"Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.'" Genesis 1:29
As we get ready to greet spring and head into summer, it's a great time to establish or reestablish some healthy food habits for your family. More and more local produce will be available in the coming weeks, including kid-friendly powerhouses like berries. Yum!
Helping your child establish healthy eating habits early on is critical for their well-being throughout their lives. Research shows that children as young as one year old are starting to pick up unhealthy eating habits as parents are quick to hand over french fries, sweets, and other poor food choices. Offering these foods so young can start kids on a lifelong road of physical and even mental health problems.
Across the board, Americans of all ages consume too few fruits and vegetables, too little water, and far too much added sugar and sodium. There are many factors that go into these problematic habits, and each one could deserve its own blog post. But one of the biggest factors is early eating habits in children.
What About Picky Eaters?
We often hear from parents that their kids are just "too picky." Parents believe that if they don't offer the processed foods their children like, they just won't eat. As parents start to feel frustrated, food and eating habits quickly can become a power struggle between parents and children, potentially setting up lifelong food issues for the kids.
So, how do you help establish healthy eating habits right from the beginning? First, let's take a brief look at the amazing tongue. Your child's tongue has roughly 10,000 taste buds. Isn't that incredible? And even more interesting is that they are replaced about every two weeks. So that means that something your child didn't like the first time they tried it, may taste good to them in a few weeks. The key is to keep offering healthy food choices, calmly and without pressure or stress, even if your child has refused a food in the past.
Remove the Mealtime Stress
Katharine Jeffcoat of Portland Pediatric and Family Nutrition offers this advice: "When it comes to preventing picky eating, take away the anxiety at the meal. Anxiety causes the fight or flight response, increasing adrenaline in the child's body. This zaps your child's appetite, and they won't be hungry. Avoid putting pressure on your child at the dinner table to try everything. Pressure creates anxiety. Allow your child to choose to eat from whatever you have served, and let them be the one to decide how much. Include a few items that you know they like and that are familiar, along with new foods."
Following this advice can be tricky for many parents who were raised in the "clean your plate" era of child-rearing. But the goal here is to allow meals to be stress-free so that children feel calm enough to eat and to try new foods. Ultimately, the aim is to give kids the opportunity to develop a healthy relationship with food and meals so that they can avoid developing eating disorders and physical disorders later in life.
Healthy Recipe Ideas
Our very own Little Lambs parent and awesome health food guru, Jamie Bischoff, has this to share:
What I know is this. You have to offer healthy choices every single day or they may never want to try them. Put fruits and veggies in front of them daily, at every meal and snack if you can. The more exposures, the better. If you get creative and make it fun, your odds of them trying new things might go up. Here are some ideas and recipes to try:
One way to encourage healthy eating habits in young children is by asking them to eat a rainbow...of food colors! Keeping a chart of all the different colors of food your child is willing to try can motivate them to be a little more adventurous in their eating.
Parenting is hard. And trying to meet all the needs of your growing child can feel daunting at times. So yes, sometimes they’re going to have chicken nuggets for dinner and ice cream for dessert...and that’s fine! But any steps you take now to help your children make healthy choices will have lifelong benefits. Be patient with yourself and with your child. Keep offering good options at snack and mealtimes, but try to let the stress and anxiety go. You’ve got this!
"When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul." Psalm 94:19
The holiday season means a lot of different things to different people. Lights and trees and decorations have been popping up since the beginning of October, or earlier. And as fun as it all can be, there comes a point where it feels like too much.
Counselors and therapists report an upswing in referrals during the holiday months as more and more people are worried about family issues, financial burdens, and unrealistic expectations. In fact, more than 50% of Americans report some form of holiday stress, and 45% say they’d rather just skip Christmas completely.
Much of the worry and stress that arise in the months of November and December come from experiences we had as children. Often we are trying to recreate things we did as kids or are trying to capture experiences we never got to enjoy.
To help today’s young people escape these feelings of worry and concern, let’s look at different ways to approach the season. As parents, grandparents,and teachers, how can we set a peaceful tone for our shared holiday experiences? How can we help the children in our care enjoy the specialness of the season without placing unfair emotional and physical burdens on them? In short, how can we be intentional during this time?
Be Intentional in Your Schedule
If you’d like to reduce the chaos and stress of your family’s holiday season, take some time right now to consider the coming weeks and months with intention. This requires a shift in the way you plan and prepare your family’s activities.
Rather than focusing on the calendar and events first, begin your planning by focusing on your end goal for the season. What are you hoping your children will gain from celebrations and activities over the next few weeks? Consider how you would complete the following statements as you set your intentions:
Be Intentional in Your Gifting
I remember one Christmas when my husband and I went completely overboard with gifts for our children. I honestly don’t know what we were thinking. We just kept shopping, and on Christmas morning we couldn’t even walk into our living room because the doorway was blocked by gifts. It was embarrassing.
Of course, our children thought it was fabulous...for the 32 minutes it took to open everything. They were excited for a little while, but by the next day they had already lost interest in most of the “stuff” that now filled every square inch. And the following spring when I did a big bedroom closet clean-out, I found 6 gifts that had never even been taken out of their packages. They had just been sitting on shelves, and all I could see was the wasted time and money that had gone into them.
After that, my husband and I put significant limits on our gifting. Now we use the following poem to guide us; each child receives a gift from each category.
Something you want,
Something you need.
Something to do and
Something to read.
Staying within these parameters has made our holidays much more lovely and calm and peaceful. It is also much easier on our time and money budget, allowing us to fulfill other holiday intentions such as volunteering and making donations.
Think carefully about the gifts you choose to be sure they fit into your goals for your child and family. Make these decisions with purpose and planning.
Be Intentional in Finding Silence
Our world is noisy all the time, but the holidays can seem particularly loud and overly stimulating. With Christmas carols and lights and crowds, it is easy for children and adults to become overwhelmed.
Find time for everyone in your family to enjoy silence, whether alone or together. Give your hearts, minds, and bodies a chance to rest and be still. Mother Teresa once said,
The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace.
Allow yourself and your loved ones the chance to experience all of the blessings that come from a few moments of silence.
Enjoy Your Intentional Holiday Season
With a shift in your mindset, you will find it simple to move away from months filled with excess and stress and toward a season of peace and purpose. Rather than chasing fleeting happiness that may come from gifts and parties, seek the true joy that the season brings.
As summer comes to an end and the days grow shorter, it is easy for families to spend more time indoors and less time outside playing and exploring. But the change in seasons and weather isn't a reason to hide inside. In fact, with less daylight available, it is important to be even more intentional about getting your children outside whenever possible.
Research is very clear on the topic of outside play for children. Indeed, it is clear on the importance of spending time outdoors for all of us, including grownups. Bryna Campbell of Super Nature Adventures explains that “Getting outdoors regularly is important for kids and adults alike. For kids, outdoor time is proven to encourage creativity and problem-solving skills. Time in nature can help improve concentration, physical agility, and sustained intellectual development. Studies have also shown that kids who spend lots of time in nature are more likely to care for their environment as adults.”
