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 and provide ideas that you can do at home with your child.
"The child who has felt a strong love for his surroundings and for all living creatures, who has discovered joy and enthusiasm in work, gives us reason to hope that humanity can develop in a new direction." Maria Montessori
Spring is finally here! Our classroom is decorated with the fruit trees and fortsythia branches. Some look like sticks, only forsythia is showing yellow flowers, we are still waiting for the cherry and peach blossoms to open.
We started to talk about Easter and Passover.Today and the following week we will dye hard boiled eggs using red cabbage and turmeric and will enjoy them for snacks.
Abel’s Family celebrates Passover and I learned that they sing “Dayenu Song” during Seder. We have been memorizing verses and singing it all day long because when you hear the tune you can not get it out of your head. The whole classroom is singing :
Ilu hotzi, hotzi’anu, hotzi’anu, mimitzrayim
Hotzi’anu, mimitzrayim, Dayenu!
Dai - Dayenu !
Dai - Dayenu !
Dai - Dayenu!
Dayenu - Dayenu!
You can listen to the tune here.
Since the covid-19 started we abandoned the activity of self serving food by children during the snack. About two weeks ago I decided to put our two long tables together and we brought back the ritual of passing the bowls with food around. The children have the opportunity to practice using tongs, ladles, and serving spoons, as well as patience while they are waiting for their turn. The meal became slower and very enjoyable. The children are helping each other with serving, asking if a friend would like more. I did not realize how much I missed that ritual.
Finn, Leland, and Teddy have been peeling carrots for our weekly carrot - apple juice. I always have a large audience gathered around juice extractor watching rainbow carrots and apples being turned into colorful juice of many shades: from purple to green and orange. The pulp from the juice and carrots peels go to my geese who enjoy munching on them.
I am excited to announce that I will be going for a short trip to Poland at the end of April. I am very happy to be able to see my family and wander around my little town.
Have a great Easter and Passover and I hope to see you during our Bright Future Celebration!
Many of the children have been spending vacation in Florida during the last weeks. Harper brought us shells, which I placed in the basket and added the sand dollar brought from Florida by Riva last year. We also have a basket with pictures from vacation: Finn feeding flamingos, Harper exploring coconut washed out of the ocean, Owen looking at the sea star (starfish), Abel swimming in the pool, and Leland soaking in the ocean. Few of you will be spending spring break outside Traverse City doing some fun family activities. Please send me 3-4 pictures for our vacation basket. Children love to look at pictures of themselves or their friends.
We have been matching models of ocean creatures with cards. Children learned to recognize sea stars, sea horses, cowry snails, octopi, angelfish, clownfish, and triggerfish. The other popular language activity is dog care objects: bowl, ball, chew, brush, harness, collar, and leash. There is a realistic-looking black labrador puppy in our basket. The children love to put on a collar or harness and leash and walk the puppy around the classroom. This activity is the most popular among middle children.
The oldest children are starting to show curiosity about the world and other cultures. We have been reading the book: “Baby Goes to Market '' by Atinuke. The story takes place in Africa. Mama and Baby go to market, mama carries a flat basket - tray on her head where she places purchased goods. Baby also puts in the basket all the gifts received from various people met at the market. This book sparked many discussions among children and inspired us to look at books about Africa and African people illustrated with beautiful photographs by Nigerian artist and writer Ifeoma Onyefulu. We look at beautiful fabrics and interesting masks used for celebrations. I brought the box with the objects from Africa that my friends brought for me from their travels. We looked at the animals carved in the soapstone, dolls from some plant material made by members of the Mbuti tribe. The favorite pieces were a basket that children tried to put on their heads and a beaded hairpiece that looked like a hairband.
I purchased a small DVD player for our classroom last year. It gives us an opportunity to listen to music and sound games. We have been listening to “Sounds on the Farm” and “Sounds in the Environment”. Older kids became so good with recognising every sound and pointing to the picture on their boards. Younger kids love to hear cows or donkeys or dogs barking.
We are getting ready for the celebration of Saint Patric day by dancing to Irish music. We cheered today with a green spinach smoothie!
Thank you for making it possible to meet with me during the conferences.
This is our second week since we welcomed Sawyer and Owen into our community. The children started to recognize their names and Sawyer and Owen are learning about our rules and routines.
We are getting ready for the celebration of Valentine’s day. We have heart shapes for gluing in the gluing box and heart foam stickers to decorate valentines for moms, dads, grandmas and papas. We read books about love and Valentine’s day and have many discussions about people or pets that we love. The language cards on our shelf represent objects symbolizing Valentine’s Day that children may see in their homes. We hope to make a cake decorated with red glaze dyed with the dry beetroot powder.
