Friday, November 10, 2017

Building a Family Library

Building a Family Library

Having books and magazines available at home for the family to read is very important to the success of your children as they work toward becoming fluent readers.

The family library does not have to be fancy or expensive to provide rich reading experiences.
Here are some questions you may ask as you plan this meaningful addition to your home.

  • Where should we set up our library?
 The library should be in a room of the house where all of the family gathers.  This might be the living room or the kitchen.  Space for a small bookshelf, comfortable places to sit and good lighting are all that are necessary.
  • How large should our library be? 
It is variety and interest that count, not the number of books.  Think about what interests your children and the adults in the house and add books based on those topics.  Be sure to get the children’s input!   A small collection of books carefully gathered over time is better than many books that go unread.
  • How should we display our books?
Open bookshelves are ideal.  These do not have to be expensive and can even be made from painted concrete blocks and boards.
If you are handy you can build some shelves that allow the books to be displayed face out.  Children’s books need to be on the lower shelves and grouped according to topic (animals, transportation, stories, etc.).  Magazine storage boxes are inexpensive and an attractive way to display periodicals
  • What kinds of reading materials should we include?
Paperback and hardcover books, magazines, a dictionary,
An atlas, song books, newspapers and even catalogues all have a place in the family library.  Make sure there is something for everyone at every reading level.   Children under age six need books about real places, people and animals instead of fantasy.  Children over six can benefit from small amounts of fantasy such as folk tales and some fairy tales.
  • Where can I find these materials?
Of course there are many book stores around the city which offer great variety.  Some more economical sources of good reading materials are garage sales, exchanging o utgrown books with friends, second hand book stores, library book sales, and resale shops.  Consider making it a tradition to give books and magazines for gifts.  Visit the library regularly and display those books along with yours. 

Should I choose my children’s books?
It is best to let them choose, at least part of the time.  You can offer two or three choices when the children are young and gradually allow them more freedom.  For babies and young toddlers choose books that are sturdy such as board books.

Some other thoughts:                  
  • If your family is fortunate enough to speak more than one language, be sure to include books in each language.
  • Show your children the proper care of books:  hold with two hands, turn pages properly, use a bookmark, don’t write in the books.
  • Have a supply of bookmarks in an attractive container easily available and the children will love to pick one out.  Libraries and bookstores often give them out for free.  Also, consider interesting bookmarks as small gifts.  Children love to make their own from beautiful scraps of cardboard, ribbon, dried flowers, stickers, etc.
  • Design and use family bookplates which can be made on the computer.
  • Add dusting the bookshelves to the list of family chores.  A beautiful feather duster makes this a joy for the youngest child.
  • Children may want to make their own books and add those to the family library.
  • A nice addition is a family vacation or holiday book with drawings, photos and journal entries.  Each person is encouraged to add their own thoughts and memories.
  • Any damage such as small tears or marks should be repaired at once.  If a book is badly damaged or worn, remove it from the library.
  • Give your children the message that books are treasures and they will learn to love them.
  • Be sure your children see the adults in the family reading and enjoying books, magazines and newspapers.
  • Set aside some time each day for reading together.  Talk about what you have read.  Use the tools from the page called Reading with Your Child to make the experience more meaningful and enriching.

Most of all have fun!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Books to Encourage Kindness, Understanding and Courage

A beginning book list to encourage cultural understanding.

Some of these books are most appropriate for children over 6.  These are marked with a *

Tight Times    Barbara Shook Hazen  a story about how a family copes with a loss of job and little money.

The Royal Bee  Frances Park and Ginger Park  The story of a young Korean boy who pursues education in spite of poverty.

I Love Saturdays and Domingos   Alma Flor Ada  A child spans two cultures of his parents with joy and understanding.

Fly Away Home   Eve Bunting  A homeless Father and son live in an airport.  He works as a janitor but cannot afford an apartment.  They manage in spite of the challenges.

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun   Maria Dismondy  Having the courage to be who you are.

I Like Being Me:  Poems for Children about feeling special, appreciating others and getting along. 

Cheyenne Again Eve Bunting  *  A Cheyenne boy is sent to a boarding school and struggles to retain his culture.

Be Good to Eddie Lee  Virginia Fleming  Children learn to appreciate a neighborhood boy who has Down syndrome

One Green Apple  Eve Bunting  A young Muslim immigrant discovers her new school and friends.

Ian's Walk   Laurie Lears  A sister goes on a walk with her autistic brother and learns how wonderful he is

The Lotus Seed   Tatsuro Kiuchi *  Sherry Garland  A story about how a family kept the culture of Vietnam alive through political changes, war and immigration to the United States.

