Sharing our home school/ Montessori experiences with you!
I saw this somewhere online and I loved the idea. It's a count down to Valentine's day, of sorts.
I wrote a sweet note about the kids in a heart shape. I will cut the hearts out and everyday, from the first up to the 14th, I will put a love heart on their bedroom doors.
I have added a free download of this craft, just click the button below.
Love is in the air.
Affirmations and "Big School"
I now send my kids off to Montessori with all my prayers and a few of these affirmations every morning. I'm admittedly still a bit shaken at the idea of them being at "big school" but I am trusting God and I know that everything will soon settle and be better than we could have ever expected (my own affirmation I have been saying every morning).
I have so many concerns, so many experiences that I want to protect them from but that they will have to face in their new environment. I have so many fears. My daughter has cried every morning at drop off and begs me to stay and teach her. I leave each morning thinking, "why am I doing this to her when I CAN just teach her at home?" It's only been a few days. I pray that she will soon settle in and love school.
Most of all I want them to be taught with love and kindness. I pray that their teachers will continue to cultivate the love of learning that I have worked on so tenderly and steadfastly all these years. I pray that their teachers will enjoy their excitement, curiosity and spunk. All of which may not in be appreciated in a class of more than 5, as we once were.
I will share more on how they have transitioned from home school to Montessori in posts to come. For now here are some affirmations your kids can say before school just to get them in a positive frame of mind.
One of the many observations I have made from teaching my children is that they need to be able to move. Strict or rigid seating in the classroom made them lethargic, uninspired and unfocused. In our space we have a flexible seating plan, where the children are free to move into a position that makes them feel comfortable and in turn more focused. They feel comfortable in the position they have chosen. Comfortable children are calm, focused and productive.
Flexible seating creates a more child controlled or centered environment. This freedom of movement empowers the children as it gives them choice and control over their environment. It gets their blood flowing as they are not just sitting in the same position for long periods of time. Another observation I made was that traditional desks and assigned seating made the kids territorial and even possessive of their space. The fluidity of flexible seating encourages sharing. It also creates a more collaborative spirit amongst the kids.
I have witnessed these changes in the children. It has created a more collaborative and fun environment that inspires and focus the kids. The children are also definitely more engaged and present during the lessons.
Flexible seating can be anything from laying stretched out on the floor on cushions, to standing at a higher desk or even siting outside with a lap desk. It's fun and we certainly love our space.
Name of Activity:
Rice, beans, salt
To feel and match the different ingredients in the balloons to their corresponding ingredients in the bowls
Enhance muscular memory
Educate the stereognostic sense
To make the child aware of and sensitive to different textures
To educate the tactile sense
Refinement of touch
Control of Error:
Different colour balloons that match the corresponding colour sticker underneath each bowl
Print out cards with the name of each ingredient and have the child match the name to the corresponding bowl
Blindfold the child and have them feel each ingredient in each bowl and then name each ingredient.
Invite the child to work with you. Name the activity.
Ask the child to place the tray on the table while you place the mat on the table.
Have a seat and place the tray above the mat.
Let the child know that you are going to have a turn and when you are finished he may have a turn.
Unpack the tray from left to right, top to bottom, using your right hand. Unpack each bowl, one at a time and place them on the mat from left to right. Then, still using your right hand, unpack each balloon and place them next to the mat on the left hand side.
Introduce the child to each ingredient in each bowl. Working from left to right, using your right hand, feel and name the ingredient in each bowl. Invite the child to then feel each ingredient after you have felt and named the ingredient.
Next explain to the child that you are going to try to figure out what is inside each balloon using only your hands and then match it to the bowl.
Pick up the balloon on the left with your right hand. Squeeze it in between both your hands. Using your right hand, place it in front of the bowl, which you think represents what it is filled with. Pause and look at the child. Do this for each of the balloons.
Once you are finished, using your right hand, place each balloon, one at a time on the left hand side of the mat.
Invite the child to have a turn to match the balloons.
When they have finished help them to pack away.
Thank the child for working with you
NAME OF ACTIVITY: Shaving Foam Marbled Paper
AREA: Culture: Art
MATERIALS USED: Shaving Cream
Bowl or dish
DIRECT AIM: To make marbled colour paper
INDIRECT AIM: An appreciation for art
Fine Motor skills
CONTROL OF ERROR: Directress
Invite the child to work with you and name the activity.
Show the child where it is kept on the shelf and how to carry it.
Take a table mat and sit next to the child, on the child right hand side. Introduce the elements of the art activity to the child.
Spray a layer of shaving cream to cover the bottom of the dish.
Add drops of food colouring on top of the shaving cream. Add different colour drops in different directions. Invite the child to have a turn add colours of their choice.
Use a stick to swirl the food colour around for a marbled effect.
Help the child press a piece of cardboard into the coloured shaving cream.
Lift up the cardboard. Use a scrapper to scrape off the shaving cream. Scrape it into the empty bowl.
Show the child the colour on the paper. Put it in a place for drying.
Ask the child if he would like to make another marbled card, alternatively thank the child for working with you and invite another child to work with you.
This can be repeated by adding different food colouring drops, swirling the colors and pressing in the card.
It can be repeated with several children until the shaving foam is finished.
Always thank each child for working with you.
