27 Apr

2009-08-11 at 12-46-13

 

 

I’m contemplating not blogging anymore.

I realize that maybe five people will read this so this isn’t earth-shattering, mind-blowing news or anything, but I guess if I am going to close this, I should give it an ending (or at least a fair warning).

I originally decided to do it so that I would be encouraged to keep writing and also to document what I’m doing with my girls in terms of Montessori at home.

It’s kept me writing, certainly, but I still am not doing the kind of writing that I want to do. Sometimes I just post gems like this just to post something. I don’t like that (and I’m sure no one else did either!).

I did find that it kept me motivated to research, plan, prepare, and teach Montessori lessons and activities to Freestyle, so that’s good. But I can still do that without this blog.

I just don’t seem to be able to find the time. I’m still adjusting to working again (albeit part-time) at home with both Free and RB now. I really try to work when they are being watched by my friend who babysits or my mom or while they are sleeping. When they are awake, I want to spend time with them and give them fun, interesting, and educational experiences. That’s why we decided that one of us should be at home after all.

I find that I can’t get all the work done in time for my deadlines unless I do some of it while they’re awake. During those days I sort of hate myself because I want to be able to 100% focus on the girls but then I am half-ignoring them while I stare at the screen.

At the same time, I love the work that I’m doing now. It’s interesting and challenging and allows me to explore the other side of teaching (writing/editing curriculum). I’m also so grateful that I found a job that I could do at home, that’s part-time, working with an amazing team. So I don’t want to screw it up. Last month was a real eye-opener. I made a few slip-ups and I was mor-ti-fied. They weren’t huge mistakes and easily corrected, but they were mistakes all the same.

So…I guess what I’m getting at is that I am realizing that I need to focus on what is most important and most necessary right now. So that would include my family, friends, work, volunteering and community involvement, teaching/living Montessori at home, writing (starting what will be a super fun side project with a good friend), and the other random projects which I always have on the go!

 

2009-07-04 at 01-47-33

 

 

I’ll call it an extended leave of absence for now. Thanks for reading and for your support. Thank you to E for all your encouragement about writing and giving me the idea to actually start this (looking forward to our project!). Thanks to those who I don’t know in real life who have subscribed or stumbled onto this via Pinterest or someone else’s blog and didn’t click away immediately! :)

 

2009-06-07 at 22-54-12

Is a graceful exit in the cards for me, much like my friend the peacock?

 

Bye for now! :)

 

Education News & Links

23 Apr

Sistema Winnipeg, an after school music education pilot program running in two Winnipeg elementary schools. It’s amazing! There is no cost to the families. They provide the instruments along with instruction by professional musicians and practice time for the children. It’s still a new program but so far the parents are reporting that their children have more positive outlook towards school and life in general and both parents and teachers see that it having a positive impact on their school work as well. Video and article here.

 

And after that lovely reminder of how important music is to children’s education, the Toronto School Board is considering cuts to the music program. Listen to Ontario Today’s interview and callers here.

 

Grandma got STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). This blog is subverts the idea of grandmas being completely out-of-touch with these complex subjects. Features inspiring, pioneering women who work in these fields. Great read for kids, especially girls!

 

Discipline in Montessori with Miss Donna 

[EDIT: I re-watched the videos again with Biker and missed the part when she did a slow drop of the baby because he hit her. Personally, I wouldn't do that! Freestyle has hit me and Biker a couple of times (a light swat) but what we did was catch her hand gently but firmly and told her, "No. We do not hit." Then, we asked her why she chose to hit us and tried to address whatever frustration she was feeling and give her acceptable options of expressing said frustration, such as telling us in words what is bothering her. She has only done this a couple of times and hasn't since, so we'll see!]

A lot of my discipline philosophy aligns with Miss Donna’s, which shouldn’t be surprising as she’s a Montessori educator (albeit much more experienced and eloquent than me!). I like Dr. Montessori’s “teach by teaching not by correcting” philosophy. 

I liked that she acknowledges that there is no right or wrong answer in parenting and that it’s mostly about the tone about 80% of the time. Makes sense!

