Sunday, December 26, 2010

This is how I HOPE my homeschool works one day!

Wouldn't it be great if my homeschool could work as great as this!

Who Taught Wyatt How to Write?

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Art? What's that?  Oh yeah, Link does art activities.... I have a few colored pencils and some blank paper for him to use.....  

I have to admit, I don't have an artistic bone in my body!  I realize I have been seriously lacking in this area with Link and I need to do something about it, but what is appropriate for a 2.5 year old?  Glue sticks? Not scissors?  Shoot, I don't even know enough about doing art with kids to ask what is age appropriate!

Time to read some blogs!  Check back later and I'll post about what I plan on doing (by later I don't mean tomorrow and maybe not next week!)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Misusing Materials, Lefties, Correcting Mistakes, and Montessori Groups

This should probably be several different posts, but since they are all applicable to me in the past few days, I'm going to lump them together.

Montessori Groups
For those of you not in-the-know, there are these great little things called Yahoo! Groups, specifically, there are Montessori Yahoo! Groups. Essentially, they are message boards specific to a particular topic that you can join. In addition to other people's blogs, these message boards are a fantastic way to connect with other Montessorians. What is really amazing about them is that there are people out there with tons of experience, education, and advice who are members of these boards who take lots of time to share ideas, answer questions or debate different topics. There are also people (like me) who have no experience and are asking questions and getting guidance. If you search for Montessori, you get tons of them, but the ones I joined are Montessori Beginnings, Montessori By Hand and Playschool6.

The reason I bring up these groups is because I've asked a few questions lately and I want to share the responses I got. Which brings me to the other three topics.

Misusing Materials and Correcting Mistakes
So I mentioned in my post Observations-Scooping Beans that Link really enjoyed the activity and did well with it. He liked it so much, that I decided to add it to the shelf. And since he has never really bothered the stuff on the shelves without someone in the room with him, I thought he wouldn't take it off the shelf. Well, a little later in the day I heard glass clinking and found that he had removed it and taken it into the other room where his little table is. (we only move the table into the room when we need it and he uses it daily for eating and playing). I was tickled pink! So I poured the beans into the bowl for him and just stood back to watch him. I was excited that he liked it and that he had carried it so carefully to his table. He scooped a couple of times, then walked off. So, I was like oh well.... then he came back, scooped a few more times, then picked up a handful and threw them in the air. Whoa! Please don't do that! So I do my best not to get aggravated (please remember, I am NOT a Montessori teacher and I am learning to be more patient). I say "we don't throw beans, lets clean these up" and while I'm on my hands and knees picking black beans off the carpet, he comes over and throws another handful..... I pick up beans faster, and put it all away again.  (heck, I was just proud of myself for not yelling)

I asked on the Playschool6 message board how I could handle this misuse. I really needed to know what to do after the fact, but they had good suggestions on preventing it from happening (this is a common theme with Montessori I think) I edited the responses a little bit (and didn't include who said what since I forgot to ask if it was okay for me to repost their responses)

We've all struggled with these two at one time or another (usually more often than that!) :)
For the materials and environment (including words spoken)
*Must be respectful of the materials, their maker/purchaser, and the child(also phrased: respect for self, environment, materials, people within the environment)
*Does it help attain some portion of a direct or indirect aim?for the beans, exploring with hands is a sensorial act at a time the child is sensitive to this, as well as the use of practica life - it is helping connect with the material - for the tower building, there are toys (blocks) specifically for that and the material is designed for perceptual purposes (ok, not that castle building doesn't have some lessons in perception - but it's not close enough of a similarity)

For error-correction - honestly, most mistakes work themselves out over time. If he "knows" something and is a bit beyond the activity at hand, it may be playing a role into silliness. OR he's stretching his imagination - if the answers are possibilities, let it go. If the answers are just silly (a photo of a toilet going into the kitchen), he's probably beyond that particular aspect of the activity.

And that's what the control cards are for when you are using such sets of cards - so the child can check for himself. This alleviates the "judgement" aspect of correction, yet still provides the correction.

To prevent it, I would think you'd either have to direct the child to a different activity or be very vigilant when they are using the beans, for example, and stop the child before they throw. Then go find something they CAN throw. :)

I also posted this on Playschool6:

I believe I've read somewhere that it is good to encourage your child to use their right hand to make writing easier. But how much should that be encouraged? Today I introduced a scooping activity to my 2 1/2 son. I showed him how to do it using my right hand, and he started out with his right hand, but switched to his left because it was easier.

If I constantly switch things I feel like he is loosing out on fine tuning his left hand if he does end up using it, but if I don't, I feel like I may be missing out on the opportunity to help him be right-handed.

Is it really possible to switch him from left-handed to right-handed? How should I handle this?

And boy did the lefties cry out!  Someone also very kindly came to my blog and left a comment.  So, I won't be worrying about switching his hands anymore!

I'm still getting used to being active in the whole online-community, but as I do, it's becoming more and more encouraging and helpful.  It can be both discouraging and helpful when all you read about is how wonderful other people's kids are when your kid is driving you a little batty, or how creative and well organized their homeschool environment is when yours is a total disaster.  But, I'm learning that the hardest part is getting started and that there are other people out there in the same boat as me... and its kinda cool to find people who can relate to you and offer advice... so thanks to everyone out there who has no idea they've been a great help :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Observations - Scooping Beans

Today Link scooped beans.  In the mornings he likes to help me make Daddy's coffee.  So I decided it would be a good time to practice this skill.  I asked him if he wanted to and he said YES!

