Monday, December 24, 2012


The holidays are a time for celebration, over indulging in good food, spending time with friends and celebrating our families.

I truly believe that the purpose of Christmas is to celebrate the children in our lives.  Those that are children now and those that were once children.  Every birth is a reason to celebrate.  Every child can change the world the way Jesus did.  Every child can be a peacemaker.

How do we get to this place where children, who are naturally free spirited and naturally curious, change the world?  We need to listen to their insights and dreams.  We need to expose them to different people and cultures.  Children are naturally accepting.  If we expose them to negativity, hate and fear that is how they will grow, thinking these are the important emotions.

So why not expose them to joy, compassion and love?  It is simple to do.  Take your child to the local food bank.  Help your child rescue his or her old toys for Goodwill and local shelters.  Invite people of interest to your house whether they be from a different, religion, culture, economic status or sexual orientation.

Allow your child to get to know others, don't judge their choices but learn to accept the wisdom of childhood while keeping them safe.

Open your child's eyes to celebrating what is the same between all of us.  We are the family of man.  It starts with the nuclear family but it spreads outward like the rays of the sun.  Children are naturally loving and curious.  Teach them to ask questions in a respectful manner.

Model how to be kind, safe and do your best.

Give your child roots in your family and wings to discover the world.  That is the Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza gift I wish for all children.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Life, respect, and the lessons of insects

Respect for others.
Respect for all living things.
Respect for the environment.
Respect for yourself.

 Having changed schools this year I have come into contact with children who have not yet learned these 4 guidelines. So how do we start?

We start with respect for all living things.

I was surprised to see children catch and kill insects.  Insects are important to our environment, they eat decayed and dead debris, they pollinate our flowers and crops, and they teach us the value of hard work.  Insects never stop working!

We are on a beautiful 100 acre campus in the country.  Because we live in the south east USA we can be outdoors every day.  Because of our location we deal with insects and reptiles on a regular basis.

Many of our students came in with fear of these creatures, and the inclination to kill them.  We have worked with the students to observe nature and respect that each creature has a job to do and we must allow them to do it.

Observing the gecko sunning itself on the fence or the stag horn beetle digging in the grass have benefits for children.  Watching a spider create a web, noticing how dragonflies use their wings and how a turtle makes it's way through the grass are great lessons for children.  The animal kingdom has a lot to teach us if we are patient and observant.

So now when children in our class see one of these creatures they feel protective and tell others to leave it alone, it is doing it's job.

At home you can foster this by not killing insects, scoop them into a box or onto a piece of paper and take them outside.  Don't react when you see a spider or cockroach, just quietly and gently remove it from the inside of your house to the outside.

There of course in one exception to this rule.  The only time it is okay to swat at an insect is if it is attacking you,  So mosquitos....beware!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

First Impression - the Montessori Grammar Symbols

First Impressions
By Debbie Vale
We all know the importance of making a good first impression.  In the world of Montessori there are presentations that fall into the category of Impressionistic Lessons.  These lessons are designed to make a deep and lasting impression on the students.  These lessons have impact and ignite the student’s imagination.
One of the materials that often catches the eye of students and parents are the grammar symbols.  A set of the three dimensional shapes holds mystery and wonder.  Children and parents are curious about what these different geometric solids represent and how they are used in lessons.
It is well known that the materials in a Montessori environment are designed to inspire children to learn more about them.  This visual arouses curiosity.  So when a teacher is ready to present a grammar symbol to her students, they are often eager to hear her story and discover what the symbol represents.
As a teacher, I treat these impressionistic lessons with reverence and try to create an atmosphere of anticipation so that the child is ready to absorb the presentation.  It is helpful to make the stories of these symbols your own.  The stories of the word functions may differ from teacher to teacher but I believe the presentations should be simple, brief, and memorable.  It is the ambiance that is created during the stories that engages the students.  I tell the stories as if I am letting the students in on a secret.

