Monday, March 30, 2009

"Rug Time" (Circle Time)

In our home, we usually have Class Time after breakfast. Before we enter the classroom we go over some of the rules (i.e., no yelling, no running, put work back on the shelf…). We then always start our class sessions with “Rug Time”. CC suggested the name after watching it on one of her favorite shows, Sid the Science Kid. This is our Rug Time area.

Our Rug Time consists mostly of singing songs with maracas. It is mostly CC and I who do the singing but RJ’s singing/mumbling is slowly starting to improve. You’ll notice that everything in the Rug Time area is in English and in Spanish. We do sing all of the songs in both languages.

Although, CC and RJ can’t read yet, I still want to have this area for them so that they can become familiar with the calendar, the days of the week and the months of the year. As we progress, I plan to change and add Rug Time activities. Here is a close up of The Calendar/El Calendario and the Days of the Week/Los Días de la Semana.

We begin at the Calendar where CC moves the clear yellow marker to highlight the date. We then sing the following song as we point to the days on the calendar. The underlined blanks are changed accordingly. (Both are sort of to the tune of “Frere Jacques”)

Yesterday was ____day, ____day, ____day,
Yesterday was ___day all day long.
But today is ____day, ____day, ____day
Today is ______day all day long.
Tomorrow will be ____day, ____day, ____day
Tomorrow will be _____day all day long.
But today is ____day, ____day, ____day,
Today is ____day all day long.

Ayer fue Domingo, Domingo, Domingo
Ayer fue Domingo todo el día.
Pero ahora es Lunes, Lunes, Lunes,
Ahora es Lunes todo el día.
Mañana sera Martes, Martes, Martes
Mañana sera Martes todo el día.
Pero ahora es Lunes, Lunes, Lunes,
Ahora es Lunes todo el día.

We then, go over the days of the week/los dias de la semana. Although CC can’t read she is usually able to figure out each day by sounding out the first letter. These are the songs we sing:

(to the tune of "Oh My Darling Clementine")
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday Wednesday,Thursday, Friday, Saturday.There are seven days, there are seven days,There are seven days in the week.(repeat)

(to the tune of “The Addams Family")
Siete dias (clap clap)
Siete dias (clap clap)
Siete dias. Siete dias
En la semana(clap clap)
Domingo, Lunes
Martes, Miércoles,
Jueves, Viernes,
y Sábado. (repeat)

After we go over the days of the week, we move on to the months of the year/los meses del año. I’ve changed the months of year board a few times to try to find a way that CC and RJ can best understand the concept and relate the months to familiar events. The close up picture below shows the current layout, which seems to be working well. CC loves birthdays and can read ‘mom’, ‘dad’, ‘rj’ and her name so that’s why I chose to include our family's birthdays and those funny cakes. I included the snowman and train in January because CC and RJ had a memorable snow day and a fun family train trip that month. The rest of the drawings are self explanatory.

We also sing these simple songs to review the months of the year. Both are sort to the tune of “Doe a deer”.

January, February, March, April,
May, June, July,
August, September, October, November, December
Oh, these are the months of the year.
Oh, there are twelve months in a year. (repeat)

Enero, Febrero, Marzo, Abril,
Mayo, Junio, Julio,
Agosto, Septiembre, Octubre, Noviembre, Diciembre.
Son los meses del año. Hay doce meses en un año. (repeat)

After these songs, I often ask CC different questions about the months. (i.e., What month is RJ’s birthday on?, What month is Christmas on?, What month comes after March?...) This typically ends Rug Time since CC and RJ are usually eager to start their work. Although sometimes they ask to sing more songs, so we do!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The ‘Girls’ Have a Fun Day Out

Not many of my family and friends know this, but I am a huge figure skating fan (living in sunny Southern California, there aren’t very many of us). Today was a great treat when I was lucky enough to find some passes to an official practice session of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships at an unbeatable price. Friday, became a last minute day out for “just us girls”, as CC likes call us. We dropped off RJ at grandmas and off we went to watch some figure skating!

