Monday, December 20, 2010

Already thinking of the return

Sean has just started holiday break and I'm already thinking of all the work that has to be done as soon as we return from break.
Our site council will meet with the principal to discuss colors for the new school being built this spring/summer, and we are still waiting to hear about the math waiver. We'll also be getting a schedule of parent education for the rest of the year and choosing topics, speakers, etc.

Oh, and in the meantime I'm supposed to be writing a grant. I'm hoping to kick into high gear today or tomorrow on that. It's for an Interfaith Youth Camp.
Luckily my boyfriend has written and gotten grants, so I'll rely on him a bit to give me advice.
I'll be taking off for a while from the blog, unless we run into some great educational things while we're on break. There's a trip to Tennessee coming soon, and we always gravitate toward the educational outings. Stay tuned for pictures and info on a fossil site...

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Wonderful Teacher

Sean's teacher taught in Nigeria before she was hired for the teaching position at the school, and this year his class is writing letters to her former students.
Last week I spent the day teaching interested students how to weave by using a stick, yarn and a 3 1/2 by 5 notecard. Monday I couldn't spend all day, but told her I would stay for about an hour.
I proofread her newsletter, which BTW is unbelievable. Her weekly newsletter averages 3 pages front and back, and she is GREAT. It is a big job, and I can't believe she does it every week. It's like writing a 3-page Christmas letter every week. She breaks it down by subjects and mentions children by name who have offered insight or who have modeled what they are learning.
It keeps parents more than informed, it makes me feel like I'm in the room sometimes.
She also has a list of events in the area, and uses a quote and one thing to do with your child for the week.
She also just passed her National Boards. She's young, and so committed to her students and the parents. I originally requested that Sean be in a specific teacher's classroom, but this teacher is truly amazing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Weaving, and caring for the classroom

I spent the entire day in Sean's classroom yesterday teaching some of the children how to weave. I saw this tutorial on youtube, and studied it in order to teach some of my Sunday school kids a weaving lesson this summer. I mentioned it to his teacher this fall and she was all for it. They've been fingerknitting for a couple of months now, and some are knitting and crocheting. Weaving was a great extension of what they've been doing with yarn.

You can see the tutorial here.

In preparation for the lesson, his teacher gathered sticks from her yard and brought them into the classroom. Each child chose a stick from the bag as they got ready for the instruction. I did it one or two at a time, and in the beginning thought they would enjoy doing it as a team. It became clear we needed to work individually for the sake of time.

I didn't get pics because I had misplaced my camera. Luckily I found it last night, but wished I could have had it while I was there. I'm going back again next week, so I'll try to get photos next time.

It was great to see how the class works as a Montessori class, and watch the teacher in action. There were group lessons, and there were a lot of children working independently on different materials. Two boys were playing a game with money, one little girl was working with the 100 board, and others were on the other side of the room working on things like the life cycle of a pumpkin, days of the week, and other materials.

The teacher is very calm, to the point, and uses techniques that work really well. When she was giving a demonstration of writing, doing the rewrite process, a couple of boys were starting to get restless and were talking. She stopped, said, "I'm going to stop now because I'm experiencing some disrespect. When you talk amongst yourselves while I'm talking that is disrespectful. When you can be respectful I will begin again. If you choose not to be respectful you will have to leave the group and sit alone."
One child spoke again and she called him out of the group and said, "You may go to a chair and put your head down, I'm sorry you won't be able to participate with the group."

One of the things that struck me was how eager and willing Sean was to do his job. I watched as the end of the day came and each child had a job to do.  Sean dusted every shelf, took baskets off the shelves, dusted the entire area, made sure all scissors were put in the basket, that everything was in its place, and moved on to the next area.

Then there was a class meeting. There was a discussion about when the class should be allowed to bring home library books. Several children said when everyone could be respectful of the books, and they talked about what that would mean for the books.

There was a vote, and 17 voted to be allowed to bring books home today. At the end of the meeting they recited a phrase, something like, We took care of this, we took care of ourselves, we took care of this place. (I really don't remember what the first thing was) Then they were called one by one to get their backpacks and line up in groups of either bus riders, or pickup.

I was exhausted by the end of the day. I loved being there, though. I look forward to being in the classroom again next week.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Red Ranger Came Calling

We have enjoyed reading the book, "Red Ranger Came Calling," by Berkeley Breathed for a few years now. We pull it out around Thanksgiving and read it a couple of times before Christmas. It's a beautifully illustrated book about a boy who is shipped off by his parents to visit his Aunt Vy on Vashon Island (right here in our area) during Christmas vacation in 1939.

He is into a character called Red Ranger of Mars, protector of the 25th Century. The newest thing in 1939 was an Official Buck Tweed, two-speed, crime-stopper, star-hopper bicycle. Red, of course. And the little boy is called, "Red," and has red hair and a fiery temper to match. He meets up with an old man named Saunder Clos who the locals say is the real deal retired from the North Pole to Vashon. Red is prepared to unmask the phony.

It's a heartwarming story, complete with a little piece of evidence that suggests the story is true.

So I was REALLY excited when I found out a local theater company was doing a play based on the book.  I can't even remember how I found out about it, but I immediately looked for how to get tickets, etc. The dates worked out for us, so I was ready to purchase.

