Upskilling

Last week an online friend, Jo, posted in her Facebook group that there was going to be an online Montessori Summit with multiple speakers, specifically about homeschooling.   We were very Montessori-inspired when the kids were younger and so her post caught my eye. Her post, and the online course, came at just the right time for me as I was starting to consider what 2017 was going to look like for our home education journey and how I could shake it up and bring some more life to our year. I decided to investigate.

You need to understand that I’m quite wary about signing up for online training.  It really has to hit the spot and appear just when I need it to.  I was very lucky to do Jo’s My Organized Chaos course in it’s first iteration, and now thanks to that connection with Jo, the same can be said of the Trillium Montessori Homeschool Summit.  It looks like it will be hitting the right spot for me as well.

Spending money and being underwhelmed is one of my pet peeves, but I’m one video in to this course and champing at the bit to work my way through all of the others.  There are 14 video presentations across the entire course, most of which are close to an hour long.  I’m very happy that I will be getting great value for my money, even though I won’t necessarily need or implement ideas from all of the presentations.

Joining the summit reminded me that continuous learning and up-skilling is important for my professional development. Professional development — as in a full-time home educating mum, in this case.  I am, by nature, a constant researcher and reader but I tend to squish this in to the small corners of my life or note things to read later.  All of which means they aren’t given a high priority. So today I told my kids that they weren’t to disturb me until I came out of the study because I was doing some learning stuff.   In something of an ironic twist, the first video is all about the preparation of the adult and it reminded me over again that the best way for my kids to learn is to see me modelling learning.  (Amongst all the other things they learn by watching & then copying from us! Oh my!)

You don’t have to do paid courses if your budget can’t stretch to it.  There are plenty of great blogs out there that you can read and use for inspiration.  If you are a Montessorian or are inspired by Montessori practice, then you can always just read the Trillium blog and start from there.  The key is to take time out to focus on what you can improve on.  Your kids aren’t the only ones who should be learning and growing through your home education journey — you should too. It’s good for the mind. It’s good for modelling behaviour. It can re-instill confidence where it may have lapsed. It can give renewed focus to an area that may have fallen by the wayside.  If you’re home educating, the chances are that you understand the importance of continual education in an area that interests you.  And I bet you’re interested in how you can give your kiddos the best education you can.

So, do you regularly take time out to up-skill as a home educating parent?  If so, I’d love to hear what and how you do it.  If you don’t, why don’t you? I’d love to hear from you too.

Thanks for reading!

 

Montessori Inspired Activities for Pre-Schoolers

BookTour
No doubt you will all remember me talking about the great changes we were able to make around our place by doing the My Organised Chaos course with Jo Ebisujima a little over a  year ago.

Well I’m here to tell you about her new book.  It’s a great collection of her, and her darling son’s, Montessori inspired activities.

Jo began blogging about doing Montessori activities with her son over six years ago, and I have been enjoying reading about them for most of that time.  She was always one of my inspirations whenever I ran out of ideas to do with the little Oh Wailys.  And now she has a book full of them.   126 pages of them, to be precise.

We’ve done many of the activities in the past, and reading the book as a whole, I am now inspired to revisit some and try others with both of my little people.

There’s a Practical Life section that will have your pre-schoolers (or even some older kids) gaining skills that encourage independence and a Science section that will enthrall and challenge.  If you want to strengthen your child’s sensory perception, there’s a section of ideas for you to try out too.  Then there’s literacy and numeracy ideas, and finally Jo gives art and craft suggestions as well.

We’ve done a number of similar activities here and they are a hit with the kids. Spooning and pincer activities were regulars, and the kids loved the kitchen science of home-made volcanoes.  We have done a version of Jo’s Fallen Leaves activity, which you can see here.

And since it is currently summer in our part of the world I am planning to do the ice based suggestions to get the Oh Waily’s outdoors enjoying the good weather, and learning into the bargain.

If you are looking for straightforward, simple to organise activities for your toddler and pre-schooler then you will be well served by this book.  And I should know as I have several Montessori activity books and this one stacks up well against them.

