Monday, November 23, 2015

the thankful "tree"

Looking for a simple way to get into the spirit
 of Thanksgiving with your little one?

Make a thankful tree!

you'll need:

  • a few branches with lots of good spots to hang "leaves"
  • a flower pot or vase to hold the branches
  • strips of construction paper with leaf outlines (I drew these)
  • scissors and markers/colored pencils
  • tiny clothespins for hanging the leaves (ours are in the cloth bag - fyi)

I prefaced the activity by asking Elise 
what she thought being thankful meant...

Her response?

It's when you REALLY like something!

This year, I'm especially thankful for
my two little daughters.

What are YOU feeling thankful for?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

she's here! she's here!

Freya Arden

At one month she enjoys...

lounging on the floor bed,

watching Big Sis, Elise,

and sleeping!

Elise is thrilled to have a little sis to dress up,

create art for,

and play with!

^^^ halloween 2015 ^^^

Of course, we're all adjusting to life with our new little family member,
but so far, so good!

Friday, October 23, 2015

flower tea party

Things have been a little quite around here lately...
that's because we've spent the past few weeks waiting.

Waiting on a baby!

Which is not an easy thing to do.
She's here now, though - happy and healthy!  :)

But. before I introduce her,
I want to share something special Elise and I did together 
before the excruciating baby wait began.

A flower tea party!


We made lavender shortbread cookies
topped with lemon glaze and edible flower petals.

Elise kept our cups filled to the brim
with raspberry hibiscus tea.

We chatted and laughed,
ate our cookies and sipped our tea.
Oh - did I say the cookies were all topped with flowers?  
Well, some featured cherry tomatoes, too!

We also collected beans from the "Pea Fort" to plant next spring.

Oh my, I love this girl so much!!!!!
This little flower tea party will be a memory I'll always treasure.
Aaahh!!!  HORMONES!

Be sure to stop by next week to meet our new little one! 

Happy weekend, friends!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

introducing the alphabet, Montessori-style

The ability to isolate a beginning sound of a word is the point of readiness for learning the alphabet letter sounds.
- Randall Klein, Montessori teacher and early reading specialist

For the past several months, 
I have been gradually introducing Elise 
to the letters of the alphabet.

Before that, we played LOTS of language games
- and still do! -
like "I spy," the blending game, and matching.

How did I know Elise was ready to make the leap to letters?

First, I noticed that her phonemic awareness was growing,
and that she was able to identify the beginning sounds of most words.

Second, I couldn't deny her curiosity about letters any longer!
I had already casually told her the sounds of a few letters,
and she soaked them up like a sponge.

I really wanted her to learn the letter sounds,
and I realized that if I didn't act quickly,
the rest of the world was going to teach her the names first!

Once I decided to go for it,
the first thing I did was make an Alphabet Story for us to point and sing to
that corresponded with Randall Klein's Stand Up Alphabet Cards.

(sing the letter sounds to the tune of "Up on a House Top")

a-a-apple, b-b-bird. c-c-cat, d-d-duck,
e-e-elephant, f-f-fish, g-g-goat, h-h-house,
i-i-igloo, j-j-jet. k-k-kite, lll-lion,
m-m-moon, n-n-nest, o-o-octopus, p-p-pear,
q-q-queen, rrr-rooster, s-s-sun, t-t-turtle,
u-u-umbrella, v-violin, w-w-whale, x-as in x-ray,
y-y-yarn so much fun, z-z-zebra really can run, 
we just sang our alphabet song, and everybody sang along!

Here's a close-up of our pointer, if you're curious.  ;)
It's a big hit!
We use it for our calendar, too.

Teach the alphabetic principle before you teach the alphabet.
- Randall Klein

When I present a new letter to Elise,
I put together a little tray like the one pictured above.
First, we look at the Alphabet Object, and talk about its beginning sound.
A queen!  What sound does queen start with?  
Yes!  /q/queen - queen starts with /q/.

