Friday, July 29, 2011

Montessori Makeover

For the last few months I have been planning and preparing to give my traditional preschool classroom a "Montessori Makeover." I have spent countless hours researching and learning about the Montessori Method, searching for free and very low-cost printable materials online, searching for and ordering high quality, reasonably priced Montessori materials, printing, cutting and laminating materials, making my own practical life materials, shopping for and purchasing practical life materials from thrift stores, and doing a complete overhaul of my classroom layout.

When I first started this journey I really had no idea how much work it was going to be. My emotions have run the gamete from "This is going to be awesome!" to "What in the world have I gotten myself into!" Now that the beginning of the school year is swiftly approaching, I think I am finally starting to wrap mind around the whole Montessori philosophy and method.

It's still overwhelming at times, but just knowing how much time and effort I have put into preparing for this makeover gives me a great amount of confidence! For some reason the phrase, "I think I can, I think I can!" from The Little Engine That Could  is popping into my mind right now!
I have been trying to figure out the best way to document my "Montessori Makeover" on this blog.  Some of the things I'd like to include are before and after classroom photos, descriptions and photos of each of the subject areas, photos of different seasonal or themed works along with links to where I found the ideas, etc.  I'm still working out how I'm going to do this -- blog posts, new blog tabs, etc.

Since this is my first major post about my "Montessori Makeover," I'd like to post some "before" classroom photos.  I love my classroom -- it's very spacious and has lots of windows that bring in light!

Circle Time
Gross Motor  Area -- slide and monkey bars
Block Area
Manipulative Area and Sensory Table
Art Area -- easels
Art Area -- shelves
Pretend Play Area
Library Area
These photos are from a couple years ago, but nothing major has changed since then -- well, until recently, that is!  I have thought of posting photos of the transformation unfolding in the classroom.  But, honestly, the classroom is in such disarray right now that I would be slightly embarrassed to post photos just yet.  As soon as I get a good majority of the clutter put away, I will feel more comfortable posting photos of the classroom as it transforms.

Before I call it a night, I'd like to mention that there are lots of invaluable websites out there offering free and low-cost Montessori printable materials.  One of the best I've found is Montessori Print Shop.  They have lots of free and low-cost printable materials.  In fact, right now they are holding a Montessori Nomenclature Giveaway!  There are lots of ways to enter this giveaway and you can enter every day through August 1st at 12 noon EDT.  Check it out!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Special Delivery, gardening updates

I am very proud to announce the birth of my newest nephew on July 15th, 2011!  Congratulations to my little brother and my sister-in-law on the birth of their first child! 

What an amazing moment it was when I saw him for the first time!  Although the birth of my own little Froggy Boots was the most amazing and wonderful moment of my life, I think the birth of my nephew holds a very close second! 

Proud new mommy and daddy!

Froggy Boots was not at all sure about her mommy holding her new baby cousin.  She immediately got the pouty, I'm going to cry lip and started climbing up on my lap.  So, we switched to a bigger chair and she sat with me and baby N.
My husband, who looks almost as proud as when Froggy Boots was born, holding baby N!
The new daddy reading a book to niece Froggy Boots.  He actually got her to crack a smile!

So, the gardening continues in full force, with new crops being harvested and planted on what seems like a daily basis.  The tomato plants are literally gigantic and there are little (and big) green tomatoes popping up all over the place!  I had to use some yarn and tie the plants up in several places despite being in tomato cages!

There are four tomato plants, total.  Two are regular tomatoes and two are grape tomatoes.

The tomato plants are actually taller than me and my husband!
A few days ago I harvested some oregano and some basil.  The oregano I chopped in a food processor, mixed with a little olive oil and froze in ice cube trays.  I then removed the cubes of oregano and placed them in a freezer bag to be stored in the freezer for later use.

The basil I made into homemade pesto sauce (which we all love around my house), not including the cheese and pine nuts, and froze in plastic freezer jars for later use.  The cheese and pine nuts will be added when we decide to use the sauce.