The Noun
I place the 3 dimensional symbol in the center of the work rug.  The students gather and I tell the story.
When you were a baby, you learned how to speak.  The first words you probably used were words that named things.  “Mama,” “Dada,” and “blankie” might have been some of your first words.  When humans first began to speak, the first words they used were naming words too.  “Food,” “fire,” and “baby” might have been some of the words they used.  Even though these people lived a very long time ago, the words they used to name the things in the world still exist.  People have names for everything.
Naming words are very special.  They are solid and stable.  They represent the things in our world.  We use this black pyramid to represent these words in our language.  We use a pyramid because it is very old and very stable with a wide base, we use the color black because carbon is a very old scientific element and it has a black color.  Black also seems solid and stable.
There is a special name for these naming words.  They are called “nouns” and nouns are the names of the people, places and things in our world.  The word “noun” actually means name.
Although the story seems simple, it is enough to inspire the children to label all the nouns they can find in the classroom, to make lists of the nouns they see on the way to school and to symbolize the nouns in their sentences.

The Article
I place the noun and the article three dimensional symbols in the center of the work rug along with a pencil, two erasers, and a few beads. The students gather around as I introduce the article.
We have been finding nouns all around us and even in our sentences and stories.  Have you noticed that there are other types of words as well?  Different words have different jobs.  There are three words that have an important job. 
Please hand me THE pencil.  I take the pencil and put a label reading “the pencil” next to it.  Please hand me A bead.  I take the bead and put the label reading “a bead” next to it.  Please hand me AN eraser.  I take the eraser and put a label reading “an eraser” next to it.

I take the noun symbol and place it over above the nouns.  We know these words are nouns.  These other words are not nouns.  Their job is to point out that a noun will be coming soon.  We call them articles.  In our language there are only three.  Some languages have many more and some have none at all.

We use a small pyramid because the article is part of the noun family and will always announce that a noun will soon appear.  The name “article” comes from Latin and means a small part or a member.  The article is a small part or member of the noun family.  Although it is small, it is important.

The Adjective

I place the two symbols we have been practicing plus the adjective symbol in the center of the rug.

We have been practicing nouns and articles and it is time to learn a new symbol. 
Please bring me a pencil.  (The child gets the pencil.)  Thank you but that is not the one I want.
I ask another child to please bring me a pencil.  Thank you but that is not the one I want.
I ask a third child to please bring me a red pencil. (Or another color if a red one has already been brought to the rug.)

It was challenging to find the pencil I wanted because I didn’t add any other words to the word “pencil.”
Our next grammar symbol represents the words we use to describe the noun.  They can be colors, numbers, or many other describing words such as cold, hot, heavy, light, full, and empty.

We use a medium dark blue pyramid because this word is a part of the noun family and always stands between the article and the noun.  Sometimes there is more than one between the article and the noun such as “The new red pencil”.

This type of word has a special name, it is called an adjective and means “to add to”, we add it to the noun to describe or tell us something about the noun.  Let’s see if we can find any adjectives in our other work today.

The Verb
I have a list of cards on the rug.  Written in black are words such as map, cup, book, and bead.  Written in red are words such as jump, clap, smile, and walk. 
Please bring me a map.  The student brings a map and we put the label next to it.  This continues with the other nouns.
Now please bring me jump.  The children usually get up and jump.  That is a good demonstration of how to jump, but we cannot put that here on the rug next to the label.
Please bring me clap.  They clap.  That is a good demonstration of how to clap but we cannot put it here next to the label.
Please bring me smile and put it next to the label.  They tend to think about this but realize they cannot do this.
Can you bring me walk and put it here next to the label?  They answer no.
Do you remember what type of words these are (pointing to the nouns)?  They say “nouns.”
The words on this side are different.  They are things you can do, they have movement and energy.  I take out the noun symbol and the verb symbols.  Remember that the noun is solid and stable; when I push on it it does not go very far.  But watch what happens when I push this symbol.  It goes very far and has energy to move freely in any direction.  We use a red sphere to represent this word because red is the color of fire which has energy and a sphere is the shape of the sun which gives us energy.
This type of word is called a verb.  It comes from Latin and means word par excellence  the most important word in the sentence.

The Preposition
I hand each student a gumdrop or lifesaver.
We are going to use these candies to learn a new type of word.  I am going to give directions, I want you to follow them and tell me the position of the gumdrop.
Put the gumdrop over your head.  What is the position of the gumdrop?  They answer “over.”
Put the gumdrop behind you, what is the position?  Behind.
Put the gumdrop under your chin, what is the position?  Under.
Carry the gumdrop across the room, what is the position?  Across.
This can go on for a while until we get to the following command.
Put the gumdrop in your mouth, what is the position?  In.
I show the students the symbol.  We use a green bridge to represent this type of word.  It tells us our position.  We can be on the bridge, under it, next to it, behind it or in front of it.
We call this word a Preposition.  It comes from Latin and means “before”, we place it before the second noun in the sentence.  It shows a relationship between 2 nouns.  A preposition tells the position.
Note: I have also done this lesson relating the student to his or her chair.  They enjoy standing on the chair and crawling under the chair.

