Greetings Fox Tail families,
My goodness, have we been busy in Fox Tail Cottage this spring!
We said good-bye to Toni and wish her all the best. The children had a chance to personally wish her well and let her know how much they appreciate her, as they presented her with a care package to utilize while she’s busy finishing school and adjusting to her new career as a veterinary technician. Gitana also brought all of the 3rd-years out to collect flowers from our gardens to make a gorgeous bouquet for her! Toni was very touched and let the children know how much she loves them and will miss them.
We are so excited to have Helen here with us! She adores children and nature, so it has been an immediate and natural fit for her in Fox Tail Cottage! Helen begins her Montessori training this summer, and we’ll be here to support her along the way, as well as benefit from the fresh and lively Montessori enthusiasm she’ll bring as she learns the magic of this wonderful method and philosophy.
In observance of Earth Day this year, as a class we’ve been reading books about the sun, the moon, and the planets, with a focus on Earth. Several children have been learning about our solar system, spreading out a matching work in order from the sun to pluto, then ‘pasting’ images of the sun and the planets in order up on our giant chalkboard outside. We had a conversation about Pluto and how it was once considered a planet, then lost that designation. We’ve settled on the information that Pluto is a dwarf planet, and agreed it should continue to be included in our solar system, along with the planets and the asteroid belt! We’ve also been discussing the importance of decomposers and pollinators, and how they are vital to the earth and to our survival. Decomposers create rich soil for plants to grow and thrive, and pollinators make it possible for plants to procreate. We need these cherished creatures to make it possible for humans and all other animals to have food!
In honor of decomposers, we read the book Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin. Now everyone wants to be careful of worms when we see them in puddles after a good rain. :) To celebrate pollinators, we received some painted lady butterfly caterpillars which have now entered their pupa stage. We’re observing them daily to watch their changes. One thing we observed is that the caterpillars would be bigger at the end of each school day than they were when we’d arrive in the morning! Can you imagine what it would feel like to go through such rapid physical and developmental changes or to grow that much in one day?!
Congratulations to the Yioutis family for winning our art auction item at the spring festival! The children just love making those gorgeous art projects, especially for a good cause to support their school. :) Congrats also to Emma and Lillian, whose families won the teacher time auction item; I’m looking forward to our splash pad playdate in June! Yay! Thank you to all who bid and to all who donated, in any facet, in support of Cedars and Fox Tail Cottage!
Some Grace & Courtesy concepts we’ve been focusing on and practicing are:
- Having dignity and determination, which involves feeling good about the choices we make and following through with them.
- Being thoughtful in our actions, as opposed to careless, then knowing how and when to make amends if necessary.
A great book we read about this very topic is The Busy Beaver by Nicholas Oldland. This story of a careless beaver who learns how to be thoughtful really got us thinking! The children noticed that being careless can be considered akin to being “not very nice” and can cause us to find ourselves hurting friends or their work. Everyone agreed that we want to be nice, and that in Fox Tail we take care of each other! We always have a chance to make amends, so we’ve been practicing doing so by using thoughtful language, voicing our needs respectfully, and listening to others when they speak to us. Our Peace Area is a perfect place to have these important conversations. We practice being thoughtful by using slow and careful bodies in the classroom, paying attention to our work, and making sure things are neat and tidy, ready for the next person. Fox Tail friends are all so wonderful to each other when it comes to helping a friend who needs it. We share multiple hugs throughout our week, as well as lots of helpful information and helping hands, and the occasional ice pack! ;)
Thank you for reading…
Hi Fox Tail families!
So much to tell! I hope all of you have been managing to stay well with all the temperature fluctuations we've been having. The children all finally seem in mostly good, healthy form after our rounds of late winter illnesses, and everyone is happy to be working outside again since allergy season is subsiding. We have a new work bench on the back porch that the children have taken to without skipping a beat. We are very grateful to Bill, Alex and Kurt for making it for us. It includes a hammer, a drill, a screwdriver, and of course some safety googles, with several pieces of wood that the children can construct as they practice and hone their handy skills. Needles to say, they LOVE it!!
We're happy to have Miss Toni back in class! The children all missed her! They drew her pictures and wrote her notes to wish her well as she recovered from knee surgery. Monica, Izzy's mom, was our main substitute, and we are very thankful to her for being there with us, to fill in and help us with our work! Thanks also to Kayla, Gitana and Jean for being there for us!