The types of activities may change with the seasons, and the clothing may get warmer and heavier, but the fact remains that it is good for children to be outside as much as possible, all year long.
4 Reasons Children Should Play Outside
God gave us a big beautiful world to explore, and He didn’t intend for us to ignore it when the rains come. As Ms. Campbell notes, heading outdoors in the rain “often requires an attitude shift on the part of parents. For kids, the wet weather brings all kinds of new forms of fun. The rainy season means more puddles to jump in, more mud to play in (and with), and the return of a lot of creatures such as slugs.”
So go ahead and bundle up, head outside, and reap the benefits of what God has provided, no matter the weather.
"Come to Me...I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
As we start to get ready for the beginning of a new school year, we are stocking up on crayons and pencils and paints and markers. We're fine-tuning our lesson plans and prayerfully preparing for our students. You are probably purchasing school clothes and shoes to replace everything your child has outgrown. And many of you may be counting down the days until you are back into the school routine.
Here's the secret though: don't make the mistake of assuming a "school routine" will come naturally to your child. Summertime is inherently full of looser schedules and somewhat slippery sleep habits. With so much daylight and so many fun activities to enjoy, very few families stick to a strict sleep schedule during the summer. And that's fine! Summer is fun and lazy and busy all at the same time. Baths get missed, travel disrupts sleep patterns, screen time sneaks into your days more and more; this is all normal.
But now we are just a few weeks away from school starting, and it is time to get back to a proper sleep pattern for the whole family. We CANNOT stress enough how critical it is for you to begin this process now. Poor sleep habits are, by far, one of the most significant difficulties our students face. Within a week or two of school, we can usually tell which children are getting proper, consistent, healthy sleep. Those who are not getting the right amount of sound sleep often struggle with:
Of course, no parent wishes that for their child. So let's take a look at the "how" and "why" of good sleep patterns so you have a plan you can implement with confidence.
As the scripture reference above reminds us, our oh-so-important spiritual and emotional rest is in Jesus. But our physical rest is vital too, and Jesus himself proved that in Mark 6:31 when he called the disciples to come with Him for some rest, away from from the crowds. Our bodies need sleep, and sleep is particularly crucial for our little ones with their growing bodies and brains.
Today is the time to get those habits started. When school starts in September, you will be so thankful that this part of your routine is already in place. And the teachers will be thankful too!
"Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." Hosea 6:3
As we strive to press on and acknowledge Him who brings us the seasons, we are celebrating spring's arrival with all things rainy, sunny, muddy and wriggly. Splashing in puddles, digging for worms and watching for rainbows are some of the children's favorite activities these days, and we're loving all of it! Take a look at what we have been up to in the classroom over the past few weeks.
LITERACY: We are enjoying all of the reading that is going on in the classroom right now! Confidence is growing in many of our students as they start to master the skill of blending sounds together into words, and it's so fun to see. And for those who are not yet in their own personal "reading readiness window," they are enjoying stories, puzzles, games and activities that continue to expose them to letter names and sounds. This is a widely varied area of development for children at this age, so we continue to see many different levels of readiness. Our job is to meet each child where he or she is at the moment, encouraging and supporting along the way.
As we continue through our year of fairy tales, we have finished many different versions of Little Red Riding Hood, combining these stories with our study of safety and stranger awareness as well. Next we are moving on to The Three Little Pigs, both traditional and fractured versions. These are really fun stories, and the Kindergarten group will enjoy a day of building and experimenting with wind as we finish up this study.
MATH: There is a whole lot of math progress hitting the classroom lately! Most of the younger students are mastering the numerals and quantities up to nine, and many are beginning to correctly write the numerals as well. Many of the "middle-aged" students are now working with our beadstairs for addition work and for mastering the concept of equivalencies.The Kindergarten children have worked extensively with the gold bead material, focusing on place value up to 999 and have also enjoyed writing their own number sentences on the white boards.
We have introduced more shapes to the children, looking at quadrilaterals. They particularly enjoy saying the word parallelogram! Soon we will learn the names of the solid shapes, as well.
SCIENCE: Our invertebrate study is fully about worms right now as we spot them every time we are outside for recess. The Kindergarten boys even went to the trouble to build a worm hotel! Worms are truly fascinating animals and are vital to healthy soil and, therefore, vital to a healthy food supply, too. Of course, the most fun part of this study has been the freedom to talk about worm poop on a daily basis! Does your child remember what gardeners and scientists call it? (Castings!) Is your child able to tell you some worm facts?
The fun we are having with worms leads us right into our seed and plant study. This week each child will start some seeds in his or her own little greenhouse. Once the seeds begin to germinate, they will be planted in soil...some to go home and some to remain at school. This is always a fun activity as we watch dry, wrinkly seeds swell up and begin to sprout into living plants!
Now that the Kindergarten group is finishing up its project of making some beautiful world maps (on display in the classroom), the whole class will begin the ever-popular study of our solar system!
SOCIAL STUDIES AND MUSIC: As we prepare for our spring performance of Children Around the World, we are learning about what life is like for children from all over the globe. We are also enjoying learning a whole lot of new songs to sing for all of you! Please plan to join us on April 26 for this special program.
THINGS TO PONDER:
A Return to Gentleness
As we are currently studying gentleness in our Bible time, I can't help but be reminded of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” a wonderful show from my childhood. With the recent release of a documentary on Mr. Rogers, along with an upcoming movie about him, the show has been in the news again. When I think of Fred Rogers, I think of the perfect embodiment of the fruit of the spirit, gentleness, an attribute that is sorely lacking in our world today. Mr. Rogers was actually an ordained minister who chose a children’s television show as the vehicle for his ministry. Although he may seem slow and deliberate and old-fashioned in our current fast-paced, loud society, he was an unfailing example of gentleness. His show was quiet, calm and well-planned, rich in vocabulary and concepts. Each episode was crafted to encourage children to be kind, helpful, confident and creative. Unfortunately, we are raising children in a world that is anything but gentle; we see this in conversations and interactions and as we are bombarded by horrific news stories that remind us of just how broken our world is. As parents and as teachers we strive every day to model gentleness to the children and to encourage their gentle behavior and choices. Although we are not big proponents of screen time, we encourage you to consider allowing your children to watch some episodes of Mr. Rogers. They will be exposed to a true spirit of gentleness that will serve them well and, perhaps, help them contribute a little gentleness to our world.
"And the God of all grace...will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."