Then, I'll associate the sound with the Sandpaper Letter.
This letter makes the sound /q/, just like /q/queen.
Elise and I take a few turns tracing the Sandpaper Letter with our finger 
and making the letter's sound.  

 (Sandpaper Letters from Pollywog Learning Products on Esty.)

Next, we'll "read" the new Stand Up Alphabet Card together.

This is what the materials look like on Elise's language shelf.
- New Letter Tray, Sandpaper Letters and Alphabet Objects, and Stand Up Alphabet Cards -

If you're wondering, I have been introducing the letters in no particular order
other than what Elise is interested in 
and what Alphabet Objects I've been able to make or scrounge up!

Randall Klein recommends the following clusters:

a g h m s, 
c d l o t,
f i p r u, 
e j k n w, 
b v y z q x.

Sometimes we set up several Stand-Up Alphabet Cards on a rug,
and I'll challenge Elise to find certain letters for me.
Can you please bring me /a/apple?
If she brings back a different card than the one I've asked for,
I simply say, Let's see what you brought.  You found /b/bird!

Once I know that Elise knows a letter,
I usually ask for it just by sound.
Can you find /e/?

Sometimes Elise and I will switch roles,
and she'll ask ME to bring HER letters.
This is a really great way to discover what she knows!

OK, now for those sandpaper letters and objects...

We play a lot of simple matching games with these materials.
We also take turns flipping the letters over and knocking to see "who's there."

When it comes to these kinds of games,
repetition is key,
and it has to be quick and fun!

Our all-time favorite thing to do with the Alphabet Objects?
Put them on the Alphabet Quilt!
My awesome mom made Elise this quilt just for this very purpose,
and it is so much fun!

We set it up right underneath the Alphabet Story on the wall,
so Elise can check her work and sing.

/e/elephant is always a favorite!  :)

As you've probably noticed, for continuity in the beginning,
we've been associating the same objects/pictures with the same letters.
- For example, /a/ is always an apple. -

As Elise becomes familiar with a letter,
she easily associates it with other things that begin with the same sound.
More on that later, though!  

You can visit Randall Klein at Early Reading Mastery and The Age of Montessori.
I refer to this handout he shares on his Early Reading Mastery site all the time:

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Montessori flower arranging: flower study part 4

Check out part 1, part 2, and part 3 of our Montessori-inspired flower study!

We are frugal flower pickers around here, so when I introduced this flower arranging lesson to Elise, I kind of expected her to go wild with the scissors in the garden.  Instead, she sniped just a few of her favorite herbs - parsley and mint - for an edible bouquet.  When I suggested she pick one of the "showier" flowers, she halfheartedly agreed, insisting that we leave the rest for the bees!

If you feel like the bees in your garden are adequately supplied with nectar and pollen, and you have a flower or two to spare, try this flower arranging lesson!  You'll build control and coordination of movement, as-well-as decision making skills.  Plus, nothing brings the beauty of nature indoors like a bouquet of cheerful, fresh flowers!

You'll need:
  • a basket for gathering flowers
  • scissors
  • a selection of small vases
  • a pitcher with water
  • a funnel
  • newspaper or other scrap paper for collecting leaf and stem trimmings
  • a drying cloth
  • coasters or doilies to place under the finished bouquets

First, bring your basket and scissors to the garden and select a variety of blooms (or herbs!) to pick.

Elise filled her basket with oregano and chive blossoms, parsley, echinacea, and gaillardia.  

Once you're back inside with the flowers, choose a vase to fill with fresh water.  If the vase has a narrow opening, use the funnel.

Spilled some water?  No big deal!  Use your drying cloth to wipe it up!

Select a bloom or two to arrange in the vase.  Trim the stems, and remove any leaves that are in the water.  These can go in the compost or trash at the end of the lesson.

Keep in mind the aesthetics of the bouquet, and don't overcrowd your vase with too many flowers!  Set the finished bouquets in a safe spot while you clean up your supplies.

Finally, place the bouquets on coasters or doilies around the house.  Enjoy!
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