are all doing well in the classroom. CC seems to be ready for more challenging work so I am looking forward to introducing her to a few materials that I have recently ordered. RJ still eagerly begins work in the classroom but needs encouragement when he is easily distracted. A positive note is that RJ is starting to recognize some letters/sounds. I haven’t formally presented him with any letters but he must be absorbing while quietly watching CC work on sounds. He is starting to recognize the letters “m”, “r” and “f”.

This is Enzo’s fourth week with us, and as expected he is fitting right in. He looks forward to our class time and aside from easily being distracted (must be a boy thing) he has adjusted well to our classroom and home environment.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mother’s Day Crafts

In preparation for Mother’s Day, we worked on mother’s day crafts today. With help, the kids made Pop-Up Flower Garden Cards. Detailed instructions can be found HERE. I prepared the cards and cut out the flowers and the kids glued everything together. CC worked on a card for Grandma and Nana, and Enzo worked on a card for his mom. RJ started working on a card for Abuela but I had to finish it because he lost interest about half way through.
We also made some simple tissue paper flowers, I found the idea on this website. CC and Enzo each worked on three flowers. They initially had a difficult time twisting the stems but eventually got the hang of it. RJ tried making one flower but quickly lost interest and decided he would watch instead.
The kids were very proud of the final product=)

Hope you all have a Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 4, 2009

El Día de Los Niños/El Día de los Libros

El Día de Los Niños (Children’s Day)/El Día de los Libros (Book Day), a day that celebrates literacy in children, was on Thursday, April 30th. Since I didn’t write it down on my calendar, I completely forgot about this day until this post reminded me about this great children’s holiday. I didn’t want to lose an opportunity to celebrate a special day with the kids (and since they wouldn’t know the difference), I decided to celebrate a day late.

When CC and RJ woke up I told them that Friday was a special day and that it was going to be a day full of fun and celebration of children and books. And when Enzo joined us, we informed him about our fun day planed. Just knowing that Friday was a special day put the kids in an extra good mood.

Generally, we don’t have class time on Fridays, we take the morning off from “school work” and spend time at the library instead… Our usual Friday activity was a perfect way to kick off Children’s/Book day. The kids enjoyed the “Fire Engines” themed story time and craft that was planed for that day.

I also took advantage of the kids’ joyful mood to suggest that we borrow Spanish books from the library that day. The kids happily followed me away from this brightly decorated, children’s section of the library
to this very isolated corner of the library where the Spanish children’s books are found.
The two partially filled shelves of books with the red labels makes up the entire Spanish books collection found at our local library. A little sad for a mom that is trying to encourage her children to borrow more Spanish books during our weekly library visits. Anyhow, the kids each managed to find a book to take home. CC chose El Libro Magico de Lupe, a fun pull the tab book, RJ chose a favorite Tomás y Sus Amigos, and Enzo found the one misplaced English book on the shelves, an Elmo book about Firefighters. Not in Spanish, but at least it followed the theme of story time.

After the library, I took the kids to a different playground than the one we usually visit. The kids had a great time exploring the different, larger playground, and I enjoyed taking many pictures. Those interested can view more pictures HERE.

After the playground, our children’s/book day celebration continued with baking tasty cookies, reading the library books, riding battery operated vehicles outside, and barbecuing for dinner. I would have more pictures but all the picture taking at the playground drained the battery on my camera and I wasn’t able to take pictures of the rest of our busy day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lock & Key Activity

This lock and key activity was new in the classroom today. I purchased the locks at Dollar Tree, $1 each.
I color coded the activity since the keys are so similar in size. Once the kids get the hang of it, I plan to remove the stickers and hope that they are able find the correct key by trial and error. I also plan to change the way the activity is presented once it loses its novelty. I introduced this activity to CC, RJ and Enzo as a group because I knew they would all be interested in working on it first. Once they each practiced working on one of the locks and keys, I told them that the activity would be available on the shelf so that they would all have an opportunity to try all three of the locks. You can see CC working with the locks and keys below.
They all enjoyed working on the new activity today. RJ had a difficult time getting one of the locks to close but I think he will improve with practice.

Another activity the kids enjoyed today was riding stick ponies after class today. (Thanks grandma=)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Home School Chronicle – Not in the mood for class

Today got off to a normal start like any other “school day”. The kids had fun singing songs during rug time and eagerly started their individual work. CC worked on a geometric shapes activity, Enzo was beading with a needle, and RJ practiced pouring.
However, soon after starting their activities I noticed that the kids weren’t really in the mood for work today. CC was getting discouraged and kept saying “I can’t” (to simple tasks that she can normally complete). RJ spilled pasta and did not want to pick it up. And Enzo quickly lost interest in the beading, which he normally patiently completes. There have been days when one of the kids is disinterested in class but with a little encouragement and extra attention those days usually work themselves out. But since all three kids seemed to be in cahoots today I decided to cut our class session short and head to the park.

A windy day was also a perfect opportunity for some kite flying. The kids had fun taking turns holding the kite, watching it fall and yelling “Fly Dora, fly”.

The kids also had fun singing “Ring around the rosie”.