Our School Concert
We had a mini school concert at the end of Term 1. This is just a great way to get all the family over to the house and to centre around the kids. They sang three songs, one in Afrikaans mind you, and did so well. It was my little girl’s first school concert and she was a real star. The kids had such a great time showing off all their stuff and felt so proud of themselves. It is so important for them to feel validated, especially in the homeschool environment, where the only person doing this is myself. It was also an opportunity for them to practice ther public speaking skills and do a small vote of thanks. Their confidence has grown so much. it is such a joy to watch and share in their growth. Once again my heart is full!
Kiddie Mail and Kid of The Week
This year, as all the kids are of a reading age, we will be greatly focused on our overriding theme for the year: I LOVE TO READ. This will be in addition to our child chosen weekly themes.
As a part of this initiative we will be doing Kidde Mail. I will have a mailbox set up in the classroom that the kids can pop in any card, letters or pictures they may want to share with me. This was one of my favorite activities when I was a child at school. I would love writing to my teacher, sharing little jokes or fun facts with her, sometimes even writing long letters about whatever was on my heart (poor teacher). I loved that I could communicate in this way and that my teacher would write back. This will improve the kids' writing and reading skills, improve classroom communication, and make them feel special. I can’t wait to get this started.
The kids have also asked if we can have a Kid of The Week. The child who is chosen as kid of the week will have to display exceptional behavior all week long and their picture will go up on the wall for the following week. I love that the kids are so invested in their school experience and have so many creative ideas that they want to share.
Developing a Growth Mindset
In Term 3 I introduced more techniques to encourage independent thinking, as teaching the kids how to think and not what to think is a core value we have at our school. These techniques came largely from the work of Carol Dweck in her book Mindset.
I have been working on cultivating a growth mindset and helping our kids move away from a fixed mindset.
In a fixed mindset, people believe their abilities are simply fixed traits. They believe that effort and determination are outweighed by talent and natural ability. Further, that these abilities can not be learned or developed.
In a growth mindset, people believe that their abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. This view creates a love of learning and a pliability that is essential for great accomplishment.
I have started introducing weekly growth mindset affirmations. In addition to this we have our goals chart, meditation techniques, gardening and personal affirmations; which we have already been working on throughout the year.
These additions to our school day have already made a huge impact on the kids. I often hear then encouraging each other by repeating our affirmations or not giving up when they face challenging work rather buckling down and placing value on effort, while being less focused on the result alone.
The positive ripple effects I have seen as a result of these simple techniques has really been wonderful to witness.
I highly recommend this book alternatively just research Growth Mindset activities to add to your child's daily or bedtime routine. Simple adjustments will have such an incredible impact.
Setting Up Our Home School Classroom
You will need a dedicated area for your ‘classroom’. This area must be big enough for a desk, chair and shelves. I also set up a stack of cushions and portabke lap desks that the kids can grab and go sit anywhere on our property with oens, paper, books or I Pads.
Another essential element of our homeschool is our organic vegetable garden. This can be as simple as a planter box in your garden or on a patio. The children research vegetables to grow and cultivate the vegetables they have selected.
My core belief in homeschooling is to follow the child and to keep the classroom as child centred as possible. If we listen and allow our children to express themselves and follow their interests, while still ensuring that the required school work is completed, their true genius can really shine.
I set up Learning Stations in our space by creating a simple mounted shelving system on one of our clasrrom walls. This can be done in any space, mounting shelves against the wall or by using a simple book shelf. Each column represents a different learning unit. The learning units represented in each shelving column are: Language, Life Sciences, Math, and Culture.
The Learning Stations allow the child to folllow an area of interest of his or her choice and also encourages indenepent work without having to wait for the teacher to prompt the next activity. It also encourages the child to move around and experience the classroom freely rather than be desk and chair bound. Each child can work at his or her own pace and can then progress to a learning station until he is ready to rejoin the group for the next activity.
Our Organic Veggie Garden
The organic veggie garden is a big part of our school day. The kids planted seedlings and seeds. this year we planted carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and onions.
I don't really have a green thumb but the kids are so great at nurturing the little sprouts and have such great energy that their garden is growing beautifully. We also make our own compost weekly.
Not only does our garden encourage healthy eating, tending to the garden teaches children responsibility and teamwork. It also offers an opportunity to bring science, math, social studies, and language and visual arts to life through hands-on learning. Vegetable gardens let children taste the wonders of fresh food.
This technique is what i call Layered Learning. incorporating two or more subjects into a single lesson or activity. The complexity of the lesson really speaks to my gifted learners.
Find a little patch in your garden or get a planter box and enjoy!
Layered Learning with Jelly Beans
As I've mentioned before I love layering our lessons. It keeps the lessons dynamic and meets each of them at their level of interest.
This lesson was great because I was able to incorporate math, science and art. Of course language is always incorporated into each lesson as we thoroughly discuss and describe what we are doing at any given point.
The kids were given a big dish of jelly beans, which they sorted according to colour. For the math part of the lesson we discussed which dish had more, the least and the same amount of jelly beans. First we estimated the amounts and then counted.
We then took three dishes with the most jelly beans and filled each dish with water. This was the science part of the lesson. What would happen to the jelly beans and what would happen to the water? The colour from the beans was 'sucked up', as the kids said, by the water; leaving the jelly beans clear or whiteish in colour.
Next we added a bit of flour to thicken each jelly bean water mixture and we had made our own paint. This was the art part of our lesson. The kids then painted some beautiful designs and some even drank some of the 'paint' (gross).