You can see and buy the book here, or from my favourite, The Book Depository here.

If you want to see some of the types of activities in action you can always look back through our Earlier Posts to get an idea of the sorts of things that are Montessori Inspired.


Language learning resource

Does your library do this?  Mine does.  They have Mango for libraries.

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Isn’t that fabulous?
If, like me, you live in a monolingual home then having access to an online option is a great bonus.  Did I mention it’s free to library members?  No?  Well it is.
What an excellent way to get a taster of many, many languages.  When you find the one you like you can always find an ‘in real life’ teacher to work with as well as working quietly away in your own home.

Did I mention it is portable?  No? Well it is.  Add the app to your phone and you can be as anti-social as you like in the gym while stretching your language skills.

If you’re a Wellingtonian, just click on the nifty picture and it will take you to the blog post about the new addition to their digital collection.  Enjoy!

If you are not in Wellington, it may be time to investigate your local library’s digital collection.  You may be happy to find it there too.

 

Not So Organised Chaos

My Organized ChaosThat would be a fair description of life in the Oh Waily household on many a day.  So what better than getting some excellent pointers, and reminders, of what family life can look like.

That’s what Jo from A Bit Of This and A Bit Of That is offering to do for you.  You may recognise Jo from the Neighbourhood Walk series.  (Another of her brilliant ideas.)
I’ve been a follower of her blog for a long time now, having come to it through my interest in things Montessori.  So when the opportunity to tap into her vast store of ideas came along, I took it with both hands.

She has created an online e-course to help you sort your kids, and your home, out.  I’ve been doing it now for a few weeks, and it has been great.  I needed the prod and the guidance to actively put into practice concepts and ideas that I know will enhance our family life.  I’m loving the community support and help with generating ideas that will work in our home.  Best of all, everyone is a normal person so any before and after shots of changes are realistic, not a Better Homes and Garden feature that you know you’ll never maintain.

If you think you could do with some help getting things sorted, I’d highly recommend clicking across and taking a look at what Jo can offer you.  I’m sure you will get as much out of it as I have and I haven’t even finished up everything yet.

I will be putting together a short series of posts on some of the changes we’ve made around our home as a result of doing My Organized Chaos.  It won’t be everything we’ve done, naturally.  Can’t give away all of Jo’s secrets, after all.  But it may help you decide if you want to join a course.  I hope you do.


Just a note, I’ve chosen to join Jo’s affiliate scheme.  If you click through on the links in this post, or my sidebar, and sign up for a course I will earn a fee.  However, I’d like to be clear that I wouldn’t be recommending it if I didn’t think it was good value.  After all, I wouldn’t want you to be mad with me for getting you to spend your money needlessly.  🙂

Detours and Rerouting

The stay at home section of the Oh Waily family have fallen into some rather undesirable habits of late.  The dreaded television has become rather more than an occasional treat and enjoyment, to the detriment of concentration and the ability to self-entertain.  Worse still, the very excellent habit we had of reading LOTS of books had shrunk to Lilliputian proportions.

I won’t regale you with the hows and whys of us arriving at this situation.  They are mostly mundane and directly related to extra-family stresses.  What they did do, however, was start a slippery slope of auto-pilot parenting.
Find the simplest solution in order to accomplish non-kiddie related tasks?
What better than the television as babysitter?
Tired at the end of a stress-filled day? How quickly can we get to stress-relieving hobbies and habits?
Read less bedtime stories.

Seriously.  What a numpty.  Two of the biggest promises I made to myself when I became a Mum were – no babysitting by television and instill a love of reading.

So the auto-pilot changes have been recognised for what they are and what they have been doing.  No more.  Television has been relegated to the short time between waking and breakfast, plus the afternoon addition of Art Attack. Any time in between is for play, reading (oh yes, it is back), arts & crafts, field trips or other regular events – like our Tuesday afternoon swimming lessons.  And the assumption* that the couple of hours of daycare made up for any stupid amounts of television in the afternoon has been kicked to the kerb, permanently.  Now we have lots of imaginative play, and I mean LOTS.