Here is CC outside of the L.A. Convention Center
CC enjoyed watching all the skaters, listening to the music and taking pictures.
Although, her favorite part was probably waving to the zamboni driver.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fun at AdventurePlex

My parents, sister and brother live about twenty-seven miles away from us, the kids and I visit them about once a week. Today, CC and RJ had an exciting play date with their 6 year old cousin. We all had some fun at AdventurePlex, a children’s fitness center with an open play area that has an enormous indoor play structure. We last visited this facility about five months ago and on that occasion CC and RJ spent most of their time in the toddler area. This time they explored every inch of the structure and had a great time climbing, crawling, jumping, swinging and sliding.

This was the first time CC and RJ both entered a ball pit without being afraid.

We then made it out of the toddler area and into the play structure. Here is RJ sliding and bouncing.

CC's favorite spot was this rope swing.

RJ initially spent his time following CC around (like he usually does at home), but then he started to explore on his own and this is where he ended up. On this picture, you can see CC in the background and can get an idea of the size of the play structure.

We all had a great time at AdventurePlex, especially since we had the whole place to ourselves during most of our visit. I only wish it was closer to our home so that I could take the kids there more often.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Home School Chronicle – Sunflowers and Daisies need water

As much as I enjoy flowers I don’t have an ounce of a ‘green thumb’, so I am starting small. The kids and I are attempting to grow two tiny flower pots of Daisies and Sunflowers (found in Target’s dollar section). Our goal is to eventually plant them outside and hope they bloom. We had a minor setback… we found a very sad looking sunflower pot in the classroom this morning.
“This is what happens to flowers when they don’t get watered”, was today’s first lesson. It actually looked worst when we found it. The picture above was taken about an hour after it was watered, none of the stems were pointing up this morning. Our sad surprise made CC a little upset but she quickly suggested that we give it water QUICK. Thankfully, the sunflowers seem to be making a recovery.
Today we had a productive short class session since we had a pediatrician appointment to get to in the early afternoon. Here are some of the highlights.

RJ spent quite a bit of time working on a Practical Life pasta pouring activity from CC’s shelf. You can see that not all of the pasta stays in the cups but he really enjoys this activity and doesn’t seem to mind cleaning up with a little encouragement.

CC is working on my version of a Sensorial geometric shapes activity. The wooden shapes are part of a small puzzle that I found in the toy clearance section of Cost Plus World Market. I made the pattern cards by hand with colored pencils. For the last three weeks it has been one of CC’s favorite activities and it cost less than $2! Here is a close up of the cards.
CC & RJ ended our class time at the organ. They hadn’t touched the organ in some time but today they both had fun making music for mom.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Our School Room

Our game room is now our classroom. I am so thankful that we have the space available for CC & RJ to have their own school room. I know we could have managed to hold class time in another area if we didn’t have the space. However, CC has visited a few preschools and was of course drawn to the bright colors, small furniture and toys in the classrooms. She is also very aware that most kids she knows go to daycare or school while their parents are at work. And I don’t want her to think that she is missing out on anything by staying home and not attending “school” like her friends do. She now enjoys telling her friends and family that we have our own classroom at home.

Here are before and after pictures of our classroom. The pool table has been moved to a corner of the room. When we have parties at our home I temporarily store the school furniture in the garage and it becomes a game room again.

Here you can see that our bar now serves as additional storage space in the classroom and placemats have replaced wine bottles.

In our classroom CC & RJ each have their own shelf and work on either the table or on the colored mat (depending on the size of the activity). The Montessori method encourages the use of mats or rugs to give children a physical boundary for their activity. We don’t yet have large rugs to identify their work area when working on the floor, so I have temporarily placed a blue tape boundary line. For the most part they are pretty good about staying on one side of the line and not scattering materials too much. The brown and tan rug is where we have “circle time” at the beginning of each class session. I will go into detail of what our circle time consists of on a future post.

