Thursday, June 16, 2011

Passing the torch.

Today was our last day of school and our "moving on" ceremony. The plan for it evolved over some weeks of going back and forth on ideas and it ended up being simple, significant, and beautiful. I am so pleased with how it went, and was able to enjoy ever minute of it.

Our ceremony began with the oldest children sitting on one side of the line, and the second years sitting on the other side. Parents and first years sat in the space remaining, and anywhere else they could fit on our school porch. (I've been reading about tea ceremonies, and liked the idea of humility- the honored children sitting in chairs, and everyone else on the floor). I explained how the line is an exercise for mastering gross motor control, and that the oldest children would demonstrate their mastery by walking around it with a lit candle (Aruban trade winds permitting).

One at a time, each child walked on the line with a candle and then presented the candle to a second year child. This represented a passing of the torch. The second years, in turn, had made "garden necklaces" (a material in our class for choosing to be out in the garden) and gave one to each of the oldest children. This represented how the old children will now be "outside".

It was lovely to see the children walking solemnly with their little candle flames flickering. The sharing of the candle and necklace gifts was very sweet.

After reading them a short letter with advice for the future (1)be kind 2)take care of plants and animals...) , we all went to our lunch room to watch the graduation video (see posts below).

All this ended with a picnic in our yard. It was a perfect morning. Complete. I think this will be our standard ceremony for future years.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The master in the art of living

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both.”

James A. Michner

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Our graduation slide show

I used open source "Open Shot" to make this slide show. It was really easy to learn how to use, and very fun to make. And free.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Discovery: lap harp.

This weekend I was at a friend's house and on a shelf she had a rusty old looking dulcimerish type of instrument that had been given to her by her Russian grandfather. A trapezoidal box with 18 strings that looked fairly complicated. When I was little, we used to accompany my mom's piano playing with an auto harp (which is the instrument that June Carter Cash played, I think) and even with our amateurish playing it sounded beautiful. So I was intrigued.

I asked my friend about the thing, and THEN... she showed me how the music score (sheet?) fits in just so under the strings, and it shows you exactly where you have to pluck the strings with a pick to make the music. So easy! Even in it's rusted state, it garnered my applause when she played.

Immediately I thought, this would be a GREAT addition to a Primary music shelf. How to ask her for her family heirloom?! Of course, I didn't ask. But went home and researched and sure enough, there was the lap harp. For sale kind of anywhere (meaning, on Amazon.) And coincidentally later that night, when looking through the Montessori Services catalog, there it was again. Why I failed to notice it before? The exact same one, at a better price than the other places (meaning Amazon), and extra sheets of music also at a better price.

So I ordered one. And I am the person sitting at the desk impatiently tapping my fingers waiting for it to arrive. I can already picture the very musical five year olds playing songs on it. The addition of a string instrument to our percussion and bells and xylophone orchestra will be very very exciting.

I will update on the results.

What is good.

Point three on the "10 Commandments of Montessori" is as follows:

"3. Concentrate on strengthening and helping the development of what is good in the child so that its presence may leave less and less space for the bad."

There is so much wisdom in this one sentence.

I think about the individual child who struggles. Stopping to celebrate the small progresses, no matter how small. Encouragement. Tirelessness. Patience. And much hope.

Today I was thinking about this in collective terms instead of the individual child. The development of what is good in the group... It was interesting to ponder, "What are the strengths of our group?" "How can I make them aware of and help them develop them?"

And then on to how I treat myself and my shortcomings and errors. Can I focus on the good in myself to leave less and less space for the bad?