I've seen other people go step by step through what they did and I like it because it really highlights the skills he's learning.  So here's what we did:

  1. Link carried his little chair into the room and I carried the table
  2. He sat in the chair to my right
  3. I named everything (the bowl, spoon and beans) and had him tell me what they were
  4. He watched me scoop some beans from the left bowl into the right bowl.
  5. He tried to scoop some beans (I'm not sure if I handled this correctly or not, but he wasn't tilting the spoon and getting anything, so I showed him again, then did it once holding his hand)  He did it some with his right hand, then switched to his left because it wasn't working well.  He did better with his left hand.
  6. He scooped most of the beans over, then said he was all done.
  7. I said, "okay, now lets move them back" and showed him.
  8. He said "you" (which means he wants me to do it) so I did a few times, then he took over.  
  9. He put the spoon down and used his hand to move them, then he "explored" a little.  He just felt the beans in the bowl, grabbed big handfuls and dropped them in the other bowl.
  10. When he'd had enough, I got the bag for the beans and he helped me transfer them (from right to left) using the spoon in his right hand and his left hand. 
  11. He felt around with the beans in the bag some more
  12. He carried the chair and helped me carry the table back. 

Observations and Questions

  • At what point does exploring become playing and when should I step in?  I decided it was at the point that he started to make a mess.
  • He did well picking up individual beans that he dropped, but I had to encourage him to pick up the spoonfuls that fell while he was "exploring"
  • How much should I interfere with his switching of hands?
  • He said he was done, but then when I showed him something different to do, he kept going
  • All together I think it was good for both of us - we both got practice with presenting a lesson, he had to wait until I showed him for his turn, I practiced observing and not interfering

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why is Montessori Education so Cool?

Well, there are lots of reasons I think it is great, but this post is about a study I read that was done in 1967 and was funded by the U.S. Department of Education.  (I wonder if there are any newer studies out there with the same or different conclusions?)  Anyways, they were studying "the general problem of finding more effective ways of preparing pre-school age children for their initial formal learning experience in school"  I'll skip right to the conclusion, and if you're interested in reading more you can check it out.   Since I am not that great at statistics, I'll just quote the conclusion rather than summarizing it.

The investigators found that the superior gains (27 percent greater) in verbal ability made by Montessori trained children over the other-than-Montessori-trained children were statistically significant at the p. .001 level of confidence.
Of the eight factors which emerged from a factor analysis of the variable rated in this study, only three: positive learning attitude, sensory motor coordination and verbal ability met statistical criteria for retention and further discriminant analysis.  The authors found positive correlations between positive learning attitude and verbal ability as well as with sensori motor coordination, but with the latter factor, only in the Montessori group, where many of the sensori-motor learning activity involve manipulative mathematics devices designed to develop the child's concept of number.  The investigators suspect the influence of general intelligence accounts for the positive correlations among these factors.  Group variance (higher for the Montessori than for the Control children) was significant at p. .05 when correlations of positive learning attitude were compared with sensori-motor coordination.
However, Montessori-Control group variances of the positive learning attitude factor and of the sensori-motor coordination factor were not significantly different.
Of the five to five-and-one-half year olds in this study, Montessori-trained children (67 percent and 94 percent) seem to have acquired greater "reading readiness" and "first grade readiness" than those in the Control group (30 percent and 50 percent).
Primary teachers in the public and parochial schools to which the children in this study transferred found no particular adjustment problems "peculiar to Montessori-trained children."  Then found no significant differences in creativity between children coming from Montessori and other pre-schools.  They rated children who had attended Montessori pre-school superior (at a statistically significant level) to their peers in interest in learning, independence, interpersonal relations, leadership and learning ability.
To fully understand what they were measuring and how, you'd have to read the study and look at the forms and other material they used.  I did not read the entire study, but it looks like it was well thought out.  Since I already thought Montessori Education is great, I didn't feel the need to be convinced all over again.  If you aren't convinced, this study may help :)

Here's all the info on the first page to help you find it:
Montessori Pre-School Education
Project 5-1061
Grant No. OE 3-10-127

Urban H Fleege, Ph.D
Michael S. Black, Ph.D
John A. Rachaushas, M.A.
June, 1967

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

He ASKED for I Spy!

It's been really slow going, but Link has been doing 2-3 little activities 1-2 times a week, and I Spy cards maybe 3-4 times a week.  Here's what I've put together so far:

We don't have room for much, so I stole 2 shelves from Daddy's bookshelf, and we put out a work rug in the small little space in front of the shelf.  This room isn't off-limits to Link, but he can't reach these things because we don't want him hanging out in the room alone.

I made I Spy cards even though I know you are supposed to use objects because I don't have a ton of objects, or the money to buy a lot right now.  Plus, its hard enough thinking of things that start with a certain sound, finding actual objects seems almost impossible (I know its not, because I've seen other people do it, but whatever.)  Also, I didn't like anyone else's pictures because they all use clip art and things I'm not sure Link could identify.  So I made new ones.  (feel free to download them here)  I only have A through G right now, but will add them as I make them.  I used a business card template because we have lots of business cards we'll never use for anything else, and they are easy to cut up :)

I also made some classification cards.  I took pictures of my kitchen, living room and a bathroom and printed them on index cards.  Then took pictures of things from each room and printed them on the business cards.  I figured it would make more sense to him if it was our house.  I plan on making some more with themes, but I'm not sure how yet.  I'm thinking things like things-you-take-camping, or things-that-go-outside.  But I may never get around to it.

