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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.

 

IMG_2912

“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.

 

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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.

 

Happy New Year!

3 Jan

My Montessori-related Goals for 2013

  • Devote more time in researching, creating, and presenting Montessori lessons to Freestyle.
  • Research, create, and present Montessori Toddler lessons to Real Baby.
  • Continue reading up on Montessori, current educational best practices.
  • Make a list of materials that I will need for first year Casa work. Write a letter to send to my family and friends asking if they have any of these items to donate to the cause!
  • Look into a Casa albums to purchase.

Sir Clicks A Lot

6 Dec

Here’s a lazy post… Happy clicking!

 

One.

One of my favourite Montessori blogs, Living Montessori Now, posted this great video that provides a nice, succinct overview of Montessori learning (with a focus on the Casa classroom, ages 3-6).

 

 

Just watching it makes me miss the classroom and also inspires me to do more at home with Freestyle and Real Baby. I do love the Casa age, they’re so adorable and their work and development are so interesting to observe.

 

Two.

 

 

Clean up, clean up, 

Everybody, everywhere!

Clean up, clean up, 

Everybody do their share! 

I noticed that this song is sung in many of the daycares, children’s programs, and churches around here. I first heard it when my niece would sing it years ago and now Freestyle knows it and likes singing it!

We sing this song when we are cleaning up at home now. It’s a good signal to kids that it is indeed time to tidy up and you can just repeat it until the job is done. And repeat it you will…

 

Three.

There was a great segment on Q last week called Are playgrounds too safe?

You know what I miss? Those huge, round merry-go-rounds. I was the lazy kid who sat near the middle so that I wouldn’t have to push!

 

Four.

As I’ve said before, I always read about educational issues that just point to how right Montessori is for children. I previously wrote about why Montessori schools do not use grades on their report cards here.

 

Five.

I read this NY Times article (Posted in the “Motherlode” section– and yes, my blog name is purposely Motherload. Had to clarify because sometimes intentional misspelling bugs me!) recently. The author puts into words what I’ve long felt about digital photo-taking but way more eloquently!

And if that’s not convincing enough, the article reminded me of a truly creepy horror movie that I watched for my Sci Fi & Fantasty Film class: Peeping Tom movie 

 

Six.

Let’s end this post on a more cheery note, shall we? Here’s my favourite Christmas movie (and the movie Biker and I watched after ice skating on our second* first date!):

* long story!

 

 

I want to watch it now! 😀 Jamie & Aurelia are my favourite couple!

 

Bringing Up Be Be & Montessori (not a review)

29 Nov

Photo Credit

 

Recently, I was at the library and on the way out, I passed the “New Non-Fiction” display table and saw this book. I decided to check it out and see what it was all about.

I heard about Bringing Up Be Be: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman when it first came out earlier this year. I do remember that some people who reviewed the book were not too impressed with the author’s research and the fact (that the author also acknowledges) that this “French parenting” is based solely on her observations on the upper middle class families with whom she socialized. So when I mention French parenting or French parents here, I am referring to the families that the author wrote about in the book. Obviously I have no idea if all parents in France follow this parenting philosophy!

Bringing Up Be Be was an interesting read. While I’ve never thought there is a be-all and end-all parenting style, there were definitely some parts that I found a bit off or didn’t agree with (e.g. limited breastfeeding because it is not attractive, keeping the husband out of the birth room in order to keep the woman’s “mystery” alive…ha. Ha. HA.) and I found that some of “what the French do” is pretty much common sense– something we know we should do, but the people described in this book actually do it!

These are the parts of “French parenting” from the book that I did agree with and like, some of which I found aligns somewhat with the Montessori philosophy. (I am writing this a few weeks after I’ve finished and returned the book, so I can’t promise that my memory of the book is 100%!).

