Saturday, December 21, 2013

Countdown Traditions


Now that my children are grown and there are no grandchildren in sight, I have become quite nostalgic for a few of the Christmas traditions that we no longer practice.  One of those traditions is the daily opening of an advent calendar leading up to Christmas day.

I came across our battered, old, homemade calendar tree while decorating this year.  Its colour is all faded and half of the little decorations are missing but I still love it. We made it 16 years ago, the boys choosing little magazine pictures to be turned into ornaments while I emptied out and glued together 24 matchboxes.  We cut and  glued until our little tree was finished and the boys looked forward it every year.  They took turns opening the little drawers - the older boy opened his on odd numbered days while the younger opened his on the even numbered day.  It worked for us but some families have opted to get a calendar for each child. 

 Our little tree hasn't been brought out for a few years because the boys aren't....well, they aren't boys anymore. I think I'll leave it out this year.



Although the tradition of advent calendars may have its roots in Christmas,  it is a ritual that families of all different faiths have adopted.  For example, here is an idea  for a Hanukkah countdown calendar.  In fact, the calendar could be used to countdown the days before any big day in a child's life such as a birthday or visit from a beloved grandparent. 


However, in keeping with the idea behind this blog, and without further blather, here are examples of some of the ways our families help their children countdown to the big day.

One of our teachers sent this to me. She has two active boys, one in our primary program and one in elementary.

"This is Ev's Lego advent calendar.  Each day has something new to build. They are a little more on the pricey side, I think they're around 30 dollars(gift from grandma).  You can also get Playmobil advents which are my favorite but the boys love their Lego. They're both easy to find at any local toy store (Kool and child) and toys r us has the Lego themed ones every year."


 The next photo was sent to me by another of our teachers.  Her son is in his last year of high school and still likes to take part in this practice.
"Here is a photo of the family advent ritual we use to count down the days to Christmas. 

On the last day of November each year we sit down as a family and make a paper chain. We cut 24 strips of a mixed selection of red, white and green construction paper, then glue, tape or staple them together to make a chain. It is optional for parents to write a message on the inside of each strip, and more meaningful as your child begins to read. The method of connecting the strips seemed to depend on our son's age and what tool he was most interested in learning to use at each particular age. 

We began this ritual the year Jack was born and he began helping when he was 2 1/2 years old. I grew up with 3 siblings, so each of us had our own chain hanging in our bedroom.
Beginning on December 1st, each night at bedtime, Jack removes one link on the chain. As the month progresses, the chain gets shorter and becomes a visual impression of the time remaining until Christmas eve, when only one chain link is left.

The chain invites many opportunities for counting the links that are still hanging. It also becomes a marker for how tall Jack has grown since the previous year as he becomes able to reach the higher links without a stool or his parents to lift him up. If you leave the torn links in a pile on the floor under the chain, you also create  a visual impression of the difference in the number of days.

This tradition has been in our family for over 50 years." 

S. & C.'s mother sent this picture to us.  You may remember the boys from these postsThey are both in one of our primary classrooms now, and their mother teachers in the other.  Their calendar is a beautiful felt tree complete with a box of felt ornaments.  Each ornament appears to be numbered and finding the correct one each day helps reinforce numeral recognition.



Finally, E's mother very kindly sent us a photograph of the advent calendar they use at Christmas.


"This year Christmas is definitely going to be more exciting for E. Having the advent calendar this year helps her understand the countdown to Christmas. She asks everyday which number can she open! She never forgets! An excellent tool for learning number recognition & patience (a big one for this age)."


On behalf of the children and families of  Discover Montessori School, I wish you all a very merry Christmas, happy Holidays, and a wonderful new year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Independence at 3

I'd like to introduce you to E. She is one of our youngest and is in her first year of our Primary program.  Her parents are eager to help her become as independent as possible and have made many changes in their home to accommodate her burgeoning abilities.  They have kindly shared some pictures with us.
 