I am also trying to introduce a regular, once a day, Reading Hour – separate from the bedtime stories.  I have been finding this one a little harder to implement.  Tearing them away from their games, having to run family or work errands, and generally having to squeeze it around the existing activities has proved a little less simple than I first thought.  But I am determined to have it become a permanent fixture in our daily rhythm.  I just need to work out when is best, and where it works best in any given day.

I feel slightly embarrassed to have fallen into such a simple trap.  Auto-pilot, thoughtless, parenting.  Not the way forward when you are planning to home educate your little people.  Then again, I’m not superhuman.  It’s time to face that fact, and realise that to keep on track means to take care of myself, make choices that help reduce external stresses and take a regular look at what we are doing around the Oh Waily household.  We do much that is good, but that doesn’t mean we don’t also have areas that could do with changing.

How about you?  Do you have any areas of auto-pilot parenting that you want to challenge and conquer?


* like I didn’t know that it was a load of the proverbial !

Poetry

Do you read your children poetry?

I remember being very ambivalent about poetry at school.  I don’t ever really recall understanding meter and how to structure a poem.  I could probably barely tell you the difference between a haiku and an epigram.

I finally enjoyed reading poetry when we studied the War Poets, and Wilfred Owen in particular.  I’m still shaky on the technical aspects, but I am now willing to learn.  My little people are clearly not of an age where understanding the differences between poetic styles and the technical aspects of poetry construction are necessary.  However, I am keen for them to learn rhythm and word play through poetry.  So I have been trying to make sure we always have at least one book of poems for reading when we bring a bag of books back from the library.

The latest book is from the “I Can Read!” series and it is called Dizzy Dinosaurs: Silly Dino Poems.
So far we have a couple of hits from this volume.  Admittedly, the cute dinosaur cartoons are helping my cause.  Here is the current favourite:

School Rules
by Sarah Hansen

No chomping
No romping
No treading on tails
No clawing
No climbing
No gnawing your nails
No roaring
No soaring
No sharpening teeth
No stamping
No stalking
Small friends to eat

These are rules
All dinos must follow
They keep school safe –
So no one gets swallowed!

I am convinced that this is a great favourite, not only because of the rhyming and rhythm, but because it is accompanied by a picture of a small, very toothy dinosaur about to bite the tail of a larger, clearly the teacher, dinosaur.

So, what are your children’s favourite poems?

Walking the Line

No, I am not referring to Johnny Cash.
I am talking about a nice Montessori activity that comes under the Practical Life section Control of Movement.  To read about the different, traditional ways of introducing this and extending it, visit the AMI website’s description here.

The basics involve the child learning to control their body as they follow a line on the ground.  It helps improve balance and control.  Generally it is an ellipse, but as I was doing this at home I did the best with what I have on hand.
In this house we have a pale carpet which goes through the living areas.  We have a door from the living room into the central entry hall, which also has a door into the dining room.  The dining room then joins the living room through double glass sliding doors.  What this means is – I could construct a long, slightly ellipse-like walk the line circuit.

So, here is a view of my home made “line”.
The Line
This is the line coming from the hallway into the dining room.  It continues to the right at both ends and enters the living room from both sets of doors.
The line is simply black electrical tape so it is easily removed and should leave no residue when done with.  It flexes reasonably well I’ve found, so can make slightly wonky but curved lines.

And here is Miss Oh Waily taking her first walk around on it.
Walking the Line
We haven’t yet introduced it formally, with music and equidistant walking.  I am not completely sure if Master Oh Waily could manage it and that has made me a bit tentative about doing it with the two of them together.
Still, if he doesn’t get the opportunity he won’t ever manage.