The Adverb
I have verbs written in red and adverbs written in orange.  I place the verb and the adverb symbols on the rug.
Here is another symbol that represents a word that can move freely.  As a matter of fact it moves around the verb just as our planet moves around the sun.  Let’s try it.
This word is walk, it is a verb.  I am going to add this word, “slowly” to walk.  Now walk slowly.  After the child does this, I ask another child to “slowly walk”.  Does the activity change?  No.  Does the word order change? Yes.
We continue with clap softly, softly clap, hop silently, silently hop, breathe deeply, and deeply breathe.
These words are added to the verb to tell us how to perform the action.  They are called “adverbs”.
I lay the words on the rug next to each other and under the proper symbol.  If students do not notice that the adverbs end in “ly”, I will ask if they can find something similar about the adverbs and they usually do.  If they do not notice I may say, As we work with these words you may notice something many adverbs have in common, when you think you know what it is, come and whisper it to me.
If they do notice I will say, “It is true that many adverbs end in “ly”, but some do not.”

The Pronoun
 I have hats that I make out of purple construction paper by forming a cone.  Each hat has a word on it; “I, me, we, us, he, him, she, her, they, them.”
I have made these hats for you.  We will use them in our lesson.  I will say a sentence and then we will wear the hats and someone else will say the sentence but they will change the words.
Mary gives the pencil to Bob.  Mary and Bob please stand up and wear these hats.  I will put the hat that says “she” on Mary and the hat that says “him” on Bob.  Now let’s say the sentence.  She gives the pencil to him.
Jack reads a book to the class.  I give Jack the hat that says “he”.  Let’s put the hat that says “us” in the middle of the circle to represent all of us.  “The new sentence is He reads the book to us.”
We continue until we have used all the hats.
These words have a very important job.  They take the place of the noun.  They stand tall and proud, they are purple. I show the symbol.  They are called Pronouns which means “in place of the noun.”
Note:  The students like to take the hats and wear them for the rest of the day!
The Conjunction
I prepare strips of pink paper with the words, “Come join me for a lesson.”  I have a vase of different colored flowers and cut pink ribbons ready on the work rug.
I asked you to come join me at this lesson.  I am going to give you the white flower AND the yellow flower.  Please join them together with this pink ribbon.
To a different student – Would you like EITHER the red flower OR the orange flower?  Please tie the pink ribbon around the red flower OR the orange flower.
To the third student - There is only one flower left, SO this one is for you.  Please tie a pink ribbon around it.
I take out labels with the words, AND, EITHER, OR, and SO and lay them on the rug.  These words join other words or phrases together.  We call them conjunctions which is Latin and means join with. We use this pink rectangle to remind us of the pink ribbon that is joining our flowers together.  Let’s see how many we can find in our work today.
Note – Some students say that the pink rectangle reminds them of a piece of bubble gum, I tell them that is another good way to remember it because gum is sticky and it can join things together by being sticky.

The Interjection
I use a plastic baseball bat to represent a club in this lesson.
I want to tell you a story that happened many many years ago, when people lived in caves and had to go out to hunt for food.
One night a man took his club and told his family he was going to find some dinner.  After being gone for hours he came home all tired and worn out.  His family was waiting for him.  They said, “Dad is home, where’s the food?”
Dad replied, “Oh! No food tonight.”
The next night, Dad went out again.  He came home hours later.  He was tired.  The family was waiting and asked, “Is there any food?”
Dad replied, “Ugh! No food tonight.”
The third night Dad went out again.  It was rainy.  He was gone a long time.  The family didn’t ask Dad about the food.
Dad put some meat on the table and said, “ Hurrah!  Tonight we eat!”  I hold the club up so it looks like an exclamation point.
The family cheered.  “Yippee!”  “Yahoo!”  “Yeah!”  and Dad was a happy man.
I have labels prepared with all of the interjections I used in the story.
We throw words like these into sentences to give them excitement. The sentence will still be fine without it but it is more interesting with words like these.  They add feeling.  We call them interjections from Latin which means to throw something into.  We throw these words into sentences to express our emotions.
Another way to look at this symbol is that the interjection is the key to the emotion in the sentence.  The symbol can be seen as a keyhole.
I allow plenty of time to practice each word and its function.  Using the grammar boxes and letting students analyze and symbolize text help students recognize each type of word.  Using sentence strips and grammar games allow students recall and come up with words in the proper context.  Allowing students to create their own grammar games and sentence strips shows proficiency and is also a lot of fun.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Classics

I am writing this post because a FB status from a former student caught my eye.  She is in high school now.  She went to see a production of Macbeth and thought it was awesome.  I was so excited by this because I believe in Shakespeare as a tool in the elementary classroom.