1 Peter 5:10
We enjoy being fully back into the swing of things after the Christmas break and are thankful that God has continued to bless the teachers with good health and energy during this nasty flu season. God's spirit of strength and steadfastness is evident in the classroom as we watch the children growing and learning by leaps and bounds. They are really amazing! Here are some of the things we have been working on:
LITERACY: We continue to see great strides in this area as children are solidifying their letter and sound recognition, starting to read and write independently and enjoying a lot of fun fairy tales in class. We finished our alphabet snacks with Zoo Animal Crackers and have been spending time learning about our important vowels, A-E-I-O-U. Some of the students are now working on long vowel rules, which can be a tricky transition, so we are reminding them to be patient. This takes time! We are thoroughly enjoying more fairy tales, spending time with Goldilocks and the Three Bears right now. The fractured versions of this classic story are proving to be very entertaining! So far, the favorite has been Somebody and the Three Blairs. Rhyming and opposites are the literacy concepts we are tackling next. These can be difficult concepts for children to grasp, and we don't expect mastery at this level, but it is a good introduction as a foundation for later skills. For some of our students who are learning English as a second language, parents can help support these ideas at home in the child's first language. Once they understand the concepts of opposites and rhymes in their first language, they are more likely to transfer that knowledge to their emerging English vocabulary.
MATH: Measuring and graphing is our newest area of work in the classroom. We are using non-standard measurements and collecting data that can be presented in a graph. So far we have measured the children with wooden blocks, allowing the students to predict their heights, compare their data and build a graph together. The children have also been providing ideas for a type of food that we can do a taste-test on to create another graph...pie seems to be the favorite suggestion so far. Our Kindergarten group is well into our gold bead material in the classroom, working diligently on grasping the concept of place value and, for some, multiple-digit addition.
SCIENCE: Our study of invertebrates now moves into the marine world of cnidarians (jelly fish and corals) and poriferans (sea sponges). How about those new vocabulary words?!?! We are also enjoying learning about how animals survive in the winter, especially the fascinating phenomenon of hibernation. Some of the children might remember what a "true hibernator" is. These animals, such as hedgehogs, stay in a deep sleep through the winter, with their breathing and heart rates slowing to the point they almost appear dead. Other animals, such as bears, go into a light sleep and wake occasionally for a little bit of food and then go back to sleep. The Kindergarten children and soon-to-be Kindergarten children enjoyed a day studying winter, and we had fun wearing "blubber gloves" to see how animals can stay warm in the cold.
MUSIC: We are beginning our study of the orchestra's instrument families as we enjoy listening to Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens. We will also be learning about musical concepts such as tempo and volume during this time. Soon we will be working on our songs for the spring performance with our joyful Little Lambs!
SOCIAL STUDIES: As we continue our study of the continents, the Kindergarten children are preparing to create their beautiful world maps. This is always a popular rite-of-passage project for our oldest students! As a group we are also studying safety and good choices, beginning with fire safety. Soon we will talk about stranger safety before moving into a look at good choices in relation to screen time. Your child may have asked you to test your smoke detectors at home and might be able to teach you our smoke detector song (sung to the tune of "Are You Sleeping?"):
If I hear the smoke detector, I get low. Then I go!
Get out of the house, get out of the house.
Now I'm safe! Now I'm safe!
THINGS WE THINK:
“This is a real job!” These are the words we overheard one day when a child started raking leaves with his friend. Word spread quickly that there was a real job to do, and soon children were lined up to get a turn with the rakes. This perfectly demonstrates the value of meaningful work for children. This was a job with tangible results, a job that helped clean up the playground, and a job that fostered the children’s sense of pride and ownership in their school. Unfortunately, work has quite a negative connotation in our world today, as it has somehow turned into the thing that stops us from being able to do what we truly love, but this is a dangerous idea to give our children. Good, hard work is valuable and meaningful, in a home, in a business, in a classroom and in the community, and our children need to see that. The age group we serve at Little Lambs is perfectly suited to enjoying meaningful work; 3-6 year olds LOVE to have jobs that are helpful and useful. This is the perfect time, then, to instill a desire to work hard and to enjoy the results of a job well done. This is the perfect time to teach children that, no matter the job, hard work is valuable and worth their effort. This is the perfect time for children to learn that the type of job you do doesn’t define you, but rather the joy and energy you put into doing it well should give you a sense of worthiness and value. Taken further, this plants the seed that a child’s “worthiness” comes from the fact that God created him with a plan…regardless of exactly what that plan is. Whether our children grow up to be teachers, doctors, painters, janitors, truck drivers or farmers, they are worthy just by the nature of their creation, and they can take pride and joy in their hard work and their “real jobs.” Ecclesiastes 5: 18-20 instructs us that “…it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him – for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.” It is our prayer that our students would grow to be happy in their work and to be occupied with gladness of heart!
"I will praise God's name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving." Psalm 69:30
As we prepare to come back from Thanksgiving break, we want to be continually mindful of all the blessings for which we are so very grateful. Our Little Lambs students are absolutely one of those blessings! Their beautiful voices, lifted in joyful song during our harvest performance were just amazing. Now we enter the Christmas season with humble hearts, eager to celebrate the arrival of our King. We have a lot of activities going on in the classroom, but here is a peek at what we have already accomplished.
GRACE AND COURTESY: This area is seeing significant growth in the classroom as the students strive to follow our classroom rules and to treat each other with kindness and respect. They are doing very well with being responsible for their environment (cleaning after snack, moving carefully through the classroom, putting away activities, etc.) Some parents have asked how they can foster these "classroom cleaning habits" at home as well, and with Christmas coming up, you may find some interesting gift ideas from a company we use quite a bit, For Small Hands.
LITERACY: We have been enjoying many fun books and activities in this area. Has your child mentioned our "alphabet snacks"? Each day we have a snack starting with a different letter of the alphabet. So far we have enjoyed all of the following: A-apples, B-bagels, C-cucumbers, D-donuts and dairy (string cheese), E-English muffins, F-friend's birthday treat, G-grapes, H-hot dogs and hot cocoa...this was the favorite so far! It has been fun to hear the children guess what the next snack will be, allowing us not only to reinforce the phonics aspect of this activity, but also to talk about the scientific concept of predictions/hypotheses. And in the social and emotional realm, this gives the children chances to handle being "wrong" if they don't guess our snack. This is really difficult for some children, but it is an absolutely essential emotional skill to have. On an individual level, we have a whole lot of independent reading going on in the classroom, with several of the students working through our reading and spelling equipment. Many of the children are also working on lower case alphabet printing, enjoying one-on-one time with Mrs. Sallak for this activity. In our fairy tale study, we have been reading all kinds of Gingerbread Boy variations and discussing what is similar and what is different among all of the stories. Does your child remember some of the books we have read? (Gingerbread Boy, Gingerbread Girl, Gingerbread Cowboy, Gingerbread Baby, etc.) Soon the children will be acting out the story in class!
MATH: The class' math skills are marching right along, with each child making his or her own steady progress. Our younger children are working on recognizing numerals and quantities to 9, and some are also working on the written numerals. Many of the older children are working with concepts of addition and place value, up to 19. The children are also enjoying activities that encourage sorting, categorizing, classifying, comparing and contrasting. Soon we will be exploring graphs and measuring!