Miss Oh can happily walk the line, and is probably almost competent at the second step – heel to toe walking.  The third step may be a bit hit and miss.  I’m not sure if I’m ready to clean up the water spills, but I’m sure she will be able to walk with an object, or even two, in her hands.  I can’t wait until we get to balancing items on her head.  I must look to buy a small bean bag or two for the purpose.
Naturally you are not restricted to the extension exercises mentioned at the AMI page.  Extensions to consider are altering tempo, adding turning, obstacles, taking verbal commands, “creative” walking (like an elephant, a mouse, etc), catching & throwing.  If you can imagine it and it requires physical control, then it can be added in to your child’s repertoire.

So no more wimping out here.  Next time we do the formal version I will write an update to let you know how we all get on.

What do you do with your children to encourage their co-ordination and control of movement?

Puzzles, cylinders and scissors

Master Oh Waily has been busy over the past few weeks.  He has shown some skill gains in several areas.
His current go-to activity is jigsaw puzzles. We have a variety of puzzles in the Oh Waily household, small six and eight piece wooden puzzles with bright, cheery pictures; a cardboard Thomas the Tank Engine puzzle picked up for $6 at the supermarket one day is a big favourite as is his 30 piece, double sided giant pirate puzzle.  Here he is concentrating on the small wooden puzzles.

Puzzles 1

Our set of beautiful Educo wooden puzzles.

I have also introduced Master Oh to the cylinder blocks. After initially being a little unsure, he took to the task and has mastered both of the blocks we have.  His interest has made me even consider trying to get the other two in order to make up the set, just to see how he would get on.
So here he is working his way through the two blocks.  As you can see, he still does not put all of the cylinders into the correct holes straight away but he does get there in the end.  The beauty of self-correcting materials.

Starting out

Starting out

Here we are, almost getting it, but showing some out of place cylinders.

Nearly done

Working through it.

And here he is with the final result.  All wobbly cylinders fixed up.

All done

All done.

As well as learning about size and dimensions, the cylinders also teach some pre-writing and pre-mathematics skills.  If you are interested in learning about the cylinder blocks, you can read more about them here.

And the final skill that is coming along nicely is his scissor control.  I made some strips for cutting practice using leftover stickers from Christmas and some lightweight card.  The aim was for him to cut between the stickers and then place the cut piece into his bowl for use in future art and crafting.   And here we see him in action.

Concentration

Concentration

Yes, some days we do have our pyjamas on long after we get up and about.

And that is how Master Oh Waily’s skills are coming along.
What are your kids mastering right now?

Moveable Alphabet

Miss Oh Waily has always been in love with numbers, with the odd little bit of interest in letters thrown in just for variation.  I have been waiting patiently for her to show her sensitive period for reading and interest in all things writing.  Would she oblige me? No, not really.

So, in true lack of patience style, I have begun to work up more opportunities to stimulate her interest in letters.  We have had the sandpaper letters for some time now, and have had a variety of applications for the iPad for about the same amount of time. These have been used quite happily.  We have a moveable alphabet app for the iPad, but I wanted something tactile too.  However, I didn’t want to pay over NZ$ 100 for a nice wooden set of type just on the off chance that it wouldn’t be used at all.  Instead I chose to visit Montessori Print Shop and pay for a downloadable version that included lesson instructions.

I know I could have created a simple set for myself, or used a free one from the internet, but seriously at the price charged by MPS it would have taken me more time and effort than this modest outlay to gain a variety of alphabet colour options and find, then format, all of the picture images included.

The hardest part of putting all of this together was finding a box for storage.  In the end I had to go with a box in which the letters sit at a slant rather than lie down in.  Other than that one hitch, the semi-homemade moveable type is now available for use.  Here is what it looks like:

Moveable Alphabet

And here are some of Miss Oh’s efforts with the pictures and alphabet.  Can you tell that she likes the capital letters?

Letters 1

And what would our photographs be like if some of the soft animals didn’t get in on the act?
The "at" words

We started with the “c m a t” combinations and extended it to include all of the simple three letter “at” words.  Miss Oh seemed happy to do this, but I think is still reserved about her letters enough that it will be done with my encouragement and participation for a little while longer.

So long as it is fun and not a chore for her then we will keep it up.