I decided to "friend" them on Facebook, and found on their profile page that redheads could get in for a discounted price of $10. And even if you didn't have natural red hair, you could dye your hair, get a wig, wear yarn hair, whatever, and get that discount.

Well, that was just icing on my cake. Anytime there is a chance to have a little silly fun I'm in. And believe me, a discount can send my heart racing.

I envisioned a troop of redheads in our party, and I was likely to be the only natural redhead in the bunch. I talked Sean into a wig in the beginning, but he changed his mind and wanted to dye part of his hair red. I was fine with that as long as it was temporary. My boyfriend wore a red wig, Sean dyed the top part of his hair with red hair gel, Lilly (my boyfriend's little girl) put a red streak in her hair, and my aunt and cousin went with their regular look. Not as many redheads as I thought, but still just fine.

The promotion was only through the Facebook page, so there weren't many in the audience who had taken advantage of it.

The play was incredible. It was a musical, which I didn't expect. Honestly, I'm usually not that into musicals, but this one was really good. My joy came from watching Sean thoroughly enjoy every moment of it. Each actor did such a great job and really brought the book to life.

Sean knows the story so well, I'm sure he could anticipate what was coming next. To have it all right there bigger than life for him was so much fun!

I loved that it was a Christmas story, but so different.
I feel so blessed to live here. There are some really rich and top-notch arts opportunities here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My Vision for Sean

I recently attended a meeting with some school district folks and the teachers and principal of Sean's school.
I won't go into the whole thing here, as it would be boring for most people who have no connection to a public school. However, I was there to speak, and pretty much shared a very brief version of the Montessori journey that we've had up to now. I made clear my commitment to giving Sean a Montessori education.
At the end of that, and I was the last speaker, I said I had made a list of what I want for Sean. I believe Montessori will provide these things for him, and I then read the list. One of the district people asked for a copy of it, and then I heard feedback from some parents and teachers about it, so I decided to share it here with anyone who might be reading this blog.

Things I want for Sean:
CHOICE. Empowerment.  Peace. Love of learning. Freedom. Ownership.
A feeling of responsibility for his own education.
Excitement for each thing in his environment and each thing he is learning. Awareness of the world around him, feeling connected to every living thing.
A sense of awe of the universe.
Pride in his ability and work ethic that is intrinsic and not from outside of himself.
A focus on the effort, not the test score or the grade on a paper or report card.
The ability to adapt to different situations and people.
Basic manners, and respect.
How to recognize emotions and deal with them in a constructive and healthy way.
Respect for adults, but not dependence on their ideas and opinions.
Respect for peers, no matter what their challenges may be.
The ability to look at a challenge in his life and figure out a way to meet it, and tackle it.
Know how to work with a team and also work alone, and know when to rely on another person.
Philanthropy, or at least how to recognize injustice and need, and go about formulating a plan to help others.
A sense of contentment for who he is, not striving to be someone he is not.
A hunger for knowledge, and a desire to be a lifelong learner.

I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions
 in which they can learn. – Einstein

Friday, November 5, 2010


I've become very involved with Sean's public Montessori school. I'm serving as the chair of the site council, maintaing almost daily contact with his teacher, and meeting quite a few parents.
It really is like another job, but I believe it is even more important than a job. I'm on the inside, helping to steer the direction of the school. It is a new challenge for me, and not something I imagined I would be doing when we made the decision to enroll.

We're facing challenges. The rooms are filled with Neinhuis materials for Children's House and classrooms for first and second graders. Next year the second graders will become third graders and remain in the same rooms as they welcome the new first graders into the classrooms.
My hesitation in the beginning had to do with whether they were using true Montessori materials and hiring Montessori teachers. I feared it was either some Montessori materials, or all materials, but public instruction.

I think some parents are there because it is the neighborhood school. Some chose it for their children because they heard it was a Montessori school. Then there are a few like me who have had their children in a Montessori school and this one is free.

I'm probably the most experienced parent. I was involved with the private school at a small level, basically volunteering and hoping to soak up as much information as possible during observation days, conferences and parent ed nights.
Last year I homeschooled, so I had to try to stay one step ahead. I learned more than I thought possible and mostly by staying connected to other homeschooling parents through a yahoo group. I don't know everything, and I'm not Montessori trained.

What I know is what I want for my child. And I know that is a Montessori education.
What I know I don't want is some watered down version of it that is morphed into something that will meet state standards and be used to teach to a test so the district can "measure" the success of the school.
I know that just because a sign says Montessori doesn't mean the children inside that building are getting a true Montessori education. There are debates even within Montessori circles about what it means to be a Montessori school.

For me it means allowing the child to develop and learn at his or her own pace, respecting them where they are in their development and not trying to force information into their heads, or expect them to "perform."

I plan to start asking some questions of the higher ups within the district very soon. Questions like, "What made you decide to open a public Montessori school and what did you hope to achieve?" "Why Montessori?" and "What is it about Montessori that you believe works?"
These should be easy to answer, so I hope I get answers that align with Montessori philosophy.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Borrowers

How we have never happened upon the book, "The Borrowers," is a mystery to me. We've spent hours in our local libraries and brought home tons of books for the past six years or so. I think we have to add it to our list of must reads.
We were perusing the plays that are showing at the Seattle Children's Theater and chose to see "The Borrowers."