The other things on the shelf are toys that Link seems to like, but he doesn't play well with them unsupervised.  The lacing beads got a lot of use as a fishing pole, until he got tired of it. So I moved it to the shelf and do it with him.  He really enjoys threading them on.  The Melissa and Doug See and Spell was not supposed to go out yet because I thought it was a little too advanced for him.  But my sister sent it to him for Christmas and he wanted to play with it as soon as we got it out.  So I give him a couple of boards with the letters already in them, and he does it like a puzzle.

That's all we've done so far.  I have a few other things on the shelf, like a matching game he used to love but won't touch now, and some little paper mache boxes that are different shapes.  Link likes to take the tops on and off, so I'll get it out again soon.

I'm super slow and not very creative, so adding activities takes me forever.  I don't even have a plan right now for adding anything new.  Once I stopped worrying about it so much, its actually been less stressful, and we're doing something, so I'm okay with "slow".

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Update on Potty Training and Sleeping

Since we've done nothing productive this week, I figured I'd just write a post about how my boys are doing. Bumblebee is 5 months old now and is an angel! He's been sleeping through the night for a while now, maybe since he was 3 months old...? He is the happiest baby ever. He'll wake up in the morning after sleeping for 12 hours and he'll just lay quietly in his cradle sucking his thumb. He gives the the most wonderful smiles and his laugh fills my heart with joy. He'll stay awake a few hours, eat, then fall asleep sucking his thumb while laying on his little floor bed. Link will run through the house like a crazy person, but usually Bumblebee will sleep right through it. He sleeps about an hour, then he's awake for a while. I love to lay down beside him and talk to him, or take him around the house with me while I clean up or make lunch. He likes to sit in his little bouncy chair outside while Link plays. Mostly, he sleeps a lot. He most often falls asleep by himself, though sometimes I like to rock him just because he doesn't demand it often enough. He takes a 3-5 hour nap in the middle of the day and still sleeps at night!  (I'm so amazed because Link was the opposite as far as naps go)  He's starting to be awake a little more, and is holding his head up great.

Link on the other hand, requires quite a bit of attention. In my Turning 2 Update post, I mentioned that Link was sleeping in his bed and doing well with his potty training. Well a lot has happened in the last 4-5 months (besides Bumblebee being born). We moved from Atlanta, Georgia to Johnson City, Tennessee, out of our little bitty apartment in the city to a larger house that seems like its in the country. Link caught me with Bumblebee sleeping on my chest at night when Bumblebee was just a few weeks old and decided that he wanted to sleep with Mommy and Daddy too. So, even though Link has his own room, he is back in the bed with us.  And we've been on a potty training roller coaster! The course of that has gone something like this:
  1. One week with no underwear while at home, he almost always made it to the potty, which was out in the living room
  2. One more week with no underwear, he had a few accidents. 
  3. Started with underwear, but I had to constantly take him. At this point, he didn't care too much about going to the potty and had tons of 'accidents'
  4. Changed underwear to the kind he can pull down, but he still didn't really care. At this point, he had peed on just about everything: the bed, my rocking chair, my ottoman, his stool, the couch, I don't know how many times on the floor, his car seat, his Daddy, his Daddy's computer chair, while playing, while eating in a restaurant, while standing in front of the potty... it got to the point where we put a diaper on him while visiting other people's houses because we couldn't take him often enough!
  5. Now he runs off by himself and its working great!
There is more detail there that I'm sure isn't very interesting, but the point is, I think we're finally there.  Ever since he's gotten into his "big boy" phase, he doesn't want me to run with him to the bathroom to help him pull his underwear down, he can do it all by himself. Now he very rarely has accidents, once a week or less. All of this makes me wonder if I would have done better to wait until he was in this phase to start, then I could have changed a few more diapers, and cleaned up a lot less off the floor. I got tired of taking him to go in the middle of the night once I stopped waking up with Bumblebee, then I got tired of pee in the bed, so I put him in a cloth diaper at night. It's dry 5 out of 7 nights.

Bumblebee has outgrown his cradle and is sleeping well, so we've decided to move him out of our room. I had originally wanted him to sleep on his floor bed, but I like it in the living room and I don't want to move it. So we're going to put up the crib in Link's room, and hope that Link will want to be in there too!

Oh, and it looks like Link is getting his appetite back.  He'll actually eat something now, though I am still unsure of how to handle meals :)  

Well, that was one exciting post if you like reading about the eating, sleeping, and potty training habits of other people's kids!

of course about three hours after I posted this, Link pees three times because he's too busy to go... why do I curse myself?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week Review - Why do I stink at this?

I sometimes have serious doubts about whether I'm going to make it as a homeschooling mom.  I set very reasonable goals (in other words, LOW) and I didn't come close to meeting them.  I just wanted to do one small activity a day, and I Spy.  Instead, I didn't do any I Spy and I hardly did anything you could call an activity.   Here's my (sad) rundown for the week:

Monday - If you're happy and you know it
Tuesday - Sidewalk chalk & walking on a line
Wednesday - Rain day (watched movies all day)
Thursday - Library
Friday - Classification cards

See what I mean?