In the videos, she talks about predetermined boundaries, agreeing on the basic issues with your partner, saying no first, commands vs questions, “choice-ing them to death.” I laughed when she talked when she told her story about her reaction when her son told her “I hate you, you’re the worst mom!” I dread the day Freestyle or Real Baby says that to me (but I know it’s coming!), but I will keep in mind what she said about that! 

Each video is about 15 minutes long but worth watching.

 

(When she said “issues,” Freestyle lit up and said, “Shoes! She said shoes!”)

 

 

Montessori Research

1 Apr

[EDIT: See? It's been so crazy that I ended up posting this "March madness" post in April! Also, I am learning to let go and not be too precious about my writing on this blog. If it was for work or school, I'd be going over and over it obsessively, but these posts are just shot off bit by bit in between naps and when Freestyle is at the babysitter's and I'm done my work (trying to keep to my resolutions!). I guess the most important thing is that I'm writing, which was one of the points of doing this blog in the first place!]

 

March madness indeed.

It’s been a busy month, but then, who does not claim to be always busy, busy, busy? Our month has been filled with generally good things, so I am not complaining. I’ve felt pretty featherbrained lately (though Biker would argue that it’s actually a chronic condition), with a lot of routine and event changes and rescheduling…it’s been a little  hectic and confusing, but I think things will settle in the next week or so.

 

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“I find the term ‘featherbrained’ offensive and derogatory.”

 

I have been reading and researching Casa lessons recently. I found a Montessori wiki called Montessori Album that looks fantastic! It compiles all the Montessori lessons with photos and step-by-step instructions. It even includes extensions and other resources. I haven’t had a chance to browse through it, but so far I’m diggin’ it!

 

I’m also re-reading The Advanced Montessori Method I, a collection of Dr. Montessori’s writings about her educational philosophy and methods for children ages 3-6 years (translated from the original Italian to English in 1918!). I read it at the beginning of my Elementary training during our Casa crash course, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t remember a lot of it!

As this book is in the public domain you can read it free at Project Gutenberg or download the free Kindle version.

 

My other side interest is public Montessori education. When I first got into this, a concern of mine was that access to Montessori education was limited to those who could afford to pay private school tuition (my trainer once said that Montessori should be considered an alternative school rather than a private school). Although there are many wonderful Montessori blogs and other online resources for families to either homeschool or do some Montessori activities at home, that can also be limiting because there are families that may not have the time and resources to research, create materials, and present lessons to their children.

I only just started looking into this but so far I found that two public schools in Toronto have optional Montessori Casa and Grade 1 programs! I’m going to give them a call to get more details. A friend of mine remembers hearing of a French Montessori program in a public school but I haven’t looked into it. I don’t know what I’ll do with this information yet, but I’m just interested in how the Ministry of Education is incorporating Montessori into the public school system and if more Montessori programs in schools is even possible. How great would that be?!

Montessori Madmen, a Montessori advocacy group started by Montessori dads, is a great resource. Here’s their list of resources. Here’s one of their fun and informative  videos, Superwoman Was Already Here:

 

 

Learning Letters: The Sound Game

27 Mar
IMG_3020

Turtle, banana, jingle bell, pencil, fish.

 

Freestyle is becoming more interested in letters and words. I try to point out letters wherever we see them (every time she sees the box of Cheerios she always points and says, “A, B, C” now!). I’ve also been calling her attention to words in books by running my finger under them as I read and sometimes she does it too as she pretends to read by making up a story based on the picture!

In Montessori, letter sounds are introduced first. This is better preparation for reading and writing. Letter names are introduced later (and from what I’ve read/heard, most children do not have any trouble or confusion with this). Freestyle knows the alphabet song from the children’s programs that we’ve attended and from me singing it to her, but recently I’ve been trying to sing the sounds to her instead. (I remember being so impressed that my Montessori trainer could do it so quickly! Now I can too! Go me!)

So, I decided to introduce the Sound Game to her (note: this wasn’t in Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Preschool Years. I found this exercise on infomontessori.com.). The Sound Games are a precursor to the Sandpaper Letters.