They aren't paying me to say this, or giving me free tickets, (although I'd gladly take them) so this is a totally honest review.
We were transported into the world of Arietty and her parents Pod and Homily under the floor boards, and watched mesmerized as Arietty and her parents borrow from the humans upstairs. The set was awesome, with huge spools of thread for stools, and everything we usually see in a tiny size made larger than life.

As the boy upstairs befriends Arietty when she makes a maiden journey upstairs with her father to learn how to borrow, her parents panic. The boy only wants to help, and the screwdriver he uses to pry up the floor board we could see in his hand as he worked on one side of the stage, but on the main stage it comes down from the ceiling as an enormous flathead poking into their living quarters.

Sean was transfixed. He couldn't figure out how they were doing it, and there were so many wonderful magical moments like that with this play. I thoroughly enjoyed watching him experience the play with that childhood innocence and awe.

The next week he went on a field trip to a local musical theater near his school to see a play "Frog and Toad." That one wasn't as impressive, I guess. He liked the birds, he said, and that was it.
If you're in Seattle it's worth a visit to the theater. We saw Peter Pan there last year and it was great too.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A lesson in Wool

This was our third year attending the local Fiber Arts Festival. Each year we see something new and interesting.
As we made our way from the parking lot we happened upon this scene:

The goat’s name is Nellie, and she is an angora. They were clipping her curly locks and the kind lady was nice enough to show us the next step in turning this soft wool into yarn.
This is called a carder. I had never seen this type, but it looks a bit easier than the ones I’ve seen before. There are tiny metal pins on the large and small wheels that  separate the wool and make it a soft tuft. The tufts are then made into yarn, like this:
This girl is a sophomore in high school and has a yarn business with her grandparents. She learned to spin as a young child. You can see other spinners in the background.
We had a great time, as always. Sean is so drawn to this artform. He insisted we needed more yarn, so I ended up spending a good amount on one skeen of hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn. It is really pretty and he has been finger knitting with it regularly.
There were lots of things at this festival, including quilts and felted items, silk, wood buttons and so much more.
We can’t wait to see what they will have next year.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guiding the Players

I once heard or read somewhere that your followers are at least one notch more anxious than you are as a leader, so the key to effective leadership is to be as calm as possible. That thought was in my head this morning as I guided my first class of Godly Play.

I chose to be a Godly Play guide this Sunday school season because I am so in love with the Montessori method of learning. I know Sean has benefitted from all of the Sunday school classes so far, but I was really happy when our church started Godly Play last year. I'm teaching the 9 a.m. 3-6 age class.
Last year we had Godly Play and regular classes at the same time. We now have another class of Godly Explorers for the older elementary aged children.  We have Godly Play and Godly Explorers for both services this year.

I arrived pretty well prepared for the story, and had a vision of how I would like the class to unfold. I was a little nervous, but not much. I was excited. I had practiced the story a few times here at home, but without the materials. I was telling the creation story today, so I used a blanket and some photos and pretended those were the real materials while I practiced here at home.

Once I was in the room this morning I looked on the shelf for the basket to make sure the cards were in order for the story, and I couldn't find them. (I arrived early so I could be sure to be prepared.) I looked several times on each shelf--nothing.
I asked the doorkeeper, Mr. Joe, if he saw it and he didn't see it either. We both searched the room, couldn't find it.

Luckily we do have the extra classroom, so there was a second set for our story. (We didn't have as many children in the class this week, so we kept them all in the same room.)

Despite that little snag with the missing basket, I remained calm. After so many years attending parent information sessions at Sean's old Montessori school I've absorbed a little bit of it. I know that most adults talk and demonstrate things much too fast for children. It is best to be very deliberate and slow in speaking and demonstrating materials or anything really. Even how we put on a hat or button a shirt--everything should be shown slowly. Our fear is that if we don't go fast we won't hold their attention. It is really not the case.

I was very slow this morning. I admit I was thrown a little because of the missing materials and because the clock kept ticking as I waited for the children to arrive. They stay in service for about 20 mins. before coming to Sunday school. It really cuts the time, but it's OK.

I don't know if it was beginner's luck, just the perfect number of children in the room to adult ratio, or maybe it was a combination of that and the right dynamics, but it went really smoothly. I had a door keeper and an extra adult in the room to help. We only had about 10 mins. to do work cycle or art, then it was time for the feast.

I've taught Sunday school before and I know I learned so much. I came away from that experience believing I learned more from the kids than they did from me. It is humbling to be a part of their lives, and to guide them on a spiritual journey. I know they have no idea how meaningful it is right now, but I hope someday they will.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Open House