If you're looking for a blog where someone does not do Montessori, you've found it.  If you want a good example, look elsewhere!  You're probably thinking, "If you're happy and you know it, that's not an activity!" and you're right, but I wanted him to get used to doing things like that because they do it at story time at the library.  He didn't want anything to do with it, he just kinda smiled at me and looked like he thought I was loopy.  Sidewalk chalk was a super hit though, and he did enjoy walking on the like with me.

Why am I just now discovering how awesome sidewalk chalk is?  Because we have never had a place where it was okay to use it.  We love it!

Ok, on to Wednesday.  Yes, I know, there are things to do on rainy days besides watch movies, but that's what he did.  We don't have a TV, but Link can watch movies on our computers, so he did that while I tried to make classification cards.

Thursdays are our library day.  This was a particularly fun day because it was community volunteer day, so there were community workers there with their vehicles.  Link go to sit in a mail truck, an articulated dump truck, and a mail truck, he held a real fire hose and checked out all the gadgets on the fire truck, watched the garbage truck pick up the trash can and dump it, and watch a guy playing in a bucket truck. Since he is totally into trucks right now, he loved it!

And finally, on Friday, he spent about 5 minutes doing the classification cards that I made.  I cheated a little.  I took pictures of things around the house and put them on some business cards that we had and will never use, and put the pictures of the living room, kitchen and bathroom on large index cards.  It worked, but I think it was too super easy for him.

I didn't do much I Spy because I could never thing of things to show Link that began with the letters I was working on.  I am planning on making some picture cards with (hopefully) about 5 items for each letter.  Then I can just doing the cards once a day and I know I'm not missing some.  I can't just do it randomly through the day.

When I come up with a plan for next week, I'll see if I can find the time to post it :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Good Eating vs. Good Eating Habits

I would love to buy my son fresh, organic veggies, then wip up creative, nutritious meals, and have him devour three meals a day and a few snacks.  I would like for him to sit at the table while he eats, in his high chair or in a regular chair, I don't care.  Right now though, I'd just settle for him eating anything anywhere! I try to limit things like cookies and candy, in hopes that he'll eat healthier alternatives.  But I swear, nothing I'm doing is working!  I know, he's two, and two year olds don't eat much, and he'll eat when he's hungry.  Knowing these things doesn't make it any easier though.  And when it finally comes to a point where I think "I don't care what he eats, if he'll just eat something", then he ends up eating french fries from McDonald's for lunch and oatmeal cookies for dinner!

Ok, maybe I'm just venting a little (which I can do since no one reads my blog anyways) and its not that bad, but it is bad.  He eats fruit and yogurt, so at least there is something healthy in his diet.  I want for him to have good eating habits, regarding what he eats, when and where, but how do I balance that with just getting him to eat?

There are so many different schools of thought on this.  Some people have snacks available all day so that their kids eat when they want to.  So they are probably eating and playing, running around with food in their mouths and hardly ever sitting at a table.  Other people put their kids in highchairs, strap them down, and offer them food.  They make little airplane sounds to make it fun, and otherwise entice their kids to eat.  Then went they are finished, that's it, food goes away until next time.  And if you follow a Montessori approach, you let your child sit at a child sized table to eat, and if they get up from the table, the food goes away.  That way your child learns that when you get up from the table, eating time is over, so you'd better eat!  I've done it all.  None of these things seem to work with Link.

Granted, if I put the food away, and Link comes to me ten minutes later and actually offers to eat something, I have a very hard time saying no.  Heck, lately, if he does that, I jump for joy and make him whatever he wants.  Half the time he still doesn't eat it!  I think he really really doesn't like what I cook.  I have to admit I'm not creative.  I have a difficult time thinking of things to make for any meal without repeating the same thing every day.

So what do I do!?!  I figure soon enough he'll have his appetite back, then the eating thing won't be such a big deal.  Just the eating at the table without pitching a fit part...

After posting this, I started thinking "how do parents deal with this when their kids are in daycare?" Teachers can't dote on every child the way a parent can at home... kids sit at little tables and eat at meal time or they go hungry!  They eat what is served, or go hungry! Are they healthy? I don't know.  Do they sit at the table at dinner time? I don't know... but it is something to think about.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Big Boy

I have been spending a TON of time trying to prepare for starting school with Link.  The main thing that has been holding me back is that I don't have a space to dedicate to school.  I finally decided that I was letting that and the lack of a full fledged plan keep me from starting.  So on Friday I decided to just start small.  Here's what I did...

First I made a small list of activities to pull from.  I used the book Child's Play by Maja Pitamic to get some ideas, others came from Gettman and a list I bought, or I just read about them somewhere.  This was my list:

  • I Spy
  • Guess the Sound Game
  • Hard & Soft Game
  • Sort Beans
  • Walk the Line
  • Bean Bag Throwing
  • Traffic Lights
  • If You're Happy & You Know It

There are several reasons I wanted to start with this list.  "I Spy" is of course the first language activity recommended by everyone and I'm very anxious to get started with language.  The next three would give me a chance to practice presenting an activity, and get Link used to sitting with me while I show him something.  The three after that I can do inside or outside, and since I often just want to play outside, it'll get me going while fulfilling that need.  And the last one will encourage Link to sing, listen and perform certain actions.