SCIENCE: We have now moved into our second invertebrate group, arachnids. We are enjoying learning about the fascinating world of spiders and the amazing things they can do. We will have some fun craft projects and songs as we study these little critters.The Kindergarten students will be starting a series of science lessons on magnets this week. This is always a fun series as the students also start to learn how to work within the scientific method.
Parenting Thought: With the Christmas season upon us, I'm sure most of your children are already making wish lists and dreaming of new toys and gifts. As parents, though, how do we navigate this time of year in a way that fosters reverence, kindness and thoughtfulness? How do we avoid a sense of entitlement and the appearance of greediness in our children as they are bombarded with commercials promoting all the latest and greatest items? How do we encourage grateful hearts and selflessness, while still allowing our children to enjoy the excitement and joy of Christmas traditions? These can be difficult questions to answer, but now, while your children are young, is the best time to be mindful and intentional in how you choose to handle this season, setting habits for years to come.
I had an eye-opening moment several years ago that prompted my husband and I to significantly change our gift-buying habits. I was cleaning out our kids' closets right after school got out for the summer, and I found four Christmas gifts that had never even been taken out of their packages. They had been unwrapped and then stashed away and forgotten. Clearly, our children had been inundated with so much "stuff," they couldn't even enjoy it. After that, we made drastic cuts to what our children receive each year, aligning our choices with the following poem: "Something you want, something you need, something to do and something to read." Each child gets two gifts per category. This has worked well for our family and has forced us to think carefully about the gifts we choose, while also freeing up time and money that can be used to help others during the holiday season. With those thoughts in mind, here are some ideas to get you started as you ponder the best way for your family to celebrate "the most wonderful time of the year."
"Shout with joy to God, all the earth!" Psalm 100:1
We have enjoyed a wonderful start to the school year as we get to know all of our joyful Little Lambs. They are filling the classroom with happiness and energy and enthusiasm...it's wonderful! Here is a look at what we have been working on during our first month of school:
GRACE AND COURTESY: This area has been one of our biggest focuses in the first few weeks of school as we establish classroom expectations and routines. We have focused on learning and living the classroom rules: use gentle hands and feet; use calm words and voices; obey the first time. These are simple to remember with repetition, and they work in any situation. The children also have been learning to greet teachers with good eye contact, a handshake and a "Good morning," as well as working to remember to stand and offer a greeting when an adult enters the classroom. In addition, our students are learning how to care for their environment by being responsible to push in their chairs, to move carefully around their friends' activities, and to clean up after themselves at snack time. They are doing a wonderful job!
LITERACY: We enjoyed beginning our year with a Read-a-Thon fundraiser for the Aloha Community Library, reading a lot of books to go with our studies. We raised $160 for the library! Our year has also started with one of our favorite lessons...fairy tales! We will continue with this at least through Christmas, enjoying many different stories, some fractured fairy tales, dramatic reenactments, science activities and even fairy tale snacks. We have also introduced the lower case letters by name and sound and have read many books highlighting the alphabet. As we move through the alphabet, we are learning how to sign each letter in sign language. As children demonstrate readiness, they will begin working with the reading activities in the classroom. This readiness develops at a different pace for each student, but typically is present sometime during a child's four-year-old year. How can you promote literacy at home? Very simple...provide plenty of books and limit screen time!
MATH: Patterns, patterns everywhere! Our year has started with a lot of time looking for, recognizing and creating patterns. The children are getting very adept at this skill! We are also enjoying sorting and classifying activities with the Montessori equipment and are getting to know the ten plane geometric shapes. As they are ready, children are working on numeral and quantity recognition, written numerals and the concept of addition. We are counting our days of school, leading to the ever-so-popular 100th Day of School sometime in the spring. As we mark days off on our chart, we are looking at how the numbers lead to the next group of ten. The Kindergarten children are working with the gold bead materials in the classroom to understand the decimal hierarchies as they prepare for future math activities.
SCIENCE: Our year began with a look at how to classify the things we observe in creation, first learning the difference between living and non-living. We learned that living things are then classified into plants (living things that make their own food) and animals (living things that have to hunt/harvest their food). Animals are then classified into vertebrates (last year's study) and invertebrates. We certainly don't expect that every child has mastered all of this information. As with everything in the Montessori classroom, we want to provide exposure to concepts and information so that children can absorb as they are ready. We have just started our first invertebrate group, insects. Can your child tell you something that makes an animal an insect? (Three body parts, two antennae, six legs, exoskeleton.) In the plant world, we are learning about the parts of a tree and the parts of a leaf. We will also be learning the difference between evergreen and deciduous trees as we discuss the autumn leaves that are now falling all around us. It's a beautiful time of year to be a little scientist!
MUSIC: This group of children likes to sing! We are thoroughly enjoying music time with our Little Lambs as we learn new songs, explore rhythm and practice how to respectfully use the classroom bells. Are you hearing any songs at home? We are now learning the songs and poems that will be part of our harvest celebration and performance on November 9. There is truly always a joyful noise in the classroom!
Parenting Thought: This section is used to explore topics and struggles that frequently arise in parenting and to address common questions we receive from parents. We will start with a look at fairness and sharing.
One of the most common things we hear in the classroom is, "Hey, you have to share!" This can be a tricky area to navigate with young children because they tend to think that sharing and fairness mean that everything must be equal. So if a child sees that her friend has gotten two pink ponies out of the box, and she wants one, she is likely to say, "That's not fair! You need to share." In reality, the child who first got the ponies has every right to continue playing with them, if he or she chooses to do so. The fairness in this situation is that the "wanting" child still has access to the other ponies in the box. The child with the pink ponies is not obligated to make everything equal. Some children certainly might choose to offer one of the ponies, but it shouldn't be required. Forcing one child to give up something he or she has a right to have typically fosters resentment, not cooperation. The goal here is to encourage communication and awareness, as children in the 3-6 year old range are usually still in a pretty egocentric time of development. In the classroom, we facilitate this kind of situation by modeling the following requests and responses:
* Instead of "You have to share," we encourage the child to say, "May I have a turn with one of those when you are finished?" This allows the child to state her desire to her peer and creates awareness for the peer that the first child has a request. More often than not, this results in the peer quickly offering to share, without being forced to do so.
* If a child tries to grab a toy from another child, we encourage the "non-grabber" to say, "I wasn't finished with that yet. May I please have it back?" The child should then wait for the item to be offered back. This can be a little trickier to navigate and occasionally requires teacher assistance to make it work smoothly.
These habits and behaviors take time and repetition to develop. Many children do not need to deal with sharing at home yet, so the classroom is the perfect place for all of this practice. It isn't easy or quick, but it is well worth the time and effort!
"And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion..." Philippians 1:6
After all the crazy weather at the beginning of the year, it has been nice to have a steady schedule in which to continue and complete our "good work" in the classroom. The children have been busy! Read on to see what we have been working on the past few months.
