Category Archives: Montessori

The Last First Day

…of the year. We will have lots more first days and I’m really thankful for that. But today, the last of our school kids for this year had her first day of school. Charlotte was dressed to impress.

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I have no idea where that necklace came from. Lala? Bellamy? No clue.

With her deedee in hand, a smile on her face, and a chapstick in her fist which was later confiscated, Charlotte started preschool at CHMS.

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[inside shoes are the most genius thing and my favorite part of our morning routine. the kids know exactly what to do when they go inside the school and it’s so cute to watch them change out of their outside, playtime shoes and into their inside shoes]

I have a small list of apologies and promises for CHMS teachers, among them:

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(1) toddler wedges. I’m sorry. But look at them. They are hilarious and adorable and, really, I’m doing you a favor by not allowing her the foot freedom of running amok. I suppose you’re welcome.

(2) I’m sorry in advance for forgetting snack. I’ll make it up, I promise.

(3) I’m sorry for asking what time things are, even after you’ve sent home a handout or calendar of events. But I’ll be there, I promise.

(4) I’m sorry about deedee. That damn blanket, no doubt, carries up to 15 individual and unique diseases and at least 4 parasites. But she loves it. I promise to wash it once a week.

(5) I’m sorry for the puppy dog eyes she has down to a science.

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I promise to try not to give in at home. I’ll stay strong for you.

Happy First Day of School to all of our CHMS preschool friends! xoxo

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The Middles Start School

I’m not sure I could be more creative in a title, do you?

But it’s straightforward and to the point: the middle kids started school today. Middle kids being Alice and Jamie. I mean, I have four middle kids. I could be more specific I suppose. But today was Jamie and Alice’s day.

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I don’t worry about Alice when it comes to things like this. She is outgoing and fun and polite and sweet and even if she might be a little lazy (“Mom, I don’t think I’m gonna learn to read yet.”) I know she’ll eventually get it. She loves everything about school: seeing her friends, choosing works, PE, show and tell, recess, and most of all, lunch.

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[oh, those? no big deal…i only spent forever and a day making and decorating the cutest apple and pencil cookies…]

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After school she told me how she wants to do Amazing Athletes and how Alex and her did a really challenging puzzle map work. She loved her lunch and at recess she played. She was really glad Ms. Megan was still her teacher and she still likes all her friends.

Alice has this year in the bag.

But I’ll be very honest with you (honesty might be one of my strongest qualities, and that it both very good and very bad): I worry about Jamie. Jamie is not outgoing most of the time. He likes to read in his room alone or sit on the sidelines and watch. He is sometimes polite (he can be the most polite child in the world at times) but he’s sometimes just awful. He sometimes hisses at you and cries and screams when things don’t go as planned. He goes from 0-10 on the anger scale in the blink of an eye and he doesn’t eat lunch or snack which sometimes leads to a grumpy afternoon. Each morning I drop him off and silently beg for a wonderful day. Most of it is out of his control, we are learning this more and more, which makes it even more difficult and heartbreaking.

But luckily there’s a pretty ace team behind him at Children’s House to see him through.

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I think grade 3 will be a good year.

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After school, he said, “School was great. I wrote stories with my friends. Except…was my lunch a joke? Was it a test? Because….I didn’t eat a thing and I think you knew I wouldn’t.”

Classic Jamie.

Happy First Day of School, CHMS students!

Nursery Tour

I have less than 5 weeks until my official ultrasound due date, but 3.75 until “my” due date. (Are you confused? So your original due date is calculated by counting 40 weeks out from the first day of your last period. But then it sometimes changes based on how the baby measures at your early ultrasound around 11-12 weeks. With 4 of my 5 babies, they arrived early — two were 10 days early, one was a week early, and one was 4 days earlier than my ultrasound due date. I usually just go by my dates I calculate. Mostly because it makes the time go by faster. I’m no fool.)

I try really hard to put on a happy face and be positive about everything, but the truth is that I’m pretty miserable. Being pregnant and chasing after a 1 year old, 3 year old, 5 year old, 7 year old and 9 year old is taxing. Driving around all day is more tiring than it sounds. I’m nauseous 80% of the time and if I eat even a teaspoon too much of food, my very restricted stomach sends it back up. My organs are so squished in there and my belly is so tight that every time Francesca moves, it hurts. I know this was all totally my choice, but guess what? Everyone gets to complain now and again. It’s a rule.