I was smiling when I read my Classroom Highlights from previous years. Every time around this time of the year we practice patience and ability to wait for turns. I realized that it is happening because the children who have been in our classroom for a while and are not quite two years old yet, suddenly got shifted into a role of the older peers, helpers, role models to the new children. Their language is blooming, many use two - three word sentences. They are mastering toilet independence and they learned that their voice matters and is heard.
Sometimes our younger friends demand food at the table using a loud voice, sometimes they all gather around me and need help with taking off their outdoor gear, all at the same time. I am trying to pose at that moment and expect them to wait a little, to calm themselves. I always give them a description of what I am doing so they would understand what is expected from them. For example when one of the children is repeating: “crackers, crackers!!!” I say:” I hear that you would like some crackers. I will serve you some as soon as you are done yelling.” When the child stops I will reward the child by saying: “I see that you are ready for crackers. Your voice is calm, you are patient.”
Another example of patience is the ability to wait for one’s turn in a group. This kind of skill refers to the social situation. You can help your child to develop this skill at home. For example, when you are trying to have a conversation with another adult, and your child is interrupting you. You can first acknowledge : “I hear that you want to tell me something, but I am having a conversation with daddy now. I am not available. It is mommy and daddy’s turn to talk now. When I finish I will give you my attention. “ At the beginning you want to make the period of waiting for your attention really short, the child needs to understand that there is consistency and follow through. Parents are talking now but they always keep their promise and when they finish I can have their attention. The child will also figure out what she can do while waiting. Most of the time, young children interupt us not because they need to communicate something really important, but because they don’t know what to do and want our interaction. Still we want them to be able to gain it in an appropriate way.
The end of January brought some cold temperatures, but we have been going outside everyday. Everybody is bundled up, sometimes wearing two coats, and neck warmers that Emma’s mom made for us last year! We have been sliding on the sleds, or on our bottoms or wandering around in deep snow, practicing moving our feet up and down. I have noticed that when we are in the coat room getting dressed in outdoor gear, some of our younger children are constantly climbing on the benches. Then, when we are outside one would expect that they all are occupying the stairs of the climber, but this is not true at all. This made me wonder how to help the children satisfy the need of climbing and the idea of walking in deep snow came to mind and so everyday few of us walk around the playground, holding hands and climbing hills. Finn tries to give his friends rides in the sled.
Playing outside makes children just tired enough and ready for a good nap.
Every morning Kollins or Teddy make bread for our afternoon snacks. We also have been enjoying spinach and fruit smoothies. Ripe pears, pineapple, kiwi, grapes, bananas, and oranges all go well with spinach. Children who would not initially touch spinach now ask for second helpings.
Last Monday Sawyer joined our classroom and this week the children will have the opportunity to meet Owen. Welcome to Sawyer’s and Owen’s families.
After this week there will be no more changes in our community until June, when it will be time to say goodbye to our oldest friends again.
After the break we welcomed a new friend, Clare McMann, to our classroom. Clare is the younger sister of Maeve who moved into Alison's primary classroom last year.. I love when younger siblings enter our community.
This week is also our last week with Nora and Adaline who have been visiting their new classrooms and getting ready for a new transition. Adaline will join Sabrina in Allie’s classroom and Nora will join Anders in Megan’s class.
It is good to have everyone back after break. The children are taller, full of ideas and goals and ready to embrace new challenges. Our not quite two year old children who, before break, mostly walked around with the pitcher and transferred water to the glass jug, suddenly put missing elements together and are washing feet, clothes and dishes.
Food preparation and art are also constantly in use. The children also love to brush their hair.
With the older children, I read two books from My Body Science series. We read “The Holes in My Nose” by Genichiro Yagyu and “Contemplaiting Your Bellybutton” by Jun Nanao. The books were published in the 90's and they needed a little editing on my part, but still they explained in a simple way a few interesting facts. We learned that belly buttons come in different shapes, some are sticking outwards and some look like a hole. We also learned about the umbilical cord. I was trying to explain that all mammals have belly buttons. I can still see the belly buttons on my goats but I cannot see the belly button on my dog Buster’s belly because he has too much hair. One of the comments was that grandpa has hair on the belly button too! As for the nose, we learned that there are hair growing inside and they have a very important role. Please don’t be offended when your child asks you to see the hair in your nose. They are not trying to be rude, just curious.
In order to reduce exposure to COVID-19 we decided to keep children separated between the YCC classrooms. This need created a new routine which I quite enjoy. The children who go to the afternoon carline with me eat snack in our coatroom. During our snack I was asked by Nora to sing a song and I asked if she would like me to sing in Polish. Now I am asked to sing in Polish every day and I quite enjoy it . We will see what comes out of it. Maybe children will pick up on some Polish words?