We had a great time at the Open House and Book Fair at Sean's school on Thursday. The book fair was a bit small, and in a small room, so the crowd was packed in. I think they should have had it in a different room, but that's just my opinion.
We spent quite a bit of time in his classroom, and by the time I got to the gym to check out the PTA and Golden, etc. PTA was gone and I ended up just taking an order form for Golden Beads.
(Golden Beads supports local public Montessori education by selling fun Montessori shirts, notecards, and reusable sandwich bags. I hope to get more involved with them.)
It was the first time I've really been in the classroom to look around at what they have there. It's a complete lower elementary classroom with Neinhuis materials. His teacher has the room decorated with some large pieces of art along the back wall, and one batik piece that hangs above the math area.
Sean is content at this school, but his class is heavy with first graders, and not many of them have had Montessori before. His pervious school's lower elementary classroom was at least double the size.
I do have a few concerns, but I know that no school or situation is perfect. These aren't deal breakers for me, just things I think they could improve upon.
My personal opinion is that they should eat lunch in their classrooms. I don't see why they can't get someone to deliver trays for the kids who buy lunch, and I believe it should be part of the curriculum. You should learn how to sit at a table and use a napkin, etc.
In talking with some other parents, I don't think all of the staff are embracing Montessori methods. I realize the older students are still in regular public instruction, but it is concerning when a parent introduces their 3 year old and 5 year old children to a staff person on the playground and is greeted with, "I'm in charge here, and what I say goes."
I do love Sean's teacher, and have good communication with her. I have emailed her on several occasions and she is very open to anything I am willing to share with her. I've already sent her some links to blogs, and some information I've found online.
I took pictures at the Open House, but they didn't turn out good at all. I'll try again when I get a chance.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Public impressions

So let me begin by saying that I love Sean's classroom, his teacher, and the whole idea of making Montessori more available to more children. I've felt for years that it is unfair that only those with money, or one of those chosen few to get a scholarship, are able to benefit from Montessori education. Since I started Sean in a private Montessori school and watched with awe the way those children behaved and learned, I've wanted the same option for all children.

Finally the time must be right for the public system in our neck of the woods to see that the system has to be changed. Luckily there are people out there who believe it, and on a federal level there are grants for alternative education models to try to turn things around for the children in the United States.

Because we live out of district I have to transport him to and from school. This is not a problem for me. I have been doing it since he was 4. It is a bit farther, and there is a little cost involved, but I'm willing to do it if he can get a peaceful Montessori education and I can get a few hours to purely focus on my job.
My job is somewhat flexible a couple of weeks in the month. I set my own hours, sort of, so I offered to help in the classroom yesterday, or make materials, or whatever was needed.

I walked Sean to his room, he shook the teacher's hand and was ready for his day. His teacher, Ms. Diamond, introduced me to an assistant who led me to the staff room to put together journals for students in all three lower elementary Montessori classes.

I'll preface here by saying a new school is being built on the same property, above the current school building. The guy who designed the new school has a Master's Degree in Montessori school construction, and the model that sits in the lobby looks absolutely impressive. But the current school building is very old. I see this as both a good thing and a bad thing. Obviously it was built well because it has withstood some earthquake action and lots of storms, etc. and it's still standing. Bad because it's REALLY old and some parts of it are not handicap accessible.

All of that said, I believe a building can be really old and still be beautiful. Parts of it are nice, but that staff room is pitiful. The blinds in that room are probably as old as the building. I'm not kidding. The cabinets are old, the paint on the walls is old. There are relatively new tables and chairs, and a microwave.
The stapler I was using to bind those journals was probably just as old as the blinds, and wasn't totally functional. I had to ask for a different stapler, so the assistant borrowed one from the office and a sticker on the top if it said, "For Office Use Only."

I don't know what it takes to get a new stapler for the staff room, but looking at the blinds I'd say it takes some kind of miracle, some begging and a lot of time.

I used the newer, prettier, stapler and got all of those journals put together. I think I did roughly 75, but I can't remember the exact number. (I really preferred the way the old stapler stapled, but the spring was gone inside so with each staple I had to open it and adjust the staples. It finally just wouldn't do anything. Probably just needed a rest ;))

I took that fancy new stapler back to the office immediately when I was finished, and thought of having someone sign something saying that I had returned it. (Just kidding, but really I did want to have the main office lady at the front desk to acknowledge that she saw me put it on the front counter.) I did mention to the assistant that I would be willing to purchase one of those and gift it to the school for the staff room. She just looked at me and said it's the district, it's just not good.

Next on the list of tasks: Sandpaper numbers.
Why sandpaper numbers for a lower elementary class you ask? Well, actually they were for all three classes, and I guess there are children in 1st and 2nd grades there who don't know their numbers, or still need a little help with that. Honestly, Sean still transposes sometimes and I've thought of getting them for him. Now I guess he'll have a set in his classroom.

The school has these cool letters and numbers blocks that when used with a roller it cuts through to make a die cut. Not sure if these are new for the Montessori transition or if the school has always had them.
So I cut three of each number. The sandpaper felt really rough to me, and the assistant (who is not Montessori trained, BTW--not dissing her, just pointing out that this school is really in transition) said to glue the numbers onto 3x5 cards. The cards were really thin and I could see that it wouldn't really work.
I asked the teacher about this and she agreed and suggested card stock. It was probably the sturdiest thing they had to work with. Ideally they would have had sets of  them, but at least there were materials to make some.

So off I went with a stack of card stock to another work room where the big cutter sat on a table. It was really nice and seemed pretty new. Probably purchased specifically for the Montessori stuff. I cut the card stock into quarters and used tacky glue to put the sandpaper numbers on it. I pressed them with the unused stack of card stock to try to get them to stop curling.

I'll try to post pictures next time around. I forgot my camera this time.