And did you know that certain anxiety medications are no-nos during pregnancy? So when I’m having an especially anxious day, it’s a little more difficult than it was before. And to be honest, I’m quite stressed lately. My dad has that goof-ball of a disease lymphoma and they have been going to Seattle for doctor’s appointments and such. So along with being worried about him, this mama’s girl is missing the quick pop-ins to their house. My kids miss them desperately when they are away. Thanksgiving is coming up and for some reason it’s stressing me out, even though I won’t have to be doing any work! Oh, and Christmas. You guys, buying Christmas gifts for 5 children is really stressful!! I want to get them ordered and wrapped before Franci arrives and there really isn’t much time.

But I’m so excited to meet this little peanut. And one really happy and fun thing that gets me excited is finishing up the nursery. The nursery that doubles as Olive’s bedroom. It wasn’t awful before, but now it’s complete.

Aside from one wall, you wouldn’t be able to guess it’s a shared girls’ bedroom. We are a little sick of pink at this house, so Danny and I wanted a modern, soft, neutral feel to the room and I think we got it.

This is the wall opposite the big window. On the left is the walk-in-closet and on the right is the bathroom. It’s true, they have their own bathroom. We are just really fancy in this house.

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Honeycomb Shelves: Fab

BabyLit Books: Peek Kids

Camera: Twig Creative

Rocker: Pottery Barn Kids

Their room is quite small, but there is so much natural light thanks to 2 big windows. The play tent is a perfect size for a couple tiny little people to hide and get away from big siblings..and there are always little animal friends taking naps.

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Teepee: Be Little You and Me

The beds. Yes, the baby will sleep on that mattress when she transitions from our room. Yes, we will definitely get rid of the cords. Yes, it’s perfectly safe. I promise. We are going the Montessori way again with the floor bed and once she’s able to crawl safely out of something off the ground a bit, we’ll add another bed like Ollie’s (because older toddlers certainly don’t need floor beds for the most part). Oh and Ollie’s bed? Dan totally made it. I showed him a picture of a bed I wanted from Etsy and he said, “Okay, I can make that,” and he did. There are no screws or nails or anything, it all fits together perfectly. I love being married to a crafty guy.

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Bedding: Ikea

Sheepskin Rug: Amazon

Pink Tower  and Brown Stair Blocks: Kid Advance

Floor Play Gym: Ikea

For this corner, I wasn’t quite sure what to do because it’s right behind the door so a dresser couldn’t fit there, and it’s a weird space anyway. I decided to do the ‘ol Ruthie standby and create a felt ball garland and hang pictures from it. Olive LOVES looking at pictures of the kids and naming all of them. The bouncer will probably move from room to room once Francesca arrives, but for now it’s stuck on the grey rug in the corner.

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Grey Rug: ikea

Felt Balls: Hello Maypole

4Moms seat: Babies R Us

And my favorite part: the wall. Okay, so here’s the story. I had ordered these decals and literally that same afternoon I went on a deals site and saw they had similar decals for 1/4 the price. I skedaddled and cancelled my first order and went ahead with the cheaper option. You guys, trust your gut. You get what you pay for. Similar does not mean same.

The cheaper ones arrived and they were a horrible color and horribly shaped. I’m glad they were cheap, but they were a poor choice. I should have just completely copied my friend Lauren and gone this route from the very beginning. But look, I ordered them, they arrived and they are perfect. (Also, Lauren was genius and told me to use a laser level to apply them…so easy, so fast, and so good).

We are currently using the cubbies as storage for shoes, blankets, diapers, blocks, toys, and books.

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Cubbies: Amazon

Decals: Walls by Mur

A few things left to do (but that we are pretty sure will either never get done, or won’t get done for ages): paint the doors white, paint chalkboard/magnetic paint on the bottom squares of the 2 doors on the wall, add baseboards. We shall see.

Next baby post: the hospital bag.

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Field Trip to the Farm

With little kids at home, Maria homeschooling and lots of pick-ups and drop-offs during the day I feel like it’s hard for me to really get involved with the kids’ classes at school. I’m not sure how other moms are, but when Maria first started preschool I had these visions of me volunteering for every class party, walking in with Martha Stewart-esque cupcakes and cookies, and having the patience of an angel.

Oops. Something happened.

I do help as often as I can, but it’s not always the way I imagined it would be in my early days of parenthood. But one thing I LOVE doing is having Jamie’s class to my parent’s pumpkin patch (last year it was at their house, this year at the farm) and letting them pick pumpkins, explore, and get a little dirty. I mean, yeah, it’s really just as much work for my dad as it is for me, but I tell myself that my dad loves doing it and that he wouldn’t miss it for the world. (hahahaha you’re welcome, pops).

