September 2013 Newsletter

WELCOME TO OUR 2013-2014 school year!  Our population consists of 12 returning children and eight new children.  Seven of our returning children are “lunch bunchers” for all or part of the school week.  As always, the older ones are helping our newer ones become acclimated to our structure and providing models of appropriate behavior.  Having a mixed-age group is one of the hallmarks and advantages of a Montessori education.

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THE OCEAN AND SEA LIFE is our current special study.  We have introduced our planet as one consisting of land and water through our basic globe, which differentiates land masses with sandpaper and the oceans as a smooth blue.  We also have puzzles showing continents and oceans, seahorses and tropical fish, as well as large floor jigsaw puzzles depicting coral reefs and deep sea life.  Photographs of fish and oceans decorate the bulletin boards and walls, stencils provide fine motor opportunities as well as identification of fish, sharks and whales while various coloring papers and art projects add more artistic possibilities.

Additionally, we have been reading about sea life through fiction and non-fiction, matching little objects of fish, sharks and whales to small posters, singing “Baby Beluga” (this is a real favorite, especially for our younger ones) and finally we have a real baby shark in a bottle, a shark jaw, seahorses, and starfish for the children to handle.  This level of orchestrated immersion is the way we attempt to learn about all our special study subjects.  We will move onto shells in the next week by bringing in our shell collection and letting the children choose a shell to take home.

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GRACE AND COURTESY is an area of the Montessori curriculum through which children learn “good manners” in their new social context. We introduce the children in how to blow their nose, how to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze (by using the inner elbow over the mouth), how to interrupt someone, how to respect another’s work, how to share a work, how to move from one space to another when someone is in the way, how to gracefully say “no” to another’s request.  All this, as well as other opportunities, lends itself to a more smoothly run classroom as well as to the foundation of a respectful community.

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THE SNACK SCHEDULE has been given out for the first semester.  Please bring in 100% juice (which we dilute) and low-sugar snacks, i.e., graham crackers, goldfish, Ritz crackers.  Also, feel free to bring in other items which we may use for line treats, i.e., fruit or veggies. We request that you err on the side of getting more for snack rather than less. There are up to 15 children in the morning class and 12 children in the afternoon class, as well as two adults.

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CATERPILLARS were brought into school recently by Porter Burns.  The children loved watching them, talking about them, and wondering what they would become in their cycle of metamorphosis.  Please feel free to send items of interest into school with your children.  This can be an excellent starting point for questions, discussion and learning opportunities.

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BONNIE MUCK, along with her daughter Malia (who graduated from our kindergarten last spring) and her grandson, Lane, are visiting our classroom once a week on Wednesdays alternating between morning and afternoon sessions each week.  Bonnie is a teacher who is home-schooling Malia and Lane and who has come into our class in the past for special celebrations, i.e., Chinese New Year, Dr. Seuss’ birthday.  In addition to helping in the classroom, Bonnie is interested in sharing various art and science projects.

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OUR PET TORTOISE, SHELLEY, has unfortunately been diagnosed with pneumonia.  Kit took Shelley to a veterinarian in Stephen City, Virginia, recently as the tortoise has been less active and not interested in eating.   She will receive three doses of antibiotics and we are hoping for a full recovery. This is the seventh year we have had Shelley and the children love her.

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THERE ARE THREE ATTRIBUTES we need to strengthen in ourselves when working with children:  Courage, Faith and Patience.  Courage to know we are doing the right thing.  Faith in knowing that by observing children involved in activity that they will reveal their true selves to us.  And we must have patience to endure the inevitable obstacles.  Life offers growth, challenges, and possibilities.  As parents and teachers, we are the gardeners creating conditions for optimum growth.  We nourish, we protect, and we strengthen.  We wait for the harvest.  That takes courage, faith and patience.  – From Kids Talk by Maren Schmidt.

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GETTING CHILDREN READY FOR SCHOOL is not an easy or “automatic” task.  It requires thoughtful effort and some tough choices on the parent’s part.  And it involves getting children ready on all three fronts:  academics, emotional and social skills, and nutrition and health.

–       Academics:  One of the first rules for parents of 2- to 5-year olds is to limit television; it’s a poor replacement for time spent on sensory motor development, exploratory play, and development of key relationships.  Provide children this age with plenty of free, creative, exploratory playtime.  Also, one of the best ways to help children become readers is to read to them often during the preschool years.

–       Emotional and Social Skills:  Parents should replace television time with interactions with real people.  Add some problem-solving activities and speak to them about everyday activities while explaining the processes involved.  Provide opportunities for social games and activities, role-model emotional stability and kindness, teach children how to behave with their peers, help them learn how to be comfortable away from parents.

–       Nutrition and Health:  There are specific foods that are particularly good for the brain, including leafy green vegetables, salmon, nuts, lean meats, and fresh fruits.  Although food sources are the best way to get the vitamins and minerals that support optimal brain function and development, supplements can help to make up for a diet that is lacking.  Also, hydration is important to the brain’s normal development and functioning. Water should be available for drinking throughout the day. Nutrition is an area where we can easily make a positive difference and parents need to take nutrition more seriously.  Stop giving kids total control over their food choices.  Instead, let children choose from among desirable alternatives.  Offer nutritious snacks and push water instead of soft drinks. The foods we serve are not just feeding a child’s daily energy requirements; they are shaping the child’s brain.  – From Teaching with the Brain in Mind, by Eric Jensen.