Our fall semester is ending this Friday with our All Community Sing on the soccer field. This has been one of the many long-time traditions of our school. Before the holiday break, we all come together as a community and sing winter songs.
After the winter break, we will welcome Clare, and later in January, two more children will join our classroom: Sawyer and Owen. With Sabrina, Adaline, and Nora gone to Primary (crimary) the roles in the classroom will shift. Finn, Teddy, Sophie, and Leland will take on the role of the oldest children and leaders.
Thank you for sharing your children with us. We had so much fun this year. It is precious to see smiles on children’s faces when they see each other at school. Just recently I have observed some strong friendships developing.
Have a wonderful and healthy holiday and a happy new year!
I hope that everyone had a joyful Thanksgiving. We certainly enjoyed our feast. Thank you for the delicious food you prepared!
We started to talk about Hanukkah and Christmas. Rachel is practicing holiday songs with children. Our room is lit up by an electric Menorah and this week our kitchen provided us with the opportunity of tasting foods that would be prepared to celebrate Hanukkah. Potato kugel was definitely a hit. Latkes brought mixed enthusiasm but we will give it a try again at snack time.
We had been reusing leftovers from lunches for our morning snacks. Toddlers need many introductions to food which is unfamiliar, and serving the lunch dishes during the snack helps them become more familiar. Sometimes it is hard for us adults to decide how to serve the food: cut it in small pieces, leave the larger chunks? Presentation of the food matters when it comes to feeding young children. Sometimes they get discouraged when they cannot eat food independently, when it is too hard for them to pick pieces up with utensils.
We are getting quite successful with this experiment and I am observing that the children who are more picky about food started to become more adventurous and eager to try something else than only crackers.
Almost everyday one of the children bakes bread on a regular basis for our afternoon snack. We also made apple sauce twice this week. Teddy, Finn, Nora, Adaline and Kollins helped peeling and core apples with our machine.
Last week Heidi brought a pomegranate for tasting. I was very sceptical about this experiment, but allowed her to present it and was very surprised with the outcome. First there were only three children at the table, then slowly the group kept on growing and the classroom froze for 30 minutes. The children enjoyed sucking on the seeds or picking them up with their fingers. And yes, the table, their faces, clothes and floor were covered in pomegranate juice but it was great joy to see how they ate it with gusto. We have one more pomegranate waiting for degustation. I will be sending you the picture of your child individually.
A couple of weeks ago I asked about family photos, but I didn’t get a great response. Please send some family photos! The holiday cards with the photo of your family will work very well and I am sure many of you have them already printed. These will create a great conversation activity.
Thank you for the great conferences! I love exchanging information on how your child spends the day in our classroom. I love to hear the stories from home. The story about a toddler rummaging through the kitchen in search of kitchen gadgets made me smile. We just had a basket with different kitchen utensils and gadgets on our language shelf.
Many of you are traveling for work. This sometimes may be hard on children but like with every routine, they are capable of accepting it and getting used to the fact that the parent is absent for a few days but will be back. We decided that having family pictures in the classroom will ease the separation, give the children an opportunity to talk about their families and also help Heidi, Karen, and Rachel meet children's families. We will also try to add pictures of our families.
The weeks before Thanksgiving will be very busy in our classroom. We will celebrate Sophie’s birthday on Wednesday December 17, and Leland’s on Monday - December 22. On Tuesday we will sit down for our annual Harvest Feast. Every year before Thanksgiving, I place language cards on the language shelf, showing different types of foods that the children may see on the Thanksgiving table. We will discuss the food in the coming days. We will also test some cranberries, which we add to Buttermilk-Cranberry-Lemon Bundt Cake that Sophie will make for her birthday celebration.
My new addition to our classroom library is a picture book “The Colors We Share” with beautiful photographs by Brazilian artist Angélica Dass, famous for her “Humanea” project. The book shows people of all colors: babies, young children, adults and older people. The photographs show how colorful, interesting and unique we are and my students are captivated by the book.
Angélica Dass shows us how wonderfully colorful humans really are, questioning the concept of race and the limited categories we use to describe each other. For me the important message is that we need to feel proud and beautiful no matter how old we are.
I noticed a change in the children with the beginning of fall. They became more tired, a little more emotional, and restless. We experience this phenomenon every year. The colder weather and shorter days affect most of us during the fall season. As adults, we had many years of practice on how to adapt to a change. Think how much harder it is for a child who is just two years old to adapt to a new season. Fall is a good opportunity to teach children about self care: good rest, warm outdoor clothing and healthy food can help us feel better.
Two weeks ago Lyle Mapes moved to our classroom from Nido. Warm welcome to Lyle’s Family!