Grace and Courtesy: We are thrilled to see the growth and maturity in this area for our students as the year moves along. In fact, they are so doing such an amazing job, we consistently receive compliments from members of the community when we are at the park or out on field trips. And last week our photographer said that our class is the highlight of his year because the children are so polite and well-behaved. Thank you for all you do at home to help foster good habits in your children...it is working! We consistently see them demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit, love, kindness and patience. What a blessing!
Literacy: As the class continues to make great strides in this area, we are enjoying stories, songs and games to enhance the children's love of language and reading. These stories and songs are also strengthening our current literacy concept of rhyming. The children are getting good at hearing and recognizing rhymes in our classroom work.
Math: The students are moving full steam ahead through our math curriculum, each at his or her own pace, and they are doing great! In addition to numeral and quantity recognition, place value concepts, subtraction and addition, and written work, we are working on measurement and the concept of ordinal numbers. We also continue to use games and Montessori activities to work on organizing, sorting and classifying, skills that carry over into every area of study. Next up is the study of solid geometric shapes.
Science and Social Studies: We are nicely caught up in these areas as we finish our study of vertebrate groups with a look at birds. The Kindergarten group enjoyed a chilly "Mammal Mania" field trip and hike at the THPRD Nature Park and will have another trip in May to the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge to become further bird experts. We are blessed to have so many resources nearby! It is now time for us to begin our solar system study, always a popular topic with the children. In addition, the Kindergarten group will be studying rocks and minerals as we "dig in" to our beautiful Earth. We are also finishing up our look at the seven continents and the different animals, people and cultures that make up our wonderful world.
THINGS WE THINK: This month we take a look at reading readiness in the Montessori classroom.
Out of all the academic areas of development, reading is probably the one that brings the most questions, worries and, eventually, excitement from parents. Will you teach my child letters? When will my child read? Why isn't my child reading like other children yet? These are very common questions from parents, as we all recognize the joy and confidence that come with reading, as well as the fact that it is a critical skill for future success in any area of study.
As with all other areas of instruction in the Montessori classroom, our reading curriculum is highly sequential and repetitious in order to allow the child to achieve mastery at his or her pace. All students are given an introduction to the alphabet phonograms at the beginning of the school year, working on both letter names and sounds, primarily with lower case symbols. At that point, the materials and activities are made available to each child individually on a regular basis, as we watch for the child to enter the "sensitive period" for reading acquisition. Most children enter this period between age 4.5 and 5.5, but that doesn't mean each child will fall exactly in that range.
How do we know when a child is in a sensitive period? Some typical clues include the following: the child suddenly craves repetition of a certain skill, wanting the same type of activity over and over; the child shows intense concentration when working with a particular skill; the child is quick to become angry or throw a temper tantrum if interrupted during these moments of concentration and repetition. This is the same regardless of the skill being mastered, such as walking, learning to speak, mastering a sense of order, etc. So, what can be frustrating and confusing behaviors to see as a parent, are often signs that the child has entered a period of sensitivity and is ready to learn a new skill!
In general, once the phonograms have been introduced, and once we see signs of readiness in a child, he or she will begin working to recognize and isolate beginning sounds in words. There are dozens of these activities in the classroom, allowing for plenty of repetition and much language development. When this has been mastered, students move on to blending and building words with three phonetic sounds, followed by those with four phonetic sounds. Once this is a solid skill, the child is introduced to long vowel rules, and we continue from there. The children also work with our set of books that they read in class and then take home to read to their parents so they can share this great new skill!
Watching a child learn to read is one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of parenting and teaching, but it does require patience. We can't hurry it; we can't force it; we can only wait for the child's sensitive period of readiness. It will come!
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2
Well, 2017 has gotten off to an interesting start so far, with minimal class time since Christmas break thanks to the beautiful snow we received. We are indeed renewed in our bodies, minds and spirits with this extra time to rest and enjoy God's creation. This has been a peaceful example of God's "good, pleasing and perfect will." However, we are eager to get back into a normal routine in the classroom, whenever the weather allows. Although our schedule has been scattered and rearranged since Thankgiving, we have been able to accomplish a fair amount. Here is a quick recap of what we have been up to, and rest assured that our next few months will be very full as we get back to normal!
Grace and Courtesy: With so many interruptions in our schedule lately, much of our work in this area has been reminding and reteaching the skills we developed at the beginning of the school year: shaking hands and greeting teachers upon arrival, standing when an adult joins us in the classroom, walking carefully around classmates' activities, etc. With our current Bible lessons on forgiveness, we are working on how to apologize and how to accept an apology. For some children, these skills come naturally. For most, however, apologizing is rather difficult...just as it is for adults! We do not force a child to apologize immediately after a bad choice/behavior. Frequently the child needs time to calm down and to process the situation. He or she may not be ready to apologize right away, or even for quite a while. A forced apology doesn't really accomplish anything, so we usually ask the child if he or she is ready to say "I'm sorry." This may need to be repeated several times before an apology happens. In the meantime, the child has lost the privilege of playing with the toy/activity that created the difficulty. Often children have fallen into the habit of responding to an apology with "That's ok." We try to change that habit since the initial behavior, if it resulted in requiring an apology, wasn't ok! This is a chance to lay the foundation for the idea that our behaviors have consequences. That is, although we receive forgiveness, we still may have repercussions from our poor choices. We teach the children that when someone apologizes to them, a good response is "Thank you for apologizing."
Literacy: There is a whole lot of reading going on in the classroom! We are seeing good, consistent progress that is just right for each child. Many students are now bringing books home as part of our reading program, and several of our younger students are getting very confident with letter names and sounds and with identifying the initial sound in a word. The activities in these pre-reading areas also include a lot of vocabulary for children to learn, so we are now hearing a lot of English from our English language learners! We are just starting the concept of opposites, with books, puzzles and games. This is not only a good literacy concept, it also helps us further develop the children's vocabulary.
Math: Our students are in full swing with our math curriculum as we are seeing daily progress for all the chldren in this area. Depending on his or her readiness, your child may be mastering numeral and quantity recognition to 9, writing numerals to 9, identifying odd and even numerals, sequencing and organizing by size, measuring in non-standard units, adding, subtracting or demonstrating place value concepts to 19, 99 or 9,999! There is a LOT going on in this area of development right now. It's so exciting!
Science: This is the area that is most in need of catching up after all the weather closures, but we have wrapped up our study of reptiles and are moving on to fish as we continue our look at all the vertebrate families. Can your child tell you some of the similarities and differences between mammals and reptiles? We will be working on a Venn Diagram graph to illustrate this idea. We will also be spending some time discussing hibernation and the winter season. More in this area next time!
Social Studies: Much of our work in this area has been tied in with our literacy and Bible times. Many of our stories are focusing on how people live all around the world, and we are particularly enjoying learning about how people lived in the time of the Old Testament stories we are studying. As we look at different homes, clothing, food and transportation, we can also use skills such as classifying and describing, further growing the children's English vocabulary.
