We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It seems like such a long time ago, but it was just a few weeks ago. Since early October, the children have been involved with lessons regarding the change of seasons, autumn, Thanksgiving and the harvest, early settlers and First Nations people. Part of the Practical Life lessons for the pre-K class is learning how to set a table, which ties in with family gatherings. We introduced this lesson before Thanksgiving and hope the children had an opportunity to use this new knowledge. First year students are learning about setting the table with a Practical Life tray exercise on the shelves, and by being a helping hand. Thanksgiving is the season of harvest, and planning for the winter food stores. Many years ago, early settlers and First Nations people prepared some foods for the winter by drying. To demonstrate how this works, we use a dehydrator to dry fruit. Every child participates in placing slices of banana with tongs onto the dehydrator trays (a lot harder than it sounds). The banana is obviously not an original fruit of the harvest, but it is a yummy favourite for snack. Many First Nations artifacts are presented at Circle. Our collection has fur pelts, small totems, musical instruments, buffalo teeth, bear paw imprints, dolls, dream catchers, pottery, blankets, jewelry and clothing. We use picture files as visuals and explain the importance of the animals to the First Nations culture. We discuss totems and tell totem stories. We will travel all over the North American continent during October and November. Pre-K children will work on a study book with animals that are indigenous to each particular continent. The season of autumn also ties in with migration, hibernation and the animals of Canada. We will continue examining how seasonal changes affects people, the planet, plant and animal life throughout the year. We will begin our travels to Europe in January.
Throughout the year we have continuing mini studies that we call a ‘Celebration of Light’. These celebrations come from different cultures, and countries, but all have many things in common which is where our focus lies; on food, family and of course, light. September kicked off with the Moon Festival. We celebrated Diwali in October with the help of Ayaana’s family. Thank you Ayaana for bringing your Dad in to read a story and tell us about the holiday. Every child made a diya candle to celebrate the Diwali festival at home. Coming in December will be the Ishmaili celebration, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Chinese New Year in 2018.
Practical Life lessons not only teach self-help and independence skills such as buttoning and pouring, but also help develop motor skills and finger dexterity. The exercises are designed to help strengthen finger and arm muscles, which in turn supports capability. Materials are added and changed throughout the year for seasons (pumpkins and bats), to inspire interest, and also to challenge. Math and language components are daily parts of classroom life. This is done with materials or fun games. We teach printing by first using a dot-to-dot method, and eventually working towards a freehand approach. We teach using all lower case letters and only use capitals for names and the beginning of sentences. Some children’s books have all upper case which is truly confusing for early readers. If you are printing with your children at home, please use lower case. Sewing exercises continue on cloth with buttons and with card shapes. Some children have now started beading with seed beads and made rings they took home. These are all activities that help with fine motor skills, but are a lot of fun too. Thank you David for bringing many, many cork circles for our push pin activities.
Every day the opening Circle starts with the calendar, classroom rules and safety, the introduction of new materials and their applications, or reinforcements of previous demonstrations. Three Helping Hands are chosen each class on a rotation so that everyone will have equal turns. The children are still settling into the classroom and adapting to the routines and rules. It is a very delicate balance and consistency helps.
The temperature has made a sudden drop, so please ensure your child is dressed appropriately for changing weather conditions. We go outside to the playground every day (rain or shine) unless it is too cold or wet. Please phone to let us know if your child is ill or late. We do not always answer the phone during class time, but messages are checked regularly. September lessons included how to sneeze and cough into the elbow, and washing hands. Reinforcement of these life skills will continue throughout the year. Yoga is a regular indoor activity all year.
Some parents have asked for clarification on snack. How much and what is allowable? A good rule is enough for one class to share, such as three or four bananas or two or three large oranges. Everyone shares and this provides a variety of snack choices each day. Parents do not have to prepare the food, as it is prepared fresh daily. Please leave the nuts at home as nut allergies are life threatening. Some parents bring cheese or crackers. If you wish to bring yogurt, we can spoon it from the tubs into individual cups for serving. When we have extra apples, pears or plums, we get the slow cooker out and make sauces and jams. The children peel carrots for Practical Life exercises, and then have them for snack or we grate them and the children make muffins. We dry fruit, bake and pop bowls of popcorn. Fruit, vegetables, crackers, cheese, dried seaweed, are just a few of the favourite snack choices. Pomegranates are a big favourite too. Surprise, surprise! Thank you Ruby for bringing in delicious homemade muffins that she made with Dad.
Halloween is a fun time with books, stories, songs and lots and lots of different classroom materials. We had autumn colours day on Monday and then costumes for Halloween Day only. All children received goodie bags from the teachers with cheesies, a pencil and a glow wand bracelet for safe trick or treating. Many friends sent stickers, special treats and cupcakes to class. Thank you friends for your wonderful gifts. We did a little classroom trick or treating with all the goodies. Thank you Aura for the big pumpkin for the classroom, which we carved into a jack-o-lantern. We also did a Monster Mash parade around the room and made pumpkin pom-poms, and earlier in the month we made pumpkin scones (so good).
Student Led Conferences are for two weeks and begin November 6th. This is where a parent is invited into the classroom for a short visit (15 minutes), and are guided by their child. Your child will show you what they are working on, favourite interests, exercises and materials, and introduce friends. Traditional Montessori observations are done with a parent watching the class at work. We have parents interact with the classroom to get an understanding through a concrete approach. The children enjoy sharing with their parent, and the parents get to see the class through their child’s eyes. Signup sheets for times are at the front door and reminders are emailed home.
Please mark your calendars for school district closure dates of Friday, November 10th. This is a big one as many other school districts are also having closures. If you are looking to go to a special venue, reserve before they book up. School is also closed on Monday, November 13th, in lieu of the Remembrance Day observance. School will reopen at the usual time on Tuesday, November 14th.