So, shortly after breakfast we have about a three hour period that works great for doing whatever I have planned for the day.  I chose bean sorting since there was not a lot of prep work involved.  I didn't really present it the way I should, I just said "want to help mamma sort some beans?" Since he said yes (he's back into helper mode) I got one big bowl and two little bowls, and some black beans and lima beans, mixed them up and showed him how to put one in each bowl.  He did great considering I put way too many little black beans in the bowl, and they were very very small.  Then he decided he wanted a snack, so he left, ate a little, then came back.  He got almost all the way through it before he decided he was done.  So I finished up and put it all away.  Not bad for our first activity.

After his nap (and snack this time) I decided to try pouring rice.  Nope, it wasn't on the list, but whatever!  I read in the Gettman book how I should present it, then I jumped in.  This one was a little more difficult.  Link didn't want to watch me demonstrate and he certainly didn't want me to help place his hands correctly.  This is where "BIG BOY" came in!  When Link wants to do something by himself he lets me know he's a big boy and wants me to leave him alone.  I handled it well I think.... He only fussed a little, and he ended up letting me show him.  This is where I think starting small and getting him used to the whole presentation idea is important.  He did well, and only dumped the rice out once, but was very enthusiastic about picking up the rice.  Then he was all done, and I put it away.

Those were the only activities we did.  I plan on starting the I Spy one on Monday.  I made a list of all the sounds to help me and Daddy keep track of the sounds and a chart for each week showing the sounds we're working on for the day.  Here they are:

It is very hard to think of things that I have to use for the I Spy game.  I don't have a ton of little miniatures, so I think I'm going to use the I Spy Phonics Book Set and Alphatales Book Set that MyBoysTeacher uses :)  I'm going to try to do activities at least two days next week and I Spy every day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Starting again!

I've had 4 months to get settled in with our new baby (I'll call him Bumble Bee I guess) and now I'm feeling like I have completely neglected Link!  My goal was to start having 'school time' with him by the time he was 2 1/2.  Now I have only one month to prepare, but I think I can do it.  So this post is all about what I'm doing to get started, which is mainly reading.  

In addition to blogs, I'm getting ideas for activities and language activities from a few books recommended by My Boys Teacher over at What DID we do all day?  The first is Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under Fives by David Gettman.  This book was the most help in determining what activities to start with.  I tend to want to do the ones that look like they'd be a lot of fun, but then realize that they are too advanced.  Finding activities with instructions online is easy, but sorting them into the proper periods is not (for me at least).  So what I found the most useful from this book was the section where Gettman lists the activities for each Period.  So, my plan is to make a list of the activities he has in Period One, and introduce them gradually to Link.  Many of them are explained in detail in his book, and the ones that aren't in the book I think I'll be able to find online.  Once I actually start introducing them, I'll post more about that.

The Practical Life, Sensorial, Language and Culture activities are all described in Gettman's book, but I wanted more help in the Language area.  My Boys Teacher also recommended A Path for the Exploration of Any Language Leading to Writing and Reading by Muriel Dwyer and Montessori Read and Write: A Parent's Guide to Literacy for Children by Lynne Lawrence.  Both of these books have been helpful, but honestly, I think My Boys Teacher does an excellent job of summarizing the process, so anyone interested would do good to check out her blog because I'm not even going to attempt an explanation.  So I'm going to begin with the language games (I Spy) in earnest!  I hope that by the time I'm ready to start school time, he'll know the sounds well enough to start identifying objects by their sounds.  

I don't know how I'll ever fit school time in!  Now that we're out of the city with a wonderful yard to play in, Link wakes up every morning and the first thing he wants to do is play outside.  I just can't say no!  So our day consists of breakfast, playing outside, lunch, playing outside, naps, cooking/cleaning, dinner and bedtime.
Plus, the weather here is soooo wonderful, I just can't stand to stay inside either.  (We moved from GA to TN for anyone not familiar)  It'll probably start getting cold soon, so maybe that will help motivate me more :)  

So that's where I am.  I haven't actually started a thing yet!  First I have to find a place to have school that won't be distracting and a time that will be good for everyone.  Then I just have to cross my fingers and hope that Link actually wants to participate.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Baking Cookies & Other Fun

Since we've brought home the new baby (nickname is still under consideration, so for now, its just new baby) I've been trying to make sure that Link isn't feeling neglected.  It hasn't been much of a problem since I've got the sleepiest baby ever, except that we haven't been outside to play since we've been home.  Also, Daddy got Link this awesome Legos Fire Truck set and it has completely consumed his attention for the past week.

I put a ton of Link's toys away because they weren't getting much use, and they just tended to get spread around for me to pick up.  He has so much fun taking these things apart and putting them together in different ways.

In other news, Link has grown and eaten the first tomato from his plant.  He was quite tickled by it as you can see.

This past weekend he helped his Grandma and Grandpa pick cucumbers and tomatoes in their garden.  So he knows to only get the red ones.  Though to Link, a little red is red enough :)

He loves tomatoes.  They are the one vegetable that I can always count on him eating a ton of.

We also baked cookies today.  Emphasis on baked, since we didn't really make them.  Baking them consisted of the following:  Getting the bag of pre-made (highly processed/preserved) little squares out of the fridge,
finding the cookie sheet under the oven
and putting it on the counter.
Then he climbed up on his stool and posed for me :)
After I cut the squares out, he placed them on the cookie sheet.

I only had to take raw cookie dough out of his mouth once.  Then he sat down while I put them in the oven.  (I taught him from the time he could walk to always sit down far away when I had the oven door open, now if I open it, he'll run to a spot and sit)

After putting the cookies in the oven, he washed his hands and ate half a cookie. I'm including pictures of him washing his hands because he's finally getting to where he can do this on his own and I'm a little tickled by it.