Music: Now that we enjoyed a successful Christmas performance, we will be spending some time getting to know the orchestra. We also continue to work with our classroom bells, learning the notes in the C major scale as we train our ears to hear the differences in the notes. There will be more to report from in our next update. In the meantime, enjoy the following "music notes."
THINGS WE THINK: This month we take a look at music in a Montessori classroom.
Music is a vital component of a Montessori classroom and is part of the natural work time on a daily basis. It is used in many ways: as part of sensorial education, to further the development of creativity, and to help reinforce lessons and memorization. Our music instruction includes singing, listening, production with instruments, movement and history. Rather than being separated into its own "class time," music is integrated into our day wherever it fits or wherever it naturally arises. Lessons include work with the bells and work on rhythm, learning note names and rhythmic notation, instruction in dynamics and instruction in the lives of composers. There is a lot going on in this area! Montessori classrooms typically do not bring in specialists to teach subjects such as art or music because we do not want to give the impression that only certain people have those skills. We want the students to feel joyful in their music education, finding happiness in singing and listening to music, finding connections in learning about musicians and composers, finding confidence in approaching a new instrument. If we can help children develop a love and appreciation of music in these early years, we hope it can be a source of joy for a lifetime.
Thank you for letting your Little Lambs make music with us! Happy New Year!
"Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us." Psalm 67:6
It's hard to believe that we've finished two months of school already...it's been so smooth! God has indeed blessed us as we watch your children reap the harvest that their hard work is yielding. They are doing amazing things in the classroom, progressing in all areas every day. We so enjoyed getting the chance to talk with parents at conferences this past week and look forward to continuing to work as a team for your child. As we enter into the busy holiday season, ready to give thanks and to celebrate our Savior's birth, we will continue to work diligently in the classroom. Here is a quick rundown of what we have been doing over the past month.
Grace and Courtesy: This continues to be a good area of growth for the children as we work each day to model polite etiquette. We are increasing our expectations for the children's behavior as the year progresses, and they are very capable to meet the demand! During our Bible lessons on Noah and patience, we incorporated lessons about interrupting. We continue to give reminders to the children, as this is a very hard habit to break at this age. We show them how to wait with patience and ask them to trust that we can see them and will attend to them as soon as we are able. This isn't easy, but they are doing well!
Literacy: We have finished introducing all the basic alphabet phonograms (lower case). We are also learning the alphabet in sign language for some extra multisensory work and greatly enjoy our "Gilly Gilly Good Morning" song that provides more practice in remembering the sound each letter makes. The Kindergarten group has also begun to work on sight words and some of the "H brother" phonograms (sh, th, ch, etc.). Many of the children are working on writing their names independently, using sandpaper and cornmeal as they begin this process. This past month we enjoyed many of the books in the "There Was An Old Lady" series, which provide a great look at both rhyming and sequencing concepts.
Math: We have wrapped up our big look at patterns and are moving into graphing as a way to organize our data. So far we have created two graphs in the classroom, and the children are enjoying these projects. Thank you to all the moms and siblings who tasted apples with us to add more data to our apple graph. Red apples were the clear winner! In addition to our work with graphs and charts, we continue to do activities that develop concepts of comparing, sorting, spatial awareness and geometry. And, of course, there is always much work in the classroom on numerals, quantities and place value. As each child shows his or her readiness to move forward with math skills, we gladly provide the opportunity!
Science: As we conclude our mammal study with a look at marine mammals such as dolphins and whales, we are amazed at all of the information your children are absorbing! Next we will spend time with reptiles, learning as much as we can about this fascinating group of animals. We also will be observing the changing leaves and learning about this process as we watch the fall season unfold. Our Kindergarten students have been enjoying different science lessons on shadows and gravity over the past few weeks. There was a heated race in our gravity game last Friday; you can see photos on our Facebook page.
Social Studies: This time of year brings our lessons on the Native Americans and Pilgrims as we prepare for Thanksgiving and our harvest party and performance. The children are learning what it was like to be a child on The Mayflower and about how helpful Samoset and Squanto were to the Pilgrims, helping them survive in this new land. These lessons continue to incorporate our look at maps and our work to learn the names of the continents.
Music: Much of our music time in the past few weeks has been spent learning songs for our upcoming performance. We can't wait to share with you all they have learned! We also continue to work with our classroom set of bells, learning how to match the bells by sound and how to discern the difference between going up the scale and going down the scale.
THINGS WE THINK: This month we take a closer look at math in our Montessori classroom.
Long before there is any awareness of the complex processes involved in algebra, calculus and geometry calculations, the young child will ask "How many?" or "How far?" or "How long?" These questions naturally lead the child into the world of math. Dr. Montessori, after lengthy, detailed observations of young children, developed the math curriculum that is used today in Montessori classrooms around the world. She came to realize that once a child could count to nine and comprehend the quantities to nine, he could just as easily count to nine tens, or nine hundreds, or nine thousands. She created the gold bead materials that so perfectly and simply illustrate the decimal system. They allows the child to visually recognize the hierarchies involved and their relation to one another. In keeping with her methods and philosophy, at Little Lambs we begin by introducing the numerals and quantities 0-5 until the student has mastered those concepts. We then build on that to introduce 6-9. Once these are solid concepts for the child, we transition into 11-19, focusing a great deal on place value here, working with the gold bead system. This is often the most challenging area for students as there is a lot to absorb, but once this is mastered, the child usually moves fairly smoothly into grasping 20-99. The plan stays the same, focusing on place value concepts throughout. The same system is then used to master 100-9,999. This is not necessarily a fast process, but it is very logical and systematic and always supported by manipulatives. Dr. Montessori's equipment allows for both numeral and quantity recognition all the way to 9,999 in the early childhood classroom. Our Kindergarten group works on this a great deal with one-on-one work with the teacher. As a child is ready during this process, he is also introduced to the concept of equivalancies and addition, always with the use of manipulatives. Dr. Montessori's materials allows the elementary child to progress through addition, subtraction, multiplication and division in a clear, hands-on way, always working with concrete materials before being expected to master memorization. The goal in our classroom is simply an introduction to these concepts without any expectation that the child will memorize any math facts. In this way, we hope the child develops a sense of confidence and competence in math, firmly understanding basic concepts, ready to tackle higher level work as he progresses through his school career.
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." John 14:26
As we close out the first month of school, we can attest to the power of "the Helper, the Holy Spirit" in our classroom. This has been an amazing beginning to the school year, probably our best ever! We have seen evidence of all of the Fruits of The Spirit in the children: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We are so blessed by our students and their families every day. Here is a look at what we have been working on in this first month of school:
Bible: We use The Beginner's Bible curriculum for this portion of our day, alternating from year to year between Old Testament and New Testament. This year we will be studying the Old Testament. We began the year working on the ideas of Who Is God? and What Is The Bible? Now we are moving fully into the OT curriculum, beginning with creation.