Ms. Diamond mentioned a couple of times that she wanted to laminate the sandpaper numbers, and then remembered she couldn't. I think the laminator was not working. It would have made the cards much nicer and given the sandpaper a nicer feel, I think. The grade seemed really rough, but with a layer of laminate it would have been good.

I worked for six hours. I was able to eat lunch with Sean, and I'll save that for another post. Believe me, I have a lot to say about the lunchroom.

I was happy to help, and I look forward to the PTA meeting and becoming more involved. I don't know much about the district, but I believe a district is made up of people and one person at a time it can change. The superintendent has had some criticism, but I applaud his dedication to open a second public Montessori school.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The First Days

Sean's first days of public Montessori school have been good ones. He seems happy, and likes his teacher.
I am glad he's enjoying it so far, and I'm going to spend my first day there tomorrow. I offered to volunteer as a classroom helper to help make materials or whatever she might need.
At his private school there were three teachers in the room and each family was required to volunteer 20 hours per year. Parents helped copy, cut, laminate and organize materials for the classrooms.
Last year I was wishing I had just one person to help me with all of that cutting and organizing as a homeschooling mom. It's a huge job.
Sean has made some friends, and I hope to meet more parents and teachers. PTA meets this month, and I'm putting in my order for the logo wear.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Montessori in a new place

Tomorrow Sean will embark on a new journey. He will attend a public Montessori school.
I was torn with this decision, but try as I might to make a schedule work for us, I just felt like I was letting him down.
He stayed home for a year and I did my best to present materials and do what I could to keep him working on Montessori. I don't regret it at all. I think we both learned a TON this year.
But I know that my anxiety level gets higher when my work deadline arrives. I don't think he suffered really, but I kept wishing I could do more and that he had other children to collaborate with on projects. I wanted him to have the Montessori experience, and I worried that he was lonely most of the day.
I was prepared to continue doing what we had been doing into this year, but knew I was feeling a lot of guilt.
When someone mentioned a new public Montessori school in our area I decided to look into it. I spent a few weeks making this decision. We visited the school, talked to the staff, came home and thought some more. I decided we had to give it a try. I'm going to keep a close eye on the situation, and if it looks like he isn't gaining anything from being there, I'll just bring him home again.
I'm really excited about it though. I am thrilled that we are so blessed to live here and that he has the opportunity to be part of it. I am going into this with a positive outlook and expect this year to be an adjustment for everyone. For us, because we're used to a relaxed schedule, and for him especially because he has become so comfortable just staying home.
It will be an adjustment for the staff of the school also. A LOT of the teachers opted out and moved on to other schools, but Sean's teacher is new and is embracing Montessori. We met her last night, and she is happy that he has so much Montessori under his belt. I think he is the only one who has only been educated with Montessori philosophy and materials. The others have had some public school.
The teacher was eager to have me help in the classroom and offered for me to come in as often as I would like. I will do as much as possible, because I think it will help all the way around. It will make me feel connected to what Sean is doing, it will no doubt help her, and it will help Sean. I know the statistics  show the more involved the parents are in the school the better the children adjust.
Right now the school is a public school in transition. They offer the Children's House for 3-6 year olds, and the first and second grade students are together and will have Montessori guides and materials. The school goes through fifth grade, but Montessori is only offered through second grade this year. Next year they will add third grade, and the next year fourth, and so on. They will begin construction on a brand new school next year, and I hope it will be through eighth grade.
If you're interested in public Montessori, and passionate about the idea of making Montessori available to everyone, take a look at this site.
The notecards are so cool, and I plan on buying some of the reuzies and some sweatshirts soon.

Art Camp

Things got really busy this month and I haven't had a chance to post about the Art Camp Sean attended this summer. I also had some technical difficulties with some photos, so here it goes.
Art Camp focused on creating art with natural materials. Sean enjoys art, and I was excited for him to participate.
About mid-week there was a little bit of drama with another child at camp, and I won't go into details, but it was a good learning experience.
It was a great example for me of how we must learn to handle ourselves in all types of situations and with all sorts of people. This particular child was one that Sean has known for a few years now, but has always had some problems dealing with. I know that Sean is not the only one who has had problems with him, but I also know that in order to learn how to handle our anxiety and anger we have to be in real-life situations. At age 7 we aren't going to handle it gracefully, and Sean didn't. Neither did the other child. What came out of that was a long conversation between us (much later when things were calm and he had a chance to come home and decompress and have dinner) about how to recognize anger and how to handle it in a healthy way.
No one was physically harmed, in case you're wondering.
For almost a full year Sean has had selective exposure to other children. I wanted more, but it just wasn't something we could work into the schedule on a daily basis. So he got very comfortable here, and we had some field trips with a friend or two and we met with a homeschool group a few times.
Being comfortable is a good thing, but no amount of reading scenarios in a book will prepare a child for the real-life of dealing with a situation in the moment. I firmly believe these things must be practiced, and the best teacher is life.
Back to art.
He created some fun things that week. He had some great creatures made from pine cones and feathers, and one with what we always called helicopters (seeds from a tree) that looks like a big bee. They painted rocks and he made some drawings. Each child created their favorite animal with an Eric Carle technique and the teacher copied them and made a book for each one to take home. Their works are so great! Sean's is a snake;o)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beach exploring

We made our first trip this summer to the local beach. Last year we were there a lot, but our weather has just not been very kind this summer. Today it was sunny and in the 70s. Perfect beach weather for us.
While we were there Sean found some lovely little critters. He has seen all of these since he was a baby, but for some reason it all resonated today.