 

1. Bonjour, Au revoir!

The author observed that, manners-wise, Americans focus mainly on teaching their children to say “thank you” and “sorry,” (I totally did this!) while French parents also emphasize saying”hello” and “good-bye” to adults. This is so children become more aware of others (and that they are not the centre of the universe) and that they need to acknowledge the presence of these other people. It is also a simple way to acknowledge their presence and a basic gesture of respect.

I found this similar to the routine set in a Montessori classroom. Upon entering the classroom each morning, each student greets her teacher(s) with a handshake, look her in the eyes and says, “Good morning, Mrs. MM.” At dismissal, the student will again shake her teacher’s hand and say goodbye.

This exchange is basic Grace and Courtesy— the child practices greeting others, making conversation (eye contact, appropriate body language, carrying on a conversation– all important life skills!), and it is a nice way to cap off the day.

(There is also a practical classroom reason for this: by greeting the teacher, the teacher can take attendance and check in with each student individually.  It is also an extra mental reminder of who arrived/left.)

I liked this concept a lot. I agree with the thinking behind it and started consciously reminding Freestyle to greet and say goodbye to everyone (not just adults).

Sidenote: I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this before, but one thing I will never make Freestyle do is hug/kiss someone when greeting/saying goodbye. I do not believe that children (or anyone, really) should be coerced to hug/kiss someone if they do not want to do it (even relatives). Kids should never feel obligated to submit to physical touching if they don’t want to, right? Also, I’ve read that if a child is abused, most likely it is by someone he or she knows or trusts. So, when we are leaving, I will usually ask Freestyle, “It’s time to say goodbye! Do you want to hug So-and-So?” Usually she does, but on those rare occasions when she refuses, I’ll just say loudly and firmly (so that that person overhears and hopefully understands), “That’s okay, you don’t have to hug anyone, but you do need to say ‘goodbye’ to her.”

 

2. Le Cadre

En Francais, cadre means “frame.” The author wrote that French parents are stricter than Americans about limiting the amount of freedom that their children have, but within that “frame” of freedom they can do what they like. One example (that I vaguely remember) is that one parent said that for bedtime, they would say goodnight to their child and leave the room. The child does not have to go to sleep immediately, but must remain in the room doing something quietly (read, play, etc.). Eventually, they would find the child has fallen asleep on his own.

In Montessori schools (and homes!), children are given a certain amount of freedom but are expected to exhibit a corresponding amount of responsibility (appropriate for his or her age and level of development).

The concept of freedom with responsibility makes sense, right? It extends to the entire school experience for the Montessori child.

For example, in the classroom, there are no assigned seats. Children work at tables or on a mat on the floor. So, in this situation, here are the child’s freedoms and responsibilities:

Freedoms:

  • He can choose where to sit.
  • He can choose to work alone or with a friend or two.

Responsibilities:

  • He will choose an appropriate place to work (with enough space for the materials, not sitting at an over-crowded table, etc.).
  • If he chooses someone to work with, he will choose someone who will not distract him from completing his work.
  • He will not distract others from doing their work.

If the child does not uphold these responsibilities and does not make better choices after a reminder or two from the teacher, then the teacher may have to limit his freedom by either asking him to choose another place to sit or taking away the privilege of this choice. He may also not be able to work with that particular partner if they are not remaining focused on the task.

The child can always earn back these freedoms by demonstrating that he is able to be responsible to handle them.

This “cadre” works for children because they need (and want) limits. You always hear of kids “testing the limits” with their parent, caregivers, or teachers. This is because she wants needs to know what the limit is– if she has unlimited freedom, she will not feel safe.

Montessori believed that young children (first three years of life) have a strong Sense of Order— they are learning about the world through their senses and are trying to make sense of all this information by creating order. Children want to know the place and function of everything in their environment. This Sense or Order gives them security and allows them to continue developing.

A sense of security…

  • Allows the child to become confident in making choices (since they know where the boundaries are).
  • Promotes independence and responsibility (because they are trusted to make those choices, as long as they stay within the boundaries).
  • This trust that the adult gives them shows a respect for the child as a person, building on their self-confidence.