Also in the last few days I harvested most of my green onions.  A couple I used immediately for dinner.   A couple more I sent home with my mom and dad.  And, the rest I cleaned, chopped, and flash froze on a cookie sheet.  Then I moved the frozen, chopped green onions to a freezer bag to store in the freezer for later use.

Chopped green onions heading to the freezer to be flash frozen!

I was absolutely amazed by the wonderful smell of fresh green onions right out of the garden!  They even made my eyes water when I cut them -- something I've never had happen with store-bought green onions.

One of the green onions I harvested had a much larger ball root than the others, so I decided to stick it back in the ground and see if I can get a large white onion out of it.  We'll see how it does -- at this point the green onion part that sticks out of the ground has flopped over and looks sort of wilted.  I probably would have been better off to leave it in the ground and let it grow than to pull it out and then put it back into the ground.

The other thing I decided to do was to re-plant the root portion of the green onions that I chopped off and see if I can get another crop out of them.  I did some research online and found that this should work.  However, I really should have left the root in the ground and chopped the green onion portion off of it.  We'll see what happens!

It's starting to seem like I do a lot of gardening on a whim.  A couple weeks ago I found one of my store-bought heads of garlic starting to sprout in my pantry.  So, I decided, rather than throw it out, I would plant it and see if I can get a crop of garlic out of it.  So, I did exactly that! 

Froggy Boots and I went out into the back yard, filled a pot with soil, made little holes in the soil, and plopped one clove of garlic into each hole.  Froggy Boots did the clove plopping portion!  So far, so good!  The garlic sprouts are getting taller and so I assume the cloves are doing their thing and turning into heads of garlic. 

Here is the garlic after we planted each clove in a pot!

I love garlic!  I love the way it smells and the way it tastes!  The only thing I don't like about garlic is peeling the cloves and pressing them in the garlic press.  But, the work is well worth it for the final product.  And, after recently purchasing some fresh heads of garlic from the farmer's market, I discovered that fresh garlic cloves are much easier to peel than dried, store-bought garlic.  Bonus!

Once the growing season here in Michigan is over, I am really going to miss it!  I am currently devising a plan to try and extend the growing season by bringing the garden inside.  So far the plan includes a long shelf attached to the wall in front of the window in my kitchen with some long planters sitting on top of it. 

And, next year's backyard garden is going to just about double in size!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Zoo Trip

In a previous post I mentioned that we had been planning to take Froggy Boots on a trip to the Detroit Zoo.  We went last summer as well, but were especially excited to take her this year -- figuring that since she is 2 years old now, she would probably enjoy it much more than she did last year.  And, we were right!

As seems to be the custom, at least since last summer, that my husband's close friend joins us on our zoo trip.  We would have had fun just the three of us, but it seems like we always have a better time when we bring his friend along!  We make a good traveling team!

Our first endeavor was to take Froggy Boots on the zoo train.  Thomas the train is her favorite character right now -- and has been for a while.  But, she is also interested in trains in general.  She decided that the train we rode at the zoo was the train from the book Engine Engine Number 9.  I thought she might decide it was Thomas, but the train did not look anything like Thomas!

When we got off the train, Froggy Boots was very disappointed!  She wanted to ride it again.  But, at $9 total for all of us to ride, one time was going to be it. 

Shortly after the train ride, Froggy Boots came to the conclusion that my husband or I should be carrying her through the zoo.  This despite the fact that we had brought along a beautiful new Radio Flyer wagon for her to ride in -- which, by the way, she loves! 

We gave her the choice of walking or riding in the wagon.  So, she chose a temper tantrum instead.  After pulling her through the zoo in the wagon screaming for what seemed like an eternity, my brilliant husband came up with the idea to go sit down at some picnic tables, have a snack, and do a "do-over."  And, it worked!  Thank goodness!  I honestly thought we were going to have to turn around and go home.

Froggy Boots rode most of the way in the wagon -- eating a bag of goldfish.  The goldfish are how we got her to get back into the wagon.  I'm not usually a fan of using food (or anything for that matter) as bribery, but in this circumstance, I was desperate.  And, she was already eating the goldfish as her snack at the picnic table.  So, I basically was just allowing her to take them with her in the wagon.  She ate almost the whole bag!

