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.

Easter Weekend

Easter weekend was full of excitement for CC and RJ... Our weekend included two egg hunts, egg decorating, an Easter celebration with family, and lots of candy!

CC and I decorated eggs while Dad took RJ out for some ‘boys’ time.
CC was very proud of our final product.
On Sunday morning CC and RJ were excited to finally open their baskets.
Hunting for eggs.

Look at our baskets!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The kids help with housework

I haven’t posted in the last couple of days because we did not have official class sessions until today. And today was a short session because we had a pediatrician appointment to get to. Anyhow, we spent the last couple of days running errands around town and doing some spring cleaning in CC and RJ’s rooms. It was time to clear the closet of clothes that CC and RJ have outgrown, and the kids also needed a refresher on toy organization.

Before learning about Montessori education, I will admit that most of my house cleaning happened while the kids were playing in another room or watching television. Although my kids have always been eager to try to help me, I used to find distractions for them so that I could get things done faster. Now Post-Montessori, I don’t necessarily go out of my way and suggest that my kids help me with housework, but if they say they want to help then I try to find a way to include them. Yes, everything takes longer to complete but the kids get such joy out of helping that it’s definitely worth it. Plus, they are learning to be more responsible for their rooms rather than having me pick up after them. Here are a few of this week's highlights…

While cleaning their rooms, CC and RJ (mostly CC) helped me with sorting clothes and organizing toys and books. CC practiced folding clothes, and when RJ would get distracted and try to start playing with CC, she would say, “RJ, it’s not playtime it’s cleaning time”.

CC and RJ now help take out the trash by taking out the recycle trashcan. We talk about what is recyclable and what isn’t. It takes a long time but they seem to like the challenge of getting all the recyclables in the tall trashcan.

This week, CC also started helping keep their small dining table clean. I filled a small spray bottle with non-toxic cleaner (which I watered down to be extra safe), and she now sprays and wipes down the table after messy meals.
All the organizing lately has even influenced CC to start organizing her refrigerator alphabet letters.
She likes to keep her letters lined up by color… they stay that way until RJ comes around.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Home School Chronicle – Class time, then off to the Strawberry Patch we go.

After an eventful weekend, the kids and I made it back to the classroom today. I brought some of February’s activities back out to the shelves and CC and RJ were immediately drawn to them. After Rug Time, both CC and RJ dashed to the shiny spooning-transfer activity below. Thankfully, RJ quickly found something else to work on when I reminded him that he had to choose an activity from his shelf first. You can tell from the picture that CC needs some brushing up on her spoon transferring skills. RJ is working on a foam puzzle that he struggled with just a few weeks ago, but now enjoys often.

RJ then moved on to some hammering.

But as soon as CC put the spooning-transfer activity back on the shelf he decided to give it a try. He did much better than I anticipated.

The color sorting activity that CC is working on is the first Montessori inspired material I made. Except for the pom poms (which I purchased for $1), I used all recycled materials. It was made with the white box that packaged a case of water bottles, small apple sauce cups, and a larger container that used to hold rice pudding. CC enjoyed finding it on her shelf after not seeing it for over a month.

I must have been a little distracted because I almost missed the fact that RJ seems to be getting better at color sorting. He normally just randomly places the small toys in the compartments with his hands. But today he grabbed the tongs from another activity and got most of the colors sorted correctly=)

After today’s class session, the kids and I went to a local strawberry patch to pick some fresh delicious strawberries. The last time we were there, RJ was much younger and didn’t do any strawberry picking, but today CC and RJ both had a great time filling their own containers.