We all enjoy our class time. CC and RJ are doing great and have adapted well to our new routine. Although, it can sometimes be challenging to have a 3-year old and a 22-month old in the same classroom. CC has enjoyed all the different activities and it has been a joy to watch her progress. RJ is doing as well as can be expected from an impatient toddler. He often wants to do what his sister is doing and I find myself constantly redirecting him on some days. He has also enjoyed most of the activities but seems to distract easily as you can see by this picture…

Friday, March 20, 2009

Our Montessori Environment - The Kitchen

Soon after I started reading about Montessori education I learned that it is not just about what is done in the classroom environment, where my children only spend a couple of hours a day, four to five days a week. I have since made changes to the rest of our home environment as well.

I started with the kitchen where we seem to spend the majority of our time each day. Pre-Montessori, both of my children used highchairs for meals, coloring, and other potentially messy activities. Now, they have the option to dine on their own small table and they love it. I wasn’t too sure about setting up a separate table for them because I prefer that the whole family eats together at the same table. So now we change it up… when it’s just the three of us I sometimes pull up a little chair and join them for meals. Once my husband is home, the kids usually eat at their table while dad and I eat at the regular table not far from them. We’ve kept the highchairs around so they sometimes still use them when they feel like sitting next to mom and dad. Where they eat, is up to them.

There have been other changes in the kitchen. Instead of it being “mom’s kitchen”, it became “our kitchen”. CC and RJ now help with what they can. Depending on the menu, they may help me with meal preparation and they are very good about clearing the table when they are done eating. They now have their own drawer in the kitchen which stores their dishes and utensils. Below is a picture of CC and RJ getting items out of their drawer. They usually ask me what we will be eating to determine if they will need a plate or bowl and a fork or spoon.
Here is a close up of CC and RJ’s drawer. I know the plastic dishes aren’t very montessorian. I have been shopping around for new dishes for them, but have not found the right ones just yet.

Another small but important addition to the kitchen are two prayer frames. The kids and I include prayer throughout our day. In the kitchen, for example, we have our Morning Player and our Mealtime Prayer. The mealtime prayer frame can be seen on the picture of the kids’ dining table. CC and RJ can’t read yet but having the frame next to the table reminds us to pray before our meals. Below is a close up of our Morning Prayer frame.

You might be thinking that the kitchen is an odd location for a morning prayer. I used to try to remember to pray with my children when waking up in the morning. However, CC and RJ don’t always wake up at the same time and praying is something that I want us to do together, plus some mornings can be hectic and we would often forget. The kitchen, however, is where we have breakfast every day. The first thing I do when we walk into our kitchen is open the blinds to the kitchen window, so that is where I placed the Morning Prayer frame.

On a side note:
Starting our Montessori journey hasn’t only made changes to our environment. I feel that it is also improving my parenting style. I have a better understanding of CC and RJ’s developmental stages and how they see the world. We follow more of a structured daily routine and I have slowed down the pace of our days to better suit the pace of my children. I’ve always tried to do this but now I am more consistent about it. I am also taking the time to teach them to do more things for themselves. I take advantage of the many learning opportunities that present themselves throughout our days. I’ve learned that they are always watching me and learning from me, therefore, I must do my best to set a good example for them at all times. I remind myself that I am not raising children for the moment; I am raising children that will one day become independent adults. Gosh, what a great responsibility!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why Am I Montessori Home Pre-Schooling?

Explaining Montessori education to those not familiar with it is not easy. It took a couple of months of online research and book-reading about the Montessori Method before I felt I had a good understanding of it. When I started homeschooling I did not think about how to explain Montessori education to those who had never heard of it. In fact, the first couple of times I was caught off guard and I don’t think my explanations gave this great teaching method justice.