 

IMG_3017

Freestyle asked, “Me eat b-b-nana?” :)

 

The Sound Game

(This is just what I did after some time of pointing out the first sounds of different things in our environment from time to time. A proper introduction and detailed description  of all six Sound Game presentations, including the purpose, age of child, and control of error, available here. )

 

Materials:

Mat

Tray

Few objects around the home that begin with a single letter sound (blends such as shoe and stick are more complicated and should be introduced later)

What We Did:

1. I told Freestyle that we were going to play a game.

2. She unrolled her “work mat” and got a tray.

3. We went around the house and I asked her to look for specific objects that I already planned to use and knew where to find. We used a turtle figurine, banana, fish toy, pencil crayon, and a jingle bell.

4. Returning to the mat, we set down the tray and I asked Free to set out the objects in a row.

5. I asked Free to name all the objects and I repeated it, putting an emphasis on the first sound. “Yes, that’s a f-fish. Do you hear the first sound of the word ‘fish’? It’s ‘f’.” I was careful to say only the proper sound of the word (just the “f,” sounding like a quick puff of air) and not drag it out so that it sounded like “fuh” (incorrect).

6. After she heard all the first sounds of the objects, we started our game. I would ask her to give me the object that started with a specific sound. We went through all the objects.

7. She seemed ready to finish the game after we did it once (I could tell because she started rolling around on the ground and then wanted to ride on the work mat like a magic carpet!), so we stopped. Later, however, we did play again with different objects.

 

We’ll repeat this again and I plan on using the infomontessori site as a guide to continue with the rest of the Sound Games. It’s a great site and I added it to my list of Montessori resources.

 

Gather ’round, kids, to hear a tale…

26 Feb
IMG_2834

Snowprints!

 

The King and The Tax Collector 

There once was a king who ruled over a large kingdom. He was a goodhearted fellow who grew up within the palace walls, never wanting for anything. The king was kind and treated his people well and all who knew him, loved him.

The king enjoyed the people’s adoration and would generally grant their requests without hesitation. He would throw large parties, hand out gifts, lend and give without thought, and did what he wanted when the mood struck. The king was young and unpredictable and fun.

Now, the king’s tax collector was a shrewd and careful manager. She did not shirk her responsibilities and expected a timely collection of the people’s taxes. The tax collector made sure everyone knew when the taxes were due and how much they must pay. She would arrive at their doors exactly on the day that she had promised and did not accept excuses for late payment. The tax collector was firm and consistent and yet undeniably fair.

At first the people resented the tax collector’s strict ways and grumbled about her amongst themselves. However, they became accostomed to following her hard and fast rules and soon enough, all prepared their taxes on time. Eventually, the tax collector found that she never had to chase down late payments nor did she have issues with the people because everyone knew what she expected and followed it because they knew that there were consequences for not doing so.

 

IMG_2830

Random photo without context time!

 

Years went by. Instead of grumbling now, the people were prepared for tax season and handed their taxes over promptly. Many would even hand them in early. They developed a respect for the tax collector’s ways because they realized that she was fair, not cruel.

The tax collector was soon able to relax in some ways while trusting that the taxes would be collected in whole and on time. If someone wasn’t able to pay in full, she would take into consideration his or her payment history and allow the occasional late payment (though followed up consistently!). The people understood if a grace period was granted, it was an exception and they were grateful. The tax collector found her work becoming easier and more pleasant, as the essentials of her job were taken care of and she could now stop and have time to exchange pleasantries with the people, building up good rapport and relationships with them.

Meanwhile, the people had developed an indifferent attitude towards the king. They knew if they didn’t do as they were asked, he would be lenient. He thought he was being kind but his ever-changing stances and lax attitude about everything was confusing.

The king decided that in order to garner respect, he would try being strict. He began issuing harsh orders and when people did not comply, the king grew angry and doled out punishment after punishment, no matter how small the transgression. The people became confused. Then they became upset. They felt the king was being unfair and soon the people revolted against the king and demanded that the tax collector, who was always fair and did as she said, be the new queen.

The king, fearing for his life, fled the kingdom. The tax collector accepted the people’s wishes and established a functioning social democracy, serving as its first leader. :)

The End.

 

Story retold by Montessori Motherload. Original source unknown.

(If you know where this story originated from, please let me know! I have been looking around for it but can’t find it!)