We said goodbye to Anders, who moved to Megan’s primary classroom. He is smiling at us across the hall and seems to be quite happy in his new classroom.
We celebrated Teddy’s second birthday with carrot cake, which Teddy made by himself, under Heidi’s guidance. One of our birthday traditions is that the child who’s birthday we are celebrating and the child who had their last birthday, carry birthday candles (LED candles) to the table. Finn helped Teddy carry the candle, and in November, Teddy will help Sophie carry one candle, and a couple days later Sophie and Leland will carry the birthday candles to the table again. Toddlers enjoy that task - it seems to be a big deal for them. It takes some practice to help children use only their eyes to look at the candles during group time. We will have more opportunities to practice this and the following week, when we light up Jack ‘O Lanterns.
On Wednesday, Rachel carved our huge pumpkin with the children. They helped carry parts of the pumpkin to the compost bucket and washed seeds in a bowl of water. Finn discovered that you can knead pumpkin flash like a playdough and this activity became very popular that morning among his peers.
During the group time Rachel teaches children many fun songs about Halloween. Some of them can be found on Kathy Reid-Naiman’s cd “When It’s Autumn”. “Roll That Pumpkin Down To Town”, “Five Little Pumpkins” and “The Gate Swings Open” have been our favorites and requested a lot.
This week, Emma moved to primary and we welcomed Heidi back into our classroom. The whole transition went very smoothly. I wonder if children think that Emma became too big for our classroom and now it was the time for her to go to Crimary (as our friends Linden and Sabrina call the next level). The children talk with Emma over the fence and offer her ice cream and soups made in a sandbox. Everyone warmed up right away to Heidi. It feels like she was always with us.
We started to read books about fall, apples, and pumpkins. We match real pumpkins and squashes with cards. There are spaghetti squash, butternut squash, hubbard squash, and golden nugget squash in our basket.
The youngest children are busy everyday with cleaning the classroom. They wash the windows, wipe the floors dry with the mop or run the carpet sweeper over the carpets. They have the need for large gross motor movement, but at the same they want to imitate us, adults in their life. They take pride in taking care of things.
You probably noticed that I use the word ”work” versus play. This is the term that Dr. Montessori used to refer to purposeful activity. For a toddler the word “work” carries more meaning and sounds more serious. Simple activity develops one particular skill. More complex activities of practical life intended for older toddlers reinforce more skills. The best example is the table scrubbing activity which requires pouring, squeezing, scrubbing, and wiping. This activity also teaches sequence. Each activity, even very simple, supports independence, coordination of movement, and concentration. Another important aspect of “work” is the engagement of the hands. By working with their hands children gain control over their bodies and eventually this helps them to start to be in control of their behaviour.
What is play? Play is also a work of the child and it is very important for their development and emotional being. In the classroom we bake a real cake in a more structured way. On the playground we make a cake out of sand, decorated with flowers and wood chips candles. A piece of bark can be a tray, and it can be a cell phone. A chair in front of the steering wheel is a car and a climber is a house. Toddlers drive cars, cook soups, bake cakes and drink coffee in their pretend games outside. They love to imitate everything we are doing.
I am so glad that we were able to meet in person during our Back To School Night and picnic. Majority children in our classroom stayed with me during the summer. Now we continue to a new school year saying goodbye to Matilda, Charlie, and Adriana, and welcoming Jamie and Sophie. Welcome to Zuckerman and Queenie Families!
Sabrina and Karen came back after taking summer off.
Another big news is that Adeline became a big sister to baby Jett. Congratulations to Trisha and Josh Zelinski!
During our Back to school Night I talked a little about expectations for the children. During their time in the Young Child Community, they learn how to use language to communicate, how to express their feelings, and how to play with other children during outdoor time. The children will become independent and capable of performing many tasks by themselves. Their brain will get ready for math and language in primary class.
Dr. Montessori focused on developing the senses of the young child. Our environments are quiet, but rich in language, simple (not visually overloaded) but attractive. We allow the children to touch, move, and explore objects with their hands. We train the ear by listening to different sounds in the environment and guessing what it can be. We look at the beautiful nature around us and study the paintings on the wall. We do not teach children how to count, but sometimes we may show them what the quantity of 2 or 4 is (we focus on the quantity, which is concrete, not on the number, which is abstract). Sometimes this skill is necessary for setting up the table and the oldest children are capable of grasping the concept. We also do not teach children the letters, instead we work with different shapes, puzzles that will prepare the child’s eye for recognising the shapes of the letters and working with Sandpaper letters and Movable Alphabet when they move to primary classroom. In YCC we teach children life skills and help them with adaptation to life.