Wangari's Trees of Peace Jeanette Winter  A true story of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai who works to preserve trees and reforest Kenya

Jose Born to Dance    Susanna Reich  A true story of Jose Limon,  who was born to dance and went on to become known around the world.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind  William Kamkwamba  The true story of how this fourteen year old boy built windmills from scraps to bring electricity and running water to his village in Malawi.

The Librarian of Basra    Jeanette Winter  A true story of a librarian in Iraq who saved the books from the fires and bombing of war.

The Other Side  Jacqueline Woods  Children on opposite sides of a fence of segregation find friendship and hope.

The Boy on the Porch *   Sharon Creech  A couple takes in an abandoned child and form a family in spite of challenges.

Give your children the gift of real heroes that have contributed to our society with intelligence, courage and dedication:

Keep the Lights Burning Abbie   Peter and Connie Roop  A true story of a courageous girl who keeps the lighthouse working in the face of a terrible storm while her father is away.

Childhood of Famous Americans Series  Dozens of titles about the childhood of scientists, artists writers, presidents and people who changed the world.  A few examples:  Harriet Tubman, Albert Einstein, Dr. Seuss, Helen Keller, John Glenn, Jim Henson.

Rookie Biographies Series  Biographies for young children under 5.  Titles such as Barack Obama, Cesar Chavez, Amelia Earhart, Pocohantas, and many, many more.

These are just a few of the available books.  Also check out the earlier posts on how to build a home library and a book list to begin with.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Why is my child washing tables and cleaning windows at school?

Practical Life: Starting Off Strong

When your child comes home and proudly announces “I washed a table today, or I washed the windows.” naturally we can’t imagine how those activities fit into a school setting.  Montessori is unique in its approach to the social and academic development of the child.

 Practical life is the most important area of the Montessori classroom. Practical life exercises form a basis for all that follows in the classroom and in life.

The exercises are not an end in themselves, that is, their purpose is not “cleaning a table” but are designed as an aide to life and to help the child become an eager and engaged learner.  Practical life leads the child to independence and competence,  both physical and intellectual. It increases concentration, the ability to take a task from start to completion, and reinforces left to right orientation for later academic skills.  Sequencing, concentration and the ability to follow many steps are skills that come from the practical life lessons.   

There are several important points at the base of the practical life work.  Every child has a need to adapt to his culture and environment.  Practical life exercises are everyday activities, which the child may see at home.  Properly prepared and presented they become a bridge between home and school.  The work must be based on reality, for it is only through reality that the child can be secure and become comfortable in his world.  All practical life lessons involve movement as the 3-6 year old needs movement to learn. The four areas of practical life are:  care of the person, care of the environment, grace and courtesy and control of movement.  The child needs opportunities to work in all four segments of practical life.

Another basic need of the child is to develop and coordinate his movements.  In order to reach this goal he must be free to move and to repeat his work.  The child is encouraged to choose work that is interesting.  The teacher observes and presents new lessons to help the students to move forward as they are ready.

The work is in absolute order, color coordinated, without flaws, and perfectly clean at the beginning of each day.  This presentation of beautiful work calls the child to use the materials with care and interest.    Only then can the child benefit from the work.  
Care is taken to use natural materials as much as possible.  Glass, wood, lovely fabrics, pictures and items from nature speak to the soul of the child in a way that artificial materials cannot. We honor the life of the child by bringing beauty into his life.

Every child has an innate need to achieve independence.  This begins at home and continues in the Montessori classroom. Practical life exercise develop a strong independence that the child can care for himself, the classroom and to be socially adept.

Every child has a need for order, especially in the 3-6 age group.  Order in the environment creates order in the mind.  Order is essential for logical thought so all practical life work is based on order with sequence.  Materials are set out in order of use, from left to right.  The work is always in the same place in the environment.

Other basic needs of all children are movement and repetition to achieve perfection.  All practical life exercises allow for activity and repetition.  The child learns that repetition (practice) results in perfecting the activity.  This skill is essential as the student moves into academic work.

There are four types of lessons in the practical life environment:
1.    Preliminary exercises:  this work prepares the child for life in the class by giving the skills to use in the following lessons.
2.    Exercises for control of movement:  This work involves the whole body.  For example, washing a table requires setting out the work, filling, carrying and emptying a pitcher, controlling the soap suds, sponging off the soap and drying the table then cleaning and replacing the activity to the shelf.  Great concentration and control is developed as the child practices this, and all the other practical life work.
3.    Exercises for movement of hands.  This work always progresses from very simple to complex.  For example the dressing frames are presented easiest (large buttons) to most complex (pinning).  These activities create independence, focus and the ability to stay with a difficult task, all skills that will be required as the child begins to read, write and do math. These lessons also prepare the hand for writing.
4.    Exercises for control of movement:  this work is a point of arrival for the child.  Self control is necessary for success in school and life.  These lessons give the child the tools needed for this important growth.