 "Here she is at 21 months, making banana bread. The bananas were soft enough for her to cut with her knife. She managed this task very well and now cuts up her own bananas for breakfast all the time."


 "At 24 months, E. loved to make Ginger Bread. We have since found child size tools for E to use in the kitchen which has made it easier for her."

 
                                                 


"Making her favourite, Chinese Dumplings. E focused so well to make sure the edges of the dough were wet enough to fold in half and stick them together so the filling does not come out when cooked.  She mastered this so well the first time she was shown that we make it a family tradition for Chinese festivals and celebrations. A great way to talk and teach her about some of her Chinese culture."



"E at 34 months, loves to Vacuum so we found a smaller attachment for the stairs that is just her size."



I love this picture of E.'s dress up clothes.  Her father cobbled it together from a store bought clothes rack meant for adults.  He simple left out the higher tier of vertical poles so that it was just E.'s height.  Now she can easily see the clothes without having to dig everything out and gets to practise using a hanger at the same time.  :)
 She has her own child sized tools to help her clean up when the need arises...
and she has her own place to put outside clothes on a very unique coat rack.

E.'s mother is an early childhood educator and says "I am always ready to learn more about Early Childhood and to become a better parent and listen to Emily's needs."

Wise words.  Thanks, Julie.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Space to work in the kitchen.

This year's parenting class has just finished and I've been sent a new batch of pictures to share on this page.

During parenting classes, we talk a lot about how to help our children become more independent at home.  This involves a lot of observation,  lots of discussion about natural and logical consequences (consequences as Adler and Dreikurs intended, NOT as punishment), and lots of  sharing of ideas.  One of the things I do for each class is put together a collection of slides showing what other parents have done in their homes to foster independence for their children.

The enthusiasm and creativity of parents intent on making their children more independent (and happier) never fails to amaze me.  I also love that these parents are so willing to share their ideas.

With that said as an introduction, here is a photo of a wonderful kitchen space that one father made for his three year old son and five year old daughter.  The father's words follow.

"As you well know, the kids love the autonomy they can find anywhere, especially the kitchen, and the pair of them are constantly desperate to get involved. Give them a loaf of bread, butter, jam and peanut butter and they'll happily make sandwiches till the cows come home. The real incentive for this cabinet was breakfast time, and affording them the ability to prepare their own, which they love to do.

I'm quite proud to announce that not only is this a good Montessori project but also a pretty good example of recycling. I bought nothing new to make this. In fact almost everything is bits and pieces salvaged from the junk piles of local house construction sites, which are often a wonderland of cast off building supplies."

"The counter top is 'real' and therefore totally washable and durable and was also a scrap piece found onsite, big enough to jigsaw into a main counter and the small shelf. It took 6 short scraps of 2x6 wood and a 4x4 to build the cabinet, plus one scrap piece of particle board for the lower shelf and two ends of the small shelf. The green hooks are actually old knobs salvaged from a trashed chest of drawers. Add 30 screws from the toolbox, 2 sheets of sandpaper and some wood glue and it was ready to paint with a nice complimentary brown salvaged for free from the local recycling depot."
What I particularly like about the design of this piece is that it can easily be re-purposed as the children gets bigger.   I should add that  the older sister has asked that it have doors on the front so that it looks more like the kitchen cabinets.  I'll be sure to post pictures of that when the doors are installed.  :)


Friday, October 18, 2013

Made by Joel .......

Last year in Art class, the children took a virtual trip to Paris.  While they watched an hour long video that someone took while on a walking tour of Paris, the children cut out, coloured and set up their own mini version of that city.  Of course, they all wanted to make a city at home so I emailed the link to their parents.

If you have a bit of time, explore around this website.  It is called Made by Joel and it can be found here.  It is full of wonderful things the children can make at home.  Just the sort of thing parents need when it is time to turn off the television. :-)

One mother sent me some pictures after following the link.

Here her older boy colours one of the printouts.  Then he cut them out .......



and set them up.  His own mini version of Paris.