Grace and Courtesy: We have spent much time this first month working on habits that are gracious and courteous and that help keep the classroom running smoothly. The children have been learning to respond quickly to the bell, giving the teacher their full attention in order to receive instructions. The bell is our primary classroom management tool, as it is quick and easy, as well as being portable for field trips and for play time at the park. The students have been mastering other practical and polite skills such as being careful with our books, walking in the classroom, pushing in their chairs and walking around a friend's activity, rather than through or over it. In addition, we have worked on other courteous manners such as shaking hands, greeting the teachers with good eye contact and a "big" voice, standing when an adult enters the classroom to visit, and answering the teachers with "Yes, Mrs. _______" rather than "yeah." We are so impressed with how all of the children are doing in this area!
Literacy: Our days have been full of books and songs as we strive to enrich the children's emerging vocabulary and grasp of the complex English language. We are enjoying clapping the rhythm of our names and objects in the classroom. At this point, it is just a fun game, but it is actually training the children's ears to hear distinct syllables in the language. We have started our formal introduction of the letter names and sounds, and will continue working our way through the alphabet. We use a phonics-based method of instruction, so much emphasis is placed on learning the sound each letter makes, not only its name. We use primarily lower case writing in the classroom since this is how most of English is written. Please keep in mind that this is an introduction, only. In no way are we expecting that our 3- and 4-year-olds are mastering this skill. In keeping with the Montessori philosophy, the information is offered and available, but we wait on the child to show his or her readiness. And when it comes to reading, the span of readiness is huge! Some children come to us reading at age 3, and some children are ready to read around age 5 or 6. There is no rush right now! September was Shel Silverstein's birthday, so we have enjoyed some of his books as well, especially The Giving Tree and The Missing Piece. Our Kindergarten students have begun independent writing in their personal journals. This is a fun way to see each child's progress through the year!
Math: This particular group of students has a fairly firm math foundation in place already, so we are just moving right along. The children are in various stages of learning numeral recognition, producing accurate quantities, mastering written numerals, grasping the idea of place value as well as understanding concepts of addition and subtraction. This is an enormous range of skills because we have a wide range of ages and abilities. Please don't worry if your child isn't doing any or all of these activities yet. We also are working on "non-numeral" math skills such as shape recognition, pattern recognition and categorizing. These are vital to future math success and can be introduced in fun ways with this age group.
Science: This year's science curriculum will focus on the vertebrate family in the animal kingdom: mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians and birds. We will finish the year with some time on invertebrates. Right now we are learning about mammals and learning specifically about squirrels; bats will be up next. Our look at these animals will also tie in to our study of the changing seasons and hibernation. Is your child able to tell you something that makes an animal a mammal? (Has fur/hair, has a backbone, is warm-blooded, mother's body makes milk for babies, babies are born live-except the platypus and echidna). We learned that a squirrel home is called a drey and that it has two rooms, one of which is a nursery for the babies! The Kindergarten group will be kicking off their science lessons soon with a look at gravity.
Social Studies: Social studies is highly integrated into our entire curriculum, from Bible to science, as we look at cultures, geography and animals from around the world. We began with a brief introduction to globes and maps, and we are working on learning the names of the seven continents. We do not believe that children at this age require "diversity" instruction; the integrated nature of this area of study just naturally teaches children about many different regions and cultures and peoples. In keeping with our Bible curriculum, we are learning that all of God's creation is valuable and precious.
Music: In addition to enjoying many songs in class as we prepare for our harvest performance, we are working on the idea of rhythm as a "sound pattern," and we are learning how to use our classroom set of bells. The bells allow the child to create beautiful music, while developing a strong pincer grasp and good self-control. Eventually the bells are used to introduce the names of the notes in the C Major scale and to train the child's ear to hear matching tones. Along with all of this joyful noise, we are also teaching the children the importance of "finding silence." We do some brief deep breathing to calm our bodies and then just enjoy a few moments of silence in the classroom. In our noisy, overwhelming world, this is a valuable skill for all of us to learn and practice on a regular basis.
THINGS WE THINK: This section will be used each month in a variety of ways, such as to highlight a particular area of our curriculum, to answer common parent questions or to provide developmentally appropriate parenting tips. Please comment or email if you have any particular topics you'd like to see addressed! We will begin this month with a look at our Bible curriculum and our approach to Biblical instruction for this age group.
As you well know, it is an awesome privilege and responsibility to deliver God's Word to a child. At Little Lambs we use The Beginner's Bible curriculum that is designed to offer a scripture verse each week, highlighting a certain character trait as illustrated form a story in the Bible. We read the story on Monday and begin practicing the verse. On Tuesday and Wednesday we have more stories that highlight Monday's lesson, as well as more practice on the week's memory verse. On Thursday, the students have a chance to recite the verse in front of the class, and then they have a picture to color and take home.
This year we are studying the Old Testament (with a brief journey into the New Testament at Christmas and again at Easter). The OT allows us to delve into the character of God as powerful, strong, loving and eternal, and it lays a foundation for children and adults to learn what God expects of us. However, the OT also includes many of the stories that can be overwhelming or frightening to a child. Stories such as Joseph being sold by his brothers, and the plagues on Egypt are confusing, at best, for this age group. Fortunately, most of our students have been shielded from the true ugliness that is in the world...it is baggage that is too heavy for a child to bear. Some of these stories can raise questions to which the children are not yet developmentally ready to hear the answers. Our goal during our Bible instruction is always to deliver God's Word in an age-appropriate manner that first and foremost exposes the child to God's loving and eternal nature. Although we do focus on God's expectations and rules for us, and we do discuss the very real presence of sin and its consequences, we want God's love and forgiveness to be front and center in the students' minds so they can grow in a confident, loving relationship with God, one that allows them to unwrap and understand more and more of His Word as they grow and mature.
"For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations." Isaiah 61:11
As we prepare to resume class after Spring Break, we are blessed to look at all that our Little Lambs are accomplishing. They are truly amazing, and it is exciting to watch them "sprout" in all areas of development: academically, socially, physically and spiritually. There will be much to share and discuss during upcoming conferences! Here is a quick peek at what we have been doing lately:
Literacy: There has been a reading explosion in the classroom lately! Many of our students are working confidently with our reading equipment, and quite a few of the children are now working through our series of independent-reading books. This is always an exciting step as the students look forward to taking their book bags back and forth between home and school. If you have any questions about how to support your child in this endeavor, please don't hesitate to ask! Our Kindergarten children continue to write in their journals and are also working on memorizing several two-letter phonograms (sh, th, ch, ck, ai, ee) as they build their reading and writing skills.
Math: Our Little Lambs are very eager learners in the math department! We are seeing steady progress and a lot of enthusiasm in this area, throughout the class. Before the break, we started a study of measurement, and we will continue this when class resumes. We begin with non-standard measurement before moving on to an introduction to standard measurement. This unit of study also supports the concept of comparisons through vocabulary such as "longer/shorter," "heaviest/lightest" etc. These measurements get really fun when we start our rainforest study...some of those snakes are huge!
