Monday, October 19, 2009

Celebrating the small stuff

* D found someone's silence rug out, and much in his style of not working with anything unless it belongs to someone else, he took off his shoes and sat and did silence independently for about 2 minutes. Then he got up, put his shoes back on, and left the rug just in time for the work's original owner to return to their work from the bathroom.

* At lunch T realized as the three year old's lined up to wash their plates that the scraps trash can was not out, he went to the snack table, got it, went to the kitchen, emptied it, and brought it to the lunch area.

* C set up the snack are all by herself this morning. Read and sorted all the snack cups and drinking cups. Brought the water jugs and waste basket. (I love it when children do the real practical life stuff with total autonomy.)

* T started an independent project of writing a song book. She phonetically wrote the lyrics of 5 songs in Hindi, one in Dutch, and two in English.

* S didn't hit anyone in the afternoon.

* A was scrubbing the floor and got so into it that he accidentally tipped over his water container. D and M pitched in to help him clean up the spill with buckets and sponges. When they'd dried the original spill, D tipped the rest of the water onto the floor so that they could clean up some more. And did it once more when they were done with that.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Only small things with great love.

Sometimes the most basic realizations materialize for me, translated in different ways.

I was reading Susan Dyer's blog "The Moveable Alphabet" and looking at the pictures of children doing work in her room. I recognized the look on her children's faces, and the brilliance was familiar to me. I've seen those looks here and there in my room, those little focused hands, the joy of discovery. I got to thinking about all the Montessori classrooms around the world, where children are working with similar materials, making similar discoveries on their own, growing into the people they will eventually be.

It made me realize that so much of my work, I guess the very core of it, is to be able to recognize those small moments and how marvelous they are. They happen all the time, really. Regardless of the level of normalization in the group, or they type of day we're having, those moments are around us. Small dialogues between children, brief "aha" moments, the wondering of excellent questions, the most generous small kindnesses... sometimes I'm very caught up with what I am doing, with what needs to be changed, or how to best address a certain moment, or what lesson I'm about to give that I miss those little revelations. Observation is all about learning to find them among all the things that are happening in an environment at once, and celebrating them.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

On a good path.

"Look at every path closely and deliberately, then ask ourselves this crucial question: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then the path is good. If it doesn't, it is of no use."

Carlos Castaneda

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Notes from Parent Night

Back on the island after a kind of life changing fall break, it's taken a while to reflect back on that parent night that took place two weeks ago. It was our first parent evening of the year and here is what we did:

- Parents were responsible for bringing finger foods.
- Introductions and a little free time for chatting.
- Presentation by yours truly on "Montessori in the Home"
- Parents made a gift for the children- an embroidered napkin to be used on very special occasions and which is part of the 3 special gifts child will take home at the end of their 3 years at our school.

Notes on the lecture (highlighted with pictures using a projector of the child carrying out the equivalent of the home suggestion at school):

Selected 5 qualities that we strive to encourage in the child in the Montessori environment:

Independence- self esteem comes from being able to carry things out on ones own.
Socialization- your child learning to manage himself in increasingly greater social environments.
Communication- the human need to communicate clearly, to understand and be understood.
Order- addressing the human need for patterns and structure. Applied both to the external world (your child's world) and the internal world (your child's mind). The mathematical mind.
Curiosity- The scientific mind.

Practical ideas for the home:

1. Independence

Care of the Person:

Teach them slowly how to dress themselves
Allow them to choose from limited outfits
Give them a drawer or space in their own closet where they can choose their own clothing from
Teach them where to put soiled clothing
A dress up box can aid in this practice for young three year olds
Let them brush their own teeth
A low cupboard in the kitchen where they can choose their own snack
They can help set the table
Let them participate in the kitchen
Provide them their own tools for kitchen use
Let them choose and make their own breakfast
Clear the table
Wash dishes
Teach them bathroom hygiene- let them do it themselves
If toilet is too high, put a step on it
Teach them how to use utensils properly, no reason why they shouldn't be able to use a knife

Care of the Environment:

Low work spaces
Tools that are accessible to them (sponges, buckets, soap, water)
Put a step up to your kitchen sink
Keep things in one place as much as possible so that they will know where to put them back
In the kitchen: measuring, pouring, stirring, spreading, cutting, peeling, grating, washing, seeding,
Watering the plants around the house
Wiping the table or counters
Washing hands
Mopping the floor
Making their own bed
Preparing their clothes for next day
Opening and closing curtains
Feeding animals
Putting dirty clothes in hamper
How to treat their toys

2. Social Relations

Practice wanted behaviors
Talk about positive things you see in them
Talk about positive things you see in others
“Catch them being good”
Let them hear you saying good things about others, including children, notice more of what you DO want them to do
Clear limits to unacceptable behavior
Talk about your values and what you find important
Model your beliefs

3. Communication

Clear precise communication with your child
Talk a lot with them, explain things
Read to them even when they can already read for themselves- they love the same books over and over
Let them see you reading
Tell them true stories
Prohibitions should be clear (and you should hold yourself accountable as well)
Give words to feelings
Introduce complex vocabulary
Stick to your own best language
Give realistic choices
Let them be a part of family meals

4. Order

Routines! Morning routines, and bedtime routines especially
Things have a place in your child's room, then he will know where to put them away
Not too many toys
Not too many activities to do- time to process the day is necessary
Limited sets of clothing to choose from
Limited work space
How to treat their toys
Tell them what happens before, and what will happen after
Make a picture schedule and talk about it
Give them real world word problems
Notice patterns with them

5. Curiosity, Creativity

Listen to what they have to say!
Outdoor provides much opportunity for exploration
Let them solve their own problems
Ask them what they think about things
Wonder with them
Expose them to art
Give them tools for expression
Open ended toys