Spring has been incredibly kind to us in Dubbo this year. It has been luxuriously long with abundant rain and warm days. I have learned to dread the sudden transition from winter to summer. The last few years frosts have suddenly been replaced by scorching drought. This gentle weather is a welcome anomaly. The garden is thriving and it is lovely to be outside all the time.
I planted this mulberry tree about 18 months ago. I chose it in the hope that one day it will be a large, hardy shade tree. I'd love the boys to be able to climb it. I look forward to raising silk worms on its leaves. I am especially looking forward to enormous harvests of berries!
Much to our excitement our little mulberry tree is producing it's first crop of berries. Not only berries but the joy of picking them! Since showing Bear and Fox that the berries are edible it is vanishingly rare to see a plump black mulberry - they are plucked and gobbled up in the blink of an eye. Even the little pink ones have been disappearing. They are very sour but apparently they are still delicious.
The boys can't wait to get out there every morning to search among the leaves. There's nothing so fulfilling than finding your own morning tea and helping yourself to it. Fox calls them "Happies"!
I have really struggled to enjoy art with Bear and Fox. It is something I like the idea of but haven't worked out how to do. There are so many ideas that I've seen and would love to try but haven't got around to. I have collected a lot of materials that we could use but haven't.
There are lots of things that keep holding me back. I'm intimidated by the potential for mess. I haven't set aside a designated art space. I don't have much experience doing art activities with children. I choose to fill our time with activities.
Maybe I'm just not an art person. Maybe we're just not an art family.
I think that it is good to CREATE. Creating is purposeful and meaningful. It is productive. It can be generous. Creating is a much more powerful experience than CONSUMING.
On the one hand I am content with the identity of "not an art person" because there are infinite ways that a person can create apart from "art". We can draw, sew, write, build, design, engineer, garden, blog, photograph, bake... I think individually we will each have creative outlets that are comfortable, enjoyable, therapeutic and enriching.
On the other hand I would like to persevere with art (here I am thinking the paper, paints, pencils etc kind of art). Art can be a way to experiment and explore. A time to appreciate what is beautiful and pleasing (and perhaps notice what isn't so beautiful). It is a chance to interact with new equipment. To use tools, hands, fingers in different ways. To become confident and skilful.
I've made another attempt to enjoy art at our home. I have found an easel outside where mess is welcome. I've organised our art supplies in a way that is easy to get out and pack away and I've set aside a time once a fortnight to try out new art ideas.
Maybe with some practice we might become art people....
It's not sickness keeping us at home this time but floods. Rain, rain and more rain. To avoid insanity we are still trying to stay outside as much as possible and enjoy our yard in different ways... Wet ways!!
and creamy, sweet and warming ways.
More time at home = more time for adventures
We recruited a handful of Damara sheep to help reduce the fuel for bushfires on our block. They have plenty to eat at the moment after so much rain but they are very greedy and are always looking out for a bit of a treat. The boys are always keen to give them a bit of a treat.
First we need a bucket of pellets...
Then follow the sheep trail across the paddock...
... through the trees...
... along the fence...
... find the dish and fill it up.
Then sneak away to let them enjoy their snack in peace.
We find ourselves stuck at home again with another minor contagious illness. I feel so worn down by being confined within these same walls. Tidying up the same few rooms after my little whirlwinds is particularly demoralising. So we decided to plant some tomatoes...
As soon as the children had been wrestled out of their pyjamas we headed out to buy some supplies.... and visit the pet shop... (just for fun)
Then we're ready to work when we get home. Fox knows exactly what to do with a big bag of rocks and an empty pot. At 17 months he is very interested in putting things where they are supposed to go, at transferring little objects and in repeating the same thing over and over again. He was very happy with this work while Bear and I moved on with the next steps in a second pot.
At 3 Bear can follow instructions and he can follow a sequence of steps. He helped me add the layer of scoria, then cut and lay the fabric then add the potting mix.
He still enjoys doing things over and over again. So they happily worked together most of the morning while I was able to hang out the washing and do some weeding.
Finally time to plant and water...
... and wait for some delicious tomatoes to eat!