Do yourself a favour and check out Made by Joel.  Print out some of his free templates and have them on hand when you need something to keep the children engaged or, better yet, sit down and create something with them!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Question of Allowance.


     We all know that one of the best ways to teach a child about money is with a weekly allowance.  Knowing that is the easy part.  What isn’t so easy is figuring out how much to give your child and for what the allowance should be used. This is a constant topic of discussion between parents and staff in our school.

    To research this post, I did what I always do – ordered every book I could find on the topic from the library and, while I waited, trolled websites.  What I found on the internet was a snarl of conflicting and confusing advice.   In fact, I found so many different ways allowance can be handled that I wondered if this post would ever get written.

     Then the books arrived and one in particular caught my eye.  It was a small, unassuming book written by Gail Vaz-Oxlade (you may know her television show Till Debt Do Us Part).   I had only to read the first chapter to know that what Ms. Vaz-Oxlade proposes in Money Smart Kids meshes beautifully with the Montessori philosophy.

      Now, before I get into a condensed version of the book, I’d like to share an activity that many Montessori schools use to introduce the values of coins to students.  We call it the Money Game and the rule of thumb is that the students must have a good working knowledge of the decimal system before being introduced to the game. (There is a very good description of the game here.)   We have found that playing this game will help a child understand how many coins to give when paying for something and how much –if any- change she will receive.




Back to the book. The following is a very brief paraphrasing of Ms. Vaz-Oxlade’s advice on how a child’s allowance could be handled.  However, I STRONGLY suggest you read a copy of her book to get the full version.  She really knows what she’s talking about.

1. Set expectations.
 You and your child need to sit down and discuss what the money will be used for.  Without a plan, a child will just spend money on whatever she chooses and that will do nothing to teach her about money.  Ms. Vaz-Oxlade suggests the money be divided into three parts:   one part to be saved, one part to be shared (charity), and one part to be spent (this last can be broken down into mad money and money needed for specific expenses).

2. Use Jars.
Divide the money into 4 clear jars (clearly labeled Savings, Sharing, Planned Spending & Mad money) so that your child can really see how quickly the money  can be spent or saved.

3. How much? 
This depends on what you can afford and for what you expect the child to pay.   It also will depend on the child’s age because an older child will have more expenses than a younger one.  

4. Make it easy. 
Decide, with your child ,what day of the week is best? My boys wanted their allowance on Friday afternoon so that they had money for the weekend.  Some children might want it on Sunday evening so they have money for the week.   Whatever schedule is chosen, the adult MUST stick to it.  Consistency counts.

5. How much in each jar? 
Ms. Vaz-Oxlade suggests 10% of the allowance go into the Savings jar. The Sharing jar gets whatever you decide (Vaz-Oxlade’s children did 5%) The amount to go into the Planned Spending jar depends on what you and your child have decided she will be purchasing (bus tickets, movies, books, gifts).  As mentioned above, discuss this with your child and decide together how much is needed.
 Into the planned savings jar, goes a portion of money as savings toward something like University or a trip.  If your child also wants to save for a smaller item (an Ipad, for example) a fifth jar can be set up.  Anything left over is Mad Money.

6. Don't tie allowance to chores. 
Ms. Vaz-Oxlade and I agree here.  Allowance should not be tied to chores and should be strings free.  Also, it is perfectly fine for a child to get a part time job to supplement the allowance.  Money for grades?  How does that motivate the child internally? Besides, if your child is in an authentic Montessori …. there are no grades!   Money for chores?  Do you get paid for making the beds or cleaning up the kitchen? 
However, there are some ways that a child can make a bit more money without having to get a part-time job.  There are jobs around the house that are not done on a regular basis (like washing the car) that you could pay your child to do.  Ms. Vaz-Oxlade is very clear here that it should be treated like any other job and that the child can be fired if the job is not well done.

7. Keep your hand out of your pockets.
 If you keep bailing out your child or helping him buy things he should be saving for, he isn’t getting an accurate experience. 


