Friday, March 26, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I attended a new yoga class yesterday, and some phrases are still lit in my mind. I thought they were perfect for working with:

"Observe the quality of your being in this moment."

"Take in the totality of the landscape before you, accept it."

"You are free now."

"Be light with yourself."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Let's Get Together and Sing

Last week we had our yearly Sing Along at school. It is really my favorite school event of the year.

In preparation for the Sing Along I chose the songs we'd sing this year early on and we have been organically incorporating them into our daily singing since August. By the time the Sing Along neared, we just had to decide who wanted to sing what because the children all knew the songs well. Children naturally identified with a specific song and you could tell by the enthusiasm in their voice when they sang.

So that families would know the songs as well, I burned CD's for them with the main songs and added it to the invitation for the evening two weeks prior to the event. It was touching to see the parents drop off their children at school in the morning and hear the songs blasting from their cars!

There were 13 songs in total, and for some songs, one child would solo the song first, then the group of children would sing with the child, and finally all the parents and friends would sing the song together. Some songs were sung only once by one child, or by a small group of children.

This year we invited friends to join the families for the evening. Our tiny school was packed!

Jessica's father is a professional musician and we were lucky to have him join us on his electric guitar. This really added depth to the music, since my guitar playing is fairly simple.

I have added our song list and chords HERE. Commentary from parents was very positive about how the songs chosen were very uplifting and really made us feel a sense of togetherness.

There are few things that bind people's hearts together like singing!

We lined up our school walkway with lanterns, and decorated the entrance of our school:

Inside, the chairs with children's nametags were lined up and ready. The parents and friends were aranged in a circle around them.

After the program, we celebrated the school's second year with a beautiful cake(donated by a parent- never seen anything like it- with the children's picture lasered onto the icing!) and sang Happy Birthday.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Working with wood and tools

I'd love to have a shelf in the classroom devoted exclusively to materials related to tools and wood working. It's so hard to resist when I go to the hardware store and there is a tool that looks like it's made for small hands. I've had my partner make us some materials based on the function of some tools and hardware and they are really popular in the classroom. The control of error is really clear, the materials require lots of concentration and careful work with the hands, and since there are usually a number of screws to put in or take out, repetition is built into the material. And although you can't see it in the picture, each set of blocks has a builder's triangle chiseled out on one side so that the children know how to join the blocks so that all the screws will fit.

If you like this kind of thing too, there is a fantastic little book called "Children Can Build" by Susan Scheibenzuber from Laughing Star Montessori complete with presentations to be given on a little classroom workbench for projects using wood and real tools. It includes presentations such as:

Sawing Sticks
Sawing Foam Core
Using a Hand Drill
Using a Sanding Block
Using a Vise

I dream that one day we'll have our own workbench too!

In the meantime, this is what we have:

Using a Philips screw driver to join two blocks of wood:

Using a Flathead screw driver to join two blocks of wood:

Using a hex key to join two blocks of wood together (Warning- this is a dangerous one to teach the children when most of your furniture comes from Ikea):

Putting two blocks together using bolts, washers and wing nuts:

Not pictured because they are yet to be put on the shelf:

Hammering into a block of wood and removing the nails.

Polishing wood with linseed oil.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Inner Observation

Observation takes some serious self discipline. It is hard to stay focused in a room that is sometimes loud, when a child is rolling around the floor, when the three hours go by so fast and lessons could be given! I have to hold my energy back and my judgment. Sometimes what I really "need to be doing" at those moments is to just sit there, observe without judging, see what is really there. In the end, that is a much better starting point for responding to the children's needs than my sometimes frantic putting out of fires.

Based on the fantastic lecture given by Molly O'Shaughnessy at the AMI Refresher Course that took place a few weeks ago in Florida, Jessica and I have put together a list of self observation tasks that we will practice and discuss at each weeks end.

Concentration takes practice! I think that beyond that, focused observation takes humility, friendliness with error, and honesty. Especially when it comes to self observation. Whatever we find within ourselves by the end of the weeks, we will try to improve on by practicing deliberately. Repetition, just like the children.


Notice words and phrases that you repeat a lot each day. Notice how you are saying them. Write them down. Are they effectively communicating your intention? Is there a better/clearer/more respectful way to say what you are trying to say?

Notice exactly what you are modeling when you are taking to a child. Visualize being/feeling how you want the child to behave/feel.

Notice what you are saying to yourself during the day. Notice how the hour and your level of energy. If you are noticing yourself becoming tired/anxious/impatient is there something you can do to help yourself? Ex: take a break, take out the yoga mat, have a snack, go outside for a minute, do the individual silence exercise. During those moments, practice thinking new and positive thoughts.

Examine your preconceived notions and assumptions about each child. Notice what you say about each child. Notice your judgments and recognize that they may be erroneous. Practice visualizing the child at his best. Recognize the child's progress, regardless of how minimal.

Attend to your own focus, mindfulness and attention. What are you concentrating on? Practice paying attention to everything that is going beautifully.

Create space for observations. Take time to observe each other and the opportunity to learn from each other through these observations.

What the world needs.

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." -- Dr. Howard Thurman.