Renaissance Faire

On Sunday, our family had a fun day at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. We all enjoyed all the costumes, shows, games and tasty food! And of course there was a lot of picture taking…Dad, Grandmas, Abuelos and anyone interested can view more pictures HERE.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

CC's Last Soccer Saturday

Today was CC’s last soccer class. It was a noncompetitive class that typically involved learning drills and fun soccer activities. Although, during the last couple of classes the kids were split up into two teams and they played a “game”. Or as best a game that can be played by three year olds. It was very entertaining to watch all the children trying to make sense of the game rules.

The last time the kids played a game CC did not enjoy the experience. She did not want to run for the ball and she sat out most of the game. By the way, she wasn’t the only one that did not truly enjoy the game; there were other kids that shed tears when they weren’t able to get the ball or make a goal.

Here are pictures from today’s class. She was in a better mood and (with a little gummy bear candy enticement) she did great during the game. She did not score any goals but she got an “A” for effort. Mom and Dad were very proud!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

RJ works on Color Sorting

This is a video of RJ, an impatient 23-month old, working on a color sorting activity (one that CC uses tongs with). Up until today, RJ would randomly place the pom poms without seeming to be aware of the colors. Today, I noticed that he was attempting to name the colors while picking up the pom poms so I decided to join him. I started by placing one pom pom of each color in the cups and he quickly caught on. I didn’t think about getting the camera until we were almost done, so by the time I started recording you will notice that he is distracted and more interested in showing off for the camera than on the activity. But I decided to post it anyway because I think Dad would enjoy watching.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Home School Chronicle – Earth Day

Today was a bit of a hectic day. All four kids were all wound up and picked on each other a few times. It also took a while for CC, Enzo and Lo to settle down and actually be ready to enter the classroom. RJ mostly watched all the commotion but also had an off day.

Eventually we made it to the classroom where we first had to work through a disagreement that started when everyone wanted to use the same maraca for our rug time songs. After singing we learned about Earth day. I didn’t go into too much detail about the earth. I read a book about the earth and we went over ways that we can help take care of the earth, “our home” and keep it clean.

During the rest of the class session, there were a few distractions, but the kids eventually settled down and I was able to capture all the kid absorbed in individual work!

Lo is working on foam beading, RJ is filling the bank with (plastic) coins, CC is comfortably working on a number/counting puzzle, and Enzo is hammering.

After class today, the kids worked on an earth day activity. Here are the finished products.

I got the idea and earth template here. However, instead of gluing construction paper cut outs as recommended I decided to have the kids paint. The idea was to use green paint for the land and blue paint for the sea but everyone ended up just mixing the two colors together. Nice effect I think. The hands are cutouts of each child’s actual hand print.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Home School Chronicle-Introducing “Enzo”

Meet Enzo!
Enzo is a new “student” to our home school. He is almost three years old and is new to the Montessori environment. Today was actually his second day in the classroom but I did not get a chance to post about his first day last week. On his first, we spent most of our classroom time in orientation mode introducing Enzo to “rug time” and the classroom basics (learning how to roll a place mat, how to carry work to and from the shelves, classroom rules...). I haven’t encouraged any specific activities for Enzo yet, I have been mostly observing to learn more about him. He seems to know most of his colors but not his numbers or letters yet so I am looking forward to what’s ahead.

Here are a few of today’s highlights.

Enzo worked on this color sorting activity for the first time today. I think he was initially drawn to the actual toys but quickly understood the concept of color sorting and he named most of the colors correctly. Enzo had a hard time maneuvering the tongs and would use his free hand to place the toy in the tongs. I did have to persuade him to continue to try using only the tongs but it wasn’t until CC volunteered to show Enzo how she uses the tongs that he got the hang of it. I guess her demonstration was more successful than mine.

This next picture really put a smile on my face.
All three kids were very focused on their work! RJ is practicing pasta pouring, CC is beading foam beads with a (plastic) needle, and Enzo is working on a pasta spooning/transferring activity.
Seeing RJ correctly match the colored pencils and erasers for the first time also put a smile on my face. Last week, RJ would quickly place random erasers on the colored pencils and be done with the activity. But today, he actually took his time and matched all the colors! He is also starting to correctly name some of the colors.
The kids and I usually have two or three Spanish days a week but we have not had one in two weeks because I didn’t want to overwhelm our new friends (Lo and Enzo). I am now starting to gradually re-introduce Spanish into our days and after lunch today we had ‘Spanish music time’. After lunch we watched one of CC and RJ’s favorites, Cantamos y Aprendemos con José-Luis Orozco. When I play this DVD CC and RJ grab some instruments and like to dance and sing along. Enzo, just watched us for the first couple of songs but then decided to join the fun. They were parading around the living room.

A general note on “Practical Life” activities / message to Enzo’s parents:
The practical life activities that you will see Enzo working on may seem simple, however activities like pouring, using tongs, spooning and the delicate handling of materials are designed to help with concentration, hand-eye coordination, small muscle control... These exercises are also preparatory for further activities to come, including the handling of a pencil that will be needed for writing in the future. I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse at what your son is up to!