Froggy Boots eating goldfish in the wagon.

At first Froggy Boots did not want to even get out of the wagon to see any animals.  But, she eventually caved and ended up seeing everything but the giraffe!  The giraffe, of course, was one of the three animals she was most excited to see.  Elephants and lions were the other two.  Unfortunately, the lion exhibit was under construction and there is no longer an elephant exhibit at the Detroit Zoo. 

The giraffe that Froggy Boots did not get to see because she would not get out of the wagon...

 Here are some of our favorite animals that we saw:

harp seal

polar bear -- standing above us on the glass tunnel!!!

penguins -- I think this was Froggy Boots favorite exhibit!
Although I made the mistake of leaving the animal scavenger hunt behind in the car, we did manage to take a picture of every animal we saw to make into a book for Froggy Boots.  I did forget what a couple of the animals were, so I am just leaving those out of the book.  But, I did remember most of them.  Next time I will write down the name of each animal as we see it.

I uploaded all of the animal picture to the CVS website and put a label under each.  I then did a collage of all of the animals as the cover for the book.  They are ready for me to pick up as soon as I get myself over there to pick them up.  Once I have all of the pictures I am going to laminate them and put them together with book rings.

Another idea I had while I was uploading pictures was to make a matching game for Froggy Boots.  So, I had doubles of all of the pictures printed as well as a double of the collage picture with all of the animals.  I will cut out each of the small animal pictures from the collage and Froggy Boots can match the small animal pictures to the large animal pictures.  I'll take pictures when I have it completed and post them.

Here are a couple other pictures from the zoo trip:

My husband (right) and his friend (left) looking at a "You are here" map.

My husband (left), his friend (right), and Froggy Boots in the wago walking down a trail at the zoo.

Froggy Boots had another momentary relapse of the "carry me" temper tantrum and was pouting in the middle of the sidewalk.  She still talks about how she pouted at the zoo...

Daddy and Froggy Boots looking at some animals.

I'm pulling the wagon with Froggy Boots in it.  My husband's friend is walking along in front.

Froggy Boots looking at some animals -- I think it was some monkeys.

Froggy Boots and I looking through the big glass tunnel at the arctic animals.
All in all it was a good trip!  I think next time we will plan on going to the Toledo Zoo.  It is supposed to require much less walking between exhibits.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Learning and Having Fun

Our sunflowers are growing fast!  12 of the 14 seeds sprouted and most have 4 leaves growing from a stem.  I'm anxious to find out what kind of sunflower seeds we planted.  (If you didn't read my previous post -- we took sunflower seeds from a bag of birdseed and planted them in a pot.)  Will they be the regular, yellow sunflowers?  Will they be giant sunflowers?  Will they be orange sunflowers?  There are so many possibilities! 

Here are some pictures of what our sunflowers look like now!

Every day I take Froggy Boots outside to water the sunflower seeds.  At first I'm sure she was wondering why we were pouring water all over the dirt!  She knows about watering plants, but watering seeds under the dirt is a totally different concept.   Now that the seeds have started growing, it probably seems more reasonable to her to be watering them.  Then again, she is 2, and doesn't really know why we would water plants in the first place.  Or, maybe this little activity has taught her about how and what a plant needs to grow!  I guess that would be the whole idea anyways...

I'm already working on cropping and sizing the photographs of the sunflowers as they grow so that I can make them into a book for Froggy Boots.  I may use them to make some other resources as well -- we'll see how much time I have.

Tomorrow we are planning a trip to the zoo.  I found a wonderful idea from Stephanie on her blog, Discovery Days and Montessori Moments, for a zoo animal scavenger hunt.  Froggy Boots' version is a little simpler.  I copied pictures of the animals directly from the zoo's website and pasted them into Word to make an animal scavenger hunt for Froggy Boots.  As we find each animal, she can put a sticker next to it.  I am also planning to take a picture of each animal that we see to make into a book for Froggy Boots.