(This all reminds me of OLG‘s motto: “Know Your Limit, Play Within It!” Ha ha!)

 

 

3. Independent Play

In the book, the author observes an American parent following his child around the playground, going up the ladder, down the slide, on the swings, etc. All the while, the parent is keeping up a continuous narration of the child’s every action (“Now you are going up the stairs! Good job! Now you are going down the slide, whee!”).

French parents, on the other hand, would more likely be found on the park bench, catching up on e-mails or just enjoying a coffee while their child plays independently.

I’m of two minds on this issue. On one hand, I do agree that playing independently is an important skill for every child to have. I’m at home with Freestyle and while I love being with her, we can’t go around attached to the hip all day! So when I am making dinner, I’m happy when she can entertain herself! During the day, if I see her happily playing by herself at home, I will usually leave her to it and do my own thing until she wants my attention again.

However, I do think that it is important for bonding, language development, and general awareness to talk to (and when she learns to speak, talk with) your child during play. Doctors, speech-langauge specialists, early childhood educators, etc. here in Canada strongly encourage parents to do the whole narration thing, especially with babies. I think there’s a balance. It’s important to talk to your child and call her attention to different things in her environment while giving her the language. BUT there is such a thing as going overboard with this, as illustrated with the non-stop (and one-way) chatter of the playground parent above! Just being quiet together is valuable too– it’s a time to rest, reflect, and allow each other time to have your own thoughts.

Also, while I do like that sometimes Freestyle will play independently while I can do something else, there are many times when she wants to play with me and of course I do so unless I am doing something else that is more urgent (see #5 below). And, sometimes I want to play with her which I think that it’s healthy and fun for both of us! I can model positive social behaviours (sharing, patience, Grace and Courtesy, etc.) while relaxing and just enjoying my daughter. 🙂

 

4. National Meal Plan

A love quiche!

 

French parents conform to what the author termed “National Meal Plan.” That is, their children ate at certain times of the day without snacking in between. The times were:

Morning = Breakfast

Noon = Lunch

4:00PM = Snack

8:00PM = Dinner

 

 

Without fail, all the parents the author spoke with naturally followed this “meal plan.” It was about finding the balance of the child’s rhythm and that of the parents and why French children will eat their food at mealtimes (they aren’t full from snacking all day). Even babies’ feedings would slowly but surely conform to the National Meal Plan. The author compared this with American children who seemed to snack more often during the day.

I do like the idea of older children (and me too!) having set mealtimes with limited snacking (sorry, grazers!). I noticed that I would let Freestyle have a snack between breakfast and lunch (second breakfast, hobbit-style!) if she asked, usually around 10:00AM. Whenever we went to playdates there would always be a spread set out by the generous hostess and most of the kids would descend on the snack table like vultures who hadn’t eaten for days (and yep, Freestyle would be right in the middle of the pack!).

After reading this book, I decided to cut out the morning snack. If she asks, I just tell her that we will be having lunch soon. If she keeps asking, I’ll direct her attention to something else until then. Now she rarely asks for a “second breakfast” snack.

I’ve kept the afternoon snack (usually around 4:00, but of course I don’t stick strictly to that time!), which is nice because who doesn’t enjoy an after school/work snack? 🙂

 

Afternoon snack is served!

 

I can’t really tell if Freestyle eats more at meals now because she’s a good eater, as they say. If she doesn’t eat a lot at one meal, I know she’ll just make it up at the next!

I also like the emphasis on eating healthy whole foods from the time they are young, working with the belief that kids do eat vegetables and other healthy fare (as opposed to assuming they won’t like it), and trying foods that are initially rejected again and again in different ways.

 

5. “Le Pause”

Another thing French parents do is “Le Pause.” Instead of immediately picking up their crying baby or tending to their kid’s requests, they will wait for a moment or two. This “pause” is to teach patience so that their children do not expect immediate gratification.