And since he was there and could reach it, he always like to take his temperature.

I should mention that Link does NOT always have access to the sink (I don't want to pay any more for water than I already do).  We move this stool around the house for him since it's too heavy for him to move.

I really wish I had one with sides and a back so I don't have to worry about him falling off backwards.  But, it works for now.  He has a smaller stool that he can carry around that is only about a foot high.  Maybe Grandpa can make him a new stool by the time he starts doing more cooking in the kitchen (hint, hint).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Turning 2 - Update

Of course things didn't go how I thought they would, but they've gone great.   To recap, Link has been:
  1. Moving from mom and dad's bed to his toddler bed (and room)
  2. Spending 5 weeks away from home
  3. Giving up his cloth diapers for big boy undies
  4. Welcoming a new baby home
I'll start with the last one, since that's where things got all mixed up.  We welcomed our new baby home 4 weeks early.  Link has taken to his baby brother quite well.  It probably helps that he is a very sleepy baby, and you can almost forget he's here.  So, Link has not had to deal with sharing Momma too much.  He likes to hug his little brother, and bring him things that he can identify as his brother's.  I think Link will be a fantastic big brother!

Since the baby came 4 weeks early, we didn't spend the full 5 weeks away from home.  Link did have to be away from his Momma for the first time ever.  The first day I didn't see him for a full 11 hours, and I realized it was the longest I'd ever been away from him.  It just got worse from there, and I didn't  see him for a full day at one point.  He handled it well though, and he loved spending time with his Grandma and Grandpa.  But, by the end of the 4th day, we could tell that he needed to get back home and back to his routine.  He wasn't quite his normal, well behaved self, but he was still very good considering.

Link checking out Momma at the hospital.

I had hoped to have a full four weeks to work with Link on his potty training.  I only had four days, then I was in the hospital.  His Grandma and Grandpa were willing to work with him, and they all did great.  Link already knew what he needed to do, it was just a matter of practicing.  Granted, we're at 2 weeks with no diapers, and he still runs around the house with just a shirt on.  But, he does good going out, and he doesn't have accidents when we're home as long as he doesn't have to worry about pulling underwear down.  We'll get to that soon.  He sleeps through naps and (as long as I get him up once in the night) he sleeps through the night, with no wet bed.

Don't know why, but he liked to sit on it backwards :)

Link is doing great in his toddler bed, but it is still in our room.  We didn't want to bring him home and immediately put him in his own room.  We felt like it was important to get things back to normal, or as close as possible, before making any big changes like this.  So, we'll see how that goes when it happens.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Turning 2

Link has turned two years old and will be going through a lot of changes in the coming weeks.  I thought I'd talk about what we're doing, and how he's handling it.  To summarize, he'll be:

  1. Moving from mom and dad's bed to his toddler bed (and room)
  2. Spending 5 weeks away from home
  3. Giving up his cloth diapers for big boy undies
  4. Welcoming a new baby home

Toddler Bed
This went so well, I was amazed.  Link slept in his crib until he was almost one, then a series of events landed him in our bed (it's not that interesting, so I'll skip it).  I thought it would be very difficult to get him into his own bed, but I think it was harder on me.  We're both serious snugglers; when he'd fall asleep, he'd want me right there, with my head touching his and my arm over him.  But when we took the side off of his crib and put it in our room he took right to it.  I put him in his jammies, went to put my jammies on, and when I got back, he was in his bed, with his arms behind he head, ready to go to sleep.  At first, I'd have to stay with him until he settled down, and for the first 2-3 nights, put him back in bed when he came out of the bedroom door.  But, after that, I could read him a book or two, kiss him good night, and leave.  He'd call for me a few times, but I'd only go back in if he was crying when he called.  I wanted him to know that if he needed me, I'd always come, that way he'd feel comfortable enough to go to sleep, but I didn't want him to think he could just call me and I'd come running even if he was just fine.  He still wakes up sometimes and calls for me, but usually I can just say "Mommy's here, go back to sleep" and he does.  Other times, I have to go tuck him back in and give him a hug, then he'll go back to sleep.

A few days after he started sleeping in his converted crib, we got him a new toddler bed (the crib was needed elsewhere).  He loved it!  He had to get in it before I even had a chance to move it out of the living room.

Then, when I put it in our room, he chilled out for a little while with his buddy, Bear.

Once we get back from our 5 week trip away from home (see below) we'll move his bed into his own room.  I think he'll actually sleep better then, because he won't be bothered by the noise of me getting out of bed 100 times to visit the bathroom, or the racket of me turning over (which is a feat when you have a watermelon attached to your stomach).  If he has any difficulty Daddy will stay in the room with him for a few nights since I'll be occupied with the new little one.

5 Weeks at Grandma's
I LOVE to visit my family, but 5 weeks away from home just stinks!  Since Daddy wasn't sure what state he'd get a job in after graduation, I couldn't be sure that we'd be here when the baby came.  So, I decided to have the baby back home, that way I could stay with family (not in a hotel) while waiting to go into labor.  That, and I'm REALLY picky about my doctors, and I LOVE my OB, and didn't want to change :)  Anyways, Daddy is working, and Link and Mommy are spending the next four weeks in Grandma's spare room.  We get to see Daddy every weekend and we do lots of video conferences.  Link & I will love being able to visit with all of our extended family, but we sure will miss being with Daddy and being in the comfort of our own home.

