Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our November Winners are....

 Congratulations to Mara.  She is our winner on the Crafty Advent Calendar!
 Congratulations to Miss Malve, our winner on the not Handmade Advent Calendar (too much on my plate right now) but this one is just as lovely!
Also, our December giveaway is an Arbonne Pampermint body gift set kindly donated by Heather Smith Dacey.  Thank you Heather!  I will be announcing our December giveaway on Friday December 16th as we will be closed and away until January 3, 2012.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Retreating to the Country

 This past weekend we went on a staff retreat.  I took all the lovely ladies of Maple Tree to a beautiful guest house in Port Williams at Taproot Farms.  The House is called Swallows Nest because of all the nesting swallows around the house and property.  I really can't even begin to express to you how utterly beautiful it is there and how perfect it was for us.

In this picture you can see a beautiful symbol on the mantle.  We were told that the original owner was a Waldorf teacher and that she use to host the children she taught in the house for special times.  The place felt magical and it was the right place for six Montessori Teachers to get together and connect not only on a personal level but also to reconnect with some of our materials and work.
Everything was included in our farm stay.  We had amazing food brought to use each day that was local and organic.  We had a massage therapist come in a give each teacher a 45 minute massage.  We hiked, we drank a fair bit of wine, we laughed a lot and we got closer and became even better friends.

 We also worked with the materials and practiced with our master teacher.  Thank You Ms. Wendy!! We love you for this and we sooooo appreciated you sharing your incredible work binder.

 I have included some pictures from Ms. Wendy's binder because you need to see how much work went into making it.  Both Ms. Wendy and myself come from teacher training that dictated that we make our materials.  Material making was just as important as showing your teacher you knew how to use the materials.

Many new Montessori Teachers do not have to make their material anymore and in Ms. Wendy's case she also had to type up the paperwork to complete her work.  Can you imagine?  She typed and she confessed to us that it took her forever because she wasn't much of a typist!

It was important to me to have Ms. Wendy share her binder with us.  I wanted our teachers to see what was expected back then and see also that although some things have become modernized all the basic fundamentals and foundation is still the same.  I think Maria Montessori would be happy to know we still do it her way and nothing has really changed.  If anything, I would say we have a deeper more profound respect for what we do.
PS, if you haven't ever gone to Taproot Farms and you think you might enjoy a farm stay or being a part of their CSA check them out at:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Sound of Silence

My voice carries, especially when I am enthusiastic about something. I have had to learn to lower my voice and soften my tones.  In fact because I have had to learn it myself I know that this is a learned skill.  The first time I saw the silence game I didn't know if I liked it or not.  I wasn't sure if it was developmentally appropriate.   I'm starting to learn differently.  The silence game is when the teacher announces to the class that we are going to try to move around the classroom without making any noise.  Often a “silence” sign is hung on the wall or a candle is lit. I think it is a good thing for children to know that they can control their bodies and voices.  I am noticing  lately that when I attend workshops or meetings  there are often people having side conversations when the instructor or members of committees are trying to talk.  

 Perhaps because of the digital age we have become “constant communicators.”  We are always in touch. We are always replying.  What we seem to be doing very little of is listening. And by listening I don't just mean listening to others I mean being still and listening to those sounds that come out of the silence.  Sometimes at the beginning or end of circle I will say “Close your eyes and listen, when you hear something put up your hand and I'll ask you what you hear.”  Some hear teachers talking in hushed tones, some hear dishes rattling, cars going by, the door opening or even a monster, or a bear....  My point is, the opportunities that come from stillness are endless.  Sometimes we play the silence game where we move around the classroom using quiet bodies and voices.  The children can sustain this for up to 5 minutes.  It doesn't sound like a lot but it takes a great deal of control.  A favorite game that I often play at the end of circle when we are transitioning into hand washing and lunch is the Secret Agent Game.  I take out a chalk board and tell the children that they have to watch for their name and if they miss it they will have to wait for it to come up again during the game.  They become very focused on this game and not only are they practicing attending they are also recognizing their own name in print.

