What a start!
We opened the year with something brand new, a tradition that Cedars hopes to continue: all three elementary classes gathered to celebrate our larger community on Dr. Montessori’s birthday, August 31. Each elementary community contributed something to the celebration, including songs, a guided meditation, a review of her life story, and a (huge!) closing circle. We finished by singing “Happy Birthday” to her--in Italian!
The First Great Story was told very early in the year to all students who are new to Fig Tree, which integrates them into our community and helps them to realize just how different elementary is from Primary. The tale is the first stone laid on the path of Cosmic Education (which we’ll explore more in an upcoming Parent Night). This story is one version of the formation of the Universe and of Earth, and students were excited to comprehend the vast coldness of space and the speed of light, to hear about the properties and behavior of different states of matter, and to see how the earth’s layers settled according to weight. It is one of my favorite moments in teaching, seeing their big eyes and open mouths during the Great Stories.
A couple of weeks later, we shared the Second Great Story. This special lesson describes the coming of Life after eons of the earth’s preparation. The students were full of excitement, even gasps! Their enthusiasm translated into jostling about in order to see the Timeline of Life, with many Mid- and Full-Cycle students joining in to see this special material again. They love hearing about cephalopods (they had feet on their heads!) and learning who had the first voice on earth (can you guess?!). Afterward, students examined and discussed many different forms of life in earth’s history, and several immediately began work that extended this lesson by drawing and labeling various creatures, or working to recreate the Timeline of Life from a blank slate.
Weaving, knitting, and crochet really took off this year! Hooray! I introduced a new way to weave--without a loom! Can you imagine??--and Ms. Pat comes by weekly to offer support with these projects, as well as embroidery and sewing. The handwork has been so productive and prolific this year. It’s beautiful to watch children building their concentration with something that also regulates emotions, helps with right-left brain integration, and develops fine motor skills that directly translate to writing and reading improvement. All with the benefit of beautiful art at the end!
Wilderness Adventure class is underway too, and the kids love it. Mr. Braden said that this class is “all about three things: having fun, getting connected to the outdoors, and challenging ourselves.” He describes it this way: “This year Fig Tree will spend time outside to feel safe and comfortable anytime we're in nature (even outside of school), and having lots of fun doing it. Time will be taken to find, track, and sign to learn about the animals that live in the clearing when we are not present, and the edible and medicinal plants that share the campus with us will be explored. We will continue to work to develop competency and safe practices with fire, knots, and shelter building concepts. As the year progresses and winter ends we will begin to include the ropes course as part of our journey as well. Our work there is to learn to reach one step (or more) beyond our comfort zone, and how to encourage others who are going through that process. All in all, we have a really great year coming up, and I'm excited about it. I think the kids are too!” We’re so grateful for Mr. Braden!
We’ve really been enjoying nature this month. Such a lovely amount of rain!! We are looking forward to the days--which don’t seem too far off now--when we can open the windows and doors during the school day. Our classroom is at its finest in those mild months when we can open up the old windows and hear and feel nature as we work. In the meantime, children have been discovering some neighbors! Just this month (!) the students have enjoyed befriending, observing, and/or releasing a frog, a few geckos, a banana spider in her huge web, and a couple of praying mantises. We also watched a checkered garter snake cruise by the porch, which was exciting!
You are in for a truly memorable evening.....Silent Journey!! October 4th!!
Silent Journey is a powerful event for many parents. Since many parents did not attend a Montessori school as a child, they seek to learn about it by reading about Montessori philosophy, attending Parent Nights, and observing the classroom. Even with these investments, it can be difficult at times to deeply understand the experience that their child has every day at school. Silent Journey provides an opportunity for parents to explore the entire continuum of the school and to experience firsthand, just like their children, the amazing things that an authentic Montessori program has to offer.
You will want to experience this.... Even if you have attended one before, there are always new insights--with more materials to explore, new discussions with fellow parents, and a truly special night to deepen your understanding of Montessori by *experiencing* it as your child does...there is nothing else quite like it.
We hope that you can attend. You won’t regret it.
Another big event coming on October 18th--our Full-Cylces’ first Camping trip!
In Early Elementary, we have two single-night camping trips for the Full-Cycle students of both Fig Tree and Mountain Laurel. The first trip is on Thursday, October 18th! If your child is in their third year of elementary, please attend the Parents’ Q&A on October 2nd at 3:30. Mark your calendars (for your date night!).
Please make sure that your child can tie shoes. This is a work that is standard in all Primary classrooms, but some students could still use some practice. Now’s the time! Support them with opportunities--and time--to practice at home.
Interested in taking something off your “to do” list? Permanently?? By early elementary, students are able to pack their own lunch. I promise!! If you haven’t enjoyed this liberation yet because you feel your child will take too long to pack it, consider it an investment--for you and your child. Once the process is established, you enjoy one less responsibility, while your child benefits from a significant boost in self-esteem, not to mention a lunch s/he is more likely to eat.
To accomplish this, Dr. Montessori emphasized “taking the time to train,” so don’t choose a harried moment. Many families find success by packing lunches at night, instead of adding it to an already busy morning. Two kids, so that’s too much?...One could bathe while one packs lunch, then switch. You can begin by teaching your child about the four basic food groups and that a lunch should have at least one healthy item from each. Another method is to slowly remove yourself from the process: first, your child watches as you model each step clearly; second, you stand with your child as S/HE prepares the lunch; third, you are in the room as the child prepares it; last, the arrival point--a packed lunch while you are tending to something else, anywhere in the house!
To support your child in this task, have your child’s lunch containers within their reach, as well as lunch foods and snacks handy and visible in the pantry and fridge. Each day after school s/he can load their dirty containers into the dishwasher and pack lunch for the next day.
Getting there is a process, but it is SO worth it.
Thank you for the start of another great year together!
Fig Tree Cottage