Now, when asked the question “What is Montessori?” my answer varies depending on who is asking, how much time we have, and how much interest in shown on the topic. I have gathered my reading notes and below is a summary the Montessori approach and its positive characteristics that led me to choose this teaching method for our family. I try to read it periodically to keep me motivated and remind me of why I chose Montessori…

The Montessori teaching method is based on the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian who became the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School in the late 1800s. She then devoted many years to working, studying, and teaching about early childhood education. Her philosophy encourages children’s natural love of learning by creating a safe and enriching environment. It emphasizes the importance of education throughout the “Sensitive Periods” in the early years (birth trough age 6). For example, it takes advantage of the natural desire to learn and work and the willingness to please in preschoolers. Montessori taught that education does not need to be imposed on children; giving children the proper learning environment and freedom of choices offers opportunity for constructive growth.

Montessori is based on a profound respect for a child's personality. It is a child-led learning philosophy. Children work on their own free choice, at their own pace, and are allowed a large measure of independence; this forms the basis of self-discipline. A Montessori classroom uses carefully selected self-teaching and multi-sensorial materials with control-of-error built into lessons. Montessori education encourages children to discover for themselves the world around them. It instills a sense of discovery and awareness in preschoolers, as opposed to mere surface learning in an environment where a teacher makes all the decisions.

Sometimes instead of trying to explain a complex method it is easier to go over some of the basic goals and principles of the Montessori philosophy:

  • Treat children with respect and understanding.
  • Control of the environment not the child.
  • Encourage children to develop independence and self discipline.
  • Teach children to think for themselves and help discover individual uniqueness.
  • Allow children to work at their own pace in ways that work best for them as individual learners.
  • Instead of doing for the child (because it is easier), take the time to teach them to do it themselves. Don’t do for a child what he/she is able to do for him/her self.
  • Promote structure and order.
  • Teach respect for everyone and everything.
  • Teach grace and courtesy.

I don’t know how long I will be homeschooling CC & RJ. Many factors will determine how long I am able to stay home with my children. However, through Montessori education I hope to give CC & RJ a solid foundation on which to base future learning. Through early homeschooling, I want to help my children become independent, build a strong positive self-image, and help them reach their full potential in all areas of life.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Introduction - My First Post

I’m fairly new to this blog world and have recently spent many nights perusing homeschooling blogs. I enjoy reading about other moms that are going through similar Montessori experiences. The blogs I follow have inspired me and given me many ideas that I have implemented in my own home. Through this blog I plan to journal my personal experiences and hope that someday it becomes a place for other homeschoolers to reference as well. This blog will also be a place where my husband (and any interested family and friends) can catch a glimpse of what the kids and I do at home.

I recently officially started home pre-schooling my 3 year old daughter Carissa (to be known as “CC” on this blog) and my 22 month old son “RJ”. When CC turned 3, we started looking into half-day preschool programs. I researched different preschool options including Montessori, Tiny Tots and Mommy & Me classes. After CC and I spend time visiting different “schools”, we found that the best fit for CC, and the only place where we felt comfortable leaving our first born alone at, was a local Montessori school. However, we are a single-income family and the cost was not in our budget. We could have probably managed the tuition for one child but we realized that we would soon be paying double tuition. So we had to find an alternative…

After giving it a lot of thought and many hours of online research I came to the conclusion that “I can do it at home”! Our family has been blessed with the opportunity of having me be a stay-at-home mom (thanks to my amazing husband=), and my main “job” is to care for and raise my children so I know that I can find a way. After all, where else would our children be exposed to everything our family values? Thankfully, there are several books on the subject and countless wonderful (and free) resources on the internet.

My goal is to offer my children bilingual Spanish/English education, teach them prayer/religion, and help them reach their full potential in all areas of life; all of this in a Montessori inspired environment, AND on a budget. I let my children guide me and learn with them as well as from them. This blog will help me document our adventures in homeschooling. I am excited to discover where this journey takes us.