Science and Social Studies: We wrapped up our arctic study with a great Kindergarten preview day: painting with ice, freeing some frozen penguins and experimenting with blubber. Now it's time to move into the desert. Can your child tell you what makes something a desert? (Hint...it doesn't have anything to do with temperature!) We are having fun learning about lizards, rattlesnakes, saguaro cacti and the people who live in deserts around the world. In addition to our habitat study, we are also immersed in learning all about our five senses. We've enjoyed taste tests and sensory bins, and our last Kindergarten preview day included lots of slime! The children have been enjoying this study with enthusiasm, so we will keep it going as long as they are interested.
Music: We have now introduced the complete set of bells, including sharps and flats, and the children have been learning the names of the notes. We completed our study of the orchestra and enjoy singing the class favorite, "Music Master," highlighting different instruments. This group of students LOVES to sing! We are also now preparing for our spring performance, "I Am A Promise." We look forward to sharing this evening with you on April 28th!
Thank you for the continued privilege of teaching your amazing children. They are blessings to us every single day!
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit."
Happy New Year to all of our Little Lambs families! As we eagerly watch 2016 get under way in the classroom, we pray that God would continue to sustain the staff and students as we work with joy and with a steadfast spirit. We are so blessed to work with your children and are thankful for the trust you have placed in us. Please take a few moments to see what we've been up to in the classroom:
Literacy: The children continue to work at their own individual paces in this area, as they are ready. As a group we continue to master letter and sound recognition, as well as isolating beginning and ending sounds in words. Many of the children are now successfully working with equipment that supports these skills. It is always exciting to watch this area develop! We are also working on the concept of opposites and soon will move on to rhyming words. As many of the students are motivated to write their names independently, we are supporting this with a lot of small motor activities, as well as working to correct habits that are interfering with progress. This takes some time, so please encourage your child to be patient! The Kindergarten children are beginning to work with long vowel rules and also continue to build up their recognition of sight words.
Math: In addition to the class' work with numeral and quantity recognition and with understanding the decimal system with our gold bead activities, we are working on concepts of sequencing, sorting and organizing. We are beginning to work with our solid geometric shapes as we see how they relate to plane geometric shapes. We are supporting the children who are ready to master written numerals, with continued activities to strengthen hands and pencil control. Many students are now working comfortably with addition concepts, using the bead stair equipment, and Kindergarten students are ready to move into multiple-digit addition!
Science and Social Studies: As we finish our study of the ocean habitat, we are enjoying craft projects that include jellyfish, rainbow fish and ocean suncatchers. Our Kindergarten group enjoyed a field trip to the Portland Aquarium to see some ocean creatures up close. Next we will move on to the arctic as we learn about the people, plants and animals that survive in the coldest environments on our earth. Brrr! We are also studying states of matter, and the children are getting very adept at identifying solids, liquids and gasses. Soon we will begin looking at our wonderful five senses. Watch for information about an upcoming field trip to Learning Palace to support some of these areas of study!
Music: Our Little Lambs are spending more and more time working with the classroom set of bells, training their ears to hear matching tones, to identify the sound of going up the scale and down the scale and, soon, to learn the names of the notes. We are also ready to begin learning about the orchestra and the instrument families it includes.
The new year is off to a wonderful start as our Little Lambs are working, playing and learning beautifully!
"May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us - yes, establish the work of our hands." Psalm 90:17
Dr. Montessori observed that the child's hands lead his mind, and we see this daily in the classroom. But we are reminded in this scripture that God establishes the work of our hands, and it is our prayer that we would be good guides for the busy little hands that have been placed in our care. God has clearly rested His favor upon Little Lambs as our school year has gotten well under way, and we are so happy with all that the children are accomplishing. Here is a look at what we have been doing in the classroom:
Bible: This year we are studying the New Testament, primarily the life and ministry of Jesus. Most weeks, your child will bring home our Bible story and verse on Monday and then have an opportunity to recite the memory verse on Thursday.
Literacy: The entire class has had an introduction to all of the letter names and sounds, and we have been working on recognizing the five vowels. The Kindergarten group has also been working on 2-letter phonograms, specifically the "h family": sh, th, ch, ph. They have also been focusing on sight words in their reading and in their independent journal writing. As each child is ready, he or she will work through our phonics-based equipment and activities in the classroom. Please remember, the acquisition of reading skills is highly variable from child to child. Our job as teachers is to continue offering access to the materials and to be ready for the child's personal window of readiness. It is so exciting when it comes, but in the meantime we wait patiently and allow the child to seek what he or she needs in the moment.
We enjoyed our "Fall Into A Good Book" fundraiser for the Aloha Community Library, easily meeting our goal of 100 books to raise $100 for the library. We are looking forward to attending story time at ACL on November 18th. Currently we are working on sequencing and retelling with some of the stories we read in the classroom, putting events in order. We have also spent time understanding the components of a book (cover, title, author, etc.) and how to take care of a book.
Math: The children enjoyed studying patterns as the school year began, and they did very well with this concept! The Kindergarten class made lovely nature patterns at the park, with leaves, sticks and acorns, and they enjoyed finding patterns at the apple farm on their field trip. We are now studying the idea of odd/even numbers, working on putting items in groups of two to see if anything is left over without a partner. This concept has been coming along nicely for many of the students! As children are ready, they are building their numeral and quantity recognition and being introduced to the idea of place value. Our Kindergarten group is now working extensively with our gold bead materials to explain and solidify place value up to 9,999.
Science: Our science studies this year revolve around various habitats around the world. We just wrapped up our woodland forest study and are beginning a look at our amazing oceans. We had fun building "nests" in the park and collecting leaves for our leaf rubbings. Perhaps your child can tell you about some of the animals we learned about during the first months of school. Can he or she tell you the difference between nocturnal and diurnal animals? Or the difference between deciduous and evergreen trees? We very much enjoyed this study and are excited to dive into our ocean time!
Music: We have been enjoying a lot of time in the classroom singing as we prepare for our performance on November 12th. Many of our songs also fit into our forest study as we sing about trees, owls, squirrels and more. Our set of classroom bells is now out and available as children demonstrate responsibility and readiness to use this special Montessori equipment. We have focused on proper care and use of the bells and will soon move into matching the bells by sound and learning the names of the notes in the C major scale.
Grace and Courtesy/Personal Responsibility: As exciting as it is to observe the children's academic progress, their growth in the social and emotional areas of development is truly our greatest joy. These are the areas where we can see the Fruits of The Spirit growing and maturing, and it is wonderful! To this end, we spend a lot of time in the classroom working on grace and courtesy (eye contact, shaking hands, standing to greet a visitor, table manners, etc.) and on personal responsibility. The children are really doing an amazing job in these areas, and it will be an ongoing process. In general, we work on having all classroom behavior fit into our three rules: use gentle hands and feet, use calm words and voices, obey the first time.
We have had a fantastic first two months of school and look forward to these next weeks leading into the holidays!