Big Boy Undies!
Link has been using the potty since he turned one, as much or as little as he wanted to.  He's used to going in public, on the road, on little potties and big potties.  He knows when he has to go (#1 and #2) but he isn't that concerned about going in his diaper.  Since Mommy doesn't want to have two boys in diapers, and since Link seems willing and able, he'll be switching over next week. (He saw his new undies and REALLY liked trying them on, he asks for them when he sees them).  I'll have to post an update on how that goes :)

New Baby
Yep, in just over four weeks, we'll have Link's little brother home with us.  It'll be some adjustment for Link going home after being away for so long and having a new baby.  But, I think he's going to do great with it.  We just spent a week with my sister who just got home with her new baby, and Link did really well.  He liked to hold his new cousin and liked to bring him things, like his pacifier or toys :)  He'd have to run and check on him when he was crying, or peek over the side of his bassinet to say "Hi!"

It was just so stinkin cute, I had to put this picture of him holding his cousin with my sister.
He would pat him gently and hug him.  I can't wait to see how he does with his little brother!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Our Home Environment

I thought I'd make a post for my family with some information about why I do some "weird" things. (They aren't really weird, just not the norm for most families.)

One of the biggest things about Montessori, which is more than just a teaching philosophy, is that it also describes ways to prepare your home for a little one and make the entire environment welcoming to him.

I'll start with the crib vs. floor bed thing. I used a crib for Link up until he was able to stand, then became so frustrated with nap time and bed time that I took his mattress out of the crib and put it on the floor. It really helped with getting him to sleep and Link always woke up happier. Take a look at this quote:
A bed should be one which the baby can get in and out of on his own as soon as he is ready to crawl. The first choice is an adult twin bed mattress on the floor. Besides being an aid to development, this arrangement does a lot to prevent the common problem of crying because of boredom or exhaustion. 
It helps to think of this as a whole-room playpen with a baby gate at the doorway and to examine every nook and cranny for interest and safety. If the newborn is going to share a room with parents or siblings we can still provide a large, safe, and interesting environment.
We put a baby gate on his door and it worked pretty well. So, with the new baby coming in June, we've decided to start out with the floor bed and see how it goes. Well, for the first few months he'll be in the cradle by the bed; we'll move him to the floor bed when he outgrows the cradle. I really like the idea of his room being a 'play-pen' so that he's free to move about. Again, we'll see how it goes :) Especially since we're not sure we'll be out of this 2 bedroom apartment by then...

The next thing that stands out a bit was our use of child-sized glasses instead of sippy-cups. Link took very well to his glasses (which were a mixture of shot glasses and small juice glasses). He went straight from nursing to using a glass. He did (and still does) spill things, but he is also very careful. I think he has an awareness of the liquid in his cup much more than kids who use sippy cups. As a matter of fact, we run into the most problems with bottles that have tops. He knows that when the lid is on, he can do whatever he wants with the container, and tends to play. This does not go well when the lid is not on, as he still wants to play. That is why I always try to stress to others not to let him play with things he drinks out of :) 

Link also has a set of plates and bowls and flatware, just like ours. He is two years old and has only ever broken one dish. He helps me take them to the kitchen when he is finished eating and is very careful with them. Eventually, I'll have them in a cabinet that he can reach so that he can also help me set the table. It takes a little more effort on my part to make sure he isn't breaking his plates or drinking glasses, but I think it was worth the effort to see him treat his things so well. Here's a good quote:
Whenever it is possible and safe, we give beautiful, breakable materials to the child, respectfully sharing with him what the rest of the family uses—pottery, glass, metal, real tools. There is a great increase in the self-respect of the child when she is allowed to use our things, instead of being given plastic substitutes. There is also a corresponding respect for, and caring for, the materials when they are beautiful and breakable. 
Speaking of setting the table, we don't follow the Montessori rule about not strapping your child down in a high chair. I just didn't have the patience for this one. We do have a child sized table, which my dad cut the legs off of so that it is at just the right height for Link. We eat snacks here and do lots of activities. For dinner, Link sits with us at the table in his highchair and is not allowed down until dinner is over. During snacks, I do a lot of reminding Link that once he gets up from his table, he is all done and mommy will help him put his food away. It takes so much patience for both of us, that we don't do it a whole lot. But we do it enough (I think) that eventually he'll understand and as he gets older will know that we don't eat and run around the house.

One of my favorite Montessori ideas is 'letting' your little one help with household tasks. Link loves this!! I actually feel guilty when I unload the dishwasher without him! And I have to say, it is pretty stinkin cute to see him getting his little vacuum cleaner or sweeper out to clean under his little table. He'll vacuum right beside me, or sometimes just get it out to clean up; he's the best! He also likes to help cook, though I'll admit I don't do this one as much as I should. He helps with things like muffins and fruit smoothies. Again, it takes a lot of patience, but it is worth it. He also of course helps water the plants. Some things I'd like to get him helping with is hanging his diapers to dry, though I'm not sure how well he'll be able to use the clothes pins, and sweeping. He has a broom, but can't use it correctly. I really need to work on teaching him how, but he has so far been a little resistant to taking lessons in that area. This is a long quote, but here it is:
A child learns self-control, and develops a healthy self-image if the work is real—washing fruits and vegetables, setting or clearing a table, washing dishes, watering plants, watering the garden, sorting, folding, and putting away laundry, sweeping, dusting, helping in the garden, any of the daily work of her family.
Family work, known as Practical Life in Montessori schools, is the single most important area of a Montessori education at any age. Allowing the child to participate in the life he sees going on around him is an act of great respect for, and confidence in, the child. It helps him to feel important to himself and to those around him. He is needed. We can empathize if we think of the difference in our feelings for a dinner guest in our home who is completely served and waited on, or for one who is welcomed in our kitchen to talk and to laugh while we prepare the meal together. In the first instance the guest is separate, the relationship formal. In the second we share our life and the relationship is intimate—a true friendship.
A good bit of the Montessori 'education' at Link's age (under 3) falls in this Practical Life category. I wish I did more of it with Link. I think once the new baby comes, he'll be a great helper, so we'll get to improve in this area.