 He loved them so much he decided to bring some of them home. 
We gathered rocks, sand and water for their new home. They are fascinating to watch. The rocks have barnacles attached, and one has a muscle. The barnacles have tiny little curled arms or tongues that come out and back in. The crabs dig in the sand and move rocks around, fight each other for territory (at least that's what it looks like) and climb up on the big rock we included in the little home. They poke their heads out for a while, then go back under.

I couldn't get a good shot of the barnacles. They are so tiny, and the water is a little murky since we just got it all set up.
I love how you can see the little hairs on the legs of this one though.
We have a red crab, this speckled one, some gray ones and I think there is one that is white with a couple of black spots on each side. So interesting that there are so many different colors.
We'll be researching crabs and sea life for a few days. 
Next week is Montessori Art Camp. YAY!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's all about the rhyme

Sean has hit that sensitive period for rhyming again. He has enjoyed playing rhyming games for a long time, but hadn't been into it for a while.  I tucked him into bed and he read "Goodnight Moon" to me tonight. Then we talked and he started by asking me questions. The first one was something like, "Have you ever known a man named Tim?" I said yes, and he said, "Well, I'd rather take a swim."
The game went on like that with some responses making sense and others completely off the wall. But they all rhymed. We took turns for a while, but I let him do most of them. I love those moments. I enjoy watching him come to these things naturally, and soak them up. He enjoys making up sentences with the same cadence of Dr. Suess too.
I remember playing similar games with my older kids when they were young. We camped once in the Cherokee National Forest and that night as we were all three in the tent waiting for sleep to take us, we did a round of storytelling. One would start the story, then stop and it was the next person's turn to pick it up and continue with the story. It was a lot of fun.
They both were good at it, and David wrote a poem that he performed at a Poetry Slam once when he was about 8 or 9. He also had one published in an anthology in 5th grade.
Jewel was a natural storyteller from a very early age. She was telling stories when she was about 3. Of course, maybe we all get it naturally. Southerners are known for their yarnin' abilities.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A few lessons

I met with a Montessori teacher about a week ago to get a quick tutorial on some of the elementary materials. It was a quick one, so I didn't soak up as much as I would like to have, but I got the general idea. Enough that I can now search for instructions elsewhere and they'll make sense to me.
One of the big things on my wish list is the checkerboard. These are pretty expensive, so we don't have one.
I apologize for the glare. I think it's 7,852 (white tiles) x 4 (gray tile). 
So the beads are used with this material, and eight would go on the first green square in the 1s place, etc. I need to review it again, but it looks like so much fun if you get the hang of it.
Tiles and beads that go with it.
I've seen the board for about $80, the tiles for about $25 and the beads for $35, or something like that. We have a box of beads we could use.
I don't remember the name of this, but they find the facts that equal the same number. It's for practicing fact work in addition. We don't have this one. So, 1+2 is 3, what else equals 3? Then they cover it with a little red slip of paper. I forgot to get a picture of the control board.
The board on the right is mine, the others are hers. We don't have the tiles either. These are also for practicing facts. 
I decided to take a picture of her charts in case I wanted to make some for us.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Literature Camp

Sean had a little piece of paper with story ideas on them when I picked him up from Literature Camp today. He said he had one story that was real, and three stories that were not real.
I think he'll have a fun week. His teacher is his best friend's mom.
I'm thinking of bringing out some math this week. He has been talking a lot about math lately, so I think I should put it out while he's wanting it.
His teacher said I can come into the classroom this week and she'll show me presentations of some of the lower elementary materials. I'm quite excited about this. What an opportunity to have a trained Montessori teacher show the presentations.
Hope you all had a great Monday.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Deadlines and VBS

This week has been nuts. I've been working on deadline, and Sean has had VBS. It was a trying week for both of us, and I'm not sure why. He invited a neighbor to come with him to VBS, and that worked out great. They both had fun.
The theme was iGogreen, and it was all about recycling and taking care of the Earth. It tied in Bible scriptures and they did all kinds of crafts with different recyclable materials.
It did extend the day together for them, though. I took them and picked them up, and then they wanted to play together longer. I had to have a talk with Sean about recognizing when he's getting tired, hungry, or just needs a break. He tends to keep going even when he's starting to lose it. He got a little aggressive the other day and I had to intervene when the friend ended up with a bump on the head.
Summer seems to be flying by. It's already almost August and I feel like summer is almost over, but it has just started for us. Really, we've finally had some sunshine and warm days. Most everything is about three weeks behind as far as gardens, etc. Just this week we had a day that barely saw 60 degrees. In fact, I'm not sure it got to 60 that day.
We're getting ready for another great week of camp. He'll be attending Literature Camp this week at the Montessori school. Not sure if there will be much photo worthy there, but if there is I'll post some of it here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Last day of Science Camp

This has been a great week for us. Sean loves science and has come home each day with excitement and enthusiasm to tell me all about the work he has been doing. He has also enjoyed reconnecting with his old friends, and today made a point to say goodbye to each of them individually.
On the way this morning, he said that if they could have science camp next week he would go.
They ended the day with a bang-- the volcano work.
Yesterday he worked on a graph and I will incorporate that work into our shelf when we get into full swing again.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 4 of Science Camp