We had a great time during our Chinese Lunar New Year celebration! We made lanterns and carried them in a parade while we made lots of noise and shouted out, "Kung hei fat choi!" to wish everyone luck and prosperity in the new year. As part of the celebration, we read a couple of books, one beautiful book about Chinese New Year which Hayden brought in to share, and another called, Crouching Tiger, by author Yin Chang Compestine and illustrator Yan Nascimbene. It's about a boy who learns tai chi from his grandfather in preparation for the New Year festivities. Our Fox Tail friend, Matthew, had visited Russia with his family over winter break and brought back some chocolates in beautiful wrappers. We were saving them for just the right special occasion and this was it! Everyone had a piece while I showed the children with our geography materials how Russia and China share a border, and that they are both located on the continent of Asia. We are so fortunate to have a multicultural group in Fox Tail Cottage, who enrich our experience by sharing bits of their heritage with us all!
Our friendship celebration was as sweet and charming as you can imagine! The children did a candle walk in which they shared a friendship bracelet and a hug with a friend. Thank you so very much for helping them to create their beautiful valentines at home! They thoroughly enjoyed giving and receiving them with their classmates. It's such a precious time of appreciation for the children, and a beautiful event for Toni and me to get to be a part of with them. <3
We've had a couple of really nice nature walks lately, where the children focus their powers of observation to take in the sensory experiences that our beautiful, natural Cedars environment offers, then have some free time to explore and play in the woods. I'm attaching an article here, which Sarah shared with us, that highlights how crucial it is for children in early childhood to get outdoors, play freely and interact with the natural world. Please read, enjoy, and be moved to get your kids outside as much as possible!
We plan to have a class performance the last week of March! I haven't pinned down the exact date and time just yet, but will do so very soon. It will definitely take place in the morning. I'll send out an official announcement via email with the details, and just wanted to give you all a heads up with the general date/time for now. We're already working on our songs and poems, and we're excited to put on a great show for you!
Dear Fox Tail families,
The children of Fox Tail Cottage have been enjoying getting outside to work a bit more now that the weather is becoming more temperate! Some of the Practical Life activities they’ve been doing include sweeping the porches, chair scrubbing, beating rugs, and gardening with Gitana. A few friends cut some of the lovely flowers from the Cedars gardens with her, to bring into the classroom. They made gorgeous arrangements full of varying colors and textures! All of these activities beatify our surroundings and offer the children the satisfaction of caring for their environment and taking ownership of keeping their home-away-from-home beautiful!
Toni has begun working with the children to create our art project which will be up for auction at the Fall Fandango! I’ll keep the details a surprise, but I will reveal that it’s already coming together fabulously! It’s a multi-step, collaborative project which involves observation, conversation, fine motor work with cutting, arranging and pasting, as well as organization for sorting out all the tiny, delicate pieces. It's looking so good! It’s also been fun for Toni and me to hear the inspired conversations the children have as three of them they sit together at a time to work on it… We’re excited to present it at the Fandango on November 10!
In honor of the season, we’ve introduced a few new works into the classroom, including leaf rubbing, pumpkin washing, and the parts of the skeleton. It’s such joy to witness the children’s Sense of Wonder as they reveal the form of a leaf while rubbing the crayon across the paper. This is a fantastic way for them to learn about the veins and stem of the leaf, as well as feeling for the “bumpy side” to learn that this is the “underside” of the leaf. They’re also amazed at how a dirty, grimy pumpkin can become so sparkling clean and shiny with their care. It evokes questions like “Why does it have dirt on it?” and “Why is one side flat?” These questions spark conversation about where the pumpkin comes from, how it grows and how it got to our classroom - a wonderful chance to begin to instill the concept that all things have an origin and there’s a process to everything! Ah, the Sense of Wonder and how it inspires joy in learning!!
We’ve begun our study of foods native to the Americas in conjunction with planning the menu for our harvest celebration, which the children will put on for each other here in the classroom in November. I’ll fill you in on more details about that next month, and promise to send lots of photos so you can see all the work they do to prepare and set up, then how much fun they have together during the celebration!
One more thing! We’re also beginning our letter sound of the week. Each week we’ll send a Sandpaper Letter home in the “mystery bag” with a different child. The idea is for whoever has the mystery bag to find two objects which begin with that letter sound and bring them back to school in the bag on Monday. She or he will get to reveal their items at circle to the rest of the class. It’s super fun and a great way for the children to become familiarized with the letter sounds! If it comes home with your child, we’ll either tell you at the drive or send you an email to let you know…
Thanks for reading. We can’t wait to celebrate fall and being a part of the Cedars community with you at the Fandango!