 

IMG_2846

A student teacher at “school” taught Freestyle the basics of hockey today! However, as in soccer, Freestyle needs to work on not grabbing the ball mid-game and running away giggling! :)

 

 

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

- Les Brown

I heard of the story of the king and the tax collector during my teacher training (I guess that piece of paper didn’t survive my two moves since then!). It was during a session on classroom management. There were three lessons that I got from this story that stayed with me:

 

1. Start off with firm expectations

Most teachers will tell you that they are much more strict (strict as in firm, not as in unflinchingly mean!) in September, sticking firmly to the classroom rules and not wavering from their expectations. As the school year goes on, they will know that they can be more flexible in certain situations.  As in the story, it is much easier to start out with firm expectations and then loosen up when routines are set and the students understand the rules and rhythms of the classroom. Starting out without clear expectations and then try to become stricter later just doesn’t work.

Real-Life Classroom Example 

In my first year of teaching, I didn’t know that I should establish clear expectations on how much work should be accomplished. I was in an idealistic Montessori mindset that the students will love(!) work and do as much as they possibly can in a day for they just love working with the materials so darn much. Each student works at their own level and at their own pace, so it’ll all fluctuate but somehow come up roses in the end!

Yep, so that didn’t work out so well. By October, I could clearly see that some of the students were definitely not working as much as they could have and were not putting in 100% effort. I was teaching Upper Elementary at the time, so by then most were not in the eager to please teacher mode any longer and were much more interested in developing their social lives during class time!

I had to take the problem by the reigns when it got really bad but by that time, it was as if I was late for a race that had already started. It was difficult and I regretted not having those firm expectations in place right on day one.

It took me a couple of years to learn how to really apply the lesson from the story to the classroom, and when I did, I found that the rest of the year went much more smoothly after all the rules and routines were established and the students knew what was expected of them. I found this method especially helpful when I started in a new school or when I was supply teaching– it’s so much more effective to say no if you’re not sure of the usual routine and then later being more flexible with them, than to say yes, find out that that’s not how it’s done, and then have to backtrack. At that point, the kids will have figured out that you’re not sure what you’re doing and you’ll be running two steps behind them from then on!

I think this absolutely applies to the home as well.

I am finding that it is easier if I say no or restrict something for Freestyle at first and then later gradually easing up on that rule once she understands that it is an occasional treat or rare exception to the rule.

For example, I really tried to avoid giving her sweets for as long as possible. Juice, candy, and chocolate are obviously not nutritionally necessary (though super delicious as her hypocritical mother with a sweet tooth knows!), so we just avoided it. Let me tell you, it can be hard to stand your ground when everyone else is having chocolate cake and you are not allowing your 15 month old a piece because you’ve already said no.

Today, Freestyle does have the occasional chocolate (though I am still avoiding candy as much as possible and politely turn down grocery cashier’s kind offers of lollipops at check out!) and definitely has some cake or pie for dessert when we are out for dinner with friends or have company. She has developed a sweet tooth like her mother but seems (knock on wood) to understand that it’s an occasional treat.

Now, I’m not saying that what I’m doing is the “right” way to go about handling sweets for kids. Absolutely not. It’s just what I believe is best for my kids, that’s all. However, my point is, if I had allowed Freestyle to eat chocolate and candy and drink sugary juice all the time and then suddenly, in a health-conscious guilt moment decide that NO, she eats too much sugar and is never allowed to have it again! Well, that would be a pretty tough habit to break and this inconsistency would be very confusing and unfair to her.

 

2. Set clear expectations

This is pretty much an expansion of the above. The tax collector in the story made sure that the people knew her expectations and what the consequences would be if they did not follow them.

In both the classroom and home, knowing what is expected of you is important for children. It makes them feel safe. When I was teaching, I made sure that the students knew the expectations in different situations (work period, lunch, recess, field trip, etc.) and just as importantly, allowed them to practice (what do you do when you need help, saying hello and thank you to to the bus driver, etc.).

Real Life Classroom Example

It is not uncommon for Montessori schools to receive positive feedback about student behaviour during field trips. I have gotten many compliments on my class’ behaviour while we were out throughout the years. I can’t take full credit since their Toddler and Casa teachers worked very hard to establish Grace and Courtesy!