I do believe that immediate gratification is a big problem in our culture (no points for that observation), so I do agree with the idea of having the child wait for non-urgent matters (for an appropriate amount of time for her age, of course).

Reminds me of the Marshmallow Test. A marshmallow is put in front of a child. The adult tells them that he can eat the marshmallow now or, if he can hold off until she comes back, he will get a second marshmallow. If the child can wait, the studies show that that child will be more successful in life. He has the inner self-discipline to wait and the ability to distract himself during the waiting period.

 

 

I’m tempted to try this with Freestyle! 🙂 Maybe when she’s a bit older…

 

Personally, I subscribe to the view that babies cannot be spoiled by being picked up. If Real Baby is screaming, then yes, I will immediately pick her up or do whatever it is that needs to be done to make her comfortable. However, if she is just fussing, I will wait a moment to see if she’ll settle herself. Right now that moment is usually a couple of minutes, but I will let it stretch out longer when she is older.

For Freestyle, I (hope) I don’t immediately give into her wants. I’ve been using the phrase “Please wait” with her lately. She seems to understand this. With Real Baby in the picture now, she will definitely have to learn to wait her turn now!

Have you read Bringing Up Be Be? What did you think of it? Are there any other parenting books that you feel are worth a read?

 

 

Water Pouring Exercise

22 Nov

Water Pouring Exercise for Toddlers 

Age: Approx. 15 months + . As always, all children are different, so you can observe your child’s readiness. Initially, I introduced pouring to Freestyle using dry items when she was 20 months.

Purpose: This is a Practical Life exercise. The child is developing hand-eye coordination, concentration, practicing aiming for a target, and fine motor skills. If there are spills, she learns to clean up after herself. Once she is able to control her movements and pour accurately, she can pour her own water during meal and snack time, another step towards independence! She can also offer to pour a drink for others (Grace  & Courtesy).

 

Materials:

2 small pitchers, ideally they will be identical

(I used two creamers that I found these two creamers at a thrift store…$0.99 each! They had shelves and shelves of old tea sets and other items that could be used for Practical Life activities)

Water

Small cloth or sponge to wipe up spills

Tray

 

What to do:

1. Have your child carry the tray with all the materials to a table. She will sit in front of the tray and you should sit to her right if you are right-handed, to her left if you are left-handed.

2. Fill the pitcher on the right with a small amount of water. Demonstrate how to carefully pour the water from the right pitcher to the left, and then back again (more details in step 3).

3. Show her how to wrap the fingers of her right hand around the handle (her pointer and middle finger will be wrapped around the handle while her thumb rests on top of it). Have her support the other side of the pitcher with the pointer and middle fingers of her left hand.

4. Allow her to carefully pour the water from one pitcher to the next, and then back again.

5. If there is a spill, that’s okay! It’s just an opportunity for your child to learn that she will need to take more care next time and also to take responsibility in cleaning up after herself.

6. Let her repeat as many times as she’d like– which will probably be a lot!

 

Control of Error: No water will be spilled.

Vocabulary: pour/pouring, pitcher, handle, spout. Freestyle loved the spout and kept saying, “Spou…water come from!” 🙂

 

Freestyle really enjoyed this activity but during our second try she wasn’t able to control her excitement and was lifting up the pitcher in the air with one hand and cheering after she finished pouring. After I tried to gently remind her that we needed to be careful, showed her again how to hold the pitcher, and giving her a fair warning about what the natural consequence of this behaviour would be, I ended up having to stop the activity and take it away. While I’m glad she likes doing it, she will have to learn that there is an acceptable way to handle the pitcher and that wasn’t it! Of course she was very upset but…them’s the breaks, kid.

 

Go further:

  • When your child is ready, she can start pouring her own water from a small pitcher into a glass for snack time and meals! Later, she can do this for the rest of the family– imagine how proud your child will be to be able to do such an important job!