So today we went to the farm.

We were late today so I didn’t have time to pack the kids’ lunches. Thank goodness for Paraiso Vallarta.

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But this is funny: one of Jamie’s classmates asked, “What’s that?” I said, “It’s lunch.” “Well….why?”

I knew what he was getting at. Why didn’t Jamie have a lunch in a bag like everyone else. Ya know, like a sandwich and carrots and yogurt.

“Well, Josh….I’m tired. And when I’m tired, I don’t make lunches….I pick them up.”

He accepted that.

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Jamie gathered his friends around and explained how we grew the pumpkins.

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“We planted the seeds. Then we harvest them off the vine.”

He’s very thorough.

And then we released the monsters.

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There were tons of pumpkins. After this week, what good are pumpkins, really?! So when the kids came up and said, “Can I get one for my brother? My little cousin? My mom?” I said, “Absolutely. Load ’em up.”

We also encouraged the picking of squash and eggplant and potatoes.

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The edamame, peppers, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers and other veggies were long gone and the land had been dug up and ready to sit until next year. But they got a lot of other goodies.

And then my dad had a brilliant idea.

“If we asked them all to pick every pumpkin and move it to the grass, would they?”

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Yep, totally.

It saved my dad a solid hours worth of work and his back thanks the children.

Thanks, Papa, for your badass farm and for letting us all take advantage of it.

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The First Day

mm

 

3 out of 5 of my kids have started school and it’s wonderful. Not just because I was over summer vacation (because I totally was), but because I love it when they spend their days engaged and curious and working on something. That sounds made up, but I promise it’s not. 

All three of them were excited (even though Jamie’s face might tell a different story).

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(Jamie’s shirt and Charlotte’s outfit is from Jcrew. Jamie’s shorts from H&M and Alice’s dress from Olive Juice.)

 

Jamie and Alice walked in like it was no big deal and were really excited to see their friends. Charlotte was a little more nervous and asked me a million times if Jamie would be at school the same time she was. She finally believed me and changed into her inside shoes, hung her backpack on the hook, and sat with her friends around the circle, ready for her day. 

Montessori for our children was chosen very deliberately. Since doing my research on the theory and philosophy and pretty much everything that goes into Montessori education, I’ve become a bit passionate about it to say the least. 

And passionate about my children’s education is not a bad thing.

I’m a very specific person. Not only do I like very specific things, I also have very specific views and ideas and beliefs on many different subjects. It’s hard for me to budge and accept things for myself and my family when they don’t fit into what I think is the perfect box. 

Now, I don’t think my box is perfect for everyone. Different families and different children and different parents have different needs and I am well aware of that. What is “perfect” for Alice is not “perfect” for her friend Molly or Hannah or Sarah. So, obviously, those parents are going to make different choices and I’m not stupid enough to think they are wrong just because they aren’t the same as mine. 

I’m also not stupid enough to think that every decision Dan and I make for our family is perfect. When I say perfect, what I mean is that we’re trying the best we can and what we’ve decided on is what we feel is the very best for us. For our children and their education, the best is Montessori. 

I love the fact that the children guide their own learning experience. I love that everything is hands on. They learn by experiencing with their hands, with touch. I love that they aren’t doing worksheet after worksheet. I love that they move around the classroom depending on what they are working on. They aren’t all expected to be doing the exact same thing at the exact same time when it comes to lessons. They learn together, but independently. They help each other by holding one another’s hands, explaining with words, and leading by example. There is an emphasis in the classroom on peace and respect and I think that’s something that is lacking in many places…sometimes even my own home. My kids come home from school telling me about raptors and why bumble bees sting and how rain is made. Sometimes all in the same day. 

They love school and they are proud of what they learn. And that’s why we Montessori. 

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energy

I heard this from a speaker at the International Montessori Congress in July.  When I heard it, I thought of Alice.  Alice, who is always smiling and laughing and being completely 4 years old. She loves life and she loves being happy.

And this spoke to me because I feel like it was a reminder that I have an obligation to Alice (and all my children of course) to provide all of them with the tools and the direction and the safety and the patience to maintain that energy.  Being a mom has taught me a million different things but I think the most important thing I have learned is that my children are capable of big things.  And I am here to take care of everything else in life so that they are able to figure out what those big things are.  I can’t describe exactly how I feel when I read this, but I’ll try:

children should be children.

children should live in a world free of hate and war and unnecessary struggles.

children should spend their days discovering and exploring and smiling and laughing and loving.