With winter come viruses. We have had the inevitable succession of runny noses, coughs and rashes that accompany big groups of small children. We've been spending some extra time at home when we're snotty to keep the bugs to ourselves. It's starting to feel like we're home more often than not!
When we're at home we miss the company of our friends. We miss the change of scenery too. We can start to feel frustrated with each other and cooped up at home. Visiting the chooks is a fun change in our routine that gets us out of the house.
The boys don't get to visit the chickens very often because we usually don't have time. They love to explore this different area and come up with new games to play. Fox loves to open and close the gate for the chickens over and over again. He checks for eggs and scoops pellets into the feeder. When he runs out of inspiration he copies his big brother.
Bear looks for the sneaky pets that are always hiding close by. He imagines race tracks or train tracks to drive along. He flaps his shadow wings and picks oranges to bring home for a picnic.
I'm incredibly thankful that despite these viruses the boys have stayed generally well. They get tired and need extra reassurance (and regular neurofen). I know other families suffer much more over winter from these same bugs.
I'm really excited about introducing sandpaper letters to Bear! They are such a classic and beautiful Montessori material. I bought these sandpaper letters a long time ago and have been waiting patiently for the right time to introduce them to Bear.
I started by learning about the sandpaper letters myself. I have found lots of helpful information from Montessori Read and Write, montessoriworld.org and montessoriforeveryone.com. Despite reading and reading and reading I feel like I have only scratched the surface of what there is to know. I still feel quite unprepared to teach this boy!
However I am prepared to keep learning along the way!!
Next I choose a time and place to present the sandpaper letters to Bear. This area is usually where Fox's toys are kept. When Fox goes down for a sleep after lunch I pack a few things away to make space. Bear stays up with me for another hour or so before he has a nap too. We get this hour long window on the 4 days when I'm not at work. I've been getting out the sandpaper letters 1 or 2 days per week in this time.
This has become a special time for me and Bear. It is far enough away from Fox that we can chat without waking him. Bear gets to enjoy some exclusive attention which is lovely for both of us. It is not a perfect time for Montessori because he is usually tired from a busy morning and sometimes he is just not interested. Sometimes I'm just not interested either. But sometimes it works and it's perfect.
The space has become special too. It is transformed into a Bear's very own Montessori preschool. Bear doesn't use this space much at other times during the day so getting out these special materials makes it just for him and gives the materials a very special quality. He is free in this space to choose what he does. I don't put any pressure on him to sit with me if that's not what he's ready for.
The actual lesson has been the hardest part - for me because it requires knowing how to present it and for Bear because he has to submit to being taught. Montessori materials are not allowed to be used unless the child has received a lesson. The materials are to be used in a specific way. The teacher needs to show the child how.
Bear has submitted to lessons (much to my surprise, relief, gratitude, and pride!). He has submitted because these materials are so special. Because this time is for the two of us to spend together. Because he is so interested in sounds and letters right at the moment. Because he can't help but touch them!
Once he has submitted to a lesson he is free to use them as much or as little as he likes.
I have lured Bear to have a lesson by choosing 3 letters, sitting at his table with them and tracing them myself with great interest. He has come to investigate straight away each time.
The 3 letters are contrasting in shape and sound. I have selected from the sounds he can say (m, n, h, ng, w, d, y, b, a, e, i, o, u) or the sound he is working on. I will include phonograms too but they are yet to arrive in the mail.
While Bear watches I trace the letter as it is written saying the phonetic sound 'buh this is buh'. Once he has watched he is invited to have a turn 'Would you like to trace buh.' Then move on to the 2nd and 3rd letters. Once he has traced each of them we move on to the 2nd period 'can you show me buh?' and the 3rd period which one is this. We don't often reach the 3rd period.
The next time we play it is with 3 new letters regardless of Bear's progress with the 3 introduced last time. The ones he hasn't mastered will come back out again soon enough.
At the beginning Bear snatched the letters from me. I explained that they are not for snatching they are for tracing and had to pack them away (much to his fury). Once that lesson was learned he would insist on tracing them upside down. I explained that they are not to go upside down they are to go the right way up and had to pack them away again (more fury). Since accepting that there are rules to this game he has chosen to play over and over again.