Katie, my FB student, was involved in a number of Shakespearian productions I put on with the students.  I believe this early foundation is a key to understanding and enjoying Shakespeare throughout her lifetime.

Let's face it, if we do not study the "classics" and have fun with them while we are impressionable we probably will never develop a love for these things.  Whether it is Shakespeare, opera, ballet, symphonies, the periodic table of elements, astronomy, Twain, Steinbeck, Austen or mythology, getting a taste of the classics while you are young goes a long way toward appreciation of them when you are older.

We are about to begin a production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.  I will be doing this with students who are new to me this year.  I know that being involved with a production is the only way to understand Shakespeare.  It is not meant to be read in a classroom.  It is meant to be acted out for an audience.  This is the only way to be truly inspired by it and I hope these new students will find the magic in his words.

I have had other students like Katie who have gone on to study more about Shakespeare and enjoy his other productions.  I am very grateful that these students were inspired by what we did together.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Cinderella Project

I am a fan of Cinderella.  I have two sisters and as each one of us was growing up, we identified with Cinderella who had 2 step sisters.  Each one of us felt that we had more responsibility than the others at some point in our lives.  Each of us were looking for a little magic in our lives.  Each one of us dealt with sibling rivalry.  Now, as adults we have all found our way beyond Cinderella, but it is story I will always hold in my heart.

This week at school we will be doing a Cinderella project.  Many elementary schools compare and contrast the different versions of Cinderella.  It is said that all cultures have a Cinderella story.

So this week we will take the familiar Disneyized version of the story and compare it to versions from Ireland, Korea, Russia, China, Vietnam, Egypt and Italy.  Through this process students will compare and contrast the stories.  We will focus on the different characters, the setting and the major plot points of the story.

Students will also research the countries from which these stories originated.  The geography, economy and political history of the countries can also be compared.

Finally the students will put together a Power Point demonstrating their findings.  I am looking forward to what each story has to offer.

School has been in session for six weeks and the student's personal stories are still unfolding as we get to know them.  The child is transformed through the work.  The fact that there are different versions around the world make this story one of transformation for many students.  We all look for magic, we all feel the burden of responsibility and we long to be noticed.  We all want a happy ending.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Relationship

This year I have to form relationships with 33 new students.  It has been a long time since all the students in my class have been "brand new" to the teachers, one of whom is me!

There is nothing more important than the relationship between the student and the teacher.  It involves inspiration, trust, respect, common ground, and compassion.

Establishing a relationship takes time, needs nurturing, and must be allowed to grow.  Teachers who have students for only one year must rush through this process in order to reach each student.  A rushed relationship can lead to misunderstandings, miscues and mistrust.

I am so fortunate to teach in a Montessori school.  The relationships we form with the students grow over 3 years.  We truly come to understand the student's learning style, passions, and especially the student's challenges.  We can be patient and allow these relationships to grow.

This year I am at a new school so all my students are new to me.  I am so excited to get to know each and every one of them and what makes them tick!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Peanut Butter and...?

Just a short little blog post this week.  We have renters who have moved out and left a mess so we are busy with clean up.

But I had an idea...

Instead of jelly or jam, why not make a peanut butter sandwich (on whole wheat of course) with one of the following:

sliced apples
sliced bananas
or other favorite fresh fruit.

Your child will get all the flavor , extra fiber, and less sugar.  It's a win-win.

That is if you are allowed peanut butter in your school.
Happy lunching!

Monday, August 27, 2012

In the Beginning...

First let me say that I love the first week of school.  Being in a public Montessori school is not that different from being in a private one.  The reason?  Children.  Children are eager to learn, enthusiastic, helpful, funny, and compassionate.  The child comes with everything necessary to be a valuable member of the classroom community.  The Montessori environment is always child centered and therefore the "public/private" issue is a non-issue.