     There.  That is my very-condensed version of the first chapter of Money Smart Kids. As mentioned above, I highly recommend this book to everyone and anyone who is wrestling with the questions surrounding allowance.  I hope it helps.

Vaz-Oxlade, G. (2011). Money Smart Kids. Harper Collins, Canada

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thoughts and Prayers

On behalf of the staff, parents and children of Discover Montessori School and Oceanside Montessori School, I send our sincerest thoughts and prayers to the families affected by the tragedy at Shady Hook Elementary School.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Getting ready for school



Here in Canada, the summer holidays are almost over and many Montessori families are getting ready to start school. A quick search on the internet showed  lots of tips and lists to help parents but not many of them were about Montessori schools.  Here are a few suggestions that parents might consider when preparing to send their child to a Montessori classroom for the first time.

Now is a good time to start waking up earlier to get into the "school" routine.

-  Start moving bedtime a little bit earlier every night  if summertime has allowed for a later-than-usual
    bedtime routine.

-  Help your child practice choosing an outfit the night before. If he decides the next morning that he
   doesn't want to wear that outfit, help him choose another by offering him two choices.
    (Too many choices makes for grumpiness.)

-  Set up your kitchen so your child can help make her own breakfast.  If cereal and milk are her
    usual breakfast, put the cereal in an easy to open container and the milk in a small jug. Yogourt and
    fruit?  Same thing - put them in easy-to-open containers.  Place both the food and any utensils she
    needs on low shelves so she can get her own breakfast, giving you time to do other things.



Prepare your child to be independent at school.  

-  Make sure he can get in and out of his clothes by himself without any real help from an adult.
   For example, pull-on pants with no buttons or zippers and Velcro shoes. If your child can't yet tie
   up his shoes, don't send him to school in lace ups.  Remember, your child is striving for
   independence and we can foster that by being aware of (and adjusting for) his capabilities and
   developing skills.

-  Does your child's classroom provide hooks or hangers for his outdoor clothing?  If he is expected to
    hang his clothes on a hook, provide him with a low hook at home so he can practice.  If the
    classroom uses hangers, give him a small hanger with which he can practice. (Use a low hook or a
    door knob if you don't yet have a low hanger bar.)




Make sure you know what to bring on the first day.

Many schools ask parents to bring a second set of shoes and a complete change of clothing.  If you
   haven't been told by the school what to bring, a phone call or email might be in order.
Is snack provided or does your child bring her own snack?  If she brings her own, make sure she
   can open the container by herself and without spilling.  I've written about containers in this post if 
   you'd like a bit more information. 

Separation Anxiety

-  You and your child may have sailed through the observation and tour but the actual, real, first-
   day-of-school can be anxiety riddled.  The most important thing I suggest to parents is to try not to
   show any of that anxiety to your child.  Children are sensitive to parent's emotional states and if she
   senses you are anxious, she may think there is something in this new environment to be anxious
   about. Be positive and enthusiastic about your child's first days of school.

-  Talk about what is going to happen a few times before the first day - children are less anxious if
    they have an idea what to expect.

-  Let the teacher help with the separation.  Indicate when you are ready to go so that she can hold and
   comfort your child if he is crying. Then say goodbye and LEAVE. Don’t hesitate or linger or
   come back because that will just make it more difficult for your child.
 
-   Don't leave without saying goodbye. The next time, your child won't trust when you are going to
    leave and can become even more anxious. Believe it or not, a solid "Goodbye.  Mummy will pick
    you up at lunchtime" is much more reassuring to a child.

-  Be prepared to do the same thing for a while.  She may have had a great time on the first day of
   school but would really rather stay home with Mummy.  Goodbye on the second, third and fourth
   days of school can be just the same as on the first.  Trust that she will settle down in a little while.
    If you are concerned, arrange to talk with the teacher after school hours.

The first days of a new school are wonderful, frightening, thrilling, and stimulating - for you and your child.  Trust that you've made the right choice and stay in touch with your child's teachers.