I should mention that all of my quotes come from the Michael Olaf website, which is a great resource for understanding (and buying) Montessori stuff. (Though its pretty expensive)

Reading back through my post I realize that I didn't make it clear that there is a big difference between preparing the environment and baby-proofing the entire house. I am NOT into turning my entire home into one big play area dominated by toys, padding, child locks, etc. When I say 'welcome' I mean that I have taken his needs into account and made adjustments (especially for safety), but I have not given my home over to him :) Does that make sense? His things are included with ours, in non-obtrusive ways... 

Another thing I'd really like to work on his making Link's environment more beautiful. We have always moved so much that I never decorate and it has become a habit to not hang anything on the walls. Since we'll be here for a while, I'd really like to hang some photos at Link's level for him to enjoy. (Well, I'd like to hang some at my level for us to enjoy too). Here comes another quote:
Pictures on the wall, hung at the eye-level of the child, can be beautiful, framed art prints, or simple posters. All of us have been influenced by our first environment, and nothing helps create beauty in the world as much as giving beauty to the very young. 
I'll work on this one some when I have a chance.... or when we move the next time :)

I hope this post helps to shine some light on why we do some things the way we do. If you have questions about anything else, feel free to ask :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Favorite Activities

I thought I'd start out by showing some of Link's current favorite activities and the toys that he has on his shelves right now.  The first one is cutting his fruits and veggies, known to Link as "cut-cut".  This was always fun for him, but recently he has taken notice of how I cut his food up and he really wants to do it too.
Ok, so he has lost his little wooden knife, and is using a ruler, but it works.  Sometimes its a little hard to cut ->
And he also likes to show his buddy, Bear, how its done as well.
He's pretty good about putting things back on his shelves, although I do spend a good bit of time picking up fruit from random places in the house.  In this picture you can see some of the other activities he has on his shelves.

I just recently got his pots and pans back out, and he has been enjoying his tool set since Christmas.  He's also got a basket of books and a puzzle here.  The mats are used for keeping his activities together when he's working but he's only using them right now for specific things, like the matching game and puzzle.  We're working on that though.  I don't have a picture of him doing the matching game.  I have some little wooden tiles with animals and we lay them out face-up on the mat.  He chooses the pairs and puts them in a little bag, he's doing about 10 sets right now.   I am amazed at how much he likes doing it.  I keep this activity on the higher shelf because I don't want the little tiles spread all over the place.  The shelves above his head hold items he can play with only with supervision and books that we read to him but he doesn't have access to read by himself.

In the other part of the living room is his toy shelf which used to be in his room, and will soon be going back there.

He's got stacking/nesting blocks, a train with blocks, and two different types of stacking disks.  This shelf will be changing soon, but I'm not sure what I'll put out yet.

One of the things that gets Link the most excited is watering his plants.  When he sees me coming with his watering can he runs to the door laughing he is so excited.  Or, he runs and gets his watering can when I mention it.  He helped me plant all of his flowers and his tomato plant.

See how he's putting the tip of spout on the flower?  We've been working on keeping the water "on the flowers" as opposed to on the ground or off the side of the porch, and he takes it literally.

I love how happy this makes him every morning!  I can't wait until that tomato plant has some tomatoes on it.  He is going to be tickled pink to pick them and eat them off of his own plant!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Getting Started

So I'm going to give the blogging thing another go, but with a different purpose.  The purpose of this blog will be for us to share the fun things in our life with others.  Mainly, that will be all about our little bugs.  As of today, we've got one 2 year old and one in the oven.  (In about 7 weeks or so we'll have 2 little bugs running/laying around, and we'll see how much time I have for blogging.)

We're going to have to come up with snazzy nicknames for our boys, but generally, I'll refer to them as our Bugs.  For anyone not in the family who happens to read this blog, I guess I'll include a little bit about us.  Hmm... where to start?  I'm the mom - I was a mechanical engineer for about 2 years, then when I gave birth to my son, I decided to leave work and spend all my time raising him.  I plan to homeschool my kids and I devote a good bit of my time doing research and planning things for us to do.  My husband is a computer scientist and a fantastic dad.  We love taking our son on hikes, swimming, to the zoo and aquarium, and just outside in general.

You'll probably notice that all my blog links (right now) have to do with Montessori.  Montessori is a teaching philosophy that I really like and try to implement as much as I can at home.  A good bit of what I post will probably have to do with what we're doing at home and why.  Read this post --   What DID we do all day?: Welcome! -- to see what I mean.  This blog is going to be one of my most used resources as I get started and her Welcome post does a good job of summarizing what I'm doing as well.