Montessori and Our Youngest Friends

It is often clear to the parents of children in our 3's/4's classrooms and in our Pre-K classroom that we are clearly using Montessori tools to invite their children into the wonderful world of learning, but sometimes that may not be so clear to the families of our youngest children. So I
wanted to take a moment and just take a peek into that classroom to see what, if anything, Montessori was going on...

At the very beginning, even if we are not using a Montessori designed learning tool, such as a spindle box, or a color wheel, we are taking the first steps toward introducing our youngest friends to an environment that is designed much like the environments of their older friends or siblings in the other (older) classrooms.

There are spaces designated for use by just one student, with toys, or games or puzzles laid out on a carpet square to designate space for one.
There are opportunities to play and share a space with just one friend at a time.
And there are opportunities to play in small groups, too. These areas are closely monitored by the teachers, allowing students to have this experience, but making sure it is a positive experience for all who choose to participate. If it's not working out in this bigger play group area for a particular friend, then the teacher can choose to redirect that child to one of the other options that allow for more individual play.
(Notice Zadie's carefully lined up shapes from the bucket before she left this area to investigate the other possibilities in the room!)

All of these seemingly small details are giant stepping stones in this first classroom. First and foremost for our youngest friends is the hard and serious work of being in a classrooms with friends and teachers for 2 hours without their primary caregiver (mom, dad, grandma or nanny). To manage this big task - to be dropped off and then manage their bodies and their emotions and ENJOY their experience - is our greatest work in this first tender year.

In addition, with their routine, schedule and room set up all mirroring the older classrooms, our friends are getting a solid leg up on their start with some of the more formal Montessori learning opportunities awaiting them in the years to come!

Take Apart Returns to Pre-K

One of the favorite projects experienced by our Pre-K students (and some of our staff!!) is our annual "Take-Apart" project. This is a hands-on experience of "deconstruction. Our students are given safety goggles, and instructions on how to use screwdrivers, small hand drills, hammers, and their own muscles to take apart in the means they feel will work any of the myriad of small household appliances and/or electronics that we have acquired sometime in the previous year.

Here is an example of what was in the Take-Apart pile of goodies:

This particular vision of pink lovliness was of great interest to many of our students upon taking a turn at the Take Apart table. Unfortunately, this item seemed keen on keeping its many mysteries hidden from view until Mr. Henry had his turn. Within moments, Henry had discovered the key, and...

Ta Da!!

Thanks, Henry!


Packing Lists

Packing lists are a wonderful ritual here at the Children school!
We prepare for travel by making a list of what we might need during the time away.

Hannah's packing list for Australia:
Princess dress
Toy rabbit
Barbies-princess one
Extra underwear
Pony shoes-crocs
Blue crocs
Chicken and rice
Chicken and noodles

Teacher Cinda's list for Pt Robinson Lighthouse:
Pink umbrella-Molly
Raincoat -Henry Hoffman
Flashlight, blanket- Mrs.MacArthur
Jammies- warm-Leah
Cupcakes-Henry Cassady
Thank you everyone for the great ideas! We have great helpers here at our school!


What Are We Learning?

We are learning, learning, learning all the time!!
In our classrooms and even between rooms, there are skills to practice and master. Here at The Children's School, some of these skills will be in the category of what we refer to as "Practical Life."

These can be skills that we, as adults, do so often, and mastered so long ago ourselves that we don't even think of them as a series of steps to be put together that will then result in one glorious self-sufficient task.
For example - hanging up one's coat. Here at school, we must start the whole process by identifying where the coat should go in the first place. Then, you have to figure out how to take it off!
Once removed, you have to identify some part of that garment that will actually effectively allow you to hang it up so it doesn't fall down. And this doesn't even address the whole inside-out arm thing! See how intricate this really is? It's a skill that our children are practicing everyday, and no matter where a child is along this pathway toward independence, any time they are willing to do any of it themselves, that is SUCCESS!

Another really important skill which leads to self-sufficiency is learning to pour liquid. Here at school this is affectionately known as "pour.pour.stop." Often you will see a set up much like the one pictured above somewhere in your child's classroom (3,4 and Pre-K). The teachers color the liquid to help the children better see the results of their work. The goal is to control the pitcher well enough that you can pour liquid to the marked line and then stop. The encouragement from the teacher, then sounds very much like,"Ok, let's pour...pour...ok STOP!" Again, this takes effort, concentration and control. But once mastered, this skill transfers to many tasks on an everyday basis. Not just the obvious of pouring one's own glass of milk or juice, but also learning how to fill a bucket to wash the car, or put water in your play tea set, or fill the pan with water to do hand-washing at the hand-washing station. All of these small steps play a BIG part toward moving a child further along the road to independence, accompanied with a healthy dose of self-confidence.


We're Back to School!!

In so many ways, this is how I feel at the end of our first week of school - inundated with paperwork! The picture above is in front of my neighborhood elementary school, and I just couldn't help but stop and take a picture of it. (Can you see me?)

As I find myself making lists, checking for completed forms, following up with missing information, I am also shuffling through the multiple forms that have been sent home with each of my 2 children. And of course, everyone wants them NOW! My son, who is a very responsible 13 year old, called me this morning apologetically to say that he had left his packet of completed paperwork on our dining room table, and I couldn't help myself - I answered him with a giggle, "Oh, you mean the one I stayed up until midnight to finish?! No problem, Kiddo, I'll drop them at the school!" You'd think the start of school could be about something more "learny" than forms for goodness sake!

And so much of it is. For our students, as they learn new routines and for our teachers as they learn about their students there are many more important things than emergency numbers and contact information. But for some of us, who understand part of the joy of being entrusted with the care of your children - in all circumstances - as one that demands we be as well prepared as possible, we also understand that sometimes that means we just need the paperwork.

All those phone numbers, names, addresses - these are the tools we will add to our "Preparedness Toolbox" - a toolbox we have been assessing and reassessing actively for the past 10 years. Everyone helps us to put this toolbox in good working order .

This year we have added a Parent Education opportunity around the topic of safety to our schedule. On Wednesday, October 5th, during our lunch program time, we invite parents to come into the school and learn more about how The Children's School, and the greater community of childcare programs housed at our location are prepared to keep your children safe and secure during any unexpected event or emergency. We'll discuss scenarios that are varied in size and scope; we'll discuss safety from an "everyday" perspective, and we'll take time to answer questions and concerns that parents may have in general. Please join us for this important topic.