Montessori teachers give lessons in a quiet, consistent manner are always observant of the child and focus on him as a whole being with mind and body growing together.  The teacher’s delight in the practical life area of the Montessori classroom will results in children who are comfortable in the classroom, are growing toward independence, have a strong sense of order and are cooperative members of the school community.  Without this essential base, the work of the child cannot go forward. 

 True self esteem does not come from praise but from meaningful work done with a sense of joy and purpose.   

Our own attitude toward work is important as we model the qualities we hope to see in children.  Now that you understand the importance of washing, folding, cleaning windows, feeding the birds, washing cloths, preparing snack and all the other wonderful practical life lessons you can respond with joy when your child replies:  “Oh, I washed a table today.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Want to Know More About Montessori:? A short book list

As your children begin their Montessori journey at AMCS you may want to know more about this proven and effective way to educate them for a successful life.

Here is a short list of books that you may enjoy.  Most are available on Amazon and some are available at public libraries.  

Child of the World: Montessori, Global Education for Age 3-12+

Susan Mayclin Stephenson 
An easy to read introduction to Montessori, filled with insight and beautiful illustrations

The Joyful Child: Montessori, Global Wisdom for Birth to Three

Susan Mayclin Stephenson
A companion book to Child of the World 

Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work

E.M. Standing
 Part biography and part exposition of her ideas, this engaging book reveals through her letters and personal diaries Maria Montessori's humility and delight in the success of her educational experiments and is an ideal introduction to the principals and practices of the greatest educational pioneer of the 20th century. 

The Discovery of the Child

Maria Montessori 
Montessori developed a new way of knowing and loving a child. In THE DISCOVERY OF THE CHILD, she describes the nature of the child and her method of working more fully with the child's urge to learn. With 16 pages of photographs.

Look for an expanded book list in the weeks to come.  I welcome your comments and questions on your reading or Montessori and parenting.  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Fear...what to do when your child is afraid.

Image result for fear childhood

 Spiders, scary things under the bed, getting lost, getting hurt, the dark, having to eat green vegetables, getting in trouble, clowns, falling, the doctor, the dentist, bad guys, thunderstorms, dogs, snakes, scary movies, nightmares, getting sick, hurricanes, war, fires, falling, failing, being alone.....the list goes on and on.

Children can be afraid of many things and as loving parents we try to reassure them:  "Oh, there's nothing to be afraid of.  It's only your imagination"  "I won't let anything happen to you."  and so on.  Often our reassurances may not work.  So what can we do?
If the child has many fears giving them opportunities to control the fear may be helpful.  For example if your child is afraid of the dark, giving them a small flashlight on their night table allows them to control the situation by turning on the light when they feel afraid.  Afraid of spiders?  Books about spiders may help.  We are generally less fearful of that which we understand and are familiar with.  Let the child choose when to look at the picture.  Gradually we can introduce looking at a real spider in a jar or at the zoo.
Exposure to media can bring violence, war, injustice and hatred into a child's world before he or she is mature enough to understand.  It is important to not allow a young child to be in the room while these topics are discussed, news is on the television or video games are being played that are inappropriate.  As your child matures gradually introducing the news by watching or reading along with them will decrease fear and worry.  Children under 6 or 7 are to young to understand these complex issues.
Giving information about weather (thunder is just a noise) and reading books about weather,  animals, visiting the doctor or dentist, how firefighters keep us safe and many other topics will help your child to understand and feel informed and protected.  Public libraries have many good non-fiction books on these topics.
Around age 4 many children become aware of death.  Perhaps a pet has died or a relative has passed away.  This is a difficult topic for adults as well.  One book I have found very helpful is Lifetimes: The Beautiful way to Explain Death to Children by Boyan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen.  The book explains that every living thing has a beginning, and ending and in between is life.  It is comforting to know that this is the cycle of life.
Another tip is to limit our warnings unless they are essential:  "Be careful.  You might fall."  "Don't ride your bike so fast."  Ask yourself if this warning is really necessary.  Are we overprotecting?  Taking some risks helps children  to learn their own limits, to know when to pull back, and when to challenge themselves.
Fear is a normal human emotion.  It can prevent us from taking dangerous risks but it can also limit our experiences.  Helping children to understand their fears will free them up to explore and get to know the world in a safe way.