 Another game I play is before circle I will call my group one at a time using a whisper.  Because they are interested in hearing their name they listen very quietly.  We sometimes also play the quietest quietest game where the children get ready to go to the playground as quietly as they can and the children who were really really quiet get to choose their partners.  This is a powerful incentive for some of the children.
 We do not  expect utter silence in the classroom all the time .  Children at this age are learning how to communicate and they need to talk and use language.  The reason  we do silence exercises with the children is because it is important for the children to know that they have the ability to control the sounds that they make.  I also stress (every single day) that we live in a community and that some of our friends are concentrating and that we should talk  in our quiet indoor voices.  I also invite them to practice talking in a small voice. ex.  “Show me how you say “Hi” in a quiet voice.   When we go outside however we make it clear to the children that they are “Allowed to be loud.”  ~Ms. Melanie

Monday, November 21, 2011

Advent Give Away!!

Ok so the giveaway for November is not ONE but TWO advent calendars!  Just in time for the start of December.  One is a project for you and your child to make together and the other one is handmade by me!  The handmade one is a surprise so you will not see it until I post the winners.  So get busy and start commenting!!

Turns out some people are having a hard time posting to this post.   Keep trying though and send me a note by email and I will add you to the draw.  ~m

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Snippets from the week

The week has been busy.  We have worked with the addition Strip board and recorded our answers.  I said we were mad about math and we are right now!

Lots of reading work and writing in sound books. One little girl in particular saw a horned owl in her back yard and need to document that in her printing book.

This little boy had the most amazing time planning and constructing with the pink tower and red rods.  Oh, how we loved this work and watching it unfold was very inspiring not only for us but the other children in the class.

How's your week been?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mad About Math

Yesterday, was a day filled with number work.  I had the chance to work with six different children and they all went for math work.  This first piece of work shows a child working with the hundred board.  She is counting and arranging her numbers 1 through 100.  There is a control in this work in that the board she is laying her number tiles on is already numbered so she has to match them and place them.  We will be turning the board over to the blank side and the new challenge will  ordering the numbers without the control chart.  This is a big bit of work in that it takes a long time to complete.  It requires lots of patience and concentration.
Also got the chance to present new work myself today.  I love this part of the classroom and it is nice when I get to just be and work with the children.  I have a friend who had mastered the teen bead hanger and so I gave the presentation to the decimal system.  I showed one, ten, hundred and thousand.  I also placed the number cards and had her build her own Thousand, hundred and ten using the golden bead material from the bead cabinet and bank box.  My friend really enjoyed this work and I can see that in no time at all we will be moving along into the bird's eye view game and the bank game.  

There is lots going on with math and many are in sensitive periods for number work and ordering numbers.  Exciting times indeed!

I also got to practice number rods with P, and spindle boxes and cut out numbers and counters with AB.  It was a lovely morning.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nurturing my naturalist

 This weekend we spent a lot of time hiking and walking our dog.  It was also a great chance to savour and enjoy the woods before the first snow flies and everything changes.  There were moments of quiet and time to listen and feel the wind.
 My girl lives for these walks and I am so glad for them myself.  If I am feeling cranky it is an instant mood lifter.  I love how when we are walking all kinds of conversation just comes and questions get asked and answered.
A while a go we bought a small basket for gathering at the farmers market.  It is just perfect for fingerless gloves and a casted arm!
Yesterday, we were in search of some pinecones.  The day before we had noticed that the ground was covered in them.  We will be needing lots of pinecones for our various holiday art projects.
My girl has a special space dedicated to her seasonal treasures.  It is called our nature table and she has made a space in her bedroom for it under her window.  This space holds all the things she has found that are near and dear to her and it is changing all the time based on what she finds  and needs to keep.
Encouraging a love of our natural environment is really important to me and so we will always have this space in our home.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Our October Winner is......

Congratulations to Kelley Lewis, she is our October winner of, Do Unto Otters and Have You Filled a Bucket Today!  Please see me to collect your books.

Our Give away for November will be a handmade Advent Calendar by yours truly.  What a great way to welcome in December and count down the days to Christmas! As soon as it is complete I will post the picture.  I do like the idea of it being a surprise though!