Welcome to the YCC Southwest classroom! I am looking forward to another year of learning and growing together. With great joy I will share with you the stories about what we have been working on in the classroom. I encourage you to visit our observation room as much as possible and witness what's going on through your own eyes.
“Children become like the things they love.” Maria Montessori
March 7, 2019
Thank you for meeting with me during the conferences. It is always helpful to compare how the child is at home and at school. This gives me a better understanding of the child's personality and development.
We cannot wait for spring, but the children are still enjoying going outside. The oldest children walk without fear in deep snow trying to conquer the hills. They shovel the snow or scoop it up with the buckets of the trucks. Our youngest children have started to show strong interest in getting dressed to play in this snow.
We have a few new materials on the shelves: the one that is popular among older children is nail polishing. We use a cosmetic oil, which I poured into an empty bottle from the nail polish. The work requires a lot of fine motor skill. First, the child needs to open the case which has zippers that go around. Then, they need to open the bottle with polish by turning the top and lifting it to get access to the tiny brush. Dipping the brush back into a bottle develops hand eye coordination. The oil is applied on the nails and the nails are buffed with a flannel square cloth. At the end the child needs to put everything back in reverse order: screw the cap on the bottle, fold the little flannel mat and place it in the cosmetic case, zip the case and put the activity on the right shelf.
We are spending a lot of time lately on practicing to put things back. This week we are also spending time on practicing listening (not obeying, just listening to the words of others and understanding their meaning.) Asking questions is a good exercise. We looked outside through the glass door and talked about things we have been observing outside. I asked the children “Do you see any birds?” “Do you see an airplane, hot air balloon in the sky?” “What color is the sky: blue or gray?” These questions and gaining their attention help the children refocus and move to the next step which was going to the gym. One of the children was ready to take off from me and run to the gym with excitement, even if every time we remind them that we walk in the hall and run in the gym. But, since the children were in a peaceful mood and open to my words, I simply asked the children: “What are we going to do now?” Another listening game is giving the child simple commands: touch your nose, put your hands on your head, jump up and down. Try playing it at home.
February 21, 2019
We welcomed the new friend into our classroom: Millie Stewart. The Stewart family came back to Traverse city from Ann Arbor. Welcome to our school community Leah, Jeremiah, and Millie!
While preparing for conferences I noticed with pleasure a great change in the classroom. All the children have many presentations, and they are practicing skills. Some activities and skills have been mastered. Sometimes the child needs to learn how to bend or twist the wrist in order to roll the rug, open the container, etc. Sometimes the child need to memorize the sequence of activity; which is the first step, what comes next. Food preparation, especially baking is the example of activity developing sequence. But there are many other examples of activities supporting sequence learning in everyday life of our classroom. Preparing for snack is the example: first the children need to set up the table, by placing tablecloth and plates on. Then they need to wash their hands and find the available spot to sit. When they are done eating, the food left on their plates need to be scraped to the compost bucket and dirty dishes placed on the dish rack, napkin in the laundry basket. Some children choose to wash their dishes. There is a great amount of concentration happening in the classroom. Children are moving from activity to activity, very much self directed. The outcome of their work is peacefulness, joy and self-discipline. Maria Montessori called that process “normalization”
February 7, 2019
With the colder temperatures we have been spending more time in the gym. What a surprise for me was to see our youngest children to attempt to ride tricycles!
Therese and the children who come to school before carline started to prepare snacks for our community. Gunner, Calvin, Barrett and Margaret make hummus and oatmeal on regular basis.
Among the new activities that I brought to the classroom is a little treasure from a thrift store: a wooden Noah's ark with little animals that children love to polish and arrange around on the shelf. It is incomplete but still brings a lot of joy into our environment. We also have a furniture waxing activity. This is a home-made wax made of olive oil and bee’s wax, which children applied on our wooden shelves with a little sponge applicator.
These are the examples of practical life activities that develop skills of taking care of the child’s environment and also strengthen the muscles and develop fine motor skills. The ability to care for the environment brings independence, the strong muscles of hands allow the child to be able to do art and hold a pencil for writing in the future.
January 17, 2019
Happy New Year! When the children came back to school after the holiday break, they all seemed to be taller and so many of them acted more mature. Two of our classmates, Barrett and Carmen, turned 2 years during the break and we celebrated their birthday with banana – chocolate chip muffins. Margaret and Syria will soon leave us, and join their new primary communities. This will put a lot of responsibility on Calvin and Beatrice's shoulders who will be the oldest children , jumping into a role of a leader.