(and that’s why we Montessori).

Happy Chinese New Year!

It was actually Friday, but I’m just now getting around to my post.

I want to start off by saying something.  Which will probably turn into a couple somethings. We moved Maria from the Catholic school that she was at for 5 years (play, pre, K, 1, 2nd grades) to Children’s House Montessori School this year.  I can say with 100% certainty that it was the best decision I’ve ever made for her.

Did I hate the Catholic school?  Absolutely not.  I went there for 8 years myself!  I have friends who are teachers there and the staff is lovely.  But sometimes there is something in your heart that tells you that you need a change.  I watched Maria struggle with some parts of school.  She came home with worksheet after worksheet every single day.  Sometimes, they were spilling out of her bag — 5 or 6 different worksheets she had done that day.  Math problems were done only on paper and creative writing was limited to morning journal.  They got a great view of Catholicism (which I loved) but very few in-depth lessons on other religions, cultures and celebrations.  They definitely tried, that’s not the issue — but I knew I wanted my kids to get just a little bit more.  And I don’t think this is something that only our old school is lacking.  I think that most classrooms are like this (I mean, minus the Catholic part unless it’s a Catholic school, duh).  I think what people see as a ‘normal’ school and classroom is exactly what Maria was getting, and they did an excellent job at it.  And for some kids and families, that is great and exactly what they need and what they’re looking for. But for us…we needed a change.

Children’s House gave us that, plus so much more.

Math isn’t limited to paper and pencil and Jamie spends a lot of his day creating books. They touch their letters with their hands and it’s not out of the norm to see them doing 10 different things around the classroom, all very quietly and deliberately. Their lesson on Hanukkah involves a menorah and someone of the Jewish faith explaining and describing their traditions.  They play with a dreidel and learn the hows and whys of it.  On Dec. 5th (is it the 5th?!) St. Nicholas comes and leaves the children treats in their shoes.  They celebrate each child’s birth with more than just cupcakes and cookies.  They spend an entire lesson learning about their life.  And on Friday, they celebrated the Chinese New Year amazingly.

chinese new year-1 Miss Yuiqui (oh, I probably butchered that spelling) is from China and helped with the preparation.

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(pot stickers!)

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Then a parent’s friend (Audrey) came and shared a little bit about her family’s New Year celebrations.  And she brought candy, too.

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How are we so lucky?  I will tell you.  This information the kids got didn’t just come right off of the internet.  They learned about Chinese New Year from listening to someone’s personal experiences.  They heard the emotion in their stories and that makes it so much more interesting.  And real.  And not just something that happens on the other side of the world.

Before the celebration, I went into Mr. Matt’s classroom and they were just finishing up their chores.

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And then they all gathered up their dragons they made…

chinese new year-15 …and lined up for the parade.

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I will say this over and over again because it’s something I notice and something I appreciate.  Even if things take a lot of planning and a lot of prep, they are still done at CHMS.  Even if it’s a lot of work and it will be a big commotion and planning it and prepping it takes twice as long as the activity itself…it’s still done. And it’s all done because it’s something the kids love. They remember it and they love it and it’s the thing they spend weeks talking about. It’s worth it.

And the little kids (the primary class) came out after the older kids (lower elementary) so that they had a little guidance.  And together, they paraded around the room. A-Dor-A-ble.

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They were all so proud. And they didn’t have a crowd to show off for or to impress. They all did it for themselves and it was the sweetest. And finally, they sat down at their spots.

They got a lesson in how to pour tea…

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…and a quick note about their food.  They were told that they absolutely didn’t have to eat everything and that it’s okay to not like a food and not eat it.  But they were expected to at least try everything, even if that just meant licking it so their taste buds knew what it was like.

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And I’m about 80% sure that little talk was intended for this kid:

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You guys.  If he were to invent a holiday, it would be Chicken Nugget Appreciation Day with a side of Eggo waffles.  You’d celebrate by drinking milk, eating bacon, chicken nuggets and waffles and wouldn’t even touch any other foods.

But I was proud of him because he was very polite.

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And watching them all try and eat with their chopsticks might have been my favorite part.

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{this girl ditched all utensils and went straight for the finger food}

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Hmm.  Anna must have some tutoring at home on the subject.chinese new year-69

We are so thankful for these celebrations.

Happy Chinese New Year!