That being said, I was so disappointed that Hurricane Isaac arrived and canceled the second Monday of school.  I was looking forward to one of my favorite Great Lessons.  Maria Montessori called it "God with no Hands".  I do a version that is called "The Big Bang".

I want to stress to all of you who are kindly reading this, this is an impressioistic lesson, it is meant to give the child an impression.

We set the stage by drawing the blinds, turning off the lights, and making the room as cold as possible.  We have a black balloon hanging in the center of the circle, it is filled with a bit of glitter.  We solemnly gather the children around the rug and I begin our story.

Over the past few days we have been studying the creation stories and myths of many cultures.  You have even written your own creation stories.  I want to tell you a creation story that scientist believe happened 14 million years ago.  Because it is a scientific story it is called a theory.

You will have to use your imagination.  That is how scientists work.  They use their imaginations and then find proof of their theories in the natural world.

This theory begins before you were born, before your parents were born, before your grandparents, before George Washington, before the dinosaurs, as a matter of fact, before the earth and the sun ever existed.  As a matter of fact it begins like all the creation stories we have read, "In the beginning..."

It was darker than the darkest night imaginable, light does not exist yet, it is so dark you would not be able to see your hand if you put it in front of your eyes.  It is also colder that ice.

In this blackness and coldness a singularity existed.  It was small and very heavy.  It contained the four forces of the universe, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force and gravity.

In a flash, gravity split off from the other forces (pop the balloon, turn on the flash light).  Tremendous heat emerged from this singularity.  Everything that is in the universe today was formed from this explosion which scientists call the Big Bang, even though it did not make a sound.

As the particles began to cool, hydrogen atoms began to fuse together to form the stars, bits of dust floating around the stars became planets. The particles were following the laws of the universe.  One planet contained the ability to make water.  That planet cooled enough to bring the right elements together to form life.

So when you look around you remember you are made of the same elements as everything that makes up the earth and when you look at the stars remember that the same elements that are in the stars are the same ones that you are made of.  Remember that you are made of stardust.

There are many lessons that follow this presentation about atoms, elements, stellonuecleosynthesis, gravity, states of matter, formation of the earth, and volcanoes.  But this is the big picture of the universe. All students find this lesson worthwhile which is why we present it every year.  It is the beginning.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Setting the Stage

School starts on Monday here in this part of Florida.  My co-teachers and I have been (1) Facebookworking for 3 weeks to get everything ready.  Our rooms look beautiful and it is delight and pleasure to walk into these prepared "stages" or environments.

The materials are arranged sequentially and attractively.  Books are neatly placed on the shelves.  Tables and chairs ar set up in different groupings, 1 person, 2 person, groups, and even a table to be used when sitting on the floor.  Computers are set up and seem like a natural part of the environment.  Artwork is hung and living plants placed to enhance the beauty of our set or stage for the comedy, drama, successes and discoveries of the year to come.

Now we are awaiting the entrance of the actors.  We have 32 students!  We are looking forward to forming relationships and bonds with these young people.  It has been a long time since I had a whole class of students who were new to me.  My goal for the first week of school is to start building a community.

The action will begin right away.  We have many activities planned that will help us accomplish this goal.  Personally, I would like children to feel safe, for it to be okay to make a mistake, for the atmosphere to be calm, and for all of the students to feel good about coming to school each day.

I am very excited and anticipating an outstanding year!

I want all students out there to feel this way.  Teachers do what they do because they are passionate about guiding children into self discovery.  That is where learning takes place.

So to all my old students...Remember what you've learned and go forward.  Discover your hidden talents, take advantage of the lessons the universe sends your way, and find a way to enjoy everything, even spelling!

To the students yet to come...I am looking forward to our journey together.  Together we will explore the universe, discover your strengths and passions, and take on every obstacle as a learnable moment.

Welcome back to a new school year, let's take this adventure together.  The curtain is about to go up!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Brand New

For the last week my co teachers and I have been setting up our brand new classroom.  Funny thing is that it is in a classroom where we have all taught before.  We are opening boxes of brand new materials, setting up a brand new environment, planning brand new lessons, expecting brand new children, sharing this brand new experience.  It is so exciting and yet a bit overwhelming.

My co teachers and I have joined a new school.  We have all known each other for years and have taught together before, so I am grateful for that sense of community.  We are sharing two big rooms and there is a lot that goes into setting up a Montessori environment.  