In these photos, look for the movement the child is using. There's a pincer grip theme here. Also, notice the eyes carefully watching the hand at work; the brain and the hand are working in harmony. The children enter into a flow when they're concentrating this way. It's a meditative state when the brain relaxes and synapses fire, sparking increases in brain development, understanding, and intelligence! Mouse over the photos for captions.
Dear Fox Tail families,
It's fall! In Fox Tail Cottage, we are acknowledging the change of seasons by introducing the calendar to our daily circle, and beginning talks and lessons about the lifecycle of plants, trees, and butterflies. Several children noticed that our fig tree has lost most of its leaves. Some were concerned that it might be dying, but Hayden reassured us all, "That's its lifecycle." We talked about how trees and plants have a dormant time to restore their energy for beginning to produce leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds in another season. Gianna told us that's spring!We thought of ourselves in this same way, and observed that we sleep at night so we can be "productive" during the day. We've been observing all the beautiful butterflies about campus, and discussing their migration. We're doing an art project which lets the children see, hands on, how they actually have 2 sets of 2 wings! How many wings do butterflies have? 2 + 2 = 4 wings!
We also explored the concept of an equinox through a demonstration with the scale. We used yellow beads to represent day and black beads to represent night. In the summer, there are more yellow beads (day time) so the scale would be heavier on the 'day side' of the scale. As we added more black beads (more night time) and took out some yellow beads, day and night became closer and closer to equal until they were perfectly balanced. That's when the equinox occurs and summer shifts to fall! Wow!! We'll do this experiment again to see what happens at the winter solstice...
“These words reveal the child’s inner needs; ‘Help me to do it alone’.” -Maria Montessori
As the days creep toward cooler months, and with jacket weather on its way, a new opportunity for independence presents itself! Here's a link to a video that demonstrates the "coat flip." With some help in learning how to be sure sleeves are out-side-out, and using this method, the children can effectively get themselves ready to leave the house or classroom in chilly weather. Excellent!
Here, too, is a link to an informative article which discusses the progression of independence as children grow and develop. It highlights some of the factors present in the Montessori classroom, which are vital in guiding children to become genuinely independent. These include order, the structured environment, language, and the importance of restraint and observation on the part of adults. Fostering autonomy is one of the most fundamental goals of Montessori education. This article does a good job of describing how the foundation for it is laid during the child's earliest years in Montessori.
Silent Journey is coming up next week. Silent Journey is a beautiful evening which gives parents, and even grandparents, a great opportunity to get inside the child's day, and experience what they experience in their Montessori environment. You'll also be able to visit elementary classrooms and spend time interacting with work across the levels. It's a lovely time - a truly informative, inspiring experience - and I highly recommend that you come!
The children so enjoyed playing in the rain! Thank you for sending in rain jackets and boots. Keeping them at school ensures that everyone is prepared, even if the weather shifts unexpectedly on days when those articles weren't worn to school in the morning. Totally worth it!!
Thank you so much, also, for all the snacks you've provided and the laundry you've done. The children love to share and contribute. Having the opportunity to bring in some snacks they've helped to choose, and being in charge of the laundry for the whole class, makes them feel important and valued. Thank you, too, because it helps us all out so much!
In these photos, please look for the child's hand-eye coordination, focus and concentration, and apparent sense of purpose!
Click on a picture for captions, also, caption will display when mouse hovers over image.
Hello Fox Tail families!!
Welcome to the first installment of the Fox Tail Cottage newsletter for the 2016/2017 school year! We are already off to an active, productive and fun start to our exciting journey! The returning children are settling into their known routines, ready and willing to take on new challenges and share their skills, knowledge, and loving care with their younger peers. They are so happy to see their old friends and to meet new ones! The newest members of our Fox Tail Community are swiftly learning the processes and procedures that make our day run smoothly, while they make friends and connect with their new environment. Everyone is thrilled to be here - including Miss Toni and me! :D
Some things the children have been practicing include these lessons in Grace and Courtesy:
- remembering to wash hands before eating and after using the bathroom
- how to sit attentively at circle so that everyone can listen and focus without distraction
- letting another finish a thought, and waiting our turn to speak
- using words to express our thoughts and feelings
- pushing in chairs
- making work ready for the next person, then putting it back in its place on the shelf
- using the help chair to talk with a teacher, so as not to interrupt someone's lesson, as well as to have her full attention (face-to-face conversations are key to clear and respectful communication!)