This is the beauty of the toddler community: the child enters it on often wobbly legs, learns how to drink from the open cup, shares first words with us, masters using the toilet, keeps us on our toes with a “rule and limits testing challenge,” suddenly testing ceases and more privileges and responsibilities are passed onto a child. Then they become the “keepers” of rules and order, helpers to their younger friends, negotiators of the conflict and such a sport when it comes to the pretending games played outside at the playground. But then is the time to move to the Primary. We are always sad to let them go, but at the same time we feel happy for them to embrace next level of learning and growing.
December 13, 2018
My trip to Houston was very instructive! I came back full of new ideas and also with a strong appreciation that The Children's House is offering a rich curriculum, true to Maria's Montessori’s philosophy.
In preparation for the coming holidays, we have a small Christmas tree that children can decorate with ornaments. We have Christmas language basket with items such as: figurine of Santa Claus, a sled, a stocking, a mistletoe, an ornament, a Nativity Scene, and a present. In our Hanukkah basket, we have: yamaka, menorah, and a dreidel. We have been reading books about snow, winter, and about coming holidays. Thank you for purchasing the books for our classroom during Horizon event!
The children have been enjoying the snow. The older children (this includes the children who are two or turning two in a month) can put on snow gear independently. Some of the younger children can take off the snow gear independently. For them, the process of dressing and undressing is a collaboration between adult and a child. We guide them with our words what needs to be done first and we show them with the motions of the hands how to pull snow pants up, how to step into boots, etc.
When we dress into snow gear, the first thing that we ask the child is to take off their shoes. The next step is finding their snow pants. We line up the snow pants for the child who sits on the floor and we guide the child to put first one leg into a pant leg, then the other. Putting on pants is tricky, we often end up with two legs in one pant leg. We show the children how to pull up their pants, in a standing position. Putting boots on works better if we ask the child to hold onto the wall/door frame and step into their boots. The next item that goes on is their jacket. We place it on the floor, in front of the child with the loop/hood touching their feet. The child puts both arms in the sleeves and puts the jacket over his head, next he is ready to zip. We call that method ”up and over.” Hat and mittens go on last. We have been using a glove drying rack and after we come back from the playground the children place their wet items on the peg of the rack for drying. Boots and hats go there too.
Outside we have been enjoying hill climbing, sleding, shoveling snow or rolling in the snow. I hope that you will have many opportunities for playing outside with your child during our Winter Break!
November 29, 2018
It is good to be back from my trip to Poland. I had a nice trip spending time with my family, but my home is here in Michigan. Christy, Therese and Annie took great care of the children during my absence and everything went smoothly.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. We do not have the equivalent of this holiday in Europe, yet it was easy to learn how to celebrate it. Thanksgiving is still a subject of our conversations in the classroom. It is exciting to see older children participating with more awareness in preparation for the classroom feast. Syria was excited to bring the flowers for our table, and she spent all morning arranging them in various vases. Also, thank you for wonderful food for our Thanksgiving feast. The children enjoyed trying all the dishes. Apple cider was definitely everyone’s favorite.
A couple of weeks ago new friend Calvin joined our classroom. We wish a warm welcome to Calvin's family.
Gunner turned two during Thanksgiving and we celebrated his birthday on Tuesday by baking banana muffins and lighting two LED tea candles. We looked at Gunner's baby pictures and discussed the changes that occurred during two years of his life. Happy Birthday to Gunner!
November 8, 2018
Agnes is away on vacation and will update classroom highlights when she returns.
October 25, 2018
Two new children, Adeline and Vivivana, joined our classroom recently. A warm welcome to their families. We are waiting for Linden who will join us in November and then our classroom will be at twelve children again. It is interesting to watch the dynamics among children changing with the arrival of new students.
In preparation for Pumpkin Fun Day which we celebrate on Halloween, the children have been hammering golf tees into a pumpkin. We started to read age-appropriate books about Halloween, like “Biscuit's Halloween” and “Five Little Pumpkins”. We have large pumpkin waiting to be carved into a Jack – o – Lanterns and language cards with the symbols of Halloween. There is a picture of a house decorated with spider webs, Jack-o-Lantern, bag for treats, corn candies, Halloween spider, and a costume of a bumble bee.
Halloween is a holiday that is celebrated in our culture but it can be a little scarry for a young toddler, who is exposed to it for a first time, which is a case of most of the children under two years. Children who are turning two this year have the chance to experience Halloween again for the second time in their life. They will be more aware and will enjoy it more. Next year they will understand what Halloween really means and will be more involve in preparation for the holiday.