We have been thoughtful about shelf placement, number of desks vs. amount of floor space, seating arrangements, natural lighting, creating attractive arrangements of the materials, and the all important sequence; left to right, top to bottom, concrete to abstract, big picture to smallest details.  Our  environment is beginning to look beautiful.  There is a cohesive design between the two rooms.

There are many new things for us to learn.  Computer programs, strategic intent, names, who to direct our questions to, how to get help when we need it, and how to call in sick are just a few of the things we need to know.

So we are putting in a lot of time with just these items in order to be ready for the first day.  That will bring the brand new students who we will form relationships with, getting to know their learning styles, their preferences, and their strengths and challenges.  

As a seasoned professional this whirlwind of activity has been exciting, exhausting and at times a bit frustrating.  I am sure students feel this way when in a new school or even just a new class.  New teachers, new procedures, new subjects and new friends all take an adjustment period.

This exercise in "newness" has reminded me how the students feel.  I love Montessori because we can take the time to process and adjust to all the experiences that come our way.  I plan on being patient this year.  I am on a learning curve and so are the students.  I like to group 3 words together as a mantra for the year.  This year I will be 
patient, persistent, and positive.

So go buy brand new school supplies, brand new school clothes, and be ready for brand new lessons.  Choose 3 words that will help you focus.  I will look back on the 2012 - 13 school year and say that

I was patient, persistent, and positive with every challenge, person, and lesson.  Our students all grew academically and personally.  It was an outstanding experience!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Happy Birthday!

Wishing a very happy birthday to one of the best students I have ever had!!  Hope it is a great day for you and your family Red Elvis!! You ROCK!
Ms. Debbie

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Back to School Timeline for students

I posted this segment last year but I think it is worth repeating!  School begins in the next month, plan ahead!

ITthe countdown to the first day of school begins this month.  Whether your children start school in August or September it helps to have a timeline to help everyone get back into the school routine.  This is meant as a general guideline, you can tailor it to fit your family and school.  
Every year is a new adventure.  So as a parent, it is best if you help your child get started on the right foot.  Instead of struggling with the new school year and getting back into a routine, establish the routine first and then the surprises and adjustments of starting school will fall into place.

Two Weeks Before the First Day
·                     Help your child clean out closets, dresser drawers, desks, bookshelves, and organize their rooms.  You will need to make room for backpacks, school supplies, books, school clothes and other necessities.  It is helpful to have separate spaces for school clothes and play clothes; this will help children with getting dressed in the morning.

·                     Make a specific spot for children to store their backpack.  Children can be forgetful and you will need to check the backpack for homework assignments, notes from school, permission slips, etc.  After the child completes the homework assignment he or she should put it in the backpack right away so it is ready to return to school.

·                     If there are any summer assignments that were to be completed before the first day of school, get them out and either get started or finish up!  Put the work in your backpack so it is ready for the first day.

·                     Designate a spot in the kitchen for lunchboxes.  Have children practice packing and unpacking their lunchbox and putting things in the sink after school.  You will want to monitor the lunchbox to make sure your child is eating lunch.  At our school we have the children bring home any uneaten food.  Please clearly mark the lunch box, thermos, reusable containers and other items with a sharpie.  Both tops and bottoms of reusable containers should be marked.  It is an environmentally sound idea to use these types of containers instead of Ziploc bags.  Be sure to include a cloth placemat and napkin for your child.  You will want a barrier between the lunch table and your child's food.  Children often drop things on the table so it would be healthier if it fell on their clean placemat.

·                     Mark all removable clothing items (including shoes) with the child's name.  This will be very helpful to the teacher and items are more likely to be returned to the proper owner if they are easily identifiable.

·                     Consider visiting the school, helping the child find his or her classroom, bathrooms, water fountains, where they will be dropped off and picked up, where the playground and the school office is located.  This is especially helpful if you are attending a new school or are moved to a new building.

One Week Before the First Day
·                     Buy school supplies.  Take your child with you so that they can make some choices. When you get home, unpack and store supplies in appropriate areas.  Label with a sharpie any supplies they take to school unless the teacher says otherwise.  Sometimes teachers ask students to bring in pencils and they become classroom supplies so they do not need to be labeled.

·                     Buy a new toothbrush while you are buying school supplies, it is a good time of year to start with "new" things.

·                     Place items that need to go to school in the backpack and set it aside so everything is ready to go.