Sean is really enjoying camp. It's good for him to spend some time immersed in a subject, and he's having fun too. He asked yesterday if his neighbor friend Kyle could go to camp, and I explained that it's a Montessori camp. The school requires that students either be enrolled for the coming year, or that they attended Montessori school previously. So because he attended the school he will be able to attend camp each summer, if he wishes to do so. Sean said, "I'm really lucky to be able to go to camp."
Right now summer camp is only for infants/toddlers, primary and elementary. Maybe they will add something for the middle school kids at some point. His teacher said they don't have interest from the kids in that age group right now, and there aren't that many enrolled.
Yesterday they played in a sprinkler for recess, and I think they will again today.
Here's what they're working on today. (I think the teacher forgot the "s" on the word volcano. Forgive me, I am an editor.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 3 of Science Camp

I was able to stop in and take some pictures of what the kids would be working on today. I didn't get pics of the kids because I didn't want to violate anyone's privacy. 

I watched as the teacher used an electric tea kettle, a metal tray filled with ice cubes, and a pie pan beneath the tray to catch the droplets of water. She was showing them how to make rain, and one of the girls piped up and explained the process of condensation. She was probably about 9. One boy, about 10 or so, believed the droplets would form without the ice, so the teacher said they should act as scientists and test that theory later in the day.
Then the children followed the teacher to the different stations she had set up for various experiments. She gave presentations, or explanations of how to do each one and then the children were free to choose what they wanted to do.
I snapped these shots and then I left. I could tell having me in the room was distracting for some of the children, and especially for Sean.
I hope these give you some ideas for things to do with your homeschoolers.
She brought a large bowl of water over to this table after I took the picture. The kids were already hypothesizing which would float and which would sink.

As I was leaving a girl was doing this experiment. The balloon was expanding and she was getting nervous. It blew and spewed baking soda all over the place. 
(Sean and I did this one at home last year too.)
I don't know if you can tell what is happening in this one. She was using a long toothpick to pick up this stack of bolts one by one. I didn't catch what this one was about.
There were a couple of others that I didn't photograph. One where they put droplets of paint onto paper and used a straw to blow and make designs, you can see in the background of this photo.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A little bit of science

Science camp week has begun, and we're adjusting to the new schedule. We just aren't used to being somewhere at a certain time every day, so we're both like the walking dead in the mornings.
But it's worth it. Sean had a great time yesterday, and said they started a project to make crystals.
He knows all the kids in the camp.

A view of part of the playground from the parking lot. 
This is the first time he's been allowed to play on the big kids' playground. The school has the primary playground for the 3-6 age group, and down the hill at the elementary building there is a playground for the big kids. I used to wonder why they were so strict about the playground rules. The little kids were absolutely not allowed to use the big playground. It's for insurance purposes.

Today's activities look like fun. 

Friday, July 9, 2010

changes in attitude

It's been more than a month since I posted anything here, so as you can guess we're in summer mode.
It took a long time for the weather to catch up with our attitudes. We're finally seeing 80 degree days.
We've been outside a little more, and Sean was on a vacation for two weeks to visit his dad's family in Calif. Next week he starts a series of camps at his former Montessori school. We're both excited, and he chose the subjects that were interesting to him. I attended a July 4th party while Sean was away and someone asked if he was attending our local summer camp. I explained we decided to do educational camps this year, and their response was, "Well that doesn't sound very fun. Is he happy about that?"
They don't get it. I told them he was excited about it, and he had chosen all of the camps on his own. (Sad isn't it, that learning becomes no fun when we get to about 2nd grade when we're in a traditional school setting.)
First up, Science camp.
I don't expect I'll get any photos, but if I can I'll share some asap.
One of our favorite museums is the Museum of Flight in Seattle. We took a little trip there to meet with some homeschool families and enjoy a day of airplanes and such. Unfortunately we didn't find any of our homeschool families while we were there, but we had a great time anyway. I'm just as fascinated by it as Sean is, so we'll be going back soon. I should invest in the membership.
It's filled with every imaginable airplane. 
This is one of my favorites. SR71
You can even go into space;)

We've been a couple of times now, and it's really so big it's difficult to see everything in one trip.
It's one of the few non-profit flight museums in the country, and if you're ever planning a trip to Seattle, be sure to put this on your list. It has a neat little gift shop too, of course.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sean's photos

We made another zoo play date this week. We've had a lot of rain, and Saturday was beautiful. A perfect day for the zoo. This time we went to one of the afternoon shows. I let Sean take pictures this time. He knows more about this camera than I do. This is the show from his perspective.
I can't remember what this animal is, but it was cute.

This huge owl had gotten loose earlier, so they had to cancel the show they had planned and revert to an old one. They were afraid it would attack the animals in the show. So during the alternate show, the owl swooped in and perched in the rafters.

The porcupine was funny.

The armadillo was really cute, but a little too fast for Sean to get a good shot.

I think this is an anteater.

This bald eagle was the last animal in the show. Its left wing was damaged by a power line, so it is a permanent resident at the zoo. Poor thing can't fly anymore. 