Once Bear has had a lesson with a sound it can go on the shelf for him to choose freely. At the moment they are only displayed when Fox is asleep. Some fit on this book shelf. Others go in the beautiful wooden storage boxes that they came in on the shelf. Bear loves to sort through them one by one and make a big pile of them. He loves to point out their different features - this one has a tail, this one is the cross where Jesus died, this one is an aeroplane, this one is mmm for mcdonalds.
He has been quick to pick up their sounds but is still very clumsy tracing them. But there's no hurry - he has 3 years to explore these materials.
Winter is beautiful in Dubbo. The days are sunny and mild. The nights are cold and frosty. It rains often and the garden grows. It's such a pleasure to be outside working and there is plenty to do.
One of our big winter jobs is pruning. It's easy and relaxing and there's plenty to share with an eager little worker.
Bear has his own tiny secateurs. They are real and sharp and prune beautifully. They are marketed to adults with small hands. I found them in a regular hardware shop.
They are small enough for him to use comfortably with one hand and with lots of practice he is now strong and coordinated enough to use adults sized secateurs. (Which is helpful when his little ones are accidentally misplaced!).
Allowing Bear to prune with real secateurs at 3 years old does make me nervous. He could cut himself badly. For that reason we prune side by side so I can correct him when necessary and reinforce that this work and not play.
For Bear to be able to work he needs tools that won't frustrate him. He knows that they are tools and not toys and treats them with care. Pruning is one of my favourite jobs because Bear seems to love it as much as I do.
One aspect of Bear's speech homework is sssound ssstimulation. Which involves sssubtly sssurrounding him with a sssertain sssound. It's quite fun!
I was given a little book of games, nursery rhymes and book lists for each of the sounds we want to target for Bear. They're a starting point but we're really only limited by our own creativity. We can play whatever games we like!
We choose a new sound each fortnight with the speech pathologist. Our first sound is 'sss'!
We play with trains:
signal, sign, stop, diesel, steam, piston, smoke, ambulance, siren, race car, bus, crossing, fast, whistle, street, city
We play Simon Says:
stand, sit, sleep, sing, stamp, salute, sigh, kiss, dress, saw, snuggle, splash, stumble, sneeze, smile, sweep
stir, sift, pass, slice, spoon, sauce, sink, stove, glass, soup, salt, salad, cereal, sandwich, spread, snack, lettuce, sip, spaghetti, scoop, cinnamon, sprinkles, hundreds and thousands, sausages, spatula, pasta
silently, whispering, sleeping, snore, soundly, surprise, softly, stumble, stepping, scare, startle
We play outside:
sand, sandpit, seesaw, slippery-dip, slide, sun, spade, snail, straw, secateurs, seed, sprout, scoop, spider, insect, fast, race, grass, swing and sing...
See saw Marjorie Daw
The insy winsy spider
... and we sing some more...
Sing a song of sixpence,
We work on speech on the days when I'm at home with the boys, which is 4 days per week. I try to pick 2 or 3 times during the day to focus on the sound. It has to be natural and spontaneous then it can be fun. For example if Bear chooses to sit and play with trains I join him and use as many sss words as I can naturally fit into our play. Giving the sss a little extra emphasis. I don't encourage Bear to copy or say the words himself. If he chooses to that's great!! Otherwise if Bear says a word incorrectly I repeat the word back to him in a sentence as part of conversation without directly correcting him (recasting).
We might only play like this for a few minutes at a time or longer if he's happy. We move on when one of us gets bored of the game or interested in something else. The rest of the day we speak normally.
Within this context of strong focus on sounds I have started to introduce sandpaper letters - starting with 's'. But I'll share more about that next time :)
My big brother Bear can water the strawberries.
He gets a watering can from the shelf.
He fills it with water at the tap.
He caries it carefully with two hands...
... to water the strawberries.
I'm going to have a go Mum - there's a watering can for me!
I can do it too!
My name is Vicky I am wife to Ranger and mum to two boys - Bear (2) and Fox (8 months). Somehow I stumbled across Montessori and now my goal is to raise and educate my children with a Montessori philosophy in country NSW Australia.