·                     Practice packing lunches in the lunchbox with your child.  What things can he or she do without your help?  Have a "conference" with your child about foods you both agree are acceptable and healthy for lunch.

·                     Start the school bedtime routine.  We all tend to get out of the routine over summertime.  It is best to get back into the routine a week or so before the big day.  Some children will not be able to sleep before the first day of school so if the bedtime routine is established parents and children have an easier time.

·                     If possible, take your child with you to meet the teacher.  As a teacher I always want to meet the families in my class before school begins.  It may ease your child's anxiety to stop in and say "hello".

·                     Be sure the school has all of your phone numbers and email addresses.

The Day Before
·                     Help your child pick out the "First Day" outfit, from underwear out.  Set all the clothing aside so your child knows to get dressed in the morning.

·                     Explain to your child the time schedule for school.  What time you will drop them off, pick them up etc.

·                     Talk about the child's feelings, when talking with younger children be sure to let them know that you have complete confidence in their abilities, that this is a great adventure, and that you will be looking forward to hearing all about it after school.  Put a note in your child’s lunch box to remind him or her that you are proud of them and know that they are doing great.  Avoid saying you miss them or are thinking about them as this can lead to anxiety in the child.  Your child may feel that you are sad because they are not around.  Something like, “I can’t wait to hear about your day,” or “I believe in you” work well.

The First Day
·                     Keep the routine low key, calm and happy.

·                     Drop your child off, give him or her big hug and tell them you will see them at (whatever time school ends).  Do not prolong the goodbye.  Leave them in the care of the teacher even if your child is nervous, scared or tearful.  The teacher will know how to deal with this.  It’s like ripping off a bandaid.  It is better not to prolong the agony.  The teacher will find a way to help your child find friends and things that are interesting to do.

·                     Go to work or go shopping, something to take your mind off leaving your child in someone else's care.

·         When your child comes home, let him or her begin the conversation about school.  If you ask the question, “What did you do today?”  The open­-endedness and enormity of that question often result in the answer, “Nothing.”    Just be there with a smile and be ready to listen when the child opens the subject.

I wish you all a very successful school year!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Practical Life Ideas

My sister-in-law once said to me, "My job is to raise my children so that they no longer need me."
That is the essential tenet in the "oractical life" lessons in a Montessori classroom.  Here are a number of ideas for practical life activities for children of all ages.

Remember children need to be taught how to do things such as using sharp knives, tools, and appliances.   Take the time to demonstrate and practice with them.  Before you know it they will be doing these things on their own.

1.      Pet Care
2.      Gardening
3.      Cooking/food prep
4.      Bicycle repair
5.      First aid
6.      Sewing
7.      Woodwork/building projects
8.      Laundry
9.      Tool use
10.  Polishing
11.  Table setting
12.  Washing dishes/dishwasher loading
13.  Ironing
14.  Clothing repair
15.  Fence painting
16.  Addressing mail
17.  Bill paying/check writing
18.  Tipping
19.  Making an appointment
20.  Writing a thank you note
21.  Planning field trips
22.  Organizing and counting money
23.  Telling time
24.  Teeth care
25.  Charity work
26.  Answering the telephone
27.  Manners
28.  Greetings
29.  Shoe tying
30.  Sweeping/mopping
31.  Raking
32.  Measuring (for cooking, building…)
33.  Threading a shoe lace
34.  Tying knot
35.  Sneezing and tissues
36.  Hand washing
37.  Serving food to others
38.  Nail trimming
39.  Using a microwave
40.  Computer skills
41.  Changing toilet paper roll
42.  Shopping
43.  Nutrition/food choice
44.  Tying a tie
45.  Folding a paper in half
46.  Framing a picture
47.  Gift wrapping
48.  Drink pouring
49.  Making an introduction
50.  Hanging up clothes
51.  Organizing papers
52.  Organizing personal work space
53.  Putting books back on a shelf
54.  Cutting
55.  Setting an alarm clock
56.  How to take a test
57.  Dancing with a partner
58.  Resolving conflicts peacefully
59.  Making new friends
60.  Making ice cubes
61.  Cleaning eye glasses
62.  Putting in hair clips
63.  Changing the size of a baseball cap
64.  Crossing the street
65.  Driving a car

Help your child learn the skills they need to be independent.  Remember, even when they are all grown up and technically no longer "need" you, they will always need your love.