This is true for all the other holidays, as well as birthday celebrations and any traditions held in your family. The process of learning, getting to know, and experiencing events, traditions, rituals and even every day tasks and routines is called adaptation. Our role as adults is to help children adapt to their/our culture, time and space. How can we help them adapt to Halloween? We can bring up Halloween costumes a week earlier and practice wearing them at home, maybe go trick-or-tricking to the neighbour or grandma. You can also take your child for a walk around neighborhood and talk about houses decorated for Halloween. I have to admit that for a person who was rised in different culture, Halloween is too scarry for me. I cannot truly enjoy it. I can imagine that the young toddler may be reacting in the similar way to some scarry images. We will carve our pumpkin into a Jack-o-Lantern on Wednesday and we will light an LED candle inside. We also will make pumpkin – coconut milk smoothies and pumpkin bundt cake.
Enjoy your Halloween! And I will see you on Monday during our conferencess.
October 11, 2018
Our days are filled with work in the classroom. Every day, a group of children has an opportunity to prepare individual snack for themselves and, every day one of the oldest children makes food for our morning snack. On Tuesdays, we always make hummus, on Wednesdays oatmeal with bananas and dried fruit. Thursdays is waffle day and on Friday Margaret and Beatrice bake muffins. On Monday we have the muffins baked on Friday.
Last week Beatrice and Margaret peeled apples and we cooked apples in a crock pot with just a little water and cinamon. Then we used the food mill to puree apples and we made delicious applesauce which was all eaten during lunch. Peeling and coring apples required strong muscles. We used the peeler with a crank , and the girls enjoy making it turn and see the apple circles coming off the apple core.
The children in early care were enjoying the bread and toast with jam. The bread was baked on Monday by Gunner and there is nothing more precious than enjoying the children sharing the gift of food with friends. This food is really made by them.
Toddlers experience the world through their five senses. They want to touch, smell, taste, see and hear. There is nothing more satisfying for them then being involved in preparing food. The children are also more open to try something if they prepared it by themselves. When cooking/baking with young child first we need to accept that it may be messy, which means flour on the floor, batter that slipped out of mixing bowl and lots of dishes to wash. But as the children become exposed to the process of baking, they will be willing to help with cleaning. Firs,t they do it because we asked them, soon they will do it because they noticed spill on the table and driven by their sense of order they feel urgent need to take care of it.
We need to train the children to be patient with waiting for directions from us and for their turn. In order to enjoy cooking with toddlers we need to know the recipe well and have all ingredients on hand. With practice and trust, toddlers become reliable and skillful cooks and bakers. Cooking and baking is a science lesson. It develops language by providing nomenclature and verbs, and it sharpens math skills. Following the recipe, introduce the concept of sequence to the child, which indirectly prepare the child for reading. Whats more important cooking together in the classroom teaches the toddlers open-mindedness, flexibility, tolerance and how to belong to the community. It makes them proud that they made the food by themselves and happy to share it with others.
September 27, 2018
We baked our first bread on Wednesday! Syria carefully mixed all ingredients and made the loaf of bread which she took home to share with her family. Baking bread is going to be our everyday activity and you will get to taste it too when your child brings it home. When we get better we will experiment with different spices and tastes. I will also send home bread recipe as soon as we master right proportions of dry and wet ingredients. First bread was an experiment, which turned out well.
We started to talk about fall. In the classroom we have cards with fall themes. There is a picture of squirrel collecting nuts, and a picture of pumpkins, apples on the tree, children in rain coats. We have miniature pumpkins in the basket and we read the books about harvesting fruits and vegetables. We enjoy apples and plums for snacks. Stanley plums became children’s favorite. During our outside time we observed that leaves are changing colors and falling off the trees.
Fall time can be very enjoyable with all the treats and events that it brings. It is also a time when our bodies need to get adjusted to shorter and colder days. We get more tired and hungry. This is very true for young children. Sometimes they can get very emotional and sensitive. It is a great opportunity to teach children about taking care of the needs of their bodies.
September 13, 2018
We really enjoyed our first two weeks of school. George, Beatrice, Margaret, and Syria took the role of classroom leaders and helpers to the younger children. Carmen moved into a position of the middle child. Alex and Gunner are happily exploring the room and activities. Maeve and Barrett are working getting accustomed to their new school environment. We are also seeing more and more smiles and moments of them feeling settled. All the children are settling in to their new classroom community. Before our lunch we sing "Community song". George calls it "Around song".
This are the words:
"Look around and you will see
Community, a family
We're together, we are friends!"
The older children have started to prepare food for morning snack. We made waffles, banana muffins and fruit smoothies. Everyday the children have the opportunity to practice individual food preparation: slicing bananas with a chopper and cutting apples with an apple slicer, are two main activities. The youngest friends are practicing peeling banana which is cut into segments. Thank you to all of you who came to our Back to School Night. I hope to see you all at our picnic next Monday (September 17th).