Monday, April 20, 2009

No class today, Mom has a “day off”

Well I sort of had a day off… I had to report for Jury Duty on Monday. Although I missed my kids, I did enjoy some reading and relaxing in the jury assembly room. I especially enjoyed a rare uninterrupted lunch today. Plus, I got to do some shopping at Ikea and the grocery store, and I was home by 5:30! I had forgotten how quick and easy shopping can be without two little ones in tow. I didn’t have to get two kids in and out of car seats, distribute snacks, resolve conflicts or stop for potty breaks...

CC and RJ got to spend a fun day with Dad, who managed to get both kids dressed, fed, and out of the house (impressive=). Dad said that RJ was “an angel” today but CC not so much. She tried to complicate things in the morning by requesting that Dad comb her hair into three ponytails and wanted to wear a pull-up (she has been out of diapers for a year). I guess eventually he convinced her not to wear a pull-up and they were able to leave the house to visit with Grandma and Great-Grandma today! I’m sure the kids had a wonderful time with Dad and Grandma today, but when I arrive back at home I found a sad looking wild-haired CC and an emotional RJ. Awww, I missed them!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spill the Beans!

I meant to post this earlier in the week but did not get around to it until now… During Wednesday’s class session RJ accidently spilled the pasta from a pouring activity all over the floor. After we cleaned up the pasta I thought it would be a good opportunity to bring out a new sweeping practical life activity. My kids usually help me clean up their crumbs in the kitchen using a lightweight cordless vacuum; however, I think it is a good idea that they also learn how to use a brush and dustpan. I got the idea from this post at My Montessori Journey.
Since RJ’s spill got the attention of CC and Lo, I decided to present it as a group activity and it turned into a fun game for the kids. I demonstrated the process first and then CC, RJ and Lo took turns sweeping. They first spilled the beans from the container onto the tray (the kids would say “oh no, I spilled the beans”). The goal is to sweep all the beans in the square, so that they can then more easily sweep the beans onto the dustpan (not an easy task for any of the kids initially). And eventually all the beans get poured back in the container.
During the activity, Lo decided to taste a bean and said that he likes to eat beans but these tasted different. CC then told him that we don’t eat the beans in the classroom because they aren’t cooked yet. All the talk about eating beans led to a change in the lunch menu. We all enjoyed bean and cheese burritos for lunch that day. Yumm!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Home School Chronicle – Lo visits the classroom

A new “student” joined our home school today! Our viisiting student recently turned four years old, is new to Montessori education and will be known as ‘Lo’ on this blog (what RJ calls him since he is not able to pronounce his real name). I am not sure how long Lo will be joining us, but I decided to introduce him to our classroom since I will be caring for him on three days this week (during our normal class time hours).

During our rug time Lo enjoyed playing the maracas and eagerly joined the singing of unfamiliar songs, even the Spanish ones! After our rug time we gave Lo a mini-tour of our classroom and CC helped me go over some of our classroom rules.

The first activity that Lo chose to work on was the transfer/spooning of pasta. Initially, Lo did taste the pasta and said that he was going to mix it and take some to CC and RJ. But after I explained the activity and a gave him quick demonstration, Lo easily completed the task with only a few spills.

The activity that CC is smiling at below is new. It is a very simple color pencils and erasers matching activity that I had in mind to help RJ work on his colors. Unexpectedly, it was more appealing to CC and Lo today.
Another new activity this week is THIS self-correcting counting puzzle (it retails for $12, but I purchased it at 'Ross' for half the price) . The puzzle counts to 20, but I thought I would keep it simple and only used the numbers 1 through 5 today, I will be gradually adding more numbers. CC has worked on this puzzle outside of the classroom in a more playful setting and she would quickly lose interest. However, today she completed the puzzle a number of times...
...before getting distracted with the new boy in class. You can also see RJ in the background. He did not show much interest in Lo and kept busy (mostly) working on his own work today.
After observing Lo for a while CC did get back to her own work and completed a number of activities but always seemed to be alert to what Lo was doing in the classroom. And when she saw that Lo was not working on an activity correctly she made sure to let him know.
On a side note… Lo did complete the spindles/pencils counting activity but did not seem to have a good understanding of the number zero, so the spindle activity was a great opportunity for him to learn about the number zero.

Overall, I feel that Lo did well in the classroom and enjoyed working on many activities. He did seem to want to rush through activities so that he could move on to the next one. And he did not repeat any one activity in particular. I believe this might be the case because our classroom set up is new to him (he normally attends a traditional preschool). I am curious to find out how the next couple of days go.

After our class session the three kids and I enjoyed playing outside, blowing bubbles, coloring, drawing and chalk writing.

Later Tuesday evening…

The following has nothing to do with home school or Lo’s first day, but since I also took these pictures today, I thought I would share them as well (and I know Dad will enjoy them).

CC and RJ started a gymnastics class three weeks ago. CC has taken this class in the past and she is loving it as usual, and RJ is adapting well. He does get distracted now and then, but his attention span is improving each week.
Here is CC on the low balance beam while RJ patiently waits his turn. RJ loved crawling through the tunnel part of today's obstacle course.