Wow! That's already a lot - and there's so much more!
"The little child’s need for order is one of the most powerful incentives to dominate his early life." - Maria Montessori
Some of these things may sound pretty mundane to us grown folk, but they are vital to keeping a neat and tidy environment so everyone can work, function and focus effectively. Furthermore, children of this age group are in their Sensitive Period for Order. Their brains are at a stage of development when they're keen to categorization and identifying things "in their places." This is based in what Maria Montessori deemed the Mathematical Mind of the human being. This particular Sensitive Period is the stage when the human mind is seeking ways to feed its innate need for order, symmetry and beauty. Meeting the Sensitive Period for Order at this time of the children's life, through activities such as sorting, cleaning, and practicing systems through routine and consistency, supports their ability to make sense of the world around them. When their Sensitive Period for Order is met through the work they do in the Montessori classroom, their brains become well-developed for the more abstract information they'll be processing as they grow into their future stages of development. Cool, right?!
Parents will often tell me that they just can't get any information out of their child as to how his or her day at school went. Here's a link to a cute article that can help with that. Some of the suggestions may be more for slightly older children, but they can inspire you to come up with some amusing and insightful questions of your own, which may help to get your children talking about their school-day experiences. Remember, Social & Emotional development is a fundamental part of our early childhood Montessori curriculum, so conversations about their social interactions and observations can reveal some deep and profound learning that they are doing...
Thanks for reading! Check back for some photos next week!
April was a super fun- and learning-packed month! Lately the children have been choosing their roles for our class play. They've also been deciding how they will decorate their masks and thinking about what they will wear on stage. All the Fox Tail friends have been very enthusiastic and flexible in working together as a whole class to practice, rehearse and prepare to entertain you - their families! We can't wait!!
Our third-years are beginning to gear up for graduation, with great anticipation, and some apprehension, about moving on from this home-away-from-home they've had for the past 3 years. It's bittersweet, but we are all so happy for them and all the things they've accomplished, and will continue to achieve after they leave Fox tail Cottage. Our graduates-to-be may be leaving our class in presence, but they will remain here, always, in spirit!
Painting pots and repotting plants with Pat, Jean, and the help of some generous parents from various classrooms from Cedars Primary, has been a great deal of fun for the children! The flowers in their colorful pots all look so beautiful along the walkways leading to the classrooms! We've had plenty of rain to nourish them, and the children will continue to water and care for their individual plants as needed.
Some Grace and Courtesy lessons we've done are:
protecting our work
making a respectful request, and honoring a request
food preparation and sharing by passing it around to classmates
caring for nature by resisting the temptation to touch (specifically snails), observing with our eyes
responding when someone speaks to us
We've also practiced making statements and asking questions. A statement is when we want to share information - telling something that we already know; and a question is when we are seeking information - asking about something we want to know.
Walking the line is a current popular work in Fox Tail Cottage. The children have been doing so both indoors and out. We've been learning how to take focused, graceful and purposeful steps while carrying a precious object or a musical triangle to gently strike between steps. It's meditative... and grounding - wonderful for preparing oneself for deep learning and concentration - as well as a practice in concentration in and of itself. :)
A few books we've recently read are:
What Will Hatch, by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Gharemani - This book was a gift from the Pac Family for Georgia's birthday. Thank you, Georgia!!
Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet. This book was a gift from the Yioutis family for Kate's birthday. Thank you, Kate!!
Fancy Nancy, Fanciest Doll in the Universe, by Jane O'Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser
Blueberries for Sal, by Robert MCCloskey (a personal favorite of mine! :D)
The Gold Coin, by Alma Flor Alda, illustrated by Neil Waldman
You may have heard about our addition of a picnic blanket for lunchtime. It's working out splendidly for the children to rotate turns sitting on the picnic blanket together with about 5 friends. We're now doing the same at the picnic table on our back porch. Miss Toni had this great idea and it's great fun for all of the Fox Tail friends to enjoy the outdoors while chatting with friends during lunchtime!
A few of our letter-sounds-of the week have been:
t, r, and h.
Look for some beautiful photos of your diligent and happy children to come very soon!