After the show we were able to go down front and get a closer look at some of the animals, and some that weren't in the show. This iguana was pretty cool.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Our exciting journey

We've been taking the same journey for a couple of years now. We started in a mole burrow, and ventured to a river bank, watched that mole learn to oar a boat, and make a new friend with a rat.
We've walked through the Wild Wood with Mole, and huddled in that hollowed out tree with him as the snow storm raged. As Rat ventured out to find his friend, and found the doormat to Badger's home, we mused at how Mole couldn't figure out that a doormat meant there must be a door close by. We followed a toad on all sorts of escapades. We shake our heads at his boasting, and laugh through his tantrums. That Toad, he sure is a character.
The term Washer Woman has been used so many times in this house, it is our own inside joke.

I don't know if I can express how fun it is for us to read "The Wind in the Willows." I started reading it to Sean when he was 5, having never read it myself. We've read it about six times now, and he never tires of it. Neither do I.
It has become our own little book club book.
We discuss Toad's inability to control himself and his need to have the best. Nothing holds his attention for very long, and Toad throws himself head first into things, then quickly is bored with that and on to the next. He is naughty, yet his friends forgive him and try so hard to help him.
Sean loves the end when they take back Toad Hall from the Stoats and Weasels.

Our copy of the book is an inexpensive hard cover edition. My mom bought it years ago at a sale, and it was on the shelf along with other classics like "Jungle Book," "Hunchback of Notre Dame," to name a few. (My mom loved books.) We've tried to read "Jungle Book," but he keeps going back to "The Wind in the Willows."
When I first started reading "The Wind in the Willows," to him, I remembered what a treat it was when my first grade teacher would read "Charlotte's Web" to us each day. Each day she read one chapter, and it has stuck with me all these years. I was transported to a different world, and I could have listened to her read all day.
I then read it on my own when I was about 6, and cried and cried when Charlotte died.
I was so attached to the characters, and loved the feeling of escaping into a story.
I still love a story, I see them everywhere.
My mom used to spend hours reading to me and the friends in my neighborhood. She would read as long as we were content to sit and listen.
There are all sorts of studies and reports on how important it is to read to children. The list of benefits is quite long, and I agree with all of it. But I think there should be a list of benefits for the parent.
So I'll attempt to put one together for you--though I've not yet received my grant to study this subject, so this isn't scientific ;o)
Benefits for Parents who Read to Their Child
1. You get to know your child better. Reading a book and exploring the characters together gives the parent a chance to get to know the child on a different level. By asking age-appropriate questions, parents can gain an understanding of their child's personality. What they find amusing, frustrating, or emotionally touching, and even morally wrong or right can give a parent insight into other subjects to explore. You can get a good gauge of whether your child is sharing your values, and even explore where they are getting their ideas of right and wrong.
2. You get some time to relax. If you read at bedtime, it gives you a chance to unwind and spend some relaxed time with your child. This is completely different from watching a TV program with a child. There is a different atmosphere and vibe when you're reading to a child.
3. You can relive some of your childhood. Whether it's a book your parents read to you, you read on your own, or have never read before, reading to  your child gives you an excuse to relive some of those wonderful childhood moments.

As I said, this isn't scientific, and these are the things that popped into my head as benefits. Feel free to leave a comment and add to this list.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Field Trips

We've taken a few field trips this year, and visited the zoo a few times. We are lucky to live so close to a zoo, and actually are within driving distance of another.
Here are some pics from our last trip with our friends Shane and Jacob-Joshua. (Thanks for the passes Shane!)
It was a beautiful day, and we long for another day like that one. It's been rainy.

This guy was great to come up close for pictures.

Not sure what these guys were doing. The boys were bored watching them, so we moved on.

This guy was a little more exciting.

We made time for lots of running and playing. I didn't get pics at the playground, but there are a couple of nice ones with climbing equipment and a slide.

He or she was napping, but at least we got to see the Polar Bear this time.

This little fox was sooo cute. I took a LOT of pictures of him/her.


See ya later. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Positive Identification

In my previous post I talked about our trip to the local farmers market, and how we brought home a critter that was inadvertently put on the grill during a cooking demonstration.

This is the little guy we brought home.

It didn't take Sean very long to identify it using our Mac's Field Guide.
It's a Mossy Chiton.

We really enjoy that field guide because it's a single card laminated with really nice, detailed illustrations.
I'm not getting paid by Mac's Field Guide to say any of this, we really do like it.
I've decided to step back and look at what we're doing for homeschool and what is and isn't working, so we're taking a little break. I'm not going to ask him to "work" for a couple of weeks and see what happens.
At breakfast he did some math. He frequently asks me what does ___ plus___ equal, and I always have him work it on his own using whatever he needs to do so. I offer material suggestions while acting very interested in what the answer could be.
He read a book to me at lunch, and then we ran some errands before I had to take off to a meeting.  
After lunch he went outside and found these guys on a toy truck.
Charlotte was here!
Not trying to creep anyone out here, but it was an interesting find. Interesting too that they almost exactly match the yellow on the truck.
In case you can't tell, we do live among the fir trees and pastures, and frequently have visitors such as these at our house. Sean was concerned about them and went out to check on them several times before we left the house. He noticed they would huddle together, then if he touched the web they would scatter.
A couple of years ago he found a garter snake in the yard. He wanted one last year but never found any, and is already talking about finding one this summer.