What I did do, however, was make sure they knew what to expect on the field trip. We would talk about the expectations when they arrived at school that day, what they had to bring, how they must behave on the bus, how they should comport themselves when we arrived at our destination, what to expect during the program, and so on.

We would sometimes practice by role playing. For younger children, we might practice “getting on the bus” and saying hello to the bus driver while looking her in the eyes. For older children, practice might mean thinking about what they would say or do if they were sitting beside a person who was homeless on the subway (I’ve taken my Upper El students on the bus and subway for a couple of field trips downtown).

Real Life Classroom Example

I think the best compliment that I got was during a trip to see the King Tutankhamun exhibit at the ROM. My group was just exiting the actual exhibit when two older women stopped me.

Woman #1: Excuse me, we just wanted to say how well-behaved your kids are!

Me: Oh! Thank you. That’s so great for them to hear. (Turning to students) This nice lady complimented your behaviour. Isn’t that nice of her?

Students: Yes! Thank you!

Woman #2: What did you do to prepare them?

Me: (Not understanding her question) We did some research projects on King Tut, read books about his life as a class, we did some Egyptian art…

Woman #2: No! I meant how do you prepare them for the trip? Their behaviour?

Me: Oh! (Thinking) Well, they are expected to behave appropriately and we usually practice and discuss it before the trip.

Woman #1: Well, they’re just wonderful.

Me: Yes, they are! :)

I was particularly proud of my kids because I remember that for that trip, although we did go through the expectations as per usual, I remember that I didn’t go into them as thoroughly because it was a trip closer to the end of the year and I assumed that they knew them already. And they did! I have more stories like this one, and I think it’s just a testament to Montessori’s emphasis on Grace and Courtesy and overall respect for others.

I should also add that while you are setting the expectations, you will also need to establish the natural consequences that will follow if those expectations are not met. That might need a whole new post!

 

3. Say what you mean, mean what you say

This goes hand in hand with the first two lesson. The people respected the tax collector because she did exactly that. This is so important to remember when teaching young children. Being consistent can be difficult at times, but if you stop just once, just remember that it’s supposed to take 21 repetitions to make something into a habit and you have just broken that chain and have to start again at repetition #1!

It’s so much easier to just give in, but it is worth the trouble!

Real Life Classroom Example

One thing that I always told my kids was that if I said no, I mean no and they shouldn’t keep asking because I wasn’t going to change my mind. Next time you are about to cave, just remember this:

Student: (Asking for something, doesn’t matter what. Anything. Everything.) Can I, Mrs. MM? Can I, Can I?

Me: I don’t know, can you?

Student: (Rolling eyes because they get that a lot at school…and probably at home!) Okay, may I?

Me: I already told you no and I am not going change my mind, so stop asking.

Student: …Please?

Me: Do you do this to your mom/dad?

Student: Yep!

Me: (Laughs) Does it work?

Student: Yep!

Trust me, that is pretty common! And though it is frustrating to keep repeating yourself when staying firm, it’s worth the effort when the kids realize that you say what you mean and mean what you say!

Good Morning, Baby!

26 Feb

Good Morning Starshine by Serena Ryder (beautiful voice, beautiful woman!)

 

When Freestyle was a baby, I would sing this song to her in the morning, changing the word “starshine” to her name. Now I sing the same song to both Freestyle and Real Baby.

 

Good morning, Freestyle

The earth says hello

You twinkle above us

We twinkle below

Good morning, Real Baby

You lead us along

My love and me as we sing

Our early morning singing song

 

It’s so lovely to see the sharing between siblings with Freestyle, Real Baby, and also with their cousins. My sister generously passes down her oldest’s clothes to Freestyle, then we pass it back for her second daughter, and then it’s now coming back for another round with Real Baby. I love seeing an outfit that Freestyle wore as a baby on Real Baby. Ahh, sweet nostalgia!

 

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I love my sisters and I’m so looking forward to seeing Freestyle and Real Baby’s sisterly love! (For now I am repressing any fighting over clothes and the phone!)

 

11 Feb

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_Image

 

Make your own cover here.

 

Gotta go! Freestyle is at the babysitter’s so I am running errands doing laundry